Days 7-10: Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Trip Start Oct 15, 2013
24Trip End Ongoing
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After breakfast we drove another hour to the start of the Inca Trail. We started walking the trail and noticed right away all these porters literally running passed us with huge bags on their backs. We found out later that each porter carries 26 kg which is the limitation that only came into effect a couple of years ago
We stopped for lunch about 3 hours in to find a large tent with a table and chairs set up inside. Within 10 minutes we started our 3 course lunch which the porters already had prepared even though they started the trek after us. The food was probably the best we've eaten since being in Peru. I was expecting canned beans sitting on the ground to be our lunch. We were all amazed! After lunch within 15 minutes of hiking, the porters were already passing us with all the gear to the next site to start preparing our next meal.
The first day we hiked a total of 12 km. It was considered the easy day but we still were all pretty tired by the time we reached our camp site at around 4 pm. All of our tents were already set up and dinner was well on its way. Since we were close to a small village, locals trekked to our camp site to sell us water and beer at a premium
Day 8: I woke up in the night at about 2 am and could hear other trekkers outside the tent. I couldn't make out what they were saying so went back to sleep. We were awoken at 5:30 am by a porter knocking on our tent offering us a cup of coca tea (room service?). When we stepped outside the tent we knew that something bad happened. A local was there talking a mile a minute in Spanish to our guides. We could tell from the tone it was not good. We then saw a couple of the tents had slashes along the sides and one trekker had her camera, phone and money all stolen. Another tent was almost robbed too but the guy said he awoke to a noise then went to the washroom (which must have scared the culprit off). When he returned he noticed his wife's bag was outside the tent and saw the slash in the tent. Luckily nothing was taken from them. That morning shocked everyone. We all thought we were fine since we were out in the middle of nowhere. We could tell Edwin felt awful and apologized 20 times to everyone, they took it very seriously. He said this was the first time anything like this has happened in his 6 years of guiding the Inca Trail. This was also the last village along the trail so we wouldn't have to worry the next couple of nights.
After breakfast we started the hardest trek of the four days. The trek that day included 12 km and hiking from elevation 3000 m to 4200 m. It was extremely challenging! Especially at that high altitude with less oxygen. At 4200 m they call it "Dead Woman's Pass". I assumed they call it that because it was so tough but it was because the mountains make a silhouette of a woman lying down when you look back from a distance
Once we all got to our campsite we were all beat and went to bed immediately after supper. We weren't nervous because of the events from the previous night but we slept with our bags in between us for extra caution. That night was the coldest night at almost freezing temperatures since we were so high up.
Day 9: Today's trek was considered the longest day because of the 15 km distance to be covered. We were still hiking up and down mountains but nothing as high as the 1200 m climb from the previous day. The sun was shining which was nice for the beautiful views to be seen. At our campsite Edwin told us to all pick a stone and carry it with us. At the top of the first pass he explained to us a stone and coca leaf ceremony the Incas used to do which involves making wishes to the sun gods. I am not the most religious person but I found this really interesting
That day's hike was my favourite. The views were incredible of snow capped mountains and we started to head into the jungle which is full of orchids, hanging mosses and tunnels. The Incan remains we passed that day were the most impressive as well.
We got to our campsite just before sunset that night. We were all excited for the next day for our final 5 km hike to Machu Picchu, the City of the Incas. I was also looking forward to the next day's hot shower and warm bed!
That night we also said goodbye to our porters. The head chef made a beautiful cake to celebrate (we will never understand how he did it over a single propane stove top).
Day 10: We were woken up at 3:30 am to head to Machu Picchu. That night I didn't get much sleep because there was thunder and lightning all night, and pouring rain. I could tell even in the dark that our day at Machu Picchu would be a foggy one. As the sun came up the mist started rising through the mountains. We were also descending into the jungle so hearing the rain and all the jungle creatures was really cool
The descent down to Machu Picchu took another half hour. A lot of people seemed down due to the weather blocking the views. Matt had wanted to see Machu Picchu since he was 8 years old so he was beaming ear to ear regardless. I was satisfied after Edwin pointed out that if it were a sunny day then the crowds would be overwhelming. The rain also made you appreciate how perfect the drainage systems built into Machu Picchu were. They were way ahead of their time! Plus the mist made it appear more mystical. All of the 200 trekkers had a bit of time to see Machu Picchu before the buses started zipping in with crowds from the train and nearby town of Aguas Calientes.
Once at Machu Picchu we started off with a 2 hour tour. To see the perfectly irrigated terraces for growing all the food for the city of 1000 people and hear about how perfectly windows in the ceremonial sections and temples line up with the summer and winter solstice was amazing. At one point Edwin borrowed someone's iPhone, turned on the compass, and set it down on a rock carved to look like the southern cross constellation which was important to the Inca. The compass needle pointed due south. It wasn't even off by 1 degree.
Following the tour we had a couple of hours to see it on our own. The fog was gone so Matt and I hiked back up to see it all
After Machu Picchu we all grabbed lunch in Aguas Calientes and consumed many beers to celebrate completing the trek. We spent the day in the town then all took the train and bus back to Cusco.
Overall we loved the Inca Trail! It was extremely challenging but that was part of the experience. We made lots of friends in our group including two from Canada who have a family cottage in Pugwash, it's a small world. The most impressive part to me were how great the porters were. They were all farmers between the ages of 19 to 55 with families back home. They had such a tough job but were still always so happy and went out of their way to make sure we had a great experience.