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Inca Trail

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Inca Trail, Peru

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The tour descriptions really don’t prepare you for what the trail is going to be like. It’s stunningly beautiful but make no mistake this is no trip for the faint hearted. Once you embark on it there is not option but to walk forward or walk back.

Day 1 was a breeze. From Cusco it was an hour or so back to Ollantaytambo where the tour recruited the porters for the 4 day hike (including 3 nights camping – one of my least favourite activities). We started the hiking at Kilometre 82, and hit our first camp at Wayllabamba 12 km away 3-4 hours later passing several Inca sites on the way. The stars that night were truly amazing and the mountain scenery along the way stunning. Survived the first night camping (one down, two to go …).

From talking to other people that had done it we all knew that day 2 was going to be a tough days’ walking. We set off at 6am for the 9 or so km hike (at least half of which was steeply upwards to a height of 4200 metres and the rest steeply down). The last couple of hundred meters up to the 4200 m point damn near killed me and took the best part of 2 hours to complete.

There is just no air up there and the incline meant literally taking 3 or 4 small steps and stopping for a rest. I expected to feel euphoria when I got to the top but what I felt was relief, frustration and a bit of blind fury that I’d put myself through that ordeal for “pleasure”. And there was still at least another hour of steep down to do… and it had been raining for at least an hour… and I was freezing cold and exhausted. By now my admiration for the Incas and their construction methods was starting to wane …

Eventually after a good 9 or 10 hours’ walking we reached our second camp at Pacaymayu. Thankfully the porters had long since arrived and set up camp after taking down previous night’s camp, cooking lunch, packing up lunch… so I crawled into my tent put on me thermals and got into my sleeping bag for a couple of hours to try and warm up.

Day 3 made the agony of day 2 worthwhile. We passed through more amazing countryside including rainforests full of beautiful orchids, colourful birds and butterflies, ferns, rainbows, lush mountains. And although the 7 km walk wasn’t exactly flat (up and down for a couple of hours then mostly down for a couple of hours), compared to the previous day it was a walk in the park! Unfortunately on the way down I was a bit worse for wear so by the time I got to our last camp at Intipata it was straight to bed for me. We had a 4 am start the following morning for the final leg of our journey and arrival at Machu Picchu.

The (mostly) descent down into Machu Picchu was amazing. Eventually we reached the sun gate. For a lot of the time we were walking above the cloud, the odd llama blocking the narrow path now and again. Then suddenly there was Machu Picchu below us, cloud swirling around so it was in and out of visibility. Truly stunning!

The true heroes of the Inca trail were definitely the porters. They were just amazing. While we were all struggling with our shuffling little steps, buckling under the effects of the altitude, moaning about our knees being knackered on the downward climbs … These guys uncomplainingly carried 20 kg loads on their backs. And despite setting off one or two hours after us, overtook us and had the next camp set up, meals cooked hours before we got there. It was an amazing site seeing them laden down yet running past us on both the up and the down. They will forever have my thanks and admiration!

Back to Peru Story |Cusco|Qorikancha|Sacsayhuaman|Pisac|Ollantaytambo|Inca Trail|Machu Picchu|Aguas Calientes|Puno|Uros Islands

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