Hola from the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu.. I kept a hand written journal that I wrote in every night whilst on the trek.. I figured that this was something I will want to have documented and remember for the rest of my life and with my memory being as useless as it is I thought writing a journal every night re-capping the day and how I was feeling was the best way to keep these memories... So here it is my 4 days on the Inca trail.. What happened, thoughts, feelings, emotions all of it!!!
The Inca Trail- DAY ONE- The Easy Day (name given by our guide)
Woke up at 4am.. got everything ready, spoke to mum and dad and then the transfer came and we were on our way... we had a tour of 9 people plus 2 guides and one of the guides 7 year old son Bill. The group of 9 consists of 7 Argentinean Men who I assume are in their 40's and who are celebrating their 25 years of friendship.. They are doing a Lima to Machu Picchu tour.. Pretty cool I think.. The other guy is Tim, Kiwi from Christchurch, and me obviously. Everyone is really nice and seems to be good value, The Argentineans seem to be overly excited which is rather amusing at times.
So we get to the start, get everything ready and set off to the checkpoint, we stamp our passports and begin on our way. The first day is quite gradual, some slight uphill's and down hills with a few steep spots. Tim and I head out front with Bill, Ruth's (one of the guides/owners) son. Bill walks circles around us, he has so much energy. We stop at our first set of Inca Ruins and wait for the others to catch up. Once they do Fran (the main guide) explains to us about them and how they found mummies in them, after this brief history lesson we continue on... The next part is quite steep and I wasn't quite ready for it so felt a little defeated at times. I took my time however and charged on.. Mind over matter I kept telling myself, something is only as hard as you let it be.. I should pause here for a second and explain to you my surroundings and the conditions we are hiking in.. we are walking through, around, up and down mountains, in the distance we have snow capped mountains that's are 6000m above sea level and higher, there is a river running along the track we are taking and the scenery is beyond picturesque. The weather is warm and we are walking in t-shirts and shorts...
After the marathon uphill stint we arrive at some more Inca Ruins, these ruins are set down in the valley so we look down on them from the mountain side. Our guide explains them to us firstly in Spanish and then to my lonesome self in English, the rest of the group continues on and it's just me and Fran explaining to me the Inca history.. Which has its positives and negatives.. Positive is I took more of it in then I normally would in a group situation, negative is I am separated from the group and will continue on just me.. Anyway Fran explained to me about how the first Incas were documented in the 1400's but they were not the first Inca's it's just the first recordings of them, he continued to explain that when the Spanish settled in Peru they forbidden the Inca religion and language. He explained how Machu Picchu was discovered 100 years ago and for the first 4-5 years of its discovery the European archaeologist who discovered it came back and forth to Peru exploring the mountains more and discovering other ruins and what is now known as the Inca Trail.
After the history lessons we continued downhill for 20 minutes where we had lunch, the food was amazing.. After lunch we continued on me and Bill hit the front.. He only spoke Spanish and I only speak English so it was a quiet walk but it was nice and we tried to communicate at times to the best of both our abilities... With about 2km to go till the first camp site we stopped and waited for the group as we thought it would be good to all hit camp on day one together... we arrived at camp around 4:20pm and our trekking day started at about 10am.
After stretching and rest I freshened up.. Good old baby wipe shower. We had afternoon tea of popcorn and hot chocolate.. Yum. Peru was playing Chile in a World Cup qualifier.. So after afternoon tea we headed into this little shack house thing that was at the campsite.. I could not believe my eyes.. There was a TV with me thinks it was ESPN and the soccer or should I say football was on... Chile won but it was pretty awesome to watch it with our guides and porters who were all Peruvian and also the Argentineans who to were going for Peru.. They are so passionate and it made me miss AFL already.. I still couldn't quite get my head around the idea on being a quarter of the way through the Inca Train in the middle of mountains and we were watching a football game.. It didn't really feel like an authentic experience but hey it made it unique I guess...
After the football match we had an amazing 3 course dinner and then I was spent so I called it a night.
Today.. Day one of the Inca Trail was amazing as well as overwhelming, a little challenging at times but nothing compared to what I know is coming.. It's safe to say this day is one I will always remember... goodnight!
