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.
Wow! My trip to Peru has come and gone and now I’m left with a living room full of dirty clothes and souvenirs!
My first challenge was getting to Cusco: from Melbourne that involves four flights. In Lima we had to clear customs, drop our bags and board the final flight to Cusco. The airline lost my bag. The result was that I missed the connecting flight and LAN put me up in a 5 star hotel in Lima until I could get another flight!
Having made it to Cusco, I had no idea how the altitude would effect me. Not well evidently. I live at sea level, Cusco is more than 1000 metres higher than the highest point in Australia. No amount of preparation at home could have prepared me of that. I felt dizzy and slightly sick but pushed through it. It’s all part of travelling to new places. Stairs, however, were not my friend.
My first visit to an Incan site was at Sacsaywamán. It’s an Inca ruin of both religious and military significance. Although it seems huge, only about 20% of what once was stands today. The Spanish conquistadors tore down many walls to build their own buildings. (You can read more about the site here.)
After a few days acclimatising in Cusco, It was time to join up with the tour to hike the Inca trail. I couldn’t do that without being my usual clumsy self and slipping in street (after having some Pisco Sours) and pinching a nerve in my hip. Ouch. Being stubborn, I refused to let that hold me back. I was going to be at Machu Picchu for my birthday and I was not getting there the easy way!
Before beginning the trek, we got to visit a small village where the local ladies were making yarns from Alpaca fleece in the traditional way and weaving. It was a lovely insight into the work of making many of the souvenirs I’ve bought for friends and family (gloves, jumpers, scarves and a blanket)
We also visited two Incan sites at Pisac and Ollantaytambo- a teaser of what was still to come.