Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Trip Start Jun 20, 2003
Trip End Mar 01, 2004

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Saturday, July 12, 2003

We just finished the four day hike up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu! Getting to Machu Picchu was quite an experience. We had to hike through three mountain passes to get there. There is actually a train that takes you to Mahu Picchu but we wanted the experience of hiking like the Incas did, and it was brutal. The hiking consisted of about 6-7 hours of hiking per day, which doesn't sound so bad, but add on altitude sickness and the fact that most of it was either straight up or straight down, and you can imagine how hard it was.

What was really astounding was the fact that we were hiking with just our water and our snacks while the porters would carry all the food, tents, their equipment, and our stuff, basically just a ridiculous amount of weight on their backs. To top it off, they would run past us on the trail wearing just flip flops. And they were always in a good mood, and so very helpful.

The hardest day of hiking was the second day up to Dead Woman's Pass, which is at around 14,000 feet. You start at 7 am and go straight up for five hours, which is hard enough, but I got a bit of altitude sickness right before were about to start! Our guide gave me some type of medicine, but I didn't even ask any questions about what it was, how it worked, etc., because I was feeling so awful. I will never forget going up that mountain. We would take five steps and then stop to just breathe before we took the next five steps. Ever so slowly we did make it to the top! And then after about 5 minutes because it was so cold at the top we started the knee-pounding down hill. Even with trekking poles, our knees will never be the same! And that was just the first pass.

It was all worth it on the fourth day, however, when we got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu in the sunrise from the Incan Sungate. It was truly an uplifting experience that made us forget all about our aches and pains. Machu Picchu is one of the few places that was not obliterated by the Spanish (because they never found it), and so you can have a good idea of what an Incan city was like and how amazing the Incans were at architecture. All the pieces of giant stone are held together by interlocking keys, similar to legos really, with no mortar at all. And to cut the stones, they used natural cracks in the stone that they made larger by jamming pieces of wood into the cracks, drenching the wood with water so that the stone breaks apart in a straight line. They don't know how long it took to build or how many people , but a much smaller site of took 70 years and 20,000 people to build.

Peru has been fantastic. The people are quite nice, and the experiences of rafting and hiking the Inca Trail have been a great start to this trip. We're now off to the US for a wedding in Houston, and then to Africa!

-Susan :)
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