Inca Trail: The road to Machu Picchu!!!

Trip Start Jul 05, 2012
Trip End Jun 19, 2013

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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Saturday, April 13, 2013

After stumbling around at 5am in the darkness of our 8 bed dorm, trying not to wake anyone and failing miserably, I finally got the last bits of my gear ready for the Inca Trail. This is the focal point of my travels and the few days I have been anticipating the most. Half an hour later and I was on my way KM82, the starting point. I was last to be picked up and joined the 15 others in my group plus a few porters and Wilfredo (or Will) our guide. After a few hours kip and some overpriced breakfast we arrived at the start. No turning back now. I had paid for a porter to carry 6kg of my stuff so I only had to cope with my small backpack, where as others in my group opted to lug around 15kg the whole way. Crazy in my opinion as we're here to enjoy the experience but each to their own! After sorting our stuff out we were nearly ready to go. I was apprehensive about what lay ahead but excited at the same time. We checked in and had our inca trail stamp in our passports before Will gathered us round in a circle. We all introduced ourselves, a group of 9 from New York, 2 others from New York, English couple, South African couple and me made the 16, there was also Eddie our 2nd guide who always remained at the back. Will clearly explained what lay ahead for the day and that we were here to have fun and enjoy the experience, we were all a 'family' now. His introduction put me at ease and I was eager to get going. 
We hiked an easy 2 hours in the sunshine until we reached Llactapata, a small Inca settlement along the Urubamba river. Will gave us some info about the Sacred valley while we all caught our breaths before hiking another hour until lunch. Our porters had already set up a tent and cooked our food even though they left at the same time as us. Lunch and dinner was always an epic affair consisting of 3 delicious courses. On this occasion we had soup, lomo saltado and jelly. To say my cooking skills stop at beans on toast in a fully equip kitchen, it's amazing what they managed to cook for us along the trail. And the fact that the porters had to carry everything; tables, chairs, food, cooking equipment, huge gas cylinders etc, these guys were truly super human!
After stuffing myself with too much food the last thing I wanted to do was hiking. Unfortunately we now faced another 2 hour walk, this time uphill which Will said was training for tomorrow. The higher we climbed the views of the valley and surrounding mountains just kept getting better until we reached our campsite, Wayllabamba, 3100m above sea level.
The porters clapped us in when we finally arrived into the campsite, again they had set the main dining tent up and even our tents, these guys definitely worked hard for their money, they seriously couldn't do enough for us all. After dinner all 20 porters and the cook introduced themselves and before you ask, Yes I remember every persons name and age....!! And then it was time for bed, Rong, one of New Yorkers, had the pleasure of sharing a tent with me and my stinking feet! Lovely! 

The second day, Eddie came and woke us up at 5.30 with a cup of tea in bed, not a bad way to get people motivated for the hardest day of the trek. Will briefed us over breakfast explaining how long we would be hiking for, and that its best we go at our own pace rather than as a group. Me and Ben (another New Yorker) set the pace (thats right, I set the pace!) and started the ascent to the wonderfully named 'dead womans pass'. It took us 7 hours to reach the top, hiking 1100m in the process. It helped enormously chatting away to Ben along the way as it took my mind off all the steep Inca steps, as did the stunning scenery plus a few curious alpacas we passed by. At the top, after lying on the floor while my heart nearly burst out of my chest, I admired the valley and surrounding mountains. The sun was still shining as the remaining group joined us and we took some 'family' photos to celebrate reached the toughest point on the trail. 
The next 90 minutes was the most difficult for me as it was all downhill an therefore tough on my knees. I did have a walking stick but by the time we reached camp I was well and truly knackered. In fact we all were, once again we all got clapped in by the (annoyingly) fresh looking porters and enjoyed some much needed dinner. I enjoyed talking to Delen and Darnie the South Africans, they have some amazing stories of their years of travels through Africa and have definatly planted some ideas for future travels.
 I should also mention along the route and at camp sites there are toilets. These are fairly disgusting affairs (think squat with various excrement lying around) which meant I executed my visits with military precision. As we were camping at around 3600 meters Will said it would be cold at night. However due to my snuggly sleeping bag and warm tent I slept like a log. A log with very sore knees! 

