Ticking Off the Bucket List

Trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

By on January 27, 2013

Wow, what an experience!

Machu Picchu

If you ever have the chance to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, please don’t even hesitate a moment, just do it!

You will be challenged, you will sweat up a storm and it will leave you breathless but at sunrise on the fourth day it will also take your breath away.

It all started in a little town called Ollantaytambo, the picture perfect base to begin the trek.  And what better way to prepare ourselves than to do another trial trek to an old Inca storehouse nestled in the hills.  We couldn’t help but stop at the top, not only to get our lungs back but also marvel at the view of the valley below and ponder what was to come.  It was made even more special by a visit by a local stray nicknamed Sandy.  Like a local guide, Sandy followed us up the hill, sat beside us while we breathed in the vista and then made sure we made it safely again to the bottom.

It was a really beautiful moment.

Ollantaytambo and surrounds, Peru

Day one we were ready, pumped even.

But it goes without saying that each one of us at some stage had that thought, wondering if we could do this.

It was by far the easiest of the days, an easy pace of about 11 kilometres stopping very regularly, almost frustratingly so. I think a lot of people in our group were almost disappointed by how easy it was but being warned by friends who had done the trek, I knew the worst was yet to come.

Day one of the Inca Trail
We were told that our porters could only take six kilograms per person of our belongings and the rest was up to us but were warned the heavier our personal backpacks the harder it would be, so we packed light. We were prepared with just one change of clothes and more importantly toilet paper and moist towelettes as there would be no showers. That’s right you heard me, four days and no shower.  I highly recommend hiring a walking stick and an extra layer of bedding to sleep on other than what is provided, trust me.
Day one of the Inca Trail

Day two and the day I had been dreading, the 12 kilometre trek to Dead Woman’s Pass.

It doesn’t sound tough but when you are going up large steps for majority of it to an altitude of 4215 metres, it is. It was such an amazing feeling reaching the top though, knowing that the worst was over and we could now just stop and enjoy the views. The photos are limited because we were trying to conserve battery over four days but also because concentrating on breathing was priority.

Day two of the Inca Trail

I need to point out at this point that our porters are absolute legends and some of the fittest and strongest people I know.  While we were puffing and panting at every step, struggling with the little backpack we had, they were running past us carrying 25 kilograms each to set up for lunch and dinner and camping for the night.  You can’t really appreciate it until you see it, but salute to the porters.  Our trek would not have been the same without them.

Day three, 16 kilometres and the longest day of them all.

It was even longer for Brad who woke up with a stomach bug.  Being sick at home with easy access to a toilet is hard enough let alone being in a different country and on a trek miles away from a hole in the ground. The toilet situation was one of the worst I have ever experienced in any country I have visited and to this day the smell still haunts me.  Yes as westerners we are not used to squatting but seriously, I have never seen so many people able to miss a hole in the ground.

Back to the trek.  It rained just about the whole day but apparently for the start of the wet season we were lucky with just one day.  This to me was even more challenging than the climb to Dead Woman’s Pass.  The views which are apparently quite spectacular on a fine day were blanketed by fog so all there was to keep our minds busy for the nine hours or so was keeping the water out of our eyes and watching one waterlogged foot step in front of the other.

Day three of the Inca Trail

Saying that though, Inca ruins started to appear along the trek along with lucky breaks from the downpour, which reignited our desire to keep going.  A special cake prepared by the chefs was a nice little sweetener to end the day.

Day three of the Inca Trail

Day four, this was the day we had all been waiting for.

We started in the dark, trekking early enough to get to the Sungate to witness the full beauty of Machu Picchu in the early morning.  Only 500 people are allowed to trek the Inca Trail at any one time but on the final day it feels like a lot more with everyone trying to be the first to get a peak of the magnificent ruin.

The vista is truly spectacular and the closer you get as you trek down to it, the better it becomes.

The trek to the Sungate, day four

Once you are inside Machu Picchu, it’s hard to comprehend its size and apparently some of it is still not yet uncovered.  It’s a pretty amazing place and one that thousands of people choose to pop the question at each year.  A beautiful couple on our tour from Sweden are now engaged to be married because of its magical aura.

Machu Picchu

They allow 2000 people to visit the site of Machu Picchu a day so 1500 of those take the easier option and get the train and bus there.  If you do, just keep in mind that there are 500 dirty, smelly, tired, hobo trekkers who have just spent three and a bit long days getting to the site so maybe avoid pushing and shoving them if you can.

In hindsight, I believe the trek made the experience and the beauty at the end all the more spectacular and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Machu Picchu town

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