The Inca Trail
This was the whole point of our trip -- to hike the 26km Inca Trail -- the trail that the Incas followed when making a trip to Machu Picchu. The hike normally takes 4 days, Kevin and I decided to make it in 3. The hike itself consists of 3 passes, the highest reaching an elevation of 4200 meters.
We started out about 10:30am
. It was pouring down rain, so we put on every ounce of raingear we had. Even though it was raining, and we were sloshing through the mud, we were still amazed by the astounding scenery. Since I am not a writer, it is difficult for me to express in words the scenery we experienced. Hopefully the pictures I took will provide you with an idea of how beautiful the area was.
The majority of this day was spent hiking a flat trail. The hard part was the last 3 hours -- all uphill. I don't know if any of you have ever hiked with a 40 pound backpack on, but it is not easy. So going uphill for 3 hours was a killer. It started getting cold as the sun went down, but we finally made camp around 6:30pm. In one hours time, the temperature had dropped to a bone-chilling 50 degrees. We didn't expect it to be that cold, especially that early. We were so exhausted from the hike that we were asleep at 8:30pm.
The sun rose around 6:00, and we were up and packing the tent by 7:00. The sunrise was absolutely fantastic -- fortunately I was able to get some great pictures. We camped at 3800 meters, so we only had 400 meters to go to get over the first pass
. We thought this would be no big deal, especially after having slept for 10 hours. We couldn't have been more wrong. The air at that altitude is very thin, and we were only able to take about 15 steps before our hearts were pounding and our lungs burned from the thin air. We finally reached the top and took a 15 minute break before heading down 1000 meters of stone steps. This was much easier, but, as I discovered later in the day, going downhill on stone for an extended period of time is absolutely brutal on your knees. Needless to say, the last 2 hours of the hike were absolutely painful. I was moving extremely slow. My knee ached so bad that I wrapped it in an ace bandage, and further wrapped it with duct tape. I had to borrow Kevin's hiking pole and use both as crutches. Fortunately, we had made very good time earlier in the day so we were still on track to finishing the hike in 3 days. We finally made it to the last camp around 5:30pm, and we were more exhausted than the day before. We setup camp, cooked our dinner, and were asleep by 7:30pm.
This is the hardcore part of the trip. We woke up at 4am, (first light is at 6am), packed up our tent, and began hiking at 5am. Now both of my knees were in bad shape. Today's hike was only 2 1/2 hrs long, but it was on a very narrow path with a sharp drop to the right
. It was going to be dark for the first hour. The path was very wet, and, in some parts, very slippery. All we had for light was a small AA-powered maglight. Typically, you arrive at the Sun Gate after 1 1/2 hours, where you sit and watch the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, the weather was horrible and we were unable to see anything from the Sungate. We knew it may have happened this way since we were travelling in the rainy season. We continued on, and after one more hour of painful hiking, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of Machu Picchu. The clouds had blown away for a brief minute to allow us to really appreciate the size of Machu Picchu. After resting for an hour, we went down the mountain and took a tour of the grounds. It was absolutely amazing how the entire city was built. We toured around the city for a few hours, hoping that the rain would stop. Unfortunately, it never let up.
After the hike, the remainder of the trip was uneventful. We spent two full days trying to get back to Lima. We only spent one day in Lima. Parts of the city are nice, but a nice gray smog is everywhere, and the beaches are deemed unsuitable for swimming. One day was enough for me.
It's a little late for the last entry, but it's here nonetheless. The only major thing that is worth mentioning for the remainder of the trip was the hike to Machu Picchu.