The Inca Trail
Trip Start Feb 13, 2009
14Trip End Jun 30, 2009
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We met our guide, 4 porters and chef in Ollantaytambo. I couldn´t believe we needed 6 people for the 2 of us! They arrived in a ute - 5 of them in the back, cramped amongst the food and other items coming with us. When we got to km 82 (Piscacuchu) everything was unloaded and seperated into piles and then weighed accordingly, ensuring all porters were carrying the same weight. We had been given some sandwiches from our hostel, so we handed them out and they were quickly scoffed. And then off we went.
Our guide Manu was excellent. He was fun and his English was great. He was only about 22. The first day walking was fine until the last couple of hours when we had to ascend 1000ms, starting from an altitude of about 2,8000ms. We had decided not to use a porter, so were carrying large rucksacks which made it a lot harder than it could have been. At one stage I almost felt delirious when 3 Llamas belted down the path towards us. We camped at 3,800ms that night and the air was thin and cold. United Mice, the company we booked with owned the campsite, so we were the only ones there, camping amongst the clouds. It was very eerie and magical, sitting in our dining tent feeling spoiled.
Day 2 started with a wakeup call of Tea in our tent. The porters had to help us out as our zip was broken. After a huge breakfast we had a nasty 500m-ish climb from 3800ms to 4250ms, up to Dead Woman's Pass (I like to call it Dead Man's Pass!). By the time we got to this highest point on the Inca Trail, the clouds had cleared and we had a lovely view all down the valley. We then had a 2 hour climb down un-even Inca steps. We chilled for a few hours over lunch and then had yet another climb of 1 hour, which took me by surprise. It was pretty tough on a full stomach. We then carried on to our campsite. There were lots of wild flowers and hummingbirds. The weather was really good too. All along the way we visited Inca ruins of varying sizes and didn't see many people, except for the porters as they scurried past in their sandals.
Day 3 was our easiest day with only about 5 hours of walking. There were a lot more people around today, and most of them started before us but we were speedy and soon overtook them. Considering that the majority were carrying only small daypacks, I thought this was a pretty good feat. The scenery changed today and became quite dense, with lots of bamboo and shrubbery. There was an amazing Inca ruin just before the Winay Wayna campsite and we spent a good 40 minutes admiring the view while sitting on the Inca terraces. The nice thing about the Inca ruins is that you can walk through them and touch them, nothing is roped off. The campsite we stayed at is the one closest to the Sun Gate, which was our destination for the morning, the first view point of Machu Picchu. Cold beer and hot showers were the reward for the day, plus another bonus Inca site 5 mins from the campsite.
Day 4 started really early at 4am. The checkpoint from the campsite didn't open until 5.30am, so we had to be lined up ready to go by 5. This was the only day we had any rain, and luckily, after torrential downpour during the night, it petered out just before we got up. It felt peculiar lining up in a queue at 5am, in the middle of nowhere. Not sure why they have this checkpoint!! Seemed pointless to me. Today´s walk was very rushed. There were about 150 people all walking as fast as they could, trying to be the first to the Sun Gate. I didn't see the point really as sunrise was already gone. I would have much preferred to have taken my time. This was the only real disappointment of the trek. You daren't stop to take your jacket off, otherwise you would have to wait for 100 odd people to pass. Upon reaching the Sun Gate we glimpsed Machu Picchu for the first time. We were really lucky as 5 minutes later the clouds came in and obscured it. Wow! Words cannot describe it.
After a few hours of walking around Machu Picchu my legs packed up and said STOP. I couldn't blame them. I had weighed my rucksack with the porters's scales the night before and found it weighed 15kg. Yikes! Mark was amused as he had never seen me in such bad shape...hobbling along, groaning. My worse decision of the day was insisting that we walk down into Aguas Calientes, the town of Machu Picchu. Although there were buses leaving every 5 minutes, I thought it would only be a 30 minute walk, and would complete the Inca Trail. Not! A) It wasn't part of the Inca Trail and B) It took about 1.5 hours - 1000 steep steps and then an incline into town on a hot, muggy day. I was NOT popular. Mark has since forgiven me I believe.