The most famous hike in South America, the 4 day Inca Trail was an unforgettable experience. The 43km path, high up in the Peruvian Andes, winds it's way up and down mountains with jaw dropping scenery. Walking along the trail and passing mysterious inca ruins, snowy mountain peaks and lush cloud forests was awe-inspiring. We climbed 3 mountain passes, the highest being "Dead Woman's Pass" at 4200m, only reached after a continuous uphill climb of 5 long hours. At the top of each pass, the spectacular views were worth every painstaking step.
We were joined by 14 fellow trekkers, 2 guides and 21 porters - yes, 21 local guys who's job it was to carry all the gear needed for our trip - tents, tables, chairs, food, drinks, cooking pots, gas, plates, cups, cutlery, etc etc. Each of these guys were carrying up to 24kg of gear on their backs and still managed to run up the steep slopes leaving us mystified by their endless stamina. Everyday, after a full days walking, we would arrive in camp shattered and breathless and the porters would have already setup our tents, cooked our dinner and have a welcome juice on hand along with a welcome cheer. Those guys were amazing.
The food wasn't the simple stuff you expect on a camping trip - no beans on toast for us. Each morning we were woken with tea or coffee in bed followed by a hearty breakfast of fruit and pancakes with bread and jam. For lunch and dinner we were treated to 3 imaginative courses matching any good restaurant, with alpaca being a favourite. We ate like kings, but we had to - walking for up to 9 hours a day, up and down mountains is energy sapping work!
All the days were early starts, 5.30am. But the final day was a killer - woken at 3.45am, we set off in the darkness to begin our final descent towards the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Precariously perched high on a mountain ridge, the majestic city was shrouded in clouds as we arrived. But the strong Andean sun soon cleared the mist and the city slowly began to take shape before our eyes.
We spent the day exploring the near perfect ruins, with our guide "Cesar" passionately filling us in on the history. When the Spanish invaded Peru in the 1500's, they destroyed most Inca cities, but Machu Picchu's secret location, deep in the mountains, was it's savour. The Spanish didn't find it, so it remains mostly intact.
The sight of Machu Picchu, almost impossibly nestled on the crest of a mountain ridge is incredible. An awesome reward for our 43km, 4 day trek.
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