The trek is four days (well really 3, the last day is hardly anything). Beginning at KM82 and ending at Machu Picchu, it’s challenging but well worth the blisters and painful knees. Even in the rain. Along the way, you hike over Dead Woman’s Pass (4200 metres above sea level), see inca ruins and walk on some original Inca paths. Day one is easy, it’s a leisurely stroll compared to what’s to come.
Day two is the hardest, the hike ascends nearly 500 metres up to Dead Woman’s pass and is tough. It left me gasping and with low blood oxygen levels (yep, altitude sickness is a bitch). The walk down to campsite is tough on the knees- I was grateful for my walking poles then.
Day three was flat compared to Day two. It’s the day you walk through the cloud forest and 90% of the path is original Incan paths. It’s beautiful. The narrow stone paths, tunnels and Incan ruins along the way all tease at how close you are to the end.
Day four. You’re up at 330am so the porters can pack up the campsite and run down the mountain to catch the only morning train they’re allowed on home. It’s a short walk to gates of the National Park (which doesn’t open until 5am) and from there it’s not long until you reach the Sun Gate where (weather permitting) you get your first look at Machu Picchu.
The day I arrived it was rainy and foggy. We didn’t see anything until we walked into the ruins proper. I didn’t care. It was my birthday, I had hiked for days with a seriously painful hip, ruined my knees on the descents and made it to the top of the mountain. I set the challenge months ago and succeeded. It was worth the pain, the cold, the wet. I won’t be doing it again though.