Walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Trip Start Jun 13, 2006
Trip End Jun 12, 2007

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dean: We were really looking forward to the Inca Trail and lost city of Machu Picchu. Even though we had heard that day two of the trek could be a bit tough, we both knew that it would be one of the highlights of our trip. This is one of the first reasons that I wanted to travel in South America - to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and get to understand a little more about the Inca civilisation. We had an early pick up at 7:00am from our hostel (was meant to be 6:00-6:30, but hey this is South America!) to the start of the trail (kilometer 82) in the sacred valley of the Incas. Here we had a spot of lunch and started to get to know the other members of the group. We were eight in total - Alex and I, plus...

Ada and Hedda, two Estonian girls doing some volunteer work with children in Cusco before they start university next year. Estonia seems to be a really nice place and meeting/talking to Ada and Hedda has definitely rekindled our desire to spend six months traveling around Europe! I know, I know, I have to go back to work in June 07 but you never know, Alex and I may win the lottery before then!

Ray and Anna from California. Ray is a humorous guy and gave as good as he got (even when the topic of conversation was the US presidency!). Anna is a Peruvian now living in the US and is one of the friendliest people I have met. It was great having Anna within the group, not only for her naturally perfect Spanish but also for the additional information she could provide on Peru and Peruvian culture.

Angelique and Lydie, two French ladies who helped reconfirm that not all the French are bad! ;-) Lydie now lives in Mexico City and seems happy not living in France. Angelique is from Burgundy but lives in Paris. Both had a great French wit, which included a mischievous look in their eyes, and we had some great chats about the French-English relationship!

Our guide was called Valerio and along with our nine porters (who carried all of the camping equipment, food, huge gas bottles for the stove, etc - we had to carry our own personal items such as clothes, sleeping bag, roll mat, etc) made up the group. We couldn't have hoped for a better group to travel with. Everyone was good natured and up for a laugh. We all bonded very quickly and by the end of the trail I could not believe that we had only know these people for four days.

On day one we walked for about five hours, covering about 16km. We followed the river bank passing small Inca ruins, while being watched over by Mount Veronica (5900m high). We camped the night near the small village of Wayllabamba. The highlight of the day was definitely seeing the ruins of Llaqtapata, which is Quechua for "town on hillside". The ruin was made up of a village and farming terraces, located on the banks of the Rio Cusichaca river. It was an amazing sight and really got us excited about seeing Machu Picchu.

Day two started early at 05:30 with a hot drink for those who wanted one. They drink coca tea here which is made from the leaves of the coca plant (yes, the same plant as we get cocaine from!) - it's meant to be very good for the altitude sickness! We then had breakfast before breaking camp and heading off to climb through native polylepis forest to the highest campsite on the Inca Trail at Paq'aymayuo. To get there we first had to ascend to the first mountain pass of the route at Warmiwanusqa (4200m/13750 feet). This was tough! It took just under five hours for Alex and I to reach the top of the pass - Alex was first out of our group to make it to the top (with me coming in a close second!). Even though it was a hard hike, it was amazingly rewarding to get to the top. Unfortunately, with it being the rainy season, the clouds had come in and we were deprived of the awe-inspiring views that the pass is famous for. From the top it was a knee-jarring decent down the other side to our campsite. As we had expected, day two was a challenge but it was also the best day for me as it pushed and tested us. There was no way we were going to turn back (some people have) and once we got to camp, I felt really proud for Alex, myself, and the rest of the group.

The view from the campsite at the start of day three was just what I needed to get over the cold nights sleep - we were in tents, up a mountain at 3600m! From here we hiked up to the second pass and onwards towards Machu Picchu. Day three was not as challenging as day two but we got to check out a number of Inca ruins and the views were amazing. We camped looking out on to Machu Picchu mountain (with the Machu Picchu site being on the far side of the mountain). This campsite had hot showers (a luxury we had not had since Cusco) and a bar - just what we needed!

The final day would be an early start again (04:00) and a short hike up to the Sun Gate and on to Machu Picchu...
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