The Inca Trail - trekking in the rain, 4am starts and sun rise at Machu Picchu
After a couple of days sightseeing in Cuzco and the surrounding Inca ruins area we embarked on the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. After the peace and tranquility of trekking in the north of the country, it was clear we´d hit rush hour in the Sacred Valley as over 500 people a day embark on the trek and the waiting list is over 4 months long! One of our group aptly described the Inca Trail as the Disneyland of trekking! Despite the crowds though it was still an amazing experience.
Day 1 started well - this was a relatively easy day spent travelling to the start of the Inca Trail and getting to know the rest of the group. As we walked through valleys in the warm sunshine though little did we realize that this was the last we´d see of the sun for 3 days! Although the total distance of the trek is only 33km, the route is undulating and climbs up and down mountains, taking in three high passes including Dead Woman´s Pass on day 2 which climbs to 4198m. Having only finished the Santa Cruz trek a couple of weeks earlier we were well-acclimatized but it was still a tough climb and we were glad to get to the top! It was at this point that the rain started and as we shivered in our tents salvaging what few dry clothes we still had, memories of Glastonbury 2004 came flooding back and Debs remembered just why she hates camping!
Thankfully though, on day 3 the weather improved slightly and we had the luxury of a shower and a beer at the next days campsite and after a 4am start on the final day, we reached the sun gate in time to see the sun rise over Machu Picchu. This was pretty impressive and would have been even moreso had it not been for the rain, the clouds and the 500 other people sharing the moment with us!!!
Machu Picchu is, without doubt, an extremely impressive site. It was actually only discovered in 1911 by an American historian and is known as the ´lost´ city of the Incas. Relatively little is known about the site although it was undoubtedly an Inca city of great importance. The site was never actually completed but was abandoned, possibly before the Spanish invasion. Behind the ruins sits the mountain of Wayna Picchu which rises to 2690m and despite feeling weary and soggy after 4 days of trekking, we decided to climb this as well for a better view. It was a tough climb but the views from the top were just spectacular. After a few more hours looking around the site we travelled back to Cuzco for a warm shower and a bed. By now we´d spent a month in Peru and although we´d had a fantastic time here, we needed to move on so the next evening we took a night bus to Bolivia...