Day 15 – Machu Picchu, the last day of the Inca Trail

A very early start this morning though Im not entirely sure why seeing as though we got up around 4am only to get to the gate for around 4.45 to wait in a queue for the gates to be open. As soon as the gates opened at 5am, everyone surged forward and started walking at such a fast pace. Its not like Machu Picchu is going anywhere! But because everyone was walking at such a fast pace and we were all so close together coupled with the fact that the trail was very narrow so overtaking was quite hard, we all had to continue this rather rapid pace otherwise you would be holding everyone behind you up. We maintained this pace for about an hour and at the end of it, I was gasping for breath. I don’t think I’ve ever breathed that heavily before!

By the time we reached the sungate, it was light and we had a perfect view of Machu Picchu!! It was beautiful. We had heard of some stories from others that when they arrived at the sungate, they could see nothing because of fog, and that was just a few days ago, so I guess we were pretty lucky.

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Me, John and Tom at the sungate

What I didn’t realise was that from the sungate there was about another 45 minute to an hours walk down to Machu Picchu. Though we took our time as we were one of the first ones to get to the sungate. We managed to get down to Machu Picchu ready for sunrise. It was amazing watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu. The grand scale of the site is unimaginable. Its crazy to think that this was built thousands of years ago with such limited technology.

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Me and John at Machu Picchu

At Machu Picchu we were able to explore the grounds ourselves and when we were ready we just took the bus down to Aguas Calientes, a small town where we would meet up with Freddy for lunch. We decided against climbing Huayna Picchu as we were too tired and the sun was out so I decided to do a spot of sunbathing after exploring the grounds. I also started to feel a little bit self conscious about the way I smelt after 4 days with no shower and sweating like a pig every day as all the day trippers started arriving.

On the way out, we got our stamp in our passport showing that we completed the Inca Trail. The stamp was pretty good with a tag line of 100 years since it had been founded – definitely a nice edition to my passport stamps.

When we got to Aguas Calientes, we met up with Freddy and had a spot of lunch. We then said our goodbyes and he gave us our train tickets to get back to Cusco but the train wasn’t until the early evening so we had a bit of time to explore the town..though there wasn’t really much there. It was very touristy and probably not a place I would recommend.

The train we were on had glass windows in the ceiling so it made for a fairly scenic ride! We arrived in Cusco and were picked up by Wayki Trek staff. We decided to spend the night at the Wayki Trek hostel for convenience. That first shower back was amazing though I still don’t feel 100% clean! I went to sleep happy after 4 amazing days. I would recommend the Inca Trail to anyone and everyone!

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Day 14 – the most interesting day of the Inca Trail

More walking today as expected but on slightly different terrain. Today was the longest day in terms of distance and time. However, today was also the most interesting as there were a few stop offs at a number of Incan ruins. At lunch we stopped on the top of the mountain. We actually had quite a long break and managed to lie down for a bit. John saw a group of boys playing kick-ups and him and Freddy went to join in. Not a bad lunch break and we had a great view!

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John, Freddy and Bruno playing kick-ups

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Lunch, again, was another big feast

After lunch, it started to drizzle a little but it was nothing disastrous. We continued walking and stopped off at a few more sites before we arrived at camp in the evening. From the camp, we walked to another Incan site. It was massive with a lot of terraces! After another educational discussion with Freddy about the site, we headed back to camp and were told that we wouldnt have happy hour (popcorn and tea and a few other snacks about an hour before dinner) as we had happy hour yesterday but then we didn’t eat much of our dinner.

Tonight’s dinner was amazing. We had Pizza amongst other dishes and at the end the chef had made a cake! A cake! In the middle of the mountains with only one gas burner! Some skill!

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The cake the chef made for us…pure talent

After dinner, we said our thanks to all the porters and chefs and gave them a tip to share amongst themselves.

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Group photo!

Another early night and our final night on the trail. Tomorrow its MACHU PICCHU! But with about a 3.30am start…

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Day 13 – Steps, steps and more steps

Today was meant to be the hardest day. Although we would walk a fairly short distance overall compared to the other days, the majority of it would be steps – definitely not for the faint hearted!

We were woken up by the porters and when we unzipped the door they were there holding a bowl of warm water for us to wash our faces and a cup of hot coca tea!! Talk about customer service?! This is probably the best I’ve ever received! The porters are so sweet. After a large breakfast we set off. The first few hours it was literally just uphill and more uphill all via steps. The sizes of the steps were mixed. Some were small whereas some were so big that I struggled a little. Its hard to imagine how these small Incans who probably averaged around 5ft could walk this passage, let alone build it!

Eventually we reached the top of the Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point of the trail. When we got to the top, Freddy took out group to the side and made us climb an extra few rocks and explained to us how the Incans worshipped the mountains. He then pulled out of his bag a litre bottle of rum! He explained that he wanted to make an offering to the mountains and that we all had to take a shot of rum one by one. No complaints from anyone!!

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Our group at Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point of the Inca Trail

After a little rest, we then started heading downhill. There were over a thousand steps downhill and by the end of it, you could feel the impact it made on your knees. I was grateful that John had given me one of his walking sticks as some of the steps were so steep. At one point, I was holding up a porter who was behind me. When I let him pass, he just leapt from step to step, practically running down it. Maybe that’s the way to go, but knowing me, I’d probably fall over and just roll my way down.