The Inca Trail- DAY TWO- The Challenge Day! (This is a long entry.. bare with me)
Wake up call at 5:30am.. Room service as Fran calls it with cocoa tea. I didn't have any but it's a nice touch I thought.. We're going to wake you up at the crack of dawn but hey here is some tea to make it a more enjoyable experience..
Feeling pretty good and slept really well. I get ready and step out of my tent.. I stand looking at snow capped mountains which is amazing.. The only problem it is drizzling ... ah well so be it I think..
Today we climb uphill over 1km.. 1235m to be exact.. That is vertically up by the way as we climb from 2980m to 4215m high.. The actual distance it is to climb that high I am not too sure about but by the last 2 hours it is meant to get pretty steep. You may be sitting there reading this thinking 1.2km up that's not very much and at sea level maybe it isn't but when you are at altitude it is a whole new bag of apples... the air at 4200m is very very thin that your body works like 4 or 5 times harder then it normally would to get the oxygen it needs to function this obviously causes your whole body to fatigue a lot quicker than normal.. The more exposed to altitude you are pre hike the better but as I was only in Cuzco (3300m) for 2 days my exposure wasn't too great..
Anyway breakfast was once again amazing, the porters and cook are our rocks on this trek.. They are my heroes.. After breakfast we head off the rain had stopped.. Bonus! It's a 7am start by the time we get going. We clear the check point, passport stamped again and set off on our way.. Today will consist of about 5 and half hours uphill including breaks and 1 and a half hours downhill with no break...
During the uphill part there were times where I didn't know how the hell I was going to keep on going but then I would stop, take a deep breath which is a lot harder up here then it sounds, look around and see mountains, waterfalls, snow caps and think.. Toughen up princess look around this is worth it..
There are 4 stages on day two... stage one.. Really struggled.. I think having just woken up, belly full of food and mentally hadn't psyched myself up yet really played its part. The first leg was 1 and a half hours and I took the whole time to do it.. I did it with our guide Fran whilst the others went ahead as they got the day explained in Spanish and I had to wait back for the English explanation anyway.. Fran and I chatted about our lives and families and traditions he explained plants and mountains and villages along the way which was good and helped keep my mind off how bad I was struggling. We get to the first pit stop at 8:30.. Had a 10 minute break, stocked up on the water and then head back on for part two of the day. Fran rested a little longer, that was his excuse anyway I think he wanted to give me a head start so he didn't have to go so slow as he has done the whole 4 days we do in 5 hours.. He has run the Inca Trail so walking with me must be killing him.
Part 2 was meant to take 2 hours all uphill still.. This was my favourite part out of the 4 today. I got myself in a really strong headspace and charged it.. I guess the constant views of rivers, waterfalls and cloud covered mountains really helped.. I finished this leg in 1 hour and 40 minutes, 20 minutes ahead of schedule! This gave me the boost I needed to get through part 3 the steep final uphill stretch of the day.. But completing the second leg which was steeper then the first leg really re-enforced that your mental state plays just as big of a roll as your physical. I enjoyed walking by myself for the most of this part, thinking, and taking it all in, Fran didn't catch me for an hour and 20 minutes, so I did most of it by myself meeting people along the way that I was over taking or that were over taking me.. At the pit stop I got some more Gatorade (thanks for the advice dad stopped the legs cramping a treat), water, skittles and a kitkat.. the kitkat was my reward for when I reach the top of dead woman's pass the highest peak I thought! Bring on stage 3 I thought!
