The Inca Trail
Day 1 On the Inca Trail:
Our bags were packed and we were geared up to hit the Inca Trail. We hopped on our bus and we were on our way. I was actually kind of nervous because I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t exactly train for this but it was too late to change my mind now. We reached the start and took pictures under the ‘Camino Inka’ sign. After our group pictures were taken we walked down to the checkpoint where we had to show our passports and we were through, we were starting our trek along the Inca Trail.
The first day on the Inca Trail wasn’t bad at all. It was a steady incline most of the way but nothing too strenuous. When we reached our lunch stop, our porters had set up a camp with a kitchen tent and a dining tent. We were all quite shocked, we got water to wash our hands, coco teas and then it was time for lunch. Most of our meals consisted of a soup and then a main meal of rice with meat and some vegetables, basic but delicious! ChoCho made it clear that we were glamping not camping, which we realized later that evening.
We continued with our hike and reached some amazing ruins. It was beautiful, this definitely made up for the tourist packed ruins yesterday. We had this spot all to ourselves while ChoCho explained everything we needed to know.
We got to our campsite that evening, which seemed to be behind someone’s house. The kids came outside and offered us drinks and everyone’s favourite Peruvian beer, Cusqueña.
We sipped on beers and cleaned up and around 5pm we had afternoon tea, yes glamping in full effect. Teas, popcorn, biscuits and jam and lots of other goodies after our hike. At 7pm they served dinner which was another soup and main. We quickly realized there was no ‘seconds’ so we got in the habit of sharing around whatever we didn’t eat between us. We were one big family for the trip.
As usual we were up pretty early. This was the start of a tough day where we would reach Dead Woman’s Pass. Our chef’s carb loaded us for the day ahead with a starter of oatmeal and then pancakes, they made me some awesome corn based pancakes. I ate until I was stuffed as we weren’t getting lunch. This day on the Inca Trail is quite strenuous and because of the altitude we had to skip lunch because it makes people quite sick. Luckily there are lovely ladies selling snacks and candy on the way up, slightly over priced but definitely so satisfying! I ate three snickers bars that day.
Our group was split, I was with the team in front and we had been nicknamed the “Speedy Llamas” but the increase in altitude really took its toll on us. We stopped many times to catch our breath. All I remember from day 2 on the trail was stairs. Stairs, stairs and more stairs. We basically climbed 1,200m in stairs. We took a rest and we were maybe 2 hours from the peak.
We started to split up on the way as the air got thinner and it became harder to breathe. We were finally about 30mins from the top, or so we were told, but we were so exhausted it took us another 45minutes to make it. This was the point where I cried when I found my snickers bar crushed in my backpack. That altitude does take a toll on you!
Finally we reached the peak and it felt like such an accomplishment. From there it was about another hour downhill until our campsite. Every step downhill felt amazing, you could finally breathe again.
I left the speedy llamas and basically hopped from rock to rock the whole way down as quickly as my body would let me. Finally I reached the campsite which was situated on two rocky steps where I was greeted by our porters with a round of applause. This was the best thing about reaching the campsites after a hard day on the Inca Trail, it felt amazing.
Dinner was around 5pm when everyone showed up and we played some card games and we heard some ghost stories, all in all it was a good day even though it was strenuous but we knew the hardest part was over.
I was so excited for today. Today was the day we walked the original Inca Trail! Unfortunately, there were some stairs and slopes ahead of us again today. It was difficult but not terrible because we all knew that this was the home stretch.
There was something about walking on the original path of the Incas that was magical, spiritual and somewhat relaxing. Today’s hike was more at on our own pace so our group was quite split up and at some points I walked on my own for a bit but it felt very special.
We got to our lunch stop, and we were in the clouds, apparently you could normally get your first view of Machu Picchu here but we couldn’t. For lunch we had our soup, chicken and rice and then they surprised us with a big cake they made for the honeymooners! I got a lovely berry custard thingy which was yummy too.
The next part was a lot of downhill, but it was slippery and quite steep in some areas. It was amazing watching the porters do it in just sandals. I had to steal a hiking pole from a friend because I had already slipped once and was cautious the rest of the way down.
The group separated again and I was alone with another one of the girls and we were up front. We spotted some ruins through the trees which is where we were headed, it was about another 45minutes away and during this time we talked about everything. I spoke to her about stuff that I never told anyone else about and so did she. We actually cried when we reached the ruins.
When the rest of the group got the ChoCho read the coco leaves and it was something amazing. He said that people bond with the mountains and it becomes a spiritual journey. Of course we thought it was bullshit at first but he started telling someone about their mother and he got everything right about her and the girl looked at us and said that she never mentioned her to ChoCho. The other girl I walked with looked over at me and the looks on our faces were priceless, we were a little freaked out and not to mention the fact that we both cried on the mountain, we both realized that it had become a spiritual journey for us and we had “bonded” with the mountain.
That night at camp a few people started getting sick so our dinner was amazing but only a few of the family sat down to eat.
We were up by 4am, breakfast had been prepared and the porters then packed up by 5am so they could catch the train out. It was just our two guides and our group after that with a few sick people. We had to walk the final part of the Inca Trail quite slowly to keep everyone together as much as possible.
We reached the Sun Gate which was meant to be a beautiful view down to Machu Picchu, only to be greeted by rain and clouds. We continued our hike down and we walked past some of the first ruins of Machu Picchu. We got to the ‘postcard photo’ site where I took this shot.
It was absolutely beautiful there but after having hiked 4 days to get to a very touristy site felt like a lot of work for nothing. Everyone else was all fresh and running around snapping pictures and here we were smelling stinky and completely soaked and we had been rewarded with a cloudy rainy day.
Every part of me wanted that postcard picture of me conquering the Inca Trail. Then I realised that I didn’t need that shot to prove that I had been there. It was all about the journey and the experiences along the way and the hidden sites that all these tourists didn’t get to see. That’s what made it special. We all headed down to the entrance gate where we found some clean toilets with seats, had some food and regrouped.
The sun came out for a little bit and ChoCho took us for a tour of Machu Picchu. It was absolutely incredible to see though. The hard work, the perfectly cut stones the layout of the whole town, it was just unreal how they did it so long ago and it is still standing.
We got some beautiful shots eventually, got our passports stamped and then hopped on the bus down to Aguas Calientes. After some time here it was back on the train to Cusco and back to our hotel. We said goodbye to our amazing guides and most off the group who were leaving at various times in the morning.