The Chasqui Blog
Early morning run to Ollantaytambo’s Sun Gate
After a poor night of sleep tossing and turning, I got up at 5:20 am and made a last minute decision to squeeze a run in before meeting the group for breakfast at 8:30am.
I made some intentional noise to get Leif’s attention, so we would run together, he was already awake and asked me, “What are I was doing?” I said, “I’m going for a run to the Sun gate, wanna come?”
“Of course” he replied.
We were out the door right after we filled up our drinking packs, took a couple of Acid Check tablets and packed a few energy gels. It was still dark and there were some locals already on the move, but it didn’t take too long before the sun was out.
The Inti Punko or Sun Gate (there is another Sun Gate in Machu Picchu) is located a few miles away and several thousand feet above the Town of Ollantaytambo. It offers amazing views of the snowy mountain chain located across the Sacred Valley.
This is a very nice run (or hike) and not too strenuous or highly demanding despite all the elevation gain.
It takes between 6-8 hours to complete for the average hiker; some companies offer this tour as a 2 day
hiking option. We reached the Inti Punko (Sun Gate) in 90 minutes.
The trail starts off with a gentle climb (after crossing the bridge over the Urubamba River) on a very wide
and well marked trail. It is a very enjoyable section and a great way warm up before attacking the steeper grades ahead. Then, rolling hills follow for about a mile before it changes to a steady uphill to the rock quarries. Once having passed the rock quarries the steepness kicks in all the way to the Sun Gate through acombination of switchbacks – signifying lots of elevation gain in this last section.
As we made our way up the landscape started to thin out. Long grass weed is the only type of vegetation able to grow in these elevations. We encountered a bunch of wild bulls right in the middle of the trail that Leif literally ran off, he’s from Montana so his knowledge on how to handle cattle is far better than mine.
Once past the bulls, the trail steepens even more towards a wide and nice look-out plateau. A group of tourist set camp at the base of the last stretch before reaching the Sun Gate and they were surprised indeed to
see us running this terrain. They took pictures of these two Inca Runners making our way up and then down. From here there was just a straight steep shot to our goal. We reached the Sun Gate in quickly and contemplated the incredible 360 views while putting a jacket on (it was windy and cold), eating
more gels and looking at our watches timing our return in time for breakfast. We took a couple of pictures and rapidly resumed our run back to Ollantaytambo to meet the rest of the group for breakfast. The morning run took us a bit over two and half hours round rip (90 minutes up to the Sun Gate).
We made it back in time to meet the rest of the Inca Runners athletes. We left right after breakfast to visit
The Incas terraces of Maras Moray and to the Pink salt mines of Maras. Afterwards we went to Greens Café in Cusco for Dinner (Inca Runners favorite restaurant). Greens Café, is one of the top 5 restaurants in Cusco and their food is off the charts! The ingredients are 100% organic and are grown in their own garden. You can’t miss a meal at Green’s if you are in Cusco.
There are many reasons why this route is recommended:
- You get to see how drastically landscape and
temperatures change as you climb your way up. It is a very noticeable
difference, from a warm type of climate like Ollantaytambo to bare cold landscape
around Sun Gate.
- Half way up there are some old Inca rock
quarrying mines where Incas used to get the large boulders that they perfectly squared and used to build their massive temples like
- The views from the Sun Gate are terrific, and
gives a good perspective as to how well Incas had a perfect control of the Valley
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