Part 3- by the time I left the rest stop it was just past 10:30.. This next leg would take 2 hours with some really steep bits and would take me to the highest pass of the Inca trail.. 4215m.. This part was mentally and physically draining, 400m left to climb to get to dead woman's pass.. I take off and overtake some people.. Good start.. I shuffle my way up as I wouldn't really call it stepping as the "steps" were so small they would make an elf's step look big.. The key to this leg for me was small steps, frequent breaks and big breaths. I kept crossing paths with 4 Canadians, 2 couples id pass them when they were stopped and then I would stop and they passed me.. This continued on for about an hour and then we stopped together, took some pics for each other chatted a bit and then continued on. We did this a couple of times and after about an hour and a quarter Fran caught up.. We did the last 45 mins together and he was my rock talking me through it .. The air was so thin and hard to breath, my knee was getting sore but I had come this far there was only one way to go so I kept going.. I kept setting myself a point in the distance and a time I had to reach it by.. Being the competitive person I am this helped keep me motivated and moving forward. It was 12:15.. There was no way I was getting to the peak past 12:30.. 2 hours this leg takes and I was going to do it in 2 hours we had 50m in height to go over maybe 100, 150metres of track it was pretty steep so I'm not to clear on the distance..I charged on one foot in front of the other.. I think I saw a turtle overtake me but I was focused, the last bit was by far the hardest. There were people at the top cheering everyone on and the atmosphere was pretty unreal then bang with one last massive breath I conquered that last step.. Time check.. Made it to dead woman's pass at 12:24pm.. Thank you very much!!!! Fran and I high-five and cheered the Canadians who were coming up behind me on as they also reached the top.. The feeling standing at the highest peak of the Inca Trail- Dead Woman's Pass, 4215m high looking back down at the camp site from the night before that looked like a dot and a long way down was ridiculously overwhelming .. The eyes may have watered up a little and I may have chocked back a tear.. But this along with the Nazca Lines was one of the reasons I wanted to come to South America and to know that I just conquered the highest peak was the best feeling.. I was pretty dam proud of myself! I felt invincible at the moment.. And even though there were larger mountains surrounding me I felt like I was on top of the world. What a hard and challenging 3 legs.. But the feeling of accomplishment at the end of it made it all so worth it. I ate my reward Kitkat with pride and the world's biggest smile on my face.. I shared it with Fran.
There was however one problem.. The day wasn't over we now had part 4.. 1 and half hours to climb down 600m, we took some pics and started the journey.. It was steep and hard on the legs but we smashed the hour and a half and finished it in an hour flat and got to camp at 1:45 15 minutes ahead of schedule.. Pretty happy with that effort.
Our campsite for ay 2 is beautiful there is a waterfall on one side and snow cap mountains on the other side. I rested for an hours, had some lunch and then went back to sleep and woke up at 7pm for dinner and then of course went straight back to sleep after.. Ahhhhh what a day!
Inca Trail- DAY 3- Unforgettable!
Today we got to sleep in till 6am.. It was going to be along day.. 16km of hiking. We set off around 7:20am. If I thought the uphill battles were over I was dead wrong. The first 2 hours of today were uphill climbing back up 400metres.. . My knee was killing me from the downhill leg of the day before. Half way up was our first Inca Ruins for the day. It was a struggle but I made it. We got a dose of Inca history.. First in Spanish and then I got mine in English whilst the rest of the group took off.. We learnt how the Incas communicated by messengers who would run from town to town carrying messages in the Inca language that were ropes with knots in it which were Inca symbols or something like that anyway. The Inca that was in control when the Spanish invaded didn't attack the Spanish as the Inca ruler before him was a prophesy and said that the gods would come.. Now the Incas did not have facial hair and when the massagers came to the ruler and told him of the invasion and how they had facial hair the ruler at the time thought that the Spanish were the gods and therefore did not want to attack and protect their land. The Spanish tried to convert I guess the Incas to the Christian religion however as the Incas knew nothing of the bible when it was handed to them they threw it away, it was then that the Spanish banned the practising of the Inca religion which was to believe in the sun gods and mother earth and also banned the Inca language, they also slayed 100's of Inca people.
After this history lesson we continued on the last half of the uphill battle.. It took it out of me and giving up had come to mind however going back the way I came would be worse. I shuffled along and finally reached the top where the group was waiting.. ahh relief. We made an offering to mother earth with a rock we carried from the previous Inca site and a cocoa leaf.. After this it was downhill for an hour or so which was much easier. My knee was still sore but it was better than going up. We got to our second Inca ruins. This one was big. We learnt more about the Inca way like how unlike other South American tribes they didn't sacrifice humans, only animals and that all the temples faced the east as they believed in the sun god and the sun rises in the east. After this temple it was a short walk to lunch which once again was amazing. After lunch it was another hour to the next Inca site where we learnt about the agriculture. I got my explanation first so I took off with Ruth and bill, Tim was not far behind as he also listened in to the English explanation. Another hour until the Inca terraces, which provided food to Machu Picchu.. I broke away from the others.. Tim and Bill were close behind. The terraces were amazing and the view was even better... snow capped mountains, valleys, rivers, sun, everything an amazing view should be. I took some snaps and wandered around before making my way to the bottom.. I was just about to take off back to the trail when I heard Bill and Tim call out my name so I waited for them to look around and make their way down and we headed to the camp together.. We were the first to arrive which was a good feeling especially after been the last the day before.. Shortly after the others strolled in one by one. We had a short rest and then it was dinner time, for dessert tonight we got cake which was amazing especially as it was cooked fresh and all the chef has to use to cook 12 peoples food plus the porters is a 2 burner.. And chefs at home think they have it hard!!!!
