After a few days of 'acclimatisation' in Cusco it was finally time to take on the infamous Inca Trail - the 4 day trek to the lost citadel of Machu Picchu, the Incan's jungle capital.
The total distance of the ancient trail laid by the Incans is 49kms. It winds it's way up, down and around the mountains snaking over 3 high passes.
The first 2 days of the trek are widely accepted as the toughest as the irregular sized stone steps climb on a steady assent from the starting point at 2380m above sea level to the dizzying height of 4200m at the much feared 'Dead Woman Pass'. We heard of multiple groups turning back before they made it to this point; sick from the altitude and spirits broken from the endless upwardly winding staircase. Even more embarrassingly some resigned themselves to being physically carried by the porters - although small on stature and cripplingly shy these guys possessed seemly superhuman strength as they raced ahead at lung busting pace to set up camp for the generally out of shape 'westerns'.
But as a wise man once said; the things worth having in this life are worth working for. With this mind, there was no suggestion of quitting but I think by the 3rd day we were all happy that we hadn't been too proud to pick up a couple of walking sticks at orientation.
The weather was immense from start to finish. The clear, sunny skies meant we could take in the scenery in all its glory - snow capped peaks, high jungle forests, the Rio Urubamba cutting a wide path through the hugh open valley, all punctuated by a vast array of Incan ruins (found and damaged/destroyed by the Spaniards) and archeological sites (undiscovered by those pesky Spaniards and therefore still intact!).
We were treated like royalty by our team of porters - almost to the point of embarrassment. The food was inexplicably good considering the remoteness of our camping locations, we were provide with a bowel of warm water and fresh towels at every stop, we were applauded on completion of each day's trek and our magician of a chef even managed to whip up a birthday cake for one of the lads on our final morning!
There was a massive amount to be learnt about Incan culture and history - too much to put into words in this blog.
We took a lot of photos but I can't see them doing this place justice. I know it's a cliche but the Incan Trail genuinely merits the term 'breath taking'. It can't be fully appreciated through the lense of camera. If you can, do.