Up at 6.00am for our pick up that was an hour late, we headed via bus to Ollantayambo, a small village close to the start for the Inca Trail. We stopped here long enough for a coffee, mooch around the square then picked up our porters and tents etc. Back on the bus, we arrived at Kilometer 82 half an hour later for lunch where we were introduced to our guide George (from Peru) and fellow Inca Trail trekker Simon, from Surrey. At around 1pm we started walking and headed for the gateway to the Inca Trail (a small foot suspension bridge over the raging Urubamba River) it was a pretty easy walk - things were looking good. After crossing the bridge, George informed us of our route - straight up and through the mountains that loomed above us engulfed in thick cloud cover.....it was going to be tough. The trail was beautiful. We ascended quickly above the river, then the trail leveled out. We walked through fields of cactus'sīs, Alpine passes and meadows
. A few hours in, we came across our first ruins - halfway houses used as overnight stopovers by the Incas, a large fort and a small village below with incredible terraces and religious buildings. At around 5pm we arrived at Wayllabamba, our campsite for the night at 2,650m. It was in a locals yard, with pigs, chickens, dogs and children running around. We had dinner cooked by our porters, a quick game of cards, then went to bed pretty tired as the following day was going to be an early start. Unfortunately the rain was relentless that night, so not much sleep.Day Two
Up a 5am, we had breakfast then started to walk leaving the porters behind us. Speaking of Porters, its amazing what they are able to carry. Their packs (often bigger that they are) are anything up to 25kgs and they are still able to run the route that we struggled to walk. An hour after leaving camp, we stopped at our second checkpoint for a quick rest before the steepest ascent of the Inca Trail, a climb up to 4,215m. After 2.5 hours of burning leg muscles we made it. The air at the top was noticeably thin and it was strange to think that Laura and I had skydived from this height in Australia last year and here we were having climbed it. The view below us was amazing, with a trail of trekkers climbing the path. After 5 minutes a cloud engulfed us and the temperature plunged
. We put all our gear on and started to make the descent to our lunch camp. The walk down was probably as hard as going up. It was very cold, wet and the steep steps were uneven and slippery, every step shook our bodies and killed the knees. We arrived at lunch camp at 12.30 - knackered. George asked us if we wanted to push on as we were making good time - we agreed. After an hour or so we started a sharp climb to another fort then up again to Runkurancy Pass at 3,900m. Here George told us about the spiritual significance of the Pass to the Incas and showed us how to make offerings to the mountains....... back on the trail, we climbed down, passing Sagtayrocha or Black lake, Sagtayrocha ruins (another out post style fort) and onto our camp for the night - Chagigocha at 3,575m. We were almost the first group in, although knackered. That night was an amazingly clear night - the sky and stars were the clearest we had ever seen. It was freezing cold so we put on all of our clothes and zipped up the tent.Day Three
Up at 6.20am with hardly any sleep (it was so cold) and Ice on the tent. We had a good breakfast to set us up for the day. We started walking an hour later, the air was fresh and crisp and the fauna was noticeably different, more jungle like - lots of greenery, more flowering plants than the previous day and unusual mossīs
. We followed a winding and at stages tunneled path that clung to the mountain edge, often with an en-nerving drop below us - no hand rails to be seen! We soon reached the ruins of Phuyupatamaka (at 3,580m) used as a site to sacrifice young virgins and Lamas. George informed us that we were making really good time and we could reach Machu Picchu today if we tried. We got cracking, though the climb back down was tough, again on steep steps that jerked our bones. We took a quick detour through along a recently opened, vein covered section to the ruins of Intipunta for a rest and take in the stunning views. After a short walk we broke for lunch then continued along the final section to the Sun Gate. The walk was tough, our muscles were killing, not helped by the steep ascending steps. After 40 minutes we reached the gate. The views were breathtaking, after 3 days of hell, we were here. Even after seeing countless pictures of it, it was still unbelievable - a lost city sitting in the clouds, resting on a mountain with sheer drops every side. We spent 45 minutes perched on a terrace, looking down at the site in silence. From the sun gate we walked the remainder of the trail, past Machu Picchu (as our tickets were not valid until the following day) to the town of Agua Caliente (translates as Hot Water) that sits below Machu Picchu. Here we dumped our bags and went to the towns hot springs to soak our blistered feet before having a few beers then dinner. Because we had made good time of the walk we had arrived to Machu Picchu half a day early, there were no campsites in the Town so we randomly slept on the floor of an Italian restaurant - thats South America for you.....Day Four
Up for our final day at 5am. We had breakfast and made our way to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The mist set an eyrie scene as it rolled over the stone buildings. We had a short but really informative guided tour then walked up to one of the top terraces, sat and took in the view for about 2 hours.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is easily the highlight of our trip so far.