Km82 Starting point to Inca trail
Before i left for this trip i knew this next 4 days would be very challenging, i had been to the gym a few times and lost abit of weight back in the UK, but 6 weeks into my travels with no exercise and eating like a horse i was worried! I was warned by the group i met in the jungle that the trail was hard and the rain everyday was soul destroying. The phrase "soul destroying" was not really what i was hoping to hear. Machu Picchu was discovered by Higham Bingham in 1911. He stubbled across the site purely be accident, he was infact searching for the last inca city but was told of two mountains of Machu Picchu (old mountian) and Huayna Picchu (young mountain) he trekked through the dense vegetation to find the most amazing Inca site.
Train to Machu Pichuu, no thanks!
Little is still known of this amazing place, because of the lack of written language. Some people believe it was a resting place for the Inca King, somewhere for him to spend time away from the hussle and bussle of Cusco
city, some believe it was a holy place were people came to worship and made sacrifices to the gods. But today Machu Picchu was far away in my thoughts and even further in distance. It was 25 miles away and over a huge mountain pass at 4200m in height. Day one was all about reaching our first campsite before nightfall. The route was said to be the easiest of the 4 days but i found it tough. It was drissling with rain the whole time, cold in the morning but hot in the afternoon, there was a constant struggle trying to keep dry but the rain jacket made me hot and sweaty.
Our lovely porters!
The heat of the day was hard, i dont like the heat too much and felt faint a few times probably due to not drinking enough water. There were a few stops along the way for photos but we mainly hiked for 4 hikes until lunch. I was really out of breath and had a stitch, luckily a few others were struggling and so we walked at a slower pace behind the group. Lunch was amazing, our group of 12 had 22 staff on the trail with us, 1 guide, 1 assistant guide, 2 cooks, and 18 porters, nothing ever stays on the trail and so the porters have to carry everything from the tents to cooking equipment, food and gas. They each carry 20kg! and then with their heavy and bulging packs run ahead (yes run) of us to the next lunch stop, cook all the food and set up the tents.
After lunch they dismantle everything run ahead of us again to have the campsite ready for us for evening, some of the men were old and i found it hard to believe they do this constantly. In febuary when the trail is closed the porters have competitions to complete the whole 25 miles, the fastest so far it 3hr20min, it will take us 4 days! We arrived at the first campsite of Huayllamba just as the sun was setting, hot tea and cake was ready for us and after settling in we were introduced to the staff. Juan showed me what lay ahead and as i looked up at the mountain of Llulluchpampa or deads womens pass i thought to myself i would need a miricle to get through this! After dinner everyone was really tired so settled into our tents for a good nights sleep.
Half way up dead womens pass
Day2. Even though the temperate dropped below freezing in the night i was snug in my sleeping bag and slept like a baby. The porters woke me at 5am and left a bowl of hot water and soap, along with a cup of coca tea. I sat drinking my tea looking out over the view, it was still quiet dark but i could make out the silouette of the mountains. Breakfast was in the big tent, and we were treated to pancakes, porridge, bread and tea. Juan told us to eat up at the next meal was at the next campsite 8 miles away. The day started nice, no rain as i expected and i felt positive. The guide informed us that today we could go at our own pace, there was only one path to the campsite so we could take as long as we wanted. He said that 4 hours up and 3 hours down the pass would be a good time.
I had named out slower group 'snail trail' i dont think it was us that were slow, itwas the others that were fast, they seemed to want to get there in fastest time possible. I wanted to take it slow and take in the scenery, i was only going to be here once. Today was the hardest day, we had to climb from 2800-4200m over dead womens pass, it was really steep and some steps were huge. It was getting cold as i climbed further up, but i felt really motivated and as we reached the halfway point we had made good time. Instead of stopping i continued on, i put some dance tunes on my ipod and the beat seemed to help. The last 20 mins was really hard, as the clouds surrounded my it was really cold. But i made it and celebrated with the others. I was stood as the highest point of the trail and i felt good, the view was great, you could see all the way down to the valley were we had walked the day before, it was great to see what i had acheived so far.
