Inca trail

Trip Start Jul 23, 2002
Trip End Jul 23, 2003

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Flag of Peru  ,
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

So after two days of rafting it was time to get back onto solid ground and do a bit of walking - four days of it would be needed to complete the Inca trail which was the next thing on the agenda. After a bus journey from the city which was marked with stops to collect more people, a local singer coming onboard for entertainment, and hearing a couple of Aussie accents again (which sounded so distinctive after so long with not hearing it), we finally arrived at Km 88. Having stuffed up my hand the day before, Paul and Simon were being my packhorses and carrying some of my stuff leaving me with a smaller pack that was a little easier to throw onto my shoulders than a large pack.

The trail is a popular tourist attraction and so it's not exactly a quiet meander along barely used trails. If you want that, don't head here. But if you are interested in Inca history and getting to see some beautiful scenery, and aren't overly fussed about crowds then this is a hike for you. Nowdays the trail has been regulated and in order to do the walk you must be part of an organised tour, in the interests of stopping overcrowding, and the littering and destruction that comes from many unregulated people coming through. Being on a tour means you have everything organised and don't have to worry about the cooking, setting up etc, and gives you a chance to meet others in your group and get some information about the area from your guide.

Km 88 marked the start of the Inca trail, and after registering it was head across a bridge over the raging water, and then onto the trail proper. The first day was relatively easy, and we wandered along at our own pace enjoying the countryside and views. Several sites saw stops for a bit of history and background on the region, before walking a bit more. Lunch was served in a tent on a field off the edge of the trail, and after a break it was time to continue. There was some gorgeous mountain scenery to be appreciated along the way, and often we'd end up just enjoying the scenery, plus Simon was busy with his Binos bird watching, and even Paul got his out. Our camp that night was at Huayllabamba which afforded up snow capped mountain views from the campsite, which were quite beautiful.

The next day saw the hardest day of the trek, which took us up and over the highest pass of the trail, Warmiwanusca, or Dead Womans pass, at 4198m high. On the way up we passed through another check-point, and then the trail took up higher and into the cloud forest. A completely different forest from what we were used to in the Amazon, no where near as high, but with a lot more moss, etc up the tree trunks. On many occasions I'd pause, sit down and look back down the trail and just enjoy the scenery that was beautiful. But as the morning went on, the walking got harder. The trail kept on going up, the forest disappeared and was replaced with bare rock and the height was showing its effects as it got harder to keep going. Towards the end it becomes a matter of will to keep forcing yourself to keep walking a bit more before giving yourself a breather. Once at the top though it was a case of, yay we made it, and a bit of a rest before heading down. We couldn't enjoy the view over the other side too much because of cloud, but as we went along we got to see more of it.

Heading down to the camp site for the night saw the steps playing havock with knees. There was a large spread of arrival times between the group, with a couple of the guys making it there before the porters who are pretty fast despite their large loads, through to a couple having trouble with the altitude and finding it a much tougher process, but they got there in the end. The campsite was quite crowded with lots of tents all over the place, and it was the low season, so I'd hate to see it in peak season when everyone is on the trail. After some sitting around the camp and talking, it was time for dinner, before retiring quickly to the warmth of your sleeping bag.

The third day took us up and down several times. Our first stop was the Runturacay, a round ruin that we could see from the campsite (which had a pretty nice view). After a bit of history there, it was up again, passing by some lakes, then down to Sayacmarca ruins which were situated on a spur. There saw another tour by the guide before continuing on until lunch. The afternoon saw some more cloudforest and little ruins on the way to Winay Wayna where we spent the night. Here there is a bar and dining area, so there was a lot more revelry than normal, but most people still had a reasonably early night due to the early start the next day.

The final day saw us heading off on the trail before dawn, walking through some more cloud forest. And then we reached Intipunku, the sun gate, and there had our first view of Machu Picchu. It didn't look like much initially as it was shrouded in cloud, but gradually the viel lifted and we were treated to the site of Machu Picchu. Our glimpse was only brief though before the clouds settled once more, returning it to a state of mystery of a while. The last part of the trek took us down to the ruins themselves and there we were given a tour before going our separate ways for a few hours to explore the ruins some more. The ruins make you wonder what life was like in those times and how different it is from our life now. Machu Picchu is said to be a more ornamental than practical site and is thought to have been a ceremonial centre, or it has been suggested to be a sort of research centre, possibly looking at different plants for crop usage. But as with all the ruin excavations we can only really guess at what life was like. It's definitely interesting though and as you wander around, you wonder what the people knew, and what their lifestyle was like. It's an impressive set of ruins, and worth a visit if you come to Peru, whether you catch the train for a day visit, or walk the Inca trail.

After a train ride home, it was get something to eat and then head out into Cuzco for the farewell night for some of the others we'd been in the jungle with. About 3:30am I decided it was probably time for bed after having been up for the last 24 hrs and not having had a very restful week. But it was a fantastic week, and not too much later I was saying goodbye to the remaining people, and to Peru itself, heading back to the Western world with some time in England.
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