The Inca Trail

Trip Start Sep 22, 2011
Trip End Aug 11, 2012

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Hotel Saphi

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hello you lovely people, itīs Paul writing again.

So, we have done it, we have completed the Inca Trail. This was possibly the main reason that we came to South America on this trip and to put it simply, it didnīt disappoint.

The adventure started on Tuesday morning with an early wake-up call at 4 am. After the meeting on Monday evening we had gone out as a group to stock up on snacks and drinks. By the time we got back to the hotel and had finally packed our rucksacks and duffel bags, we were left with about 5 hours of sleep time, if that! In the duffel bags we were allowed to pack up to 5 kg of clothes and other things that we werenīt likely to need whilst walking, and these would then be carried by the porters to our campsites each day, but more about the amazing porters later.
Once we were all up and ready we got a bus through Cusco and into the mountains. After about an hour and a half we stopped in a little town for breakfast. It was already sunny and warm so me and Alex went for a little walk and found our first ruins. These were just some small farming terraces on the side of the hill but straight away gave us a sense of what was in store a long the route. After our walk we joined the rest of the group for breakfast and I was extremely happy when I found a fried egg sarnie on the menu for 2 soles (50p). Alex was more impressed with the fresh tea and she soon woke up (you know how she is without her tea in the morning).
After breakfast we were back on the bus for another 45 minutes until we reached the starting point of the Inca Trail. Here we had a good group photo underneath the starting point before getting our passports stamped and crossing the bridge to mark the start of the trail. We were told that the bridge was only built in the 1980īs and before then people, porters, guides and bags all had to cross the river via a pully, cable car system. I was very glad that wasnīt the case now.

The first stage of the trail was taken at a relatively slow pace. The weather was very hot and sunny and the gradient of the paths was very gentle. The trail runs beside the river and we stopped  every now and then so that the guides could point out certain plants or ruins, and to give us another lesson in how to chew coca leaves. Knowing what these tasted like already I decided to give them a miss. Youīll all be pleased to hear that Iīm now a lot better and have fully aclimatised to the altitude, but thank you all for your sympathy, well some of you! After a couple of hours of walking we reached the site for lunch. The site was basically a farm and as we sat around we were surrounded by chickens, chicks and ducks. This entertained us whilst we waited for lunch as they birds would offen come wandering up right behind someone, usually a girl, and scare them. This amused me at least. The lunch stop was our first insite into the work that the porters do for us. We had set off at the same time as them and we had seen them as they ran past us carrying up to 25 kg of stuff on their backs. Most of the guys just used a sheet and tied it around their shoulders to carry the stuff, which looked extremely uncomfortable. Many of them were doing it in sandles too, whilst we were trecking along in our state of the art hiking boots, and still moaning! By the time we reached the lunch stop there were already two large tents that had been put up, a table and chairs and the smell of garlic and onions in the air. Lunch started with soup and garlic bread, which was very tasty, followed by chicken, vegitables and rice. We were all amazed with the not only the quantity of food, but the quality as well, it was delicious! And to think that these guys had carried it all past us, set up and started cooking before we had even arrived, it was incredible.
After lunch we had a couple of hours of climbing to reach our campsite for the evening. The trail in the morning was dirt track but as we started climbing they changed to mostly stone paths or large stone steps. The climb was pretty tough on a full stomach but very enjoyable as it was only a relatively short stint. We reached the cmapsite at around 5:30 and again the porters had beaten us there and put up all our tents for us. The rest of the evening was spent in the dinner tent playing games and eating the popcorn and snacks that were provided for afternoon tea. We also got tea, coffee and hot chocolate and following the guideīs advice, Ali, Jill and I had purchased a cheeky bottle of rum. This turned out to be a cracking idea and greatly improved our hot chocolates, so much so that we shared with everyone else once they saw ours. Dinner that night was soup, lomo saltado (beef dish), rice and spinach pizza. For dessert we had a local dish which was like a hot jelly with cloves. It was delicious! Again we were all amazed with the food, so much so that I think we all ate far too much, again. After dinner and with the prospect of an early start and a very long day ahead, we were all in bed by 8:30.
We were woken up at 6 am by the porters who came baring tea. We enjoyed the tea in our sleeping bags before getting up for a breakfast of pancakes, toast, porridge and suger puff type stuff. Something told us that we were going to need our carbs today. Everything we had read about the Inca Trail told of how difficult the second day was, with a massive climb and a huge descent. We set out from camp at 7:30 and straight away we started climbing. The sun was very warm again and we were soon sheading the layers that we had put on earlier. From the control point, which was about 10 minutes walk from the camp we were shown by our guides exactly where we were heading... damn thatīs a long way!! We had camped at around 3000 m and our first major pass was at the top of Dead Womanīs Pass, which was at 4200 m. Me and Alex spent most of the climb with Ali and Jill. The four of us kept each other going as we would round a corner only to find another set of ancient stairs that seemed to go on for ever. Throughout the day we were constantly passed by porters and we tried to help out by offering them sweets. This soon stopped though after one of the porters sucked Aliīs finger as she offered him a sweet. Ali was traumatised but it certainly cheered me, Alex and Jill up. Jill also got a dance from a porter as he passed playing his music, again lifting moral as we climbed through the forest.
At the 2/3 point of the climb we exited the tree-line and had a rest with the rest of the group. We left this point at 11 and started the gruelling last third of the climb. This stage was very hard work and so we had our music playing to keep us going. We made it to the top by 12:15, which we were very pleased with, and then collapsed! The views from the top back down the valley were absolutely stunning. We could see all the way back to camp and it definitely looked as far as it felt. Once all the group had arrived at the top we had a group photo before contemplating what the afternoon had in stall.
On a side note, the game of Truck Murder was still in full swing. I think Alex left it in the last blog that she had to kill Dave the driver, well she did whilst on the way to dinner. Unfortunately though she let her gaurd down afterwards and was killed by Kat with some onion whilst drinking a vodka orange. This now meant that Kat got who Alex was meant to be killing, which turn out to be me. I was stood minding my own business at the top of Dead Womanīs Pass when Alex came over and gave me a hug and held my hand. I thought she was being affectionate, but little did I know that she was working for Kat who subsequently came up and killed me with a guide book. Thanks Alex!!!
Back on topic, whilst sat at the top of the pass the weather had started coming in on the other side of the valley. Litterally as we decided to start heading down again it started raining... hard! Alex had her poncho and so was nice and dry whilst I relied on my Gore-tex jacket and got very wet shorts. The 1600+ steps down the valley meant that I wasnīt cold though. Alex spent the afternoon walking with Jill (and helping her off the floor), whilst I stayed with Fiona providing moral support. Her ankle was hurting, the steps were slippy and in places very steep, so we were towards the back. Iīm pretty sure I helped though by staying and constantly asking stupid qestions and conversation starters to try and stop us thinking about how wet we were and how far we still had to walk. We saw the amusing side once we reached camp though and had a chance to dry out. Once at camp the rain eased off and the cloud lifted to reveal a stunning view of the surrounding mountains. I also got a chance to sit and watch the wildlife and managed to capture a fantastic picture of a humming bird in flight, if I do say so myself. This campsite was in a set area and we shared with with all the other hikers of the day, although each group had their own separate areas. The toilets however left a lot to be desired. Mum and Judith, I do reckon youīd be able to do the trecking, but I pretty sure these facilities would not be up to your levels of cleanliness. 

