Inca Trail: Day 4
Getting up at 330 in the morning is never fun. I'm not really a morning person, and when it's this early I'm not a person at all. There are a few reasons why we rise this early.
One reason is because our porters must catch an early train at the bottom of the valley. If they miss it they are stuck for 12 hours waiting for the next train. A second reason is because the final check point just below our campsite opens at 530am. The aim is to get to Machu Picchu As early as possible so as to avoid all the other tourists who will be bussing in from the local town.
I have yet to mention that to do the trail you have to be issued with a permit which must match your passport. We had to show both our permit and passport at the beginning of the trail. Each day has had one of these check points.
They also ensure our porters are not carrying more than their allowed weight. In the past porters were carrying up to 70 kg in weight so the Peruvian government implemented stricter regulations to ensure porters were not being maltreated in the work place so to speak.
This trail is very popular, a phenomenon that began in the early 90's. In the busy season up to 500 hikers start the trail each and every day. In the early days, and before the Peruvian government recognised the need to protect this area more robustly, this number reached 1000 and beyond.
Rather fortunately we started the trail the day before it was closed for its month of maintenance. This means no extra groups starting behind us. It's also not peak season so we only have between 100 to 200 hikers doing the trail with us. This may seem a high number but you're so spread out you often tend to have the trail to yourself for large swathes of the day.
This morning we all want to get as close to the front of the final check point as possible. Our brilliant guide manages to get us three groups from the front where we sit and wait for about an hour.
At 530 we are allowed through but not before our guide strongly cautions us to take our time, to keep to the left of the trail and not to walk side by side. He explains that at points the path has a very sheer drop to its left and a fall would be fatal. (He tells us later in the day that a hiker fell to her death off this path just a month before) and with this advice embedded in our minds we make our way to the Sun Gate, the point at which you can catch your first glimpse of Machu Picchu.
Ruth and I get here within an hour but not before overcoming what is fondly referred to as the "Gringo Killer", the steepest natural staircase you will ever have the joy of climbing. The view from the Sun Gate is amazing but we act quickly to get photos as the ever encroaching mist and cloud snakes through the valley below. Within minutes all that can be seen is a white wall of vapour. We take a few candid photos attempting to point to where we think Machu Picchu is and then begin to descend to Machu Picchu itself.
The cloud comes and goes and eventually disappears all together. Given its the rainy season we have been very blessed indeed. When compared to other Inca sites seen along the way, the city of Machi Picchu is the "Big Daddy". It's scale is impressive and it seems fused to the mountain as if it were always a part of it. The ingenuity of the Inca people is rather impressive.
Ruth and I explore the area for a few hours while the rest of the group climb Machu Picchu mountain. Satisfied that we've seen all there is to be seen we leave this amazing place. It's been one of the best experiences of my life and I can finally say, "I've trekked the Inca Trail in Peraah, it was in many ways an etherial experience where I felt almost one with nature and at the end I almost chundered everywhere"