Our Inca Trail group
So after so much time in the planning, we finally set foot on the Inca Trail. Many things are said about the trail, mainly about how it is so hard that at points you just want to cry and curl up in a ball to save yourself from more pain, so as you can imagine we were a little apprehensive about it! It's also the start of the rainy season, so everyone had told us to expect bad weather and be prepared to get no view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate (a ruin on the hillside above the site) on the final day.
We headed off and had a very easy start to the trail, and our guide, Eduin, appeared to know his stuff which was encouraging after having bought the cheapest trek we could find. After only walking for 2 hours, we reached our campsite and bedded down for the night after a great feed whipped up by our team of porters. It was hard not to think of how little has changed in the last 100 years or so. There we were, rich westerners adventuring in foreign lands, with paid help setting up tents, bringing us
tea, food and generally putting us to shame by storming past us on the trail carrying huge weights on their backs. We were told the first day was only a gentle massage and that day 2 would be seriously tough as we would be passing the highest point in the trek - Warmiwanusca at a height of 4200m, otherwise known as Dead Woman's Pass...great!
We were woken at 4:30 by our lovely porters who brought us a nice warm cup of coca tea to start the morning off in the proper fashion. We'd also brought a pack of coca flour as we were told this is the stuff to keep you going when things get really tough - simply add a teaspoon to a cup of hot water and this'll keep you buzzing up those mountains for the whole day!
So we set off in the stunning sunny weather and the trail started to slope upwards, which was to continue for the next 8 hours when the oxygen started to get thin and we were all a-huffing and a-puffing up the hills. All the way we were treated to the most fantastic scenery, surrounded by snowcapped mountains and
green hills stretching out as far as the eye could see, with blue sky and sun.
We got to a campsite at 3800m after 8 hours of walking, just before Dead Woman's Pass, and here we had to make a decision about whether or not to carry on over the pass to the next campsite. As we were both fuelled by coca tea and chocolate we were like "yeah, bring it on!!" ...however, one member of our group was having a very tough time, so we set up camp (well, the porters did, bless em) just below the pass and enjoyed an evening of llama and alpaca watching, once again with the most fantastic backdrop.
The next day was a 4:00am start, meaning that copious amounts of coca tea once again had to be consumed. We climbed to the top of the pass and looked down from what felt like the top of the world, it was utterly beautiful and what a fantastic sense of achievement! After this, we dropped a long way, down big stone steps, but were then treated to the second pass of the trip, another breathless climb to 4000m. After that, the trail had
View from our second campsite
to drop a good couple of thousand metres so it was downhill all the way (which was actually harder work than going uphill after a few hours). We followed the trail through stunning cloud forest and dropped into dripping jungle. By then walking was starting to take it's toll on us...we began to feel very tired and a bit wobbly, so at lunch we drank more coca tea and ate lots of chocolate, and afterwards felt ready to tackle more of the trek. That night, after walking for 9 hours, we collapsed into bed just around the corner from Machu Picchu, praying for a clear day the next morning.
The porters woke us at 3:50am so that we could leave in time to reach the entrance to the Machu Picchu national park when it opened. So bleary eyed (after a nice cup of coca tea, of course) we headed down and joined the queue of gringos waiting eagerly to start the one hour walk to the Sun Gate to get our first glimpse of the site. Everyone stormed along the path, walking as fast as possible (which isn't very fast at these altitudes) to try and be the first
The Big Climb
On the final stretch to 4200m
there. At one point there was a very steep staircase which Laura climbed with the help of her hands as the old knees and calf muscles were wobbling a bit after the hours of downhill walking the day before!
Finally we reached the Sun Gate, and were treated to a picture-perfect first glimpse of Machu Picchu, with the sun shining down on the ruins, and blue sky illuminating the mountains which fill your field of vision in every direction...it was a pretty overwhelming moment and rather emotional after 4 days of trekking!
The rest of the day was spent wandering around the ruins which were every bit as mysterious and beautiful as we had imagined, enjoying the fact the we could sit whenever we wanted and rest those sore limbs! Eventually we left the runied city to the swelling tour groups and headed back to Cusco feeling exhausted but very happy.
Did you know?.........
Machu Picchu 's 150 dwellings included palaces, baths, temples and storage rooms, carefully carved from the gray granite of the Andes and filled with magnificent treasures. Many of the building stones weighed 50 tons or more, yet they were sculpted so precisely
there was no need for mortar to hold them together.
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