Day three again started with wake-up tea at 6 am and another hearty breakfast. Today was to be the longest day with over 9 hours of hiking in store. The first hour or so was up hill from the camp site and we stopped of at some ruins for a little history lesson. We then comtinued upwards until we reached the second pass. If the clouds had lifted we would have bee treated to a stunning view, but as it was we couldnīt see an aweful lot. When the cloud did part in brief periods though the views were indeed amazing. Half way through the morning we came across a very impressive Inca settlement, which we were able to wander around and explore. Just before I also got my first sight of a snake. It was a small green fella that was curled up in a tree below and to the side of the path. Once at the Inca site it started raining and most people, including Alex opted to carry on the the lunch site. I stayed for the tour of the site and was amazed at how the Incaīs used to build their building according to the landscape, the stars and water systems.   
I managed to make it to Lunch before the hevens really opened, and we all sat in the tent eating lunch and hoped that I would clear before we had to set out walking again... it didnīt! The walk for the rest of the afternoon is described as the most enjoyable with fantastic views and a steady gradient to the path. Even though we didnīt get the views because of the clouds, the walk through the rain forest was brilliant. Alex and I really enjoyed the dramatic forest surroundings and the original Inca paths kept the walk thoroughly enjoyable. The rain had stopped about an hour after lunch and so we we came to the ruins of Intipata we were able to stop and rest and got the chance to have a good chat with Julio, one of the guides. We found out that although it takes us 4 days to walk the Inca Trail, the record is 3 hrs 55 mins!!! That was set by a Peruvian athlete some years ago, incredible! We also found out that the eldest person that he had guided was 87 and the youngest was 6 years old.
After our little rest we only had another 45 minutes of hiking before we reached our final campsite. The evening was spent playing cards before dinner and talking about the last three days and how they had flown by. After another fantastic dinner we all got introduced to the team of porters and I gave a little thank you speach on the groupīs behalf. We also handed out the tips, which were recieved very gratefully, but we all agreed they it was such a small amount for the work that they put in. After this we all hit our tents as our wake up call in the morning was at 3:30 am... and with no tea! Litterally as we got into our tents to got to sleep the hevens opened again and it started raining. I managed a decent nightīs sleep and when I woke at half 3 I was pretty dissapointed to hear rain still pouring onto the tent. Nevertheless, we got up, packed our bags, had breakfast and joined the queue of treckers at the last control gate. We queued here until half 5 as it was too dark to to walk and we had to wait for the sun to rise. The gates eventually opened and we set off on our last 2 hours of trecking to reach Inti Punku, the Inca Sun Gate of Machu Picchu. The walk was very pleasent, despite the rain. The highlight has to be the īmonkey stepsī, which are so steep that you have to use your hands to climb them. We finally reached the Sun Gate at around 7 am and were greated by a stunning view of mist and cloud. Literally we couldnīt see more than 100 m. This was absolutely gutting as from here we should have gotten our first view of Machu Picchu. This however isnīt where you get the postcard picture of Machu Picchu and so we headed off further down the track towards the sacred city. We finally reached the city at 7:30 and finally we we close enough and the cloud had lifted enough to see the postcard view that we had wanted, and it really was amazing. The city sits atop the mountain and is just a vast array of stone buildings and farming terraces, it was beautiful. After a short rest we started our guided tour of the city with Santiago, our second guide. Everything about the city was so interesting and the guideīs passion just seemed to make it even more brilliant, again despite the rain. Both me and Alex said how incredible Machu Picchu was, even in the rain, and so imagined what it must be like on a blue sky day. We had finally made it and loved it. It was everything we had expected and more. We even convinced ourselves that the cloud and mist added a certain mystical feel to the place and made it even better.

