At 5:25 am our guide Puma, greeted us at our hostel. From here we got on the bus to see the sixteen people we would be spending the next four days with, and then sat in silence along with the rest of the group until we reached Ollantaytambo. In Ollantaytambo, we had breakfast before beginning the trail.
After breakfast and almost at the beginning of the trail our bus suddenly broke down and we were stranded on the side of the road for a good forty minutes. This allowed us time to get to know the group and realise that we had a guide who was incredibly passionate about his job and teaching the past to his fellow travellers. The group was a mixture of all ages, people from England, America, Canada, South Africa and Australia. Immediately, we sussed out the rotten eggs, a couple who seemed to complain about everything before the tour had even begun, as well as interrupting everyone mid sentence and laughing in Sam’s face, when Sam politely asked the man if he had been to Cape Town much (having married a South African). But, refusing to allow them to taint our experiences of the Inca Trail, we kept positive and excited about what lay ahead. E-J’s only concern was about the hygiene of the loos for the next four days!
After Sam politely declined the offer of Marijuana at the start, we eased into the first day. We were incredibly lucky with the weather as there was beaming sunshine when really, it should be the wet season. We started at 2600m and ascended to 3000m. There were a couple of up and down hills but nothing to really challenge us. The only challenge Sam experienced, was when we reached the first set of ruins and he was unable to stay awake during the guide’s enthusiastic explanation about their history. Despite thinking he’d got away with it by wearing his dark sunglasses, as he lay sprawled on the grown, everyone in the group noticed!
After a three-hour hike, we reached the destination where we were to have lunch and as explained in the guidebook, the porters had erected a tent to fit sixteen people for lunch and the cook had prepared an amazing three-course meal. We then continued our hike for another two and half hours, feeling rather full after such an indulgent quantity of food. At around Five thirty we reached our campsite, called Wayllabamba (in Quechua means 'grassy plain’) and were shown to our already erected tents, which E-J was very pleased to see, were clean, big and bug free.
That night we were treated to another filling three-course meal and Sam alone decided to have a beer with this. The rain began to pour and we began to worry that this might be what the rest of the trip would be like, so decided to get an early night ready for our 5am wake up the next morning.
We were woken up by the porters and a cup of coca tea at 5am and relieved to see that the sun was shinning outside. After a quick and delicious three course meal we packed our belongings together and began the walk, which we knew was going to be the hardest of all four days. The first part of the walk was relatively pleasant, as we walked through the beautiful landscape and over a couple of small streams. As we reached the first meeting point, the lady from the unpleasant couple was struggling terribly (having caught some bug overnight) and Sam being the gentleman that he was, offered to take her bag for her. E-J, although realising this was the right thing to do, was a little concerned that this now meant she would have to carry a load of stuff, but refusing to allow any bad feeling to ruin the day, kept a smile on her face.
It was only two hours later, when we were in the middle of the first hard section, that E-J’s affections for Sam weren’t as loving as usual. Seeing Sam bouncing up the steps with absolutely no effort, as she struggled to pull herself up slowly, step by step, only seemed to frustrate her, especially since she had be so concerned about him and his asthma at the beginning. As he would continually, loving ask 'How are you doing? Do you want a rest? ¨, E-J would bite back with the comments, ' I’m fine, stop patronising me!’ When we finally reached Dead Woman’s Pass at 4200m, E-J was incredibly apologetic for her earlier tantrums at Sam and tried to justify them, by suggesting that it was a good test of the relationship!
At the Dead Woman’s Pass, as the group were all reunited together, our guide performed a ceremony on the top of the mountain thanking Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) for the wonderful weather she had given us so far and hoping for more. We all then toasted each other with a shot of Sambuca and the guide played a little tune on his flute.
After this, the next part of the day was a two to three hour descent down to the campsite, called Pacaymayo. We were all in need of a beer and when finally arriving, we were informed that this would have to wait until tomorrow’s campsite. Sam was not best pleased with this!
We then had a delicious tea, followed by a three-course meal only a couple of hours later. It’s true what people say about the Inca trail, you really do end up putting on weight!
