. We were collected by the tour group at 5.30 the following morning. We were driven to the town of Ollantaytambo with the rest of the group for breakfast. Afterwards, it was a 20 minute drive to the check-in point for the Inca Trail. The first hour or so walking was on mainly flat ground until we reached the lunch stop. After lunch and a break to enjoy the scenery we continued hiking for about 2 more hours on a gradually ascending trail. We passed the archaeological sites of Llactapata, Qoriwayrachina and Wallabamba before reaching the first campsite at 2853 m (9360 feet). After breakfast on day 2, we began the toughest part of the trail as we walked up and up and up through the cloud forest for about 3 hours until emerging into the Puna ecosystem in the high Andes. We also reached the highest pass on the Inca Trail called Warmiwa˝iusca or "Dead Woman's" pass at 4,314 m (14,153 feet) from where we had an unbelievable panoramic view of the whole area. Alot of people get very bad altitude sickness this day due to the towering heights. I (Patrice) got quite sick as well but thankfully it had passed by the start of day 3. After breakfast on day 3, we started the steep ascent towards the second most important pass of the trail at 3,921 m (12,864 feet). After that, it was pretty much a day of visiting ruins. The toughest part of the day was the final portion being a descent of approximately 2,000 Inca stairs to Wi˝ay Huayna (Forever Young). After lunch this day, there was a torrential downpour which continued until dinner time
. It made the hike extremely tough especially going down the 2,000 steps. Our sleeping bag got soaked as well so it made for a very uncomfortable night. The final day we have a very early start at about 3am to arrive in time for sunrise at Machu Picchu. At 5:30am, we visited the "Inti Punku" or the Sun Gate where we had the most impressive panoramic view of Machu Picchu. This city is believed to have been constructed around the mid-15th century and was rediscovered by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911. From the Sun Gate, it was another 40 minutes walking until reaching the Lost City of Machu Picchu. Afterwards, our guide brought us on a full guided tour of the archaeological site which lasted about 2 hours. Throughout the trip, our 3 English speaking tour guides were fantastic. Also, there were 16 porters who carried all the cooking equipment, tents etc. These men worked so hard and practically ran the whole trek. They always had to be ahead of the group to cook or get the camp site ready. We had the option of paying these porters to carry our bags but we decided to carry them ourselves having carried alot more on our last trek- the W Trek in Southern Chile. We felt really sorry for these porters throughout the trek as they have to carry 20 kgs at a constant speed and for very little pay. Our group consisted of 20 really nice people from all over the world. After Machu Picchu, we all went for lunch together to celebrate our achievement. It was a brilliant day. Machu Picchu was beyond our wildest expectations and seemed even better having trekked for 4 days to get there. When we got back to Cusco after the trek, we had 2 days of relaxing before planning the next stint of our travels.
We arrived at our hostel very early in the morning. After getting a 4 bed dorm with Claud and Dean, we literally conked out. The following morning, we decided to look into possible tours to Machu Picchu. We would have absolutely loved to do the Inca Trail but figured we had no chance of getting on the tour. The Inca Trail has to be booked months in advance and usually costs a small fortune. With the luck of God, it turned out that the week we arrived in Cusco was the quietest week of the year. Not only did we get a place on the Trail for 2 days later but we also got it for a fraction of the price. We were so thrilled and still feel very lucky for getting a place. After arranging the trip, we took a tour of Cusco (which was really nice), ate in an Irish bar (the first one in South America that actually felt Irish!!) and drank in the hostel. That night, we went clubbing with Claud, Dean and a friend of theirs. We had a brilliant night. Of course, the next day was a write off. We had to drag ourselves out of bed to get ready for our 4 day trek. That evening, our guide came and explained the 4 day schedule