After several days acclimatising ourselves to the higher altitude in Arequipa and Cusco, we were almost ready for the Inca Trail. We visited Pisac – a town which is part of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
We saw these huge terraces built by the Incas centuries ago
Next stop was the local Pisac Sunday market where people still barter with each other. I was excited to see that it was the same place that I saw in a postcard the day before in Cusco.
Then we headed into a little town called Ollantaytambo and went to see more ruins which was pretty impressive. A very small town in the middle of the mountains with spectacular views, I cannot possibly be more in love with Peru.
I was nervous. My daypack did not feel light enough despite shoving as much stuff as I could into my duffel bag which the porters were carrying for us. Did I mention that we had 19 porters, 2 cooks and 2 guides for 13 of us?
The compulsory group picture with the sign
We set off on our first of four days hike on the Inca Trail after getting our passports stamped at about 8am.
Our starting point was at km. 82 (82 kilometres along the railway from Cusco to Aguas Calientes)
The views for the next 4 days proved to be some of the best I’ve ever seen in my life.
The hike on the first day wasn’t difficult at all. It was flat most of the time except for one part which was quite steep but it wasn’t for too long. I reached the top the first. We saw a few Inca ruins, stopped quite a number of times and got explanations about the flora and fauna, the ruins, the people living in the area, etc.
Lunch was marvelous. We had soup, trout and rice, hot tea, and even dessert. It felt really weird having the porters clap for us when we arrived when they were each carrying 26 kg of equipment on their back and had arrived hours before we did.
It rained after lunch but we had no choice and had to continue walking in the rain. We arrived at our campsite around 5 pm. The toilet situation left much to be desired.
Afternoon tea was popcorn and biscuits while dinner was something delicious yet again. I went to sleep right after dinner. It was the first time I slept so soundly without waking up even once in the middle of the night after 6 terrible nights. I was happy.
Our guides lifting me as their idea of fun after breakfast on Day 2
Today was the most challenging day as we had to hike up more than 1km in 6km in 3 stages. We all hiked the first stage together. After that, Fernando our guide said we could go at our own pace and Isabel and I did the climb together. We did the 500m climb in 56 minutes and arrived at our resting spot where we were served popcorns more than one hour before the last person arrived.
We were good. We even had a system going towards the end taking turns leading listening to 2 songs and then resting for 1 song. I did the third stage on my own and arrived in 54 minutes, again more than an hour before the last person arrived. Can you tell how competitive I was/still am?
The view from the highest point of our hike also called the Dead Woman’s Pass at 4200m was spectacular.
I preferred the 3rd stage because I could see the top while the 2nd stage was more like hiking in Malaysia – big trees hence dark. After more than an hour at the top, most of the time just waiting for the others to get there, Fernando the guide said that I could go down first on my own and told me to wait for the rest at the campsite which I happily did.
I sort of ran all the way down and heard people saying quick runner coming through every time I passed. Dinner was good as always. It was funny because no one came for afternoon tea except Matt, Isabel, Emily and I and we ate so much biscuits and the cheese and apple turnovers that were prepared for 15 people.
It was a bit chillier compared to the night before. After dinner, Fernando told us some ghost stories. I don’t think I slept as well as the night before. The toilet situation was a little better but it was very far. By the time I got to the toilet, I’d be almost out of breath having to climb too many steps up the hill.
We started off the day together climbing up the hill, seeing more amazing sights, even some lakes in the middle of the mountains at 4000m above sea level. I felt so close to the clouds.
After reaching the highest point for the day, Fernando said he had a present for me and that was that I could continue going downhill at my own pace. I was excited. I reached a spot where I thought was the right place to wait for the others within 15 minutes and waited for more than 30 minutes for the next person to arrive. This was when I started talking to Allison, an Australian from a different group who introduced me to Jon, a 28 year old British guy who was traveling alone around the world for 14 months from her group. It was nice meeting new people, making new friends and exchanging travel stories.
We then hiked up to an Inca site where we were at for about 45 minutes.
After that Fernando said I could go on my own again to the next spot which was where we’d have lunch. I ran down again and hiked really fast and got to the lunch spot in 48 minutes. I finished my water about 8 minutes along the way. I reached the lunch spot about 90 minutes before the last person arrived. The view was spectacular.
We could see Machu Picchu, the mountain and was told that the Machu Picchu Inca site we’ve all been wanting to see is just on the other side of the mountain, not far away at all.
This was when Fernando decided to challenge me. He said he’d give me a 5 minutes head start running down the steep mountain nick named the Gringo (foreigner) killer and if he won, I’d have to stop running and be at the back of the pack to which I agreed. So the idiot that I was started to run and when lightning speed Fernando caught up with me, I of course had my tragic fall.
I lost my footing, scraped my knee, had a somewhat disfigured lip and lots of scratches on my chin and hands. It was bloody and gruesome. Fernando patched me up and I continued to run down the mountain. We visited another amazing Inca vegetation site before heading towards camp.
I had the most expensive shower of my life of 100 Soles. It only cost 10. I gave her 100. I don’t think she ever gave me my change and when I went back to ask twice, twice she said she gave it to me but it was nowhere to be found or seen. Sigh. Not only that, I also lost one of my ear rings while showering as I forgot to take them off and it must have gone into the drain. I was really miserable. First the fall, then the 90 Soles, then the ear ring. I actually cried during dinner but I guess no one noticed.
Fernando helped change my wound which looked really bad and bloody. I did not use my inflatable mattress because I didn’t think I could blow it with my swollen lip. I wanted to ask for help but I was quite sure Matt my tent partner thought I was annoying enough so I didn’t want to annoy him anymore and just went to sleep without the mattress which I rented for $15 and had the worst night of my life. I felt too warm constantly. My tummy ached so badly the whole night. I really wanted to use my mattress but it was too dark and I had no energy to even think about filling it with air.
Our wakeup call was at 4 am but I was awake even before that because I needed the toilet so badly. It rained throughout the night, the whole morning even till we got to to Intipunku, the Sun Gate, the best spot, our first glance of Machu Picchu where we’d see the sunlight casting its rays over the great Inca site. I didn’t eat anything for breakfast because my stomach hurt. We waited in the bar for almost an hour and were the last group to finally leave and make our way to Intipunku.
It rained the whole way and I was baking in my poncho. Rather than my knee hurting, it was both my thighs. But I could still walk/run the whole way. Just before getting to Intipunku, we had to climb some really steep steps which were quite crazy. We were walking in the middle of the clouds the whole time and couldn’t really see anything more than 5 meters away. Of course we saw no Machu Picchu from the best spot to take pictures. We stayed there for about 15 minutes before making our way down to Machu Picchu. Along the way we saw a snake skin and someone just before us said she saw a baby bear. We waited for a while in hopes to see a bear but unfortunately saw none.
I was mesmerized when I got my first sight of Machu Picchu. Nothing really prepared me for it. How in the universe did the Incas build this place in the most inaccessible place in the Andean mountains? We had a somewhat good picture taken from the postcard point but the clouds were still quite thick then and looking back at the pictures, they actually look quite fake but they aren’t. We were really there.
Have you done the Inca Trail? Have you been to Machi Picchu? I’d love to hear your experience!
Next stop: Bolivia