After a quick snack (one of my many snickers in my bag!) we headed over the pass and down to camp. Going down was also hard, my legs were like jelly and the steps were slippy. I fell a few times but nothing to serious, after 45 mins i caught sight of the campsite and almost ran the rest of the way i was so excited! I arrived at camp in 6 hours, some of the guys had done it in 3 hours! I was happy to have completed it but even happier to have actually enjoyed it. As usual the porters had everything set up for us, we had popcorn, crackers and hot chocolate, lush! The view was breathtaking, the weather is so changeable, one minute the snow capped mountains in the distance were clear, the next minute the clouds came creeping towards us and completly covered the mountains, the next clear again.
As i sat and looked out, i wondered how many other thousands of people had looked out over the same view, Inca people years ago, and tourists now keeping this mystical place alive.
Day3. This morning i woke up with bad stomach cramps, i hadnt felt like this before and put it down to the altitude, this was the highest point and i figured that it would die down as i decended. All my body was aching, and i felt really weak. As soon as i started i was sick and had to stop. At the first Inca site of Runkuraqay Juan stopped to talk about the place, i couldnt concentrate and had to go sit down. luckily Andrea was a doctor and gave me some tablets. I looked out over the view, dead wmoens pass was in the distance, i could see the trail we had walked. After a short break we continued on.
Top of dead womens pass, highest point at 4200m
We decided to skip the lunch stop and just head straight to camp, everyone had a sandwich and i just rested and felt better. Some of the girls stayed back with me and we visited the terraces, they dont look that big in the distance but once your on them you realise their size. These terraces would once have been used to grow Quinoa, beans and maize all transported to Machu Pichuu over the pass. By the time i arrived at camp i was feeling lots better, i ate well and slept for an hour. Juan and Fernando took us to a waterfall,they said it was a 10 min walk, it took 30 mins but was well worth it, we had to walk through another Inca site, this site was almost perfect, if the thatch roofs were on it was be just as it was in the 1500's, the stonework was perfect and it was hard to believe they built these house with limited tools.
The waterfall was huge, it was freezing!! But great for the muscles and so i jumped under it was few times, i hadnt showered in days! I felt great afterwards, really refreshed. We had a few beers at camp, the group was getting along great, i was so glad i booked a tour for Peru, it was perfect. Bedtime was early as we had to be up really early in the morning.
Day4. 3.30am on the dot the porters woke us up. I was so dissapointed to hear rain outside, it was the only day i was praying for clear skies. Breakfast was quick as we wanted to be the first people at the checkpoint. It only opened at 5.30 but we wanted to be the first group to Machu Pichuu. We slept on the floor for an hour and waited for the gates to be opened. There are now lots of rules and regulations on the trail, were as 6 years ago anyone could come, there is now a limit of 400 people on the trail at anytime.
You also have to have a guide. We were all counted through the gates, we really wanted to get there ahead of anyone so almost ran the whole way! Its crazy how you can find strength when you need it. I kept a good pace and arrived at the sungate at sunrise, i had hear so many people tell me how great the view is but it was so cloudy nothing could be seen and i was so dissapointed. There wasnt much point hanging around so we headed on and at 6.44am i was the 6th person to arrive at Machu Pichuu. I was nakered and soaking wet but was so proud of myself, the view was obsructed by the clouds but i could see glimpses of the houses and terraces. I went to get my passport stamp and waiting for eveyone to join the group. At 9am Juan took us on a tour of the site, i had been reading the Higham Bingham book 'lost city of the incas' and it was great to re trace his footsteps along this ancient ruin.
As the clouds cleared and i stood at the top looking over the moutains i realised i was looking at the same views all the postcards portray. The huge mountain in the famous pictures is actually of Huaya Pichuu not Machu Picchu. I spent 3 or so hours walking around and taking pictures, i couldnt believe i was actually here!! My calf muscles were absolutely killing me and once the blasing heat came out i was too tired to stay longer. If i had taken the train up to the site i would have enjoyed it because i would never have known what i had missed out on. But i now realise that the Inca trail was just as fantastic as Machu Picchu, the whole journey. I cannot believe i have walked 25 miles over 4 days, something that will stay in my thoughts forever!