The inca trail

Trip Start Oct 01, 2012
1
9
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Trip End Oct 01, 2015


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Flag of Peru  , Cusco,
Saturday, October 20, 2012

The time had finally arrived for us to hike the inca trail. We got up and was waiting for our collection at 6.30, Joanna, our tour guide, arrived but there was no bus outside and so we followed her down little alley ways assured that the bus was just around the corner, we waited on one of the three squares for about 10 minutes or so and were then told we had to get a taxi to the office which was just outside of town. We got to the office and the bus was waiting for us, however it was empty and we were waiting on it for about 20 minutes before a few Peruvian people got on. Either this was a very elaborate plan to rob us or we were running extremely late. The bus then left, still it was just ourselves and a few locals and no explanation from our tour guide. After a while we realised we were back in town and slowly started collecting people from hostels. As one by one boarded the bus it seemed that we were the only English people in our group and everyone else was either Spanish or Argentinian. It was an hour or so to the breakfast point where we had a tube of Pringles- breakfast of inca trail champions. We also got some ponchos incase it rained over the next few days. It seemed there was one other english speaking guy in our group, a Canadian who we soon came to realise was not as fun as Matt Roy!
Back on the bus and a quick snooze later we arrived at km82 the starting point of the inca trail. A few group photos and a mighty duck style hand cheer and we were off. The pace was considerably slower than the colca canyon- this may of had something to do with the HUGE bags everyone else in our group were carrying. We stopped regularly in little villages and learnt about different plants on the way that the incas used for either medicinal purposes, dyeing clothes or just for hallucinogenics, the trail was pretty flat and we wondered if we were being eased into a false sense of security. Hot sweaty and tired we were the first to arrive at our campsite. The porters who had already run ahead of us had erected all our tents and were already on the case with preparing our dinner. A guy in a nearby village was conveniently selling beers and so we celebrated the completion of our first day with a warm beer. At 5pm we were treated to hot chocolate and popcorn to keep us going till dinner. Communicating with our group was proving difficult as none of them could speak much English and we of course had very limited Spanish! We decided to play animal charades whilst we were waiting for dinner, although fairly amusing this only lasted for one round and then dinner was served, a two course meal followed by different types of teas all prepared with one gas hob in a tiny tent. Tired and nervous for our day ahead we all had an early night. The following morning we were awoken by one of the porters shouting hola amigos and passing us some coca tea into our tent. Coca leaves are the same thing that cocaine is made of and is apparently good for helping with altitude sickness, today we would climb to over 4000m so we needed all the help we could get. Tai struggled to get comfy in the night and I woke up a few times to find him curled up in different corners of the tent confused and scared- poor thing he's just so long!
After another delicious meal and the offer of a personal porter (everyone except us took this) and we were on our way. Our first climb was 45 minutes where we came to a little lagoon hidden inbetween 2 mountain sides, a quick rest stop and we were on our way again to the top of the first mountain we had to pass today, from the top we could see 2 glacier peaks, one in each direction. It was tradition at the top to leave an offering to the mountain, so we all had to find a spot at leave a small rock taken from the mountain on top of three coca leaves. We then descended the other side until we reached the first of our big up hill climbs that day. 2 hours and an 850m climb was in front of us, the climb consisted of very steep stairs some were so big they came up above my knees, the sun was shining and our backpacks were feeling increasingly heavier. We made it to the resting point in about an hour and an half, everyone was shattered, one of the argentinians was really struggling with altitude and so we stopped at this point for almost an hour before the hardest part of the trek. A further 350m incline to take us to 4200m. Although a much shorter distance this climb would also take us 2hours as the altitude would effect our breathing and so make us go much slower. By this point our shoulders were killing and our bags felt like we were carrying bricks in them. There was a constant flow of people on this section of the trail and everyone seemed to be struggling but very few people were carrying bags and we envied them! Breathing was proving more and more difficult and every breath was becoming a struggle, we eventually made it to the top in 1 hour 20 minutes which we were both very pleased with. We waited for the others, gave our shoulders a rest and took in the spectacular views, we were surrounded on all sides by mountains, some green, some rocky and some snow capped. Looking down it was hard to comprehend how far we'd come that day, however it wasn't over yet and as the say what goes up must come down and so we began our descent down to our campsite for lunch and to enjoy an afternoon of resting. The descent again involved very steep stairs and it was hard to keep your concentration when you are surrounded by waterfalls and snow capped peaks wherever you looked. We made it to the bottom some 2 hours later weary and in need of some lunch. The guides left us as we were walking into the campsite as it was now safe for us to complete the last 10meters alone... You'd think so anyway.... With the dining tent in site all of a sudden the lace of my shoe caught on the lace buckle of the other and before I could stop myself I face planted the floor, unfortunately at this point it wasn't just me and tai and as I ungracefully rolled onto my back there was a