Trip Start Jan 17, 2005
56Trip End Oct 10, 2005
I met Maureen from Ecuador, her brother (Marty) and sister-in-law (Dina) who were on a brief tour of Ecuador and Peru for the hike
Oh yes, the Inca Trail.
This was my first experience with a guided hike during my trip (my life?). I wasn't quite sure what I was in for, but when I learned there were 24 porters for our group of 16, I had some indication. There was to be no 40 lb pack (gringos only need carry a day pack with essentials - porters handle the rest). There was to be no pasta a la onion soup (the lowlight of my culinary creations in Patagonia). For three meals a day we had both obscene quality and quantities of food. Plus occasional snack breaks in-between meals. Not going to shed any pounds on this trek!!! And of course, each meal was served to us as we arrived at each designated spot in a large dining tent
The 4 day hike itself traversed through some amazing terrain covering a wide spectrum of climate zones. The hike starts along the Urubamba River at an elevation of about 2,500 m. The folliage here is scrubby and semi-arid, as the trail follows the river in its steep gorge, with snow-capped 6,000 m peaks visible here and there. The trail slowly climbs to its high point at 'Dead Woman's Pass', at about 4,200 m where only bushy grass grows. After some time between 3,600 and 4,000 m, another pass is crossed and everything becomes overgrown with lush green trees and vines as the moist air coming from the Amazon basin valleys becomes more predominant. The final stretch of the trail drops down to Machu Picchu (2,400 m) through cloud forest which is as close to jungle as I've ever been. And the steepness of the terrain is hard to describe... Its really steep.
Throughout the hike are numerous Inca sites, which become so commonplace that the guide doesn't even explain some of the lesser ones
The grand finale of the trek is walking into Machu Picchu as the sun rises. It is truly a spectacular sight. This emmense ruin sits on a ridge that drops off near vertically to the river valley below. It almost looks like Yosemite, except everything is covered lush green. The numbers of buildings and the fitted stonework is stunning as well. From an engineer's perspective, I was trying to figure out how they could assemble this place... my best explaination was lots of slaves. Virgilio said the final polishing and fitting of these stones was done by hand. As in, rubbing the rock smooth with their hands... An example of a head-scratching explaination. If this is true, I'm thinking they went through a lot of hands to get those stones down to size. Imagine being a Incan-laborer being faced with that daily task...
My only complaint with the trip (ignoring the asthetics of camping in an area with 300 other people) was not enough time at Machu Picchu itself, which I didn't really realize until I spent some time on my own at other sites in the Sacred Valley. In retrospect, I could have spent an entire day wandering about the place instead of the couple hours we did. Perhaps the shorter visit adds to the mystery as well. Can't get to analytical with it...