Sam and Dani's Year Of Fun
We both agree this is the hardest thing we have ever done, but the biggest accomplishment!! When we signed up for the Inca Trail we didn't really put much thought into the practical side of it, a 4 day trek through the Andes to see Machu Picchu. We´ve met lots of people on our travels who had done it and said it was amazing but not as difficult as they were expecting, clearly they haven't lived our lifestyle for the last 9 months. Despite some moments where we questioned why we hadn't just got the train, we loved every second of it! We met some of our group whilst we were in Lima and the others in Cuzco. There was a Canadian couple (Paul and Sheri), three Canadian guys (Todd, Glenn and John), two Canadian friends (Floyd and Pam), and American called Brad, a guy called Gwan… and us. Our preparation for the trek was to stop drinking a few days before which we thought was good, until we met our group who either hiked as a hobby or had done training in preparation, hmmm. Our tour guide was called Tommy, a Peruvian who has done the trail hundreds of times and who after a short practice walk in the Sacred Valley thought we´d all cope, at least he had faith! Well, it began… Day 1 we had an early start, leaving on a mini bus at 7am ready to get to the starting point. We arrived at a field and this is where we first saw our porters. A group of guys who carry 30-40kg of weight on the trail so that when we arrive at camp everything is set up. We liked this idea, but it wasn't until we started the trail that we realized these guys are legends because not only do they carry our things, they do this running and basically kick our ass! We were given a duffel bag that would hold a sleeping bag and up to 5kg of our belongings that the porters would carry up for us. We had 13 porters altogether which included a chef called Emerson who would make us lovely food, John the waiter, and a senior porter who was over 50 (crazy we know) who would meet us by each camp as a sign to let us know we had made it. We left the start point and walked for about 3 hours before we reached our lunch site, just in time as it had begun to rain. We were surprised to see a tent all set up with table, chairs and even table cloth! We had been told that the food was really good but didn't quite believe it as we were in the middle of the Andes, surely the food would be limited? But no, breakfast we would get pancakes, omlettes etc, lunch would be a two course meal, dinner would be three course, and in between we got snacks! After our lovely lunch we set off again for another 2-3hours to reach our camp for the night. When we arrived it was so nice to see that the porters (who passed us way back) had the dining tent set up along with our tents that had our duffel bags and mattresses in =) The next morning we selected a pebble (that we had to place on top of the mountain as good luck) and set off on the hardest part of the trek. Day 1 had been quite steady with up and down paths; day 2 was to be a long hike up hill. We had been warned about this but yet did not expect it to be so difficult. It was raining so we had to wear poncho´s to protect our day bags, but this meant that you would change between being too hot or too cold, not really what we wanted. Porters were passing us left, right and centre and at times when all we could see were the endless steep steps, we thought we´d never make it! But we managed to keep plodding along and eventually saw the senior porter which was a sign that we had made it to the half way point up hill, woo hoo!! After having snacks and hot drinks in the rest tent we began the second part of the uphill climb, and although we could see the top where we wanted to be, we just didn't seem to be getting any closer. After a lonnnnnng walk and lots of breaks, we made it!! Here we placed our pebble on top of the hill, this is meant to replace the stones that get pushed down the other side by trekkers. We walked the trek as a group but because this section was so challenging, Tommy had told people to go at their own pace so when we got to the top some of our group were already there so we sat and waited for the few that were behind us (yes we weren't last!) Downhill, for us, was a lot easier than going up. We made it to the camp in about an hour and a half whilst others in the group found it a lot more difficult because of height etc, we were very impressed with ourselves! That night Tommy thought he´d tell us a story about the strange things that happen at that site. He had an experience where an "energy" passed through him and that a friend and himself were unable to speak as this happened. Now, Tommy joked around with us but he was deadly serious about this and suggested that no one go to the baños (bathroom) around midnight because that's when events usually occur. So clearly everyone panicked and did a group toilet run! The next morning it was really cold as the temperature had dropped through the night, but when you saw the view it didn't really matter anymore. The mist was clearing in the valley and you could see the snow capped mountains in the distance. After breakfast we were given a snack pack (as we wouldn't be having a rest point until lunch) and set off on a steep path up the mountain. Tommy had told us day 3 would be easy compared to the previous, however the first hour almost killed us! Our legs were sore from all the climbing the day before, but Tommy gave us lots of little stops on the way up so when we got to the top we had energy to climb and explore for photos. We set off again down some steps (thankfully not as bad as day 2´s) and then walked through a valley until we came to some Inca Ruins. We got to explore then were told to walk at our own pace again to the lunch tent. We were the first to set off and enjoyed the walk through the rain and cloud forest, chatting away taking our time. The path seemed never ending and we were sure that others in the group would catch up with us as we were just plodding along, but then we saw the camp, we were first!! I think the porters were as shocked as we were and after getting some pictures they set up some mattresses on the floor for us to chillax on whilst we waited for everyone else. We had been walking for over 5 hours so were relieved when Tommy said that the next part was downhill and was only a few hours. What he didn't tell us was how steep the steps were and how just before we reached the camp we would walk for nearly half an hour zig zagging! Sam rolled over on her foot about 20 minutes in which was extremely uncomfortable and very frustrating as it meant she went at a snails pace, compared to the previous day when we were flying down. As everyone was getting fed up on the switch backs, we saw the senior porter, hooray we were there!! Not only had we made the 3 days of hiking, meaning that we were very close to Machu Picchu, but we could have our first shower in days!!! That night we gave the porters their tip as a thank you for all their hard work, we have no idea how they do it but they are incredible! Day 4, the day we had been waiting for! We were all woken up at 3.30am and had to quickly pack up ready for the porters to run for their train. We walked down the path to join the queue for checkpoint that allowed entrance to the final part of the trail. Once we were through it was an hour and half walk to get to the Sun Gate, but after climbing (and we mean climbing) the shockingly steep steps we walked through and got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu! We sat there and watched the sunrise over The Lost Inca City and gradually the mist cleared to reveal what we had spent 4 days trekking for. From there we walked down and spent the day mooching round the ancient ruins. Later in the day Sam and Brad decided to climb all the way back up to the top to get one of the best photos from the whole trip, the mist had gone, the sun was shining and it made the whole trip worthwhile!! We got the bus down into Aguas Calientes where we went for some food and a few celebratory drinks. There was a festival on so we got entertainment throughout the day before we got the train back into Cuzco. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu... done!!