We arrived at camp around 2pm and lunch was almost ready. Camp was also set up as this was it for the day. Short, but difficult. I’m impressed as to how well I’ve coped with this trail so far. I’ve never been the really active type and thought that I would be the “slow” one in the group but I’m actually one of the quicker ones. Maybe I’m actually fitter than I though, but I’m still sweating like a pig at the end of the day.

After another nourishing and large lunch, we all decided to take a nap in the afternoon. I noticed a lot of the other groups continued after lunch but I guess we’ll probably have a longer day tomorrow.

We were woken up by the porters for dinner in the evening. Its surprising how dark it gets so early. It also gets very cold but thank god we rented some decent feather down sleeping bags from Wayki. In the middle of dinner, I had a massive stomach cramp and had to run to the toilet….guess its a side effect of the altitude. It was straight to bed after dinner! I cannot wait for a shower!!!

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Day 12 – First day of the Inca Trail

We were up around 6am so an early start. We met Bruno and Caterina, a couple from Portugal who were in our group. This was it, the 5 of us for the next 4 days along with several porters and our guide Freddy. The couple seemed very nice and laid back. Our first stop was Ollantayambo where we could get some last minute supplies. For us, that meant some chapstick for John. The dry cold weather has given him chapped lips. Attractive! We also saw a lady on the street selling boiled eggs. We hadn’t eaten breakfast yet so we decided to buy an egg for John as he was getting peckish. The lady started peeling the egg for us and then she cut it in half and put it into a bowl. Then she lifted some pieces of cloth and there appeared a rather large pan. She plopped a few pieces of boiled potato into the bowl and then from another container she found some green sauce and drizzled it all over the egg and potato. Wow! We thought we had only ordered a boiled egg and for only 1 sole (about 25pence) it was a pretty decent breakfast and delicious might I add!

So after our final toilet stop we headed to the Inca Trail starting point. There was a bit of a queue here as we had to show our passports and official permits. We also got a stamp in our passport to show which day we started the Inca Trail.

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Our group at the start of the Inca Trail

The first day was meant to be the easiest day but there was still a fair amount of incline to make sure you’re sweating! Our porters carry a ridiculous amount on their back. Each porter is allowed to carry up to 20kg. I think my bag weighs around 7 kgs and that’s enough! They leave after you do and they finish before you do as they rush past you so that they can get to the next stop and set up camp to start cooking ready for your arrival. What’s also amazing is the fact that they only wear sandals! And here we are spending hundreds of pounds buying top of the range walking boots.

At the start of the route we saw some puke on the floor, then about 10 minutes later we saw a guide coming back with a girl who looked as white as a ghost. Guess she didn’t acclimatise properly. Everyone in our group seemed healthy and according to Freddy, we made good time. We had enough rest stops and at each stop Freddy would give us a talk about the Incans or some other relevant topic.

At lunch we ate a ridiculous amount of food. The food they give us has been specially designed to give us a lot of energy. We wolfed down the food. It was so nice, given that everything was made using one gas burner.

We finished walking around 5pm and when we got to camp, our tents had been set up for us already. For dinner, we had trout, caught fresh from the river right next to our camp! Amazing. After dinner, we pretty much all just went straight to bed. We were shattered. But before we did, we spent some time looking at the stars. It was such a clear night!

 

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Day 11 – Preparing for the Inca Trail

We had to go to the Wayki Trek (the company which we booked our Inca Trail tour with) office today to be briefed about the trip. We booked the trip 3 months ago and decided to go with Wayki Trek as they were a small Peruvian company. There are a lot of companies to choose from but we liked the sound of a more intimate group with less people. Maximum size of a group is 8. We ended up paying $510.

We actually checked out of our hostel and moved to the Wayki Trek hostel which was basically their office as the price included one night’s stay at their hostel. It was pretty basic and I probably wouldn’t have stayed there if it hadn’t been for the convenience and the fact that it was free.

During the brief we met Freddy, our guide. He seemed friendly enough and showed us our route and the planned itinerary for Inca Trail. We found out that there would only be 2 other people in our group. Me and John also had to rent a sleeping bag off Wayki and because John has bad ankles, he decided to rent a pair of walking sticks. This set us back $45 – steep!

After our brief, we decided to visit some of the historical sites just outside Cusco. To get there, we had to get a local bus. We managed to find the bus station and with my broken Spanish, I managed to buy 3 tickets to get us to Sacsaywaman, an Incan site about 30 minutes away from the city centre. We explored the site and I got harassed by a lady selling baby alpaca jumpers. Stupid me stopped and let her put the jumper against my face so I could feel how soft it was. Ahhhh…I wanted it! But she wanted a ridiculous amount of money for it so John and Tom had to drag me away.

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John and Tom posing at Sacsaywaman

From this site we could follow circuit two which would take us to three other historical sites, Q’enqo, Puka Pukara, Tambomachay. We managed to visit the latter two as we ended up getting lost trying to find Q’enqo. We somehow found ourselves wandering across empty fields with no idea which direction to go. We managed to find a couple of ladies working in the fields collecting grain who seemed to point in a general direction when we asked where a certain site was. We ended up heading back to the main road and walking to the other sites. There was a lot of walking inbetween the sites which I guess made great practice for the Inca Trail tomorrow! Nevertheless, it was a great day and I was looking forward to seeing many more Incan ruins on the Inca Trail.

In the evening, we packed our bags for the 4 day trip. I was only taking my day bag and I had trouble fitting everything in. In the end, John, being the nice boyfriend that he is, took most of the shared stuff, like the toiletry bag and the med kit though there were a few grumbles.

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