After the tour and a short look around on our own we took the bus down the mountain to the town of Aguas Calientes. Here we met the rest of our group in a restaurant/bar and we took over the the top floor where we were able to spread out, dry our kit and generally relax and unwind after four very long days. We spent the afternoon here with a bit of food and a few beers before getting the train and bus back to Cuzco. We arrived back at the hotel at around 11 pm and headed straight to bed. We were all absolutely shattered, stank of wet dog after no showers since Monday, and all craved our soft beds as apposed to a roll mat in a tent.
The last four days had certainly taken itīs toll on us all but it was absolutely amazing, and we shall definitely be heading back to Machu Picchu in the future. Maybe not down the Inca Trail route, as we have done that now, but it has definitely made an impression on us enough to want to come back someday

Right, I think that is enough rambling about the Inca Trail for now. Tomorrow we head off to Puno, near lake Titicaca. This blog is just for the trail and so in the next installment Íīll catch up on the very amusing night out last night and how we get on with our night spent with a local family by the lake, which is happening on Tuesday. Iīve also heard rumour of a karaoke bar so that should be a good laugh.

Hope you all stay well and have used your work time well by reading this essay.
Talk to you all soon,

Love us two

p.s. I know these blogs are lacking photos and I will indever to upload as many as possible when we have a decent internet connection. Sorry for the wait.
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MnD K on

Good blog again Paul. Really good to read about your adventures - almost like being there. I can just imagine your Mum hiking up the mountain side. Maybe if you hadn't mentioned the toilets I would have stood a chance!

Not sure I completely understand what is going on with the killing game but no doubt we will get to know it when you are back. Not sure it was one for the wedding reception though.

The customers are demanding photos - and lots of them! Uncle Kim will be very jealous of the Humming Bird shot - make sure that is one of them!

We have not been up to anything any where near as exciting. Had a week at work followed by bad golf at the weekend. Did go and see Madeline in a musical. She was the lead girl and very very good. She looked about 23 up on stage - frightening how quick she is growing up - it is making me feel decidedly old.

Rachel and Leanne hit Leicester on Saturday night / Sunday morning and didn't emerge until Sunday afternoon. Rachel then spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping - she may as well have stayed in bed.

Hope Alex is feeling better - give her a big hug from us. Looking forward to the next instalment - especially the photos!

Take care. Lots of love - MnD xxxxx

Wade Marsden on

Great blog Paul, makes me envious. Would like to do that trip, but her Majesty classes three star hotels as camping.....
Stay safe and enjoy it.
Cheers Wade

Mum n Dad K on

Glad to hear that it was all that you wanted it to be. At least the long hard trek was worth it. Shame about the weather but never mind, a cloudy rainy view of Machu Picchu is better than the view from your old office windows! Time now to take it easy and let the air get to your feet.
Take of each other, love n hugs to you both xxxx

Rachel on

You sure you wrote enough Paul??? Lol x

Mum and Dad H on

Sounds amazing! So the next time I send you off on a walk in Suffolk with a map you will not be ringing for a lift home having been lost for two hours! Was Alex running off to lunch or looking for shops? Looking forward to seeing the photos.
Missing you both lots, Much love, Mum and Dad (H) xxxx

Grandad & Grandma on

We have been enjoying your pictures and they are amazing!! It looks like you are having a great time. Pity about the rain at the top but its all part of the fun....that is later when you are recalling the same. Keep enjoying the trip, we are very envious, such experiences. Lots of love. Me & Him

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