Day 9 — Flowers, Llamas, and Ruins

Saturday — April 11

About an hour of our time at Intipunku was spent waiting for the “fog curtain” to be drawn open. Our thanks to Inti (the Sun God) for answering our prayers and dispersing the fog to reveal the fabulous view of the sanctuary laid out far below us; it really was worth the wait. After enjoying the scenery for another hour or so, we started our downward trek, which took twice as long to accomplish. You can't blame us — the weather was dry and the sun was playing peek-a-boo through the clouds; colorful flowers ranging from giant bromeliads to miniature orchids decorated the trail; and best of all, there was the scenery to distract us on the downhill trek.

Flowers add color to the Intipunku trail.

View of the sanctuary about half-way down the Intipunku trail.

This time, we stopped at the ruins that we’d passed on our way up the trail. The site was initially thought to be a security station at the juncture where the Inca Trail meets up with another trail (discovered in 2002). The presence of a rock carved in-situ has since led archeologists to conclude that the ruins also served as a shrine, making the site more than a mere checkpoint.

View of the checkpoint/shrine on the way down from Intipunku.

I made sure to drop a few crumbs to appease Pachamama while I enjoyed my snack at the shrine.

Eventually, we made it back to the area around the caretaker’s hut where we found a quiet terrace from which to enjoy the view of the area and the ruins. As a culture that revered all things in nature, the Incas could not have picked a better place to honor their deities.

Let your eye follow the stone path to Intipunku, which is located just out of sight in the “v” of the mountains.

A perfect spot from which to revere nature.

It was mid-afternoon when we finally ventured down to the main body of ruins. With the departure time for the Cusco train nearly at hand, most of the visitors were heading towards the exit, making it the perfect time to explore the site. We wandered around for quite a while, studying the Inca architecture that has withstood the test of time; watched lizards sunning themselves on rocks warmed by the sun and vizcachas scrounging for food; listened to the sound of the water trickling down fountains and into channels carved into the rock. Very peaceful!

Won’t you come into my parlor — or perhaps I should say, my ruins.

The spiny whorltail iguana is quite common at Machu Picchu.

The vizcacha is a rodent that belongs to the chinchilla family.

Eventually, we found ourselves in the company of the llamas that call Machu Picchu home. They’d been noticeably absent the day before, perhaps because of the rain. This afternoon, they were out in force, grazing on the grass — we must have caught them at dinnertime.

A llama and the ruins — iconic photo op at Machu Picchu.

The highlight of our llama encounter was the newborn that we’d seen from a distance yesterday. At the time, the guards had roped off the central plaza where the mother had given birth and were trying to encourage the “cria” (baby llama) to take its first steps. Today, the cria was romping about a bit, but it was mostly interested in nursing. Mom was accommodating, stopping frequently to let her newborn nurse as she moved ever-closer to us, giving us some terrific photo ops.

Mom nursing her cria.

The newborn has a healthy curiosity, but doesn’t wander far from mom.

On that note, we started our slow trek to the exit, discussing plans for returning the next day to hike the trail on Apu Machu Picchu. But …..

Next Up: Day 9 — Fate Intervenes

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