Treking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
86Trip End Apr 01, 2012
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Our afternoon walk starts to get tougher as we are starting the first pass, but after a couple hours of steep ascent we are at our first campsite where tea, hot chocolate, biscuits and popcorn is awaiting us. Funnily enough it’s pretty early nights on the Inca trail and so after dinner it’s bed time in our tent (which is surprisingly warm) in preparation for the long day tomorrow.
At 5am the next day, we are awoken by a tap on the tent, cups of tea and hot water to wash – all brought to our tent. Our breakfast is massive with porridge, fruit salad, omelette and bread and then we start our second day. This is the hardest day as it’s all uphill to 4250m
From the way our guide had planned our trip, the third day is the easiest and so we don’t have to get up until 6.30am – a welcome lie in. Plus it’s either flat or downhill walking so a bit easier although not so good for the knees, again very grateful of the walking sticks. We see more ruins today before arriving at both our lunch spot and overnight spot. The scenery today is amazing, definitely a highlight of the trail. The campsite is the busiest we’ve been at as most people stay here as it’s closest to Machu Picchu. Very importantly there is shower facilities here and we get our first shower (cold) in a few days. In the afternoon we visit some ruins, our ‘happy hour’ includes cake today which I have no idea how they made but it was much appreciated, then its dinner and early bedtime as tomorrow is the early start. Before bed there is a tipping ceremony for the porters, our porters have worked incredibly hard, always applaud us arriving after a hard day of walking and make sure we have everything we need, it’s actually quite humbling to see them work so hard to help us and be very proud of their jobs. Our chef wore a chef’s hat and whites and was always looking to make sure we enjoyed the food. We were more than happy to tip the recommended amount to show our appreciation of their work. Over the past few days we were happy to see that our porters were the best kitted out (with shoes and proper backpacks) where as some of the other companies don’t provide much for the porters and so they run up and down these mountains in sandals
Up at 3.30am today as the porters have to catch the 5.30am train – the train company only has one train a day that they’ll let the porters on, on the much restricted local trains. So we are in the queue at 4.30am for the trail to Machu Picchu to open at 5.30am. Then it’s a very fast paced walk for an hour and a half to get to the Sun Gate for sunrise. The sun gate is a ruin that overlooks Machu Picchu, and is the traditional inca entrance to the complex. We have a brief stop here but as its fairly busy with people we continue down to Machu Picchu to watch the sun come over the tops of the mountains. The view is impressive as we watch the sun move over the ruins – built from east to west so it can appreciate the sun rise and set. The view is amazing and it is good to take a break after our trek and truly take in the setting before the masses arrive...
By 8am things get a bit hectic - bus loads of people start arriving from 6am and so it’s busy, very busy and given that we got up at 3.30am neither of us are in the mood to deal with people...We soon realise that Machu Picchu is a very impressive ruin but is just not set up for the amount of tourists that visit it. This is something that has been hotly debated in local press since we have been here and there is talk of placing further restrictions on visitor numbers. Something clearly has to be done as they are just not able to deal with the numbers.
The morning was spent with a tour from our guide around the ruins where he explained the various theories behind Machu Picchu, to sum up – they don’t know but the guesses vary from fortress to university....The scale of the rocks used in the construction are massive, I find it difficult to understand how the Incas managed to build a site of this size in the time they were around (a few hundred years)
The next day is yet another early start, breakfast at 5am, and we started queuing for the bus at 5.10am, and got onto a bus about half an hour later, then we queued for about an hour to get into Machu Picchu (this is why we don’t miss touristy places). Then while most of the tourists watch the sun rise (it was a bit cloudy and so we didn’t bother), we explore the parts of the ruins that were too busy yesterday to see. So in that respect it was worthwhile to come back a second day, however without a guide it doesn’t quite mean as much
Overall we had an amazing time on our trek to Machu Picchu. I think we would both agree that the special part was actually getting there, rather than the final destination. Along the way we got to see many inca sights and it was impressive for us to take the route to Machu Picchu that the Incas took. We definitely recommend the trek and wish we had more time to do some of the other great treks around Cusco.