I loved every single step of the 44 km`s of the Inca Trail! I was afraid that because it`s so hyped up and because it was the thing I was most looking forward to doing in South America, I might be disappointed but I most deffinitely wasn`t!
We kicked off the Inca Trail with a day trip around the Sacred Valley of the Inca`s. We visited three sets of Inca ruins and got the ground work in for all that was ahead, even climbing a killer hill at altitude! The first site we visited was Sacsayhuaman, pronounced Sexy Woman!, just outside Cuzco. The Inca`s were talented builders and I still can`t figure out how they positioned 14 ton rocks on top of each other! They cut the rocks to fit into each other, like a jigsaw and didn`t use cement to hold the buildings together. Something else when you consider that these are probably the only earthquake proof buildings in South America..! Then it was on to Pisaq, followed by Ollantaytambo. On top of being my favourite ruins, Ollantaytambo has probably been my favourite town in South America, so far. Most of the Inca villages were destroyed by the Spaniards but Ollantaytambo survived and people still live in the original houses. Incredibly pretty with the most amazing atmosphere, I could have happily stayed there for a week and if I hadn`t been starting the Inca Trail the following morning, I would have done serious damage to my budget in the shops and markets..
After three weeks of hostels and hotels, it was back to camping on the Inca Trail. However, this was not camping Budget Expeditions style, it was Triple A, 5 Star camping, I`ll never settle back into the Gee Banger after this! There was 34 people in my group for the Inca Trail and we had 45 porters to carry our stuff, 3 assistant guides, a cook and a guide called Julio with us! All we had to carry was a day pack with water and a rain coat, the porters carried all of our heavy stuff. The porters are amazing and I have nothing but respect for them. They range in age from 14 to 84 and they carry up to 35 kilos each. I`d be huffing and puffing up a hill and this little ould fellow would cruise past with 30 stools, two tables and a gas cannister strapped to his back, unbelieveable!
My head is still spinning from everything that was provided for us on the Inca Trail and it all had to be carried from camp to camp, there`s no permanent structures. When we got to a camp, our tent was up and waiting for us. We were woken up in the morning with a cup of tea or coffee and hot water and soap to wash ourselves! Then it was over to the kitchen tent that had chairs and tables with table cloths and lights inside for fruit, pancakes, toast, eggs and hot drinks. Then they`d give us a snack to eat along the way, a bar of chocolate, a piece of fruit, juice and sweets. We`d walk for a few hours and reach the lunch stop. The kitchen tent would be up again and 34 bowels and bars of soap would be lined up outside so we could wash our hands! Lunch was 2 courses, soup and meat and lots and lots of carbs; potatoes, chips, pasta and rice in one meal! Then we`d walk for another couple of hours, check out some ruins and make it to camp for afternoon tea! Afternoon Tea consisted of coffee, cake and freshly made popcorn. We`d play cards for an hour and have dinner; soup, meat and carbs and salad. They even had decorations on the plates of food! My favourite was a parrot made from a tomato and an aubergiene! You certainly won`t loose weight on the Inca Trail! Luxury! Budget Expeditions could learn a thing or two from these guys…
The actual trail itself was something else. For sure, one of the mose scenic walks I`ll ever do. Quite challenging in places but so beautiful and peaceful. Day 1 was pretty straight forward. It`s really just to ease you into walking. It`s mostly through forrest and flat and we visited a couple of ruins along the way. It lashed rain for most of the day and we were pretty miserable when we made it to camp. Day 2 is the `challenge day`. You only walk 13.5 Km`s, but nine of those are uphill, climbing 1200m. Ouch! We were all psyched up that it was going to be horrific but it wasn`t nearly as hard as I expected. I learned the hard way in Torres that the only way to climb mountains is really slowly! The sun was splitting the stones, so that helped! As you climb to Dead Woman`s Pass at 4200m above sea level, you have a birds eye view of the Andes and the snowy mountains and also of the valley below. If the climb didn`t take your breath away, the scenery most certainly would! How can you complain when you`re surrounded by such beauty? Then it was 2 hours downhill back to camp, pinching myself all the way that I was actually on the Inca Trail! It was exactly how I imagined it would be. Day 3 is the longest day, we set off at 7 am and weren`t back until 5 pm. There`s 18 km`s to walk and plenty of ruins to see and steps to climb along the way! I`ll never get tired of looking at terraced mountains. It`s Andean flat, which is up and down. It was proper walking and you could get a good pace going. The scenery was even more spectacular than day 2, so there was plenty of photo stops, I seriously reckon I took over 300! A perk of Day 3 was that you could get a cold beer at the camp site. A beer never went down so well but I was hammered after 2…
And then to Day 4, the climax of it all, Machu Picchu at last! The day started early at 3.15 am, to catch sunrise over Machu Picchu. We were first in the queue at the checkpoint and we were like greyhounds out of the traps when they finally let us through at 5.30 am! It was an hours walk to the Sun Gate to get our fist glimpse of Machu Picchu. I couldn`t tell you what the walk was like, I have never moved my body so fast in my life! It`s all a blur, from exhaustion or speed, I couldn`t tell you! I do remember the steepest, slippiest stone staircase I have ever climbed and my walking stick saved my head from being cracked open a couple of times! I was the fourth person to make it to the Sun Gate, even beating Louis, who is a Navy SEAL!, so I had the view all to myself, pretty much. And what a view! It wasn`t just the high point of the Inca Trail but the whole trip so far. It was just amazing. The clouds cleared the second I got up there, waited until I took some photos and then covered Machu Picchu again. Perfect timing for me but disappointing for the people coming after..
We walked down to Machu Picchu and had lunch, at 8.15 am!. Then Julio took us on a guided tour of the city and we had some time to look around ourselves before the dreaded Day Trippers arrived. I just loved it and can`t believe it`s over! I already can`t wait to go back! We took the train back to Cusco yesterday afternoon. I have never been happier to see a shower in my life! My hair was nearly in dreads…
I`m just taking it easy today. Josie and I found this cafe that had English newspapers and Magazines for breakfast, I`ve read a Now from March, so I`m up to date, gossip wise! I had juice, french toast, bacon, maple syrup and two large lattes. Yummo! I have a massage booked for 2, to soothe my aching muscles and then I`m meeting some of the girls for Happy Hour cocktails at 4. It`s tough but sometimes you just have to suck it up! Happy Friday!
Posted from Peru:
posted Friday April 2008