This was the day that we were about to come up against the all mighty world renowned Inca Trail. 5 of us from our tour were doing this trail, whilst the other five were doing the Lares Trek (pronounced Larris). We all said our goodbyes in Ollantaytambo and Vanessa said to me "stay safe Richie, I want you back in one piece" HA. We would all then meet again in a few days anyway, probably alot more weary and jaded than we were at that present moment. One of the Aussie lads kindly gave me his trainers to do the walk in, as he said he just could not let me do it in what have become one of the worlds most famous shoes. You know the ones, those black work shoes I just cannot stop myself from mentioning in every blog I write?
When we arrived at the starting point, we gave the porters our bags and they weighed them for us, as due to strict regulations enforced by the park, they are only allowed to carry 6Kg of our belongings on the trek, and the rest for example, i.e jumpers, bottles of waters etc, gets thrown into day pack carried by our good selves. We showed our passports through the checkpoint, had our group photo with superman (Jamie decided he was doing the whole trek in his fancy dress outfit), and then were on our way, the Inca Trail had begun.
Day 1 was easy really. It was a nice steady walk on the flat, where we saw the train going in and out of the valley, thinking what lazy people they were on that train, not being able to walk just for a couple of days to see what he hoped to be the magnificent Machu Picchu. We had our first real rest point on the hill a couple of hours in, and our tour leader said at that point, that he can always tell for the rest of the trek who are the fast walkers and who not as fast paced. Lilly and Forbes (a very nice couple from London) were always the slightly slower ones, taking it at there own pace, but you can´t expect people to be as fast as me, when I usually have legs about 3 times longer than everyone else. The first Inca site on the trail around 2 hours into the walk brought out a funny moment, as I heard one girl from another group ask someone is this Machu Picchu. I promptly replied "yes we are here, you can walk back now luv". The lad with her just stared, and I came to the conclusion at that point that the boring miserable looking sole obviously didn't appreciate my dry sarcasm.
We were about to be introduced to our gourmet food that we consistently had all the way throughout the 4 day hike. I do not think no one expected our food to be as nice as it actually was. On the final night, to top our meals off, we were spoilt by a Gap Peru chocolate cake. We got to camp pretty early on day 1and it was pretty uneventful. I had abit of a struggle getting my sleeping bag out of the bag, nevermind into the bag. I realised I wasn´t made for this camping malarkey, and every morning I would just stand outside the tent with my sleeping bag and then the porters would come by and snatch it off me, and within 2 seconds, it was neatly all packed away.
Day 2. We woke up at 5:30am, just like we did every morning, except for the final day, when we rose at 4am. The morning started as it always did, with Louise shouting from the other tent "Jamie, is Richard up yet?. Jamies reply was always "hmm, no he´s having another 10 minute snooze apparently".
I had heard from numerous sources that day 2 was always going to be a long hard slog, but I never actually expected a constant flurry of steps for a good 3 or 4 hours. It did wonders for my calves (and dehydration). After reaching the highest point of the Inca trail, and posing for a couple of pictures, it was time to go back down the other side. Not before I had tried haggling for some food at the top though. The prices were extortionate, and I probably could have bought a steak dinner in Buenos Aires for the price that the chocolate bar was. Oh those were t´days...good old Buenos Aires. Anyway back to the story, the woman was not warming to my haggling strategy, but to be fair I don´t think I would accept the bartering techniques used by gringos (presuming I was Peruvian of course), if I had carried all those boxes of food up those stairs single handedly. After a while, plan B was about to be used, I was to throw in the combinations, a couple of caramels here, a couple of snickers there etc. I soon got the price down....result.
It really was time to head back down the valley, and it was around 2 hours of walking down steps continuously. Why could we not just walk around the valley at a normal gradient, instead of all this up and down business? When I arrived at camp at around 1:30pm, the tents were already made, so I just jumped onto the sleeping bag and had a quick nap
Day 3 - Some people were a little cold this morning, but I thought it was okay, considering it was 6am. The day started just like the 2nd day, in the form of uphill walking. We didn´t see any animals though as opposed to the first 2 days. There was a point in the day where we waited for Lilly and Forbes at the toilets, but after half an hour our guide told us to keep going and he would wait for them. I had an inclination that they may have just not seen us, so I ran ahead for a good 10/15 minutes. This is not something I would recommend when you´re wearing jeans (I came all prepared you see). I found them both strolling along taking pictures of the beautiful scenery on the way. I think they had thought at one point that a miracle was going to happen, and they were going to get to camp first, but I had foiled their master plan that they put in place, ha.
Lunch time on day 3 was the most beautiful setting we had for in the whole trip and it was probably the most sunniest day I had seen in South America for a short while. We were back on our way and after an hour of climbing some steep steps, we were walking freely on the Inca flat (still not flat as we know it, but alot better than we had been used to). After lunch me and Jamie walked quickly ahead to see another wonderful impressive Inca site, and it was the quietest we had seen (well heard) the trek for the entire walk. We saw about 6 people in an hour, but unfortunately for us, one of those persons was the most annoying in the land. The whole of the United States of America must have been irritated by her. Our whole group was trying to get away from this annoying little creature....ok that may have been abit harsh from me there, but I felt the need to extend my vocabulary alittle, and that word seemed to fit the sentence. Nevertheless it was quite difficult to get away from her, when her voice could be heard probably right back at the starting point. She was telling people how she had done the Inca trail once or twice before, and then she couldn't wait to tell everyone that she had done it 5 times. My instant reply was "COOOOOOOOL".
