Published: June 20th 2012June 3rd 2012
The peak we couldn't climb
The Inca Trail - The Good, The Bad and The Useless
The Good - or should we say the Great
This started on Day 3 of our Intrepid arranged trip, when our Trek Leader, Tommy, took charge of our group. Everything about the 4 days trekking, which it takes you to get to Machu Picchu are worth it!
Yes the toilets are horrific, squat toilets at that and imagine that at least 50% of every group will suffer the trots at some point and yes your worst image will still need to be intensified to meet the true reality.....and yes one of the best feelings of the whole 4 days is that which you experience when you finally get to sit on a throne in the 'proper' toilets at the base of Machu Pichu...
Yes you are camping and at a minimum of 3500 metres so it's bloody cold
Yes it is 42 kms of very tough hill climbing that would kill your lungs even at sea level never mind with the added uncomfortableness of altitude, very tough descents that pound your knees and then there are the rolling bits......
But the views, the history,
After four days of trekking the Inca Trail there is no doubt it was worth it
the commerardery of your group, the food, the smiling amazing porters, the ever attentive guides who know just when to push you and just how to help you through every challenge, make it worth ever step!
Not to mention the sense of amazing satisfaction when you complete everyday and non more so than the 2 hour morning trek on the final day to the sun gate, where you get your first glimpse of the amazingly impressive site that is Machu Picchu.... And watch the sun rising over and finally illuminating it in its full grandeur......
To walk the trail for four days, 80 % of which is the original path constructed from stones all those years ago to then understand the feat of the Inca's to actually conceal this wonder from the invading Spanish is something to marvel at in itself, not to mention how they transformed a mountainside into this city that is Machu Picchu.... Truly awe inspiring..... And such a shame the Inca Empire saw its demise before it was actually finished....
We spent that last day blessed with blue skies and sunny heat taking it all in and taking the total tourist pics as
Postcard Picture Perfect
You'd almost think we had it to ourselves
we went before heading down, very tired to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) for a final team lunch a reuniting with 'Freddy' (who you will hear of soon enough) and a train ride half way back followed by a bus the rest of the way...... Everyone was hanging..... All we needed was a hot shower and to curl up in bed......
No luck on the hot water front so we settled for downing some whiskey with Jordan, Emily, Lisa and Sam to warm those cockles before heading to bed.
Like most tour companies when you pre book such excursions from afar, Intrepid had padded the 4 day Traditional Inca Trail up to 6 with things that only disappointed!
Day One .... Sounded great on paper.... Complete waste of time in reality and didn't give us the greatest first impression of Intrepid the company who we'd chosen to go with... Mainly due to the 'team leader' Freddy... Or as we have now named him ' Freddy 'it's not my fault'....
We turned up at our hotel at 10.15am
ready for the 10.30am
Meeting to find they'd changed hotels and had to walk 15 minutes
This place is cosmic man
up hill with our 20kg backpacks and 10kg day packs.... All good practise I suppose..... So rushing, huffing and panting we arrived at our new hotel, which to be fair looked really nice.... To be shown a note stating that our meeting was now at 1pm
...no apology no nothing... The staff at the hotel were lovely and upgraded our rooms and let us check in early... We got to meet a few of the other people on the trip too, all of whom had also faced the trek up hill from one hotel to the other.....
So after entertaining ourselves in town for a few hours and grabbing ourselves some lunch at the Vegetarian place down the road we got back for 1pm
for the meeting.....
What a joke! We sat there for one hour listening to 'Freddy it's not my fault' read through his Intrepid Script, which rammed down your throat you were rich white people and we were in a third world country and we should give lots of money! Actually we found it really offensive, as people who give a lot to charity and who had paid an awful lot to do the trip you
don't want this to overshadow the reason for you being there....