Once dinner was over we had a celebration for the porters, we met each one individually, their name, age and what they carried.. The one who carried our bags was 60.. He gave me an extra sleeping bag on the first night.. His my hero this guy.. They hike the same trek as us with 20kg on their backs, they do it quicker than us and have everything set up and ready by the time we roll into camp.. And to do this at 60.. I will never complain again.. Well I prob will but I will always remember him! Because of them we have the experience we did so we tipped them generously as they deserve all the credit in the world. After this small ceremony it was bed time as we will be up at 3:45am tomorrow to trek the last 2 hours to Machu Picchu.. Excitement is building.. Today was a really good day.. After the first two hours.. Really enjoyed learning so much about the Incas and also having a much quicker pace.
The Inca Trail- DAY 4- UNIQUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Understatement)
3:45am wake up.. Get ready have breakfast and at 4:20am let's go.. Walk a couple of minutes to the check point where we wait until it opens at 5:30am.. 5:30am rolls around.. Passport stamped, game on.. 1 hour and 20 minutes to the sungate our first view of Machu Picchu.. After what we have just done, easy!!! The walk is pretty easy at first, slightly up and slightly down, Ruth, Bill, Tim and I hit the front.. We get to the last 15 minutes which is uphill.. There are like 50 stairs that you literally have to climb like a monkey and use your hands as well.. With my knee these drew a few tears as the pain was out of control but I was so close I dealt with it and kept going.. After a few more minutes uphill after the monkey stairs we make it to the sun gate.. We turn the corner expecting to see Machu Picchu and all her glory.. Instead we see a thick fog!! No Machu Picchu.. Our first view.. Disappointing. We wait for the others to arrive and Ruth and Bill go ahead to arrange our train tickets etc.. When they arrive we wait for a bit hoping the clouds disappear which they do for a split second but not entirely.. We catch a glimpse but not enough for our liking.. The Argentineans want to wait longer so Tim, Fran and I head down for 40 more minutes to the terraces that you get your famous Machu Picchu view from.. When we arrive it is still fog.. We sit and wait and then all of a sudden the fog and cloud thin out and there she is.. Machu Picchu.. To say it is breathtaking is an understatement, to say it is overwhelming is an understatement..
We have travelled 44km, over 25hours of hiking, well less once you take out a handful of hours for history lessons and lunch.. But we did all of this to see this incredible site.. And she does not disappoint.
The journey was epic, the reward unimaginable.. To just see Machu Picchu would be amazing but hiking in the footsteps of the Inca people, seeing their other sites, learning their history is the ultimate build up to this remarkable place. After taking it in for a bit we head down and have a break for 20 minutes and then head into ruins for a tour.. We saw the sun temple, Inca houses terraces where they grew food, we learnt that 1000 people lived there and that Inca men would often have many wives and children however would often live in Cuzco. We also learned that Machu Picchu was only occupied for 100 years, so 2 generations worth of Incas before it was abandoned and that they abandoned it before they finished it.
After the tour was over we headed back to Cuzco... Mick Jagger was o the train with us in the next carriage just to top off the experience. The Inca Trail, Machu Picchu- done!
The last 4 days have been amongst if not the best in my life. I challenged myself both mentally and physically and accomplished things I never imagined I would. I met some amazing people on my journey, hiked amongst some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, learnt about another race of people and saw and to some extent experienced the way they lived.. And now sitting on the train back to Cuzco I am left feeling completely overwhelmed by the whole experience.. I know I have used that world a lot but no words can describe the feeling I have and how spectacular the things I saw were... as corny as this sounds I feel as though this whole experience has changed me and my whole outlook on life... maybe this whole trip so far has and this just topped it off but the feeling I have right now is that nothing will be the same.. There is so much to see, learn, experience and taste.. Would love to hold on to this feeling forever... proud and invincible!