Hiking the Inca Trail
Day 1The Easy Day
The first day was a gentle introduction to the torture of the trek. I knew that day one was the ‘easy day’ but I still was expecting it to be incredibly difficult, given that I’ve barely ever hiked before in my life. It really wasn’t so bad at all. When we started, the skies looked grey and miserable but it didn’t end up raining too much until we were almost finished walking.
There were some steep parts but none too steep or too long. We stopped several times to take in the beautiful views along the way. There were two Inca ruin sites that we passed and our guide, Ruben, explained to us a bit about the Incan history.
At our last break, we were told it was only five minutes to the campsite and I wondered why we would need a break so close to the end… And then it became apparent when we struggled through the final five minutes of stupidly steep terrain. The best part about our campsite was that we didn’t have to set up aaaanyything! Our porters (who each carried 25kg of camping gear, cooking gear and our bags) raced ahead of us and set everything up for us. These men were like machines. Our chef was incredible, every meal he made was delicious – and he carefully took into account my dietary needs, often giving me a separate meal. The first night’s dinner included chicken stuffed with ham and cheese, topped with tomato sauce…gourmet!
It was cooollldddd at night, so Rach and I got into our warmest (most attractive) gear every night as soon as we got to the campsites.
Day 2The Hard Day
Our second day started with semi-formal introductions to the seven porters & our chef. They ranged in age from 18-59. Each of them told us (with Ruben translating) their name, age, number of years on the trail and their home town. One particularly young and well educated porter from Cusco introduced himself in English and added on the end “..and I am single!” We had a giggle and then introduced ourselves. Ruben asked us at the end of each intro if we were single and when Racheal and I both said yes there were huge cheers and claps from the porters.
Day two is known to be the ‘death day’ of the trail, with the first 4.5hrs going steeply uphill and the last 1.5hrs going down. We split the climb into 4 parts – the first three were uphill and the last one was downhill.
After the first part (which was all rocky path) I was feeling positive and still somewhat energetic. During the treacherous second part we walked up uneven stairs and it began to pour down with rain. I can’t even begin to explain how steep it was, and the altitude was beginning to get to us, making it harder to breathe. By the time we got to the meeting point for a break I was not only exhausted but also wet and incredibly cold, almost to the point of a little breakdown. We decided to leave as soon as the rain calmed down.
The third part was much more even steps, but the altitude was seriously taking its toll. I was out of breath every few steps. And nothing will make you feel quite so inadequate as a 60 year old porter scooting past you with 25kg on his back, while you’re struggling to breathe! Luckily, we had some nice views along the way which made for a good excuse to stop regularly. Finally we made it to the highest point on the trail: 4200m! The view was 100% cloud and fog. Spectacular.
The final leg was all downhill, which turned out to be much more difficult than it sounded. The steps (or rocks, really) were incredibly uneven and slippery from all the rain.
It began pouring down again and I was gradually getting worse and worse altitude sickness, resulting in a severe migraine by the time we reached the camp. It was only 2pm, so after lunch we had time to rest and recover. Mike and I squeezed into his tent to watch a movie on his iPod while the others napped. In the evening we noticed lots of stars had come out, meaning that the clouds had finally cleared. We were hopeful for a rain-free day ahead…
Day 3The Scenic Day
You would not believe our excitement when we woke up to blue skies on our third day, known to be the most beautiful part of the hike. We trekked uphill and stopped over at some ruins, admiring lots of stunning views along the way.
As we continued along the path we saw a lake shaped like Australia! There was also an animal skull of some sort that we played with…as all mature adults do.
Eventually we reached the second peak. The view was much better than the peak of the previous day! Oh, sunshine!!!
We walked down a little while to our lunch spot, where we spent most of our time chasing after the llamas to get a good selfie. Again, mature adults. (We just kept blaming the altitude for our crazy behaviour)
Later that afternoon, after a steep climb, we reached the third and final peak. We sat on top of the rocks to take in the view. From this spot we could see the Machu Picchu mountain, which the ruins are hidden behind.
The rest of the day was a constant horrendous 2.5hr downhill walk. I can’t even begin to explain the paaaaiiiin in my knees. I could not have made it one step further and at this point was incredibly nervous for the last day.
On the plus side, we passed one of my favourite views of the whole trek (shame my camera doesn’t do it justice!) Ruins, river and snow capped mountains all in one.
The campsite was lovely, we had an incredible view from our tent…and again we were very well fed. After dinner we said our thank yous and goodbyes to the porters, who would have to run off very early in the morning to catch the first train out. We had some hilariously awkward moments giving them a kiss on the cheek – with one young porter coming back for seconds!
Day 4The Machu Picchu Day
We eagerly jumped out of bed at 4am and headed for the control pass, where we had to wait in line for an hour. Then we trekked up and down for about two hours – including a practically vertical climb towards the end.
At last we had reached the sun gate and caught our first glimpse of Macchu Pichu!!! We edged closer to watch the sun rise over the ruins.
Once the sun had fully risen we walked down to Machu Picchu and found the ‘postcard spot’ to take a few snaps.
We spent hours roaming around the ruins, learning about the Incan history. By this point my body was aching and my concentration was limited, so I can’t say I fully took in the history of the ruins, but I sure did appreciate its beauty. And of course, more llamas! Yay!
We got a stamp for each day on the trek, proudly filling a whole page in our passports.
By the end of this ridiculous trek we were all exhausted and in extreme pain. But it was worth it! Amazing. Celebratory lunch and drinks in Agua Caliente (a nearby town) had us glued to the couch for several hours and struggling to keep our eyes open. Oh, delirious exhaustion.