The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu Travel Blog› entry 7 of 7 › view all entries
According to a book my mum has, the Inca trail is one of the top ten walks in the world. For me, it was one of the best things I have done in my life! After 4 days of walking through some of the most breathtaking scenery, the feeling of awe I experienced and the memory I have of walking down into Machu Picchu as the mist was rising and revealing the Inca city will stay with me for a very long time.
Going into the trek, Anna and I didnt really know what to expect in terms of the difficulty of the walk. Depending on who you talked to it was either very difficult or quite easy or anywhere in between. On the first day our tour leader Bobby probably summed it up the best - its "Inca Flat. First you go up, then you go down, then you go up again, then you go down, then you..." I am sure you get the picture. We both carried our own gear (you can actually pay someone to do it for you) including clothes, day water and sleeping bag and mattress. What made it easier were the 15 or so porters we had accompany our group. They were absolute machines and carried all the food, tents, cooking equipment, gas, chairs etc. It was amazing, each morning we would have breakfast cooked for us, all the tents were taken down and the campsite packed up. The porters would then carry 25kg (I tried to do this and could only walk a couple of steps!) and basically run to our next meeting point, where they would set everything up again and either cook lunch or dinner. On top of that they would give us a standing ovation as we came into camp. I felt very undeserving as really we should have been clapping those guys. So because of these heroes, we didnt actually rough it at all.
The trek itself -
Starting at the drop off point in Ollantaytambo, an hour from Cusco, we crossed a bridge marking the start of the walk however We wouldnt actually come to the Inca trail proper until late in the day. Much of the day was pretty easy walking with only 1 small tough section. It was a good chance to get to know the rest of the people in our group. Made up mostly of Brits and Americans, there was one Scottish lad and Anna and I. The group gelled faily well, Anna and I probably got along best with a group of English people through our the common interest of football- out of which we were actually to meet up again with Max and Claire when we arrived in London.
Described by Bobby as a "piece of cookie", it was the toughest of the four days. We were up early and made a 7km ascent to over 4000m, rising around 1000m in the process. Even though we had spent a week or so acclimatising in Cusco breathing at 4000m while walking up hill is tough going. It was very humbling when a porter ran past in sandals carry 25kg on his back. Andy, a member of our group (who had never spent a night in a tent until the previous night) felt the effects the most, he had not been in Cusco long and tried to ascend quite quickly. Half way up he hit a wall though and started suffering effects of altitude sickness. Poor bloke ended throwing up the whole time we were in Machu Picchu. It was a great feeling to make the top and the views certainly made the huffing and puffing worth while.
The walk today felt more like of a celebration of the very existence of the track. The walking was relatively easy which made it possible to enjoy the jaw dropping scenery and try to get some idea of what it must have been like for the Incas to be walking the track back in the day. We past some smaller Inca ruins and Bobby gave us a run down on the history at each site. We enjoyed lunch that day on the ridge-line of a mountain which gave us a 360 degree view....an amazing day.
We were up a 4am in a race to beat all the other groups to the Sun gate, overlooking Machu Picchu. It proved fruitless though with the whole valley covered by cloud. A little disappointed we made the ascent into the famous Inca city barely able to see 5m in front of us. As we were walking down the lama pooping on the side of the path was a sign for the clouds to start lifting and in a moment of pure magic, Machu Picchu and its stunning setting materialised before our eyes. It was something I will never forget. I am not going to try writing about MP, hopefully the photos do it some justice!!
So Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, an amazing place and an amazing walk to get there, I would do it again in an instant. A couple of things if you do decide to make the trip - book early and be prepared for the toilets, they are a real treat :)
Blog update: After arriving in London it was good to see that MP made it into the 7 new wonders of the world.