Again there was no apology for the mess up or any inconvenience caused that morning in fact completely the opposite.... We were told throughout the trip things may change and we needed to be 'flexible' and to quote 'have PMA'......(positive mental attitude) Honestly we were all shaking our heads in disbelief!!! Had we not I'm sure we'd have been fuming.... Thankfully a few of our group had had good experiences with Intrepid in the Galapagos so we kept hoping we were just unfortunate and things would get better.
Not quickly though as the day's activity, which was supposed to be a walking tour of Cuzco wasn't going to start until 3.30pm
... ( it gets dark at 5pm
!!!) and that was after he'd taken us to a restaurant for lunch where 2 main courses would equal our daily budget!!- No Thanks!). So we decided to skip it....
We had to be back at 6pm
anyway to hire our overly priced sleeping bags and poles and have a briefing with the guide who'd be taking us on the actual trail, so we'd head back then having hired sleeping
Jumping for joy
Pleased to make it to the top of the first pass at 4200m
bags at half the price and twice the quality in town!
Thankfully after that dismal start things did look up. 'Freddy it's not my fault' was late for the 6pm
briefing..... Come to think of it i think he was late for the 1pm
one too.... So Tomas our Inca Trail guide started without him and immediately you could sense a step change in the levels of professionalism. He even helped give us some sensible alternatives to climbing Wayna Picchu which Intrepid doesn't support so you have to do off your own back, which is a pain as you get the Machu Picchu pass in with your Intrepid ticket but you can't buy Wayna Picchu separately so if you did want to climb Wayna Picchu you had to buy it with another Machu Picchu combo.... We didn't have £70 we wanted to spare on that when we'd already paid over the odds for the trip, so we were grateful of his sugesstion of walking to the bridge......
And that was it..... Day 1, what we'd paid good money for!!! Here's to feeling a little bit better value for money out of day 2, but when we were told
we were leaving at Midday.... That looked very doubtful too! And our fears were confirmed!
The Village we were visiting weren't expecting us so we spent 3 hours doing what could easily have been done in 15 minutes... Activities included, cutting grass and looking at guinea pigs and being shown different varieties of potatoes..... Riveting!
Finally the frantic village women who'd been shocked by our arrival had finished preparing us some lunch and we sat down had some food and hot water (they'd forgotten to bring us anything to go in it) and after the typical touristy display we left and headed for our day out at the 'sacred valley' as detailed in the itinary....
Shame it was dusk when we got to the town of Ollantaytambo......
We did managed to get half way up the ruins that overlook town but despite Freddy saying we'd be ok to climb all the way up, thankfully we bumped into a couple of Scottish lads who told us just how insane we'd be if we tried to go up any further, especially as eta to pitch black was the time it would take us to get back down.....
From close by base camp night three
We'd opted to do that option as it was free but half the group had gone for the fortress, which you had to pay to visit but it is a must see....
.... Shame it was closed when they got there....
So with ours and their experience...You can imagine the mood of everyone in the camp.....And as you can imagine, NONE of this was 'Freddy's fault'!!!!!,
Thankfully the next day Tomas took over from 'Freddy it's not my fault' and from then on we had the best time ever, but not before Freddy's last ditch attempt at nailing the coffin firmly shut on any tip he might get was when at 7am
we all got up for brekkie expecting to leave at 7.30am
to start the trek to find Freddie had kindly arranged for the trekking to start at 8am
so we could go visit the fortress.... 30 whole extra minutes.... Laughable really!!!!
The Useless .......
Yes you guessed it, the award goes to 'Freddy it's not my fault'
Seriously though, we had the best experience and after a few doubts at the start we were still really pleased
They used this site to practise the best methods for growing crops
we'd paid that bit more, booked in advance and done the traditional trek, which is the only one that ends at the sun gate.
There are lots of cheaper alternatives, which you can book at the drop of a hat in Cuzco like the Jungle Trek, Quarry Trek or Salkantay Trail, all of which looked good and great alternatives, but nothing makes up for the real deal and we experienced it .....
Every bloody step of it....... !!!!!!
There are more photos below