Another earlier start which was made easier thanks to eddie bringing us more tea in bed. Will informed us this would be our longest day hiking, around 9 hours, and my knees were really not feeling it for the first couple. The good news was that the sun was still with us and by lunch time we could all sense how close Machu Picchu was. Lunch was especially good as we had ceviche (how do they get fish here!), pork kebabs, pumpkin soup and apple pie! The scenery was even more spectacular then the previous days and in the afternoon I took more time taking photos than walking. We hiked through tunnels, down Incan staircases, passed bright orchids and cool llamas. The final 2 hours were all downhill which at first I was dreading, but as we were so close to the finish line and with the sunshine and views keeping my spirits up, I raced down with 2 of the New Yorkers and English couple until we reached some stunning Inca terracing. Here was around 40 levels, where the Incas used to grow all their crops with each level providing different conditions for different crops to grow. After admiring their work we then turned around and there stood the back of Machu Picchu mountain. It was truly beautiful. Several other mountains surrounded it, all plunging deep into the valley where mist began to rise. We spent a good half an hour until we descended the final 10 minutes to our final campsite. For the final time our porters clapped us in before I got changed from really stinking clothes to just stinking clothes. 
After dinner our cook surprised us by bringing out a massive cake. How can you make a cake whilst camping!? It went down very well especially with a nice hot chocolate....ok so this isnt your typical camping trip! Afterwards all the porters came into the dining tent so we could say thankyou for all their hard work. They would return to their homes early next morning while we made our way to Machu Picchu. By 9pm we were all shattered, even the excitement of the next day couldnt stop me from falling fast asleep.

The final day. Wake up call 3.40am and no tea. Can you believe it! We had to get up early so the porters could get the first train home. After a 5 minute walk out of camp we joined a queue of other groups waiting for 5.30am, the time the last check point opens. I managed to sleep whiles leaning on my walking stick, quite a talent! After what seemed like forever, we made our way through and hiked for an hour to the sun gate. From here we got our final magnificent view of Machu Picchu from a distance before the early morning fog swept through. Will gathered us all together and congratulated us all for making it, a few high fives and hugs later we were on our way to Machu Picchu. A final 20 minute push and we reached the classic postcard photo location, the watchmans hut, where we spent half an hour taking photos and enjoying the view. It was such a good feeling, completing the Inca Trail and now being rewarded with not just a fabulous view but also perfect weather. I took a few shots and then collapsed in a heap while admiring the Incas work. 
After mentioning to Will that I would be meeting Jade he offered to let her join our tour of Machu Picchu and get the bus home with our group. Really nice of him. Soon after we made our way to the main entrance to dump our bags and find Jade.
Meeting Jade was much easier than expected as she had waited for an hour and a half at the front gate for my arrival. I found this a lot funnier than she did! After introducing her to Will and Eddie we made our way as a group or 'family' to the Inca ruins. 
We all gathered on the terraces for Wills history lesson on Machu Picchu, well its actually mostly theory as there have never been any writings found from the Incas. Machu Picchu (old peak) was built in the year 1450 and was later abandoned at the time of the Spanish conquest around 1572. As the Spanish didn't know about Machu Picchu it remained hidden (except for locals) till 1911 when American Hiram Bingham discovered it. Within the complex there are homes for up to 1000 people, the kings house, many temples and farming terraces. There is a nearby quarry for all the stone used to build the complex. There are various styles of walls built, with the best containing stones weighing tonnes carved perfectly to fit the adjoining stones so its impossible to even pass a piece of paper in the cracks. No cement or mortar was used. Theres also a sacrificing table where humans would be killed if an phenomenon occurred. Overall the whole site is amazing especially the way its perched on top of mountain with terraces running down. 
Me and Jade both agree this has been the most magical place we've been to. Its important to say as well the photos which we will eventually put on really don't do the Inca trail or Machu Picchu justice and neither does this blog!
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