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Published: November 5th 2006
The city of Cuzco was once the city of the Inca empire and is known today as the Americas archeological capitol. Cuzco is over 3300m from sea level so the first thing we all needed to do, before starting the Inca Trail, once we landed was acclimatise to the altitude level.
A crew of 14 enthusiastic trekkers romed the hilly streets of old Inca built walls admiring the beauty of Cuzco by night. This was the beginning of many beautiful sights we were about to become aquainted with over the next 6 days.
The first day of the tour was set aside for an ´easy walk´ in the mountains, a visit to the local villages, which some of the money paid to Gap Adventures goes towards, and a cruisy bus ride up a pass to experience our first picture perfect view of the Andes, The Sacred Valley. An early start of 6:30am ended the first night in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. The next morning we scrubbed our bodies and indulged in hot showers for the last time and the excitment of commencing the Inca Trail began.
Day 1 - 7am we arrived at Kilometre 82, the start
of the Inca trail. With our walking sticks, porters carrying our daffle bags, sunscreen, hats, rain ponchos all packed in our day bag we hit the Inca trail, l was unaware at this stage that the next 4 days were going to be the hardest and best 4 days of my life.
We´d started the trail at 2200m and ended the first day at 3300m walking uphill for the last 2hrs. l thought this day was a good challenging day of hikking, l was knackered and was a little nervous once l got back to camp to hear the schedule for the following day as everyone says day 2 of the hike is the hardest. The porters who carry our daffle bags, tents, food supplies for 4 days and all cooking facilities had already set up our tents and had our snacks layed out in the dining tent by the time we got to the first nights camp site. The 4ft nothing Quechuans carring up to 20kgs max each on the Inca Trail move faster than any marathon runner, its truely incredible.
Day 2 - 5:30am start and back on the trail by 6:30am. We had a 3.5hr
uphill hike to the Dead Womas Pass, the first and highest pass of the Inca Trail reaching 4100m, it was going to be tough. Percy, Quechuan guide, was impressed at the speed of the team, we had 2 Aussie boys who are experienced hikkers set the pace for the group. Admittedly the pace was tough for most of us but we managed to keep up with only 15mins lagging time. Percy advised all of us to stop at any given time to catch our breathe and look around coz each time you stop and take a look at the view it will be more different and more spectacular to next. Being in the middle of the Andes, snow capped mountains, standing above cloud forest was a refreshing experience. It was odd to try and visualise myself in this situation, everything around me was simply beautiful.
We reached the second pass on day 2 and after 7hrs of hikking thats when Gaz and l pretty much almost fell to our knees once we reached the camp site. This was the toughest walk and highest altitude either of us had been, a massive sense of achievment came over me once l
hit camp site. l couldn´t believe how hard the day had been, how close to tears l was at the thought l was not going to make it to the top, but we did it! We had overcome the most challenging day of the Inca Trail, the next 2 days were going to be easier from here on in.
Day 3 - A 4hr hike stopping at the 3rd and final pass of the Inca Trail and several archeological sites enhanced our appreciation of the Inca Trail and Inca empire. Throughout the entire 3 days, Persy, a passionately enlightened us on the hows and whys of the Inca Empire. The path the Inca built became more and more important, l´d developed such appreciation for the Incas for the city they wanted not to be found, Macchy Picchu.
Day 4 - A restricted 500 people, included porters, locals, tours, guides are allowed to enter the Inca Trail daily to limit the damage of the Inca sites. So at the last camp site there were dozens of tours preparing themselves for the golden prize that 4 days of heavy hikking had built. The check point to commence the track to
Ollantaytambo, The Sacred Valley
The village we stayed in the night before commencing the Inca Trail.
Macchu Picchu opened at 5:30am, the idea is to be the first to the Sungate, (takes approx 50mins to get from the check point to the Sungate) this was where the sunrises through a ´V´ spot in the mountains and shines over Macchu Picchu, this was the golden egg and the magical moment none of us had any idea we would feel until will reached this spot. As a dedicated and passionate team of 14 we decided we had to be the first to the check point and got up the night before at 3:45am to be standing and waiting for the gate to open by 4am. The faster hikkers were the first through the gate as we all ran like bulls towards Sungate. Everyone had Macchu Picchu in there heads, no matter how tired, sore, whether you had a case of the flu or the urge to relieve a bad case of the stomach bug nothing was stopping anyone of us from reaching the top as quickly as we possibly could.
The most magical moment, the sun beamed down over Macchu Picchu in the middle of the Andes mountains. We were on top of the clouds, literally and
The start point of the Inca Trail.
metaphorically. The Incas did not want the Spaniards to find Macchu Picchu, the 4 day hike weaving over and around mountains proved to me they were not going to make it easy for anyone to find this place. It wasn´t until 1911 when Hiram Bingham, an American explorer, discovered Macchu Picchu and 4 years later he discovered the final 2hrs of the Trail which pieced together the Inca trail to the lost city discovering many, many argeological sites along the way.
l don´t think any words can truely discribe the experience of completing the 4 day Inca Trail hike. There is an option of travelling to Macchu Picchu by train from Aguas Calientas which only takes 3hrs. Unless you are ill, or on time restraint or physically unable l would recommend doing the Inca Trail trek. A 3 hr train journey will not give you 4 days worth of knowledge and appreciation of Macchu Picchu and Inca. As Percy said to us " if you don´t remember everything l am telling you about Incas, thats ok...but remember the feeling you have of being here...."
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