few people from the group trying to help me up. I managed to laugh it off and with ripped trousers and a face covered in dirt we made it the last 10metres to the campsite, I was just about holding it together until tai said I'm impressed you didn't cry and lifted my sunglasses off and then even more embarrassingly I burst into tears trying my best to cover them with laughs, I looked at my knees and they were both bleeding, Joanna - our guide- then carried out some very rough first aid and bandaged me up. Despite this we had made great time and were at the camp for around 1.30. Lunch - which was another 2 course feast - was served and then we had a little siesta before popcorn and dinner during which the Canadian who had rather inappropriately had his top off all day decided to start flirting very awkwardly with one of the Argentinean girls, he has hitting around 8 on the cringe scale easily and so when everyone decided another early night was in order we were very glad. The third day was the longest with around 10 hours of walking ahead, 4 uphill and 6 down hill. We were served a breakfast consisting of what everyone needs with 10 hours of walking ahead of them- a cake! Impressive that they managed to bake a cake with such limited equipment on the side of a mountain, I have been known to fail in a fully equipped kitchen!
We were properly on the inca trail now and passed lots of inca villages, resting places, and terraces where the incas used to farm their crops, the climate had changed and we were now walking through jungle, the paths were covered by plant Canopys and we could head noises all around us of bugs and who knows what else, at one point we heard a growling noise which I though was definitely a puma ready to attack, turned out it was only a humming bird, it was right next to the path and looked amazing as it moved quickly between flowers above our heads. As we were walking to our lunch spot we were greeted by a family of llamas just walking down the path next to us.
We again made it to our lunch spot in good time, 1.5 hours early in fact and we sat on the edge of some rocks watching the clouds engulfe the area we were in. The weather changed and all of a sudden it was freezing, just as we finished our very early lunch it started to rain and so we all donned our very colourful ponchos and set off for our final descent to the last campsite. Climbing down steps with bruised and cut knees was proving to be a problem and as I struggled slowly down the 3000 steps porters were running past loaded with gear I felt like a massive wimp only to be made worse when we made it to the final inca ruins way after everyone else to a round of applause. The inca terraces were pretty spectacular and the sun had now come out which made the view even more impressive. We carried on down to our final campsite being over taken yet again by a topless Canadian (he didn't have a bag again today- we did) all the tours on the inca trail camp here on the final night and the toilets were much much worse than anything I've seen at Glastonbury!!
The view was incredible yet again with our tent door opening out with a view of the mountains that surrounded us.
The Canadian spent the time waiting for popcorn being increasingly cringeworthy, flirting- badly, taking his top off again - it was freezing by this point, referring to a German guy as dutch - claiming they were more or less the same thing, and pointing out another lady's roots in her hair! Hot chocolate and popcorn couldn't come quickly enough and unable to bear anymore we retired to our tents until dinner was served. The Canadian had obviously moved to sit next to the argentinian girl and dinner was yet again awkward, it was nice however when one of the guides pulled out a small bottle of rum for us to toast our final night as a group.
Before we headed to bed there was a presentation for the porters where we were told a little about all of them, one of them was 63 and had been carrying 20kgs of equipment along the same trail we had for the past 3 days, my small bag which only contained 2 feather sleeping bags suddenly felt light!
The following morning was the earliest start of all- 3.30 am, breakfast to my delight was caramel pancakes and then we had to wait in line at the final check point to open at 5.30 so we could begin our final climb to the sungate, an hour of walking through the jungle along 100%25 original inca paths and we arrived at the monkey steps, named as such due to their steepness and you have to climb up them with your hands as you reach the top and pass through the sun gate you are supposed to be met with views of macchu pichu, unfortunately for us the cloud cover was really low and all we could see was a blanket of white, no mountains, no ruins, you couldn't even see the path in front of us, we couldn't believe it after 3 days of hiking we couldn't even see anything.
After a few pointless group photos (I was in a bit of a strop at this point) we made our way down to machu pichu, to our delight by the time we reached the famous postcard view point the clouds were starting to lift and the sun was shining onto machu pichu beneath us, it was incredible and so surreal to be looking at something we had both seen so many times in pictures. The clouds continued to lift and as we made our way down into the famous village beneath us we were filled with excitement. We had a guide around machu pichu for the next 2 hours, seeing inca compasses, tombs, houses, and even a chinchilla. Machu pichu really was a magical place and as we walked amongst the ruins you gained a real perspective of life back then. We then completed our final walk (everyone else got the bus) an hour down into the town of aguas calientes where we wolfed down an over priced pizza and relaxed until our train arrived to take us back to ollyantambo, from here a bus was waiting for us and we just about heard someone screaming cusco explorers over all the other screams, we arrived back at our hostel tired and in need of a shower but excited to see our friends again. The inca trail had been one of the hardest most memorable things either of us have ever done and we wouldn't change a thing about it.
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