The next day we awoke, all a bit stiff but excited to be only a day away from Machu Picchu. This was to be the longest trek of 15 km, but also we were to walk through the most beautiful sights. The first part of the day was a steep ascent up to some Inca ruins, which were once used as a look out point for the Incas. After this, the majority of the rest of the day was flat or down stairs, ending with what is know as the “Gringo Killer”, as the stairs descend 1000m. E-J found this day the most pleasant as we passed through waterfalls, caves and the most unbelievable scenery. Sadly however, these pictures can only be captured in our heads as the battery on the camera was starting to run out, and we wanted to make sure we had it for Machu Picchu.
When we finally reached the campsite, we made our way to the Inca ruins, Winay Wayna, just next to it. Our guide explained that these were his favourite and it was fascinating to see how the Incas took great appreciation of the mountains’ shape and would literally shape their city into the natural curves of the them.
After a small talk from our guide, we headed to the bar at the campsite for a quick beer or two before having our final three-course meal. We then headed back to the bar for a few more drinks, to ensure we slept well.
Sam could have easily been on a drinking mission, but E-J and her words of wisdom reminded him that we would be getting up at 3:45am the next day so by 10pm we retreated to bed.
Woken at 3:45am in the pitch black, we managed to gather our things together and rush a quick breakfast before heading to the gates for the final part of the trek. Desperate to be the first to get to the starting point, we all literally ran down to the gates and with great excitement, discovered that we would be the first to start the one-hour trek to the Sungates. However, this also meant we had to wait a good forty minutes before the gates would open. When we finally set off, we could see queues and queues of groups behind us and we felt the pressure to stay in front. Somehow E-J found herself at the front of the group, behind the guide and feeling the responsibility of keeping the group first, she tried to keep a steady pace, striding to the gates. As our trek began, a few sneaky characters started to overtake us and before we knew it we were practically running to the Sungates. After forty-five minutes and a steep ascent up the final steps, we finally arrived at our destination. Excited and exhausted to be one of the first to reach the first lookout, where you see Machu Picchu, we suddenly found ourselves confronted with a mass of white cloud! Bloody typical...! We spent 10 minutes resting and gaining our breath before we started to descend down to Machu Picchu and to the famous lookout point where all the photos are taken. Forty minutes later we had arrived at our destination, dirty, hot and tired. As we stood there, the clouds began to part and the most impressive, mesmerising sight of Machu Picchu began to reveal itself. The clouds around Machu Picchu seemed to give it more of a dramatic effect and seeing it properly for the first time was everything and more we had hoped for.
We then made our way through Machu Picchu with the guide, with explanations about the Sun Temple, the way the rocks were made and the bedrooms for the priests and other details.
Seven of our group not exhausted enough, decided to walk up Wanya Picchu, which is the big mountain at the back of Machu Picchu. The ascent was supposed to take an hour and as we began climbing up, we realised how steep and precarious some of the steps were. Sam, having been very patient with E-J throughout the entire Inca Trail, always keeping behind her and offering kind words of support, decided to take this opportunity to challenge himself, so raced up to the top with some fellow Inca Trail trekkers. Twenty minutes later, he sat on the rocks at the very top waiting for E-J to arrive another forty minutes later.
The view from the top was spectacular and as we looked down at Machu Picchu, it all seemed so small. What was so amazing about Wanya Picchu was when you reached the top, you were literally balancing on a couple of rocks with a very steep drop, and what added to the slight fear factor was the fact that the space at the top was relatively small and yet more and more people were coming up and pushing their way past others!
Below is the view of Machu Picchu from the top of Wanya Picchu.
After descending Wanya Picchu, Sam headed to the cafe at the bottom while E-J determined to get her perfect postcard picture of Machu Picchu, climbed up to the lookout place again to take the photo of what is at the top of this entry.
We then all got a bus down to Agua Caliente, where we had a quick lunch followed by goodbyes and thank yous to the guide. We then caught a four-hour train back to Cusco (which seemed to take forever!) and finally arrived back at our hostel at 10pm at night, absolutely shattered!
Sam’s Comments: Waiting to start the last day, had the air of waiting for Willy Wonker to open his chocolate factory, everyone was far too excited! Racing up Wanya Picchu was definitely a mad piece of exercise, but great fun!!
E-J’s Comments: This has been an amazing experience, which will stay with me forever. I just need to learn to control my tongue, when Sam tries to offer encouraging words of advice!