Day 4 - We woke up at 4am and just like every other night, it rained. We could not complain though as even though it rained during the night, it was always nice and sunny during the day. We were up and walking to the sun gate, where the view of the target could be seen. Only a few more steps up, and a few more steps down, and we were there. I think by that point everyone on the walk could hear me saying "Im sick of walking, I just want to get to this Machu ´bludy´ Picchu".
Jamie was getting abit too excited about the prospect of sunrise, making sure he had plenty of battery in his camera left, but I had to gently remind him that we were absolutely rubbish and unlucky when it came to views at sunrise. Ayers Rock been a classic example when it was completely littered with cloud. This looked to be going down the same route, and the rain came pouring down. After the one hour-ish walk to Machu Picchu from the sun gate, to our surprise it was about to turn quite sunny and that obviously meant better photo opportunities. Sun rise was a gonner, but at least it was nice and sunny for when we were to walk around it. Jamie didn´t really get the chance for photo opportunities though at first, as due to strict regulations, the superman outfit and Machu Picchu combined was forbidden, so he was forced to get changed and then climb the steep steps again to see it all.
Target reached. Here we are then at Machu Picchu, the Inca site founded by Hiram Bingham back in 1911. It is actually quite hard to believe that the Spanish never found this place, as it´s not exactly small. They were obviously more bothered about Cuzco than this gem in the mountains. You see this splendid Inca site on so many google images and on postcards, but you really can´t imagine what it is going to be like until you see it with your own eyes. we walked around the site, but as predicted, I was quite tired from the past few days, and the adrenalin just seemed to stop carrying me around by that point. Everyone was shattered, so it took the mickey alittle (but was also funny at the same time), when people who turned up on the day all in clean clothes and could be heard saying "I´m sick of climbing steps" after around 2 minutes of climbing up hill. Yes you guessed it, it was those loud Americans again.
So after around two hours of walking around this natural wonder of the world and having taken a stupid amount of pictures, it was time to leave. It was only around 9 in the morning still. I wasn´t leaving just yet, I first had to get my passport stamped as proof I visited Machu Picchu (just incase all the pictures were not enough). I then went and ate a ridiculously over priced ham sandwich. I haven´t felt that ripped off since I bought chicken and chips at Leeds Bradford airport back in 2004.
After meeting the other 5 from the group and discussing the contrast in treks, it was time for our 2 hour train back and then 2 hour bus back to Cuzco. Realisation hit me, I may never have to see such disgusting toilets ever again for aslong as I live. The Inca trail toilets made the ones in outback look like luxury, and for those who have visited the outback, you may just for that split second feel sorry for the Inca trail hikers.
Day 5. I didn´t do much in Cuzco apart from rest and have a look at the carnival celebrations going on around the centre of town. Maurice was toying with the idea of buying a 750 dollar scarf, but suddenly came to his senses and just bought a T shirt instead. After going out for a meal, I went home early, but Maurice stupidly gave me the his new shirt (and the carrier bag) to take back to the hotel with me. Me being me left it in the taxi. I already knew this before, but I know even more now, me and taxis are just not meant to be. If ever I go in another taxi, I think I will be worried about losing myself in one of them. Luckily the good lad just laughed and said "Why does nothing surprise me with you Richard, there is no end to your everlasting talents". I should have gone out in hindsight with the rest of them, but the others ventured to an Irish pub, and I had quite enough of Irish pubs along time ago.
You may have noticed that I have (deliberately) started this blog energetically and then after the story of the 4 day hike, winged, and moaned and just generally sounded lethargic. This was intentional as it was exactly how I felt at the time. The Inca trail surprisingly took it out of me and it was quite physically and mentally draining. It was however an incredible thing to do and, I wouldn`t mind doing it again, for charity one day hopefully, but I think that will have to be put on hold for a couple for years, or decades at least.
No point in doing a Cuzco blog, as I´ve just told you what I did for the day when I was there. Furthermore, I want to let my Inca trail blog stand in all its glory for the next couple of days, due to it being up there as one of the most favourite things I have done on my travels. Just to finalise this blog, the picture on the left (which is subjected to change at anytime) is a Llama that was wandering the ruins. I felt it was a decent picture as it was something different to the standard but fantastic views of what is classed as grand finale of Machu Picchu, which can be found on any postcard. On a totally separate subject, once again I seem to have mixed my present and past tenses up a little. Until I actually start to get paid for writing these blogs though, the grammar situation will probably not change one bit.
If you have have got this far, you are indeed at the end, well done, and I hope you enjoyed my little story of my adventures during the Inca Trail.
The Jungle was the next destination.