The last few days have been the most amazing and intense days of my life completing the inca trail. No matter how much research or preparation you do, nothing prepares you for it. First of all I have to mention the porters. For a group of 13 of us we had 20 porters, who carried EVERYTHING, tents, tables, chairs, food, pots, pans, cutlery, plates along with a 5kg bag of clothes per person. Each porter has a huge load to carry and not once did they complain, they overtook us daily to ensure that campsite was ready and meals were made ready for our arrival! They are the hardest working people I have ever met! Which also made our trek a lot easier than it could have been.
On day one we set off from km82 just outside of ollantaytambo where we met our first hill. At the time this hill seemed quite big and a lot of us got puffed out at the top. Little did we know why was coming over the next few days. We continued on a leisurely stroll stopping off occasionally for Ray, our guide, to explain some Incan history. We slowly ascended up higherer and higher before getting to campsite for lunch. The first day is the easiest day but by lunch we were all tired. Luckily for us the porters had prepared an amazing 3 course meal for us including, soup, pasta, meat and cake, perfect energy boost to push us the rest of the way to our 11km goal for the day. By night the temperature dropped quickly and we all sat in the communal tent freezing playing cards by candle light!
The following day we woke up nice and early, and surprisingly relaxed ready to tackle day 2, the toughest day of the trek as we ascend to dead womans pass, at 4300m above sea level, considering we camped at 3200m it was going to be a tough climb. Right from the word go we were climbing...steeply up the mountain side. This was the toughest thing I I've ever done, when your legs give up and the altitude takes your breath, you have to keep pushing yourself to make it, and this was just to the camp site for lunch! Once there we finally had Dead Woman's Pass in site, shame it was at the top of a huge mountain, which you could find by following the steep path with your eyes, it truly seemed like it was impossible to reach. After lunch we set off again and this is when things got worse, the higher you get the altitude makes it difficult to catch your breath and when you take a break it takes longer to get prepared to set off again. This paired with over 5000 steps makes it excruciatingly painful to keep going. Slowly the pass gets closer and closer until eventually, legs shaking, back sweating I made it to the top to a round of applause of the people who made it ahead of me. It was truly an amazing acheivement to make it and to look down to see how far you have travelled. It really makes you feel proud of what you have achieved and I will never forget the challenge.
After a break to allow everyone to reach the top together we set off once more, this time it was down hill, well down stairs, for an hour and a half until campsite. Going down proved also a huge challenge as the steps are uneven and huge and have a big impact on your already exhausted legs. I made it through with the help of trusty blink 182 on the iPod which carried me to campsite, with shaky legs and desperate for a drink. It was safe to say I slept well that night. The third day started off very achy after the day before and we continued along the path weaving through the forest and climbing up and down yet more stairs! Although the second day was the most intense, the third day was most tiring due to sheer exhaustion of the previous days. We made it to campsite around 5pm and to our excitement there was hot showers, real toilets and a bar. It's important to point out that throughout the inca trail all the toilets are drop toilets, in very bad condition with poo splattered everywhere! At this campsite in the evening we have a last meal and thanked the porters for all their hard work throughout the trek.
The following morning we woke up at 3.30am and quickly set off in the dark by torchlight to the sun gate. It was warm and humid going through the forest and at one point we were faced by pretty much a sheer wall of steps so steep you had to climb up using your hands. We eventually made it to the sun gate in time to watch the sun rise over Machu picchu! This was our first glimpse of the lost city and it really takes your breath away. We sat in silence watching the sun come up over the mountains and on to the buildings. After years of planning and dreaming I finally made it to Machu picchu and it was a pretty emotional experience, I will never forget the first moment I saw it!
From the sun gate we wound our way down to the site itself and had a tour of the buildings and site and got some amazing photo opportunities! It's hard to put in to words how amazing the past 4 days have been. In the afternoon we headed back to cusco by train for a long awaited shower and sleep! Trouble is, stairs Are a huge problem with these aching legs, not good when stairs are everywhere, but funny when we are all together in a group moaning in pain as we walk!