21st-27th October 2018
The Inca Trail. 1 day exploring The Sacred Valley, 4 days solid walking, 43km covered across the Andean Mountains to Machu Picchu. And I get sick the night before. Brilliant. Excellent… perfect.
The whole experience was incredible. We had a great group (of rum-lovers) made up of 5 Americans, 3 Canadians, 6 Brits (3 girls in total) and everyone looked out for everybody else. It was lush.
The Sacred Valley day, for me, was spent on the bus, asleep, using Tomás’ pink travel pillow (cheers dude). I was gutted about missing all the extraordinary views, of missing the Ceramic Centre and of missing, what looked like, a delicious lunch. I just about made it through the Women's Weaving Cooperative demonstration which was fascinating. We learnt how they cleaned, dyed and wove the Alpaca wool to create exquisitely coloured things and, naturally, Sarah bought a pair of fuschia socks. I also slept through the group's first evening meal out. Woe. Is. Me. (*Shout out* to Saz for being a babe and looking after me <3)
The next day, and first day of the walk, I woke up positive and then my tummy told me to calm the fuck down. I managed to eat a snack which was pretty much bird seed, then I vommed halfway up a mountain (don't pretend you're not interested in the gory details you lavvit). HOWEVER… lunchtime came, and soup was put in front of me. It may well have been an elixir (or the antibiotics I was gifted were kicking in) because I started feeling better. I still needed a nap later on, so missed the football match between the Porters and the boys, not that that was a problem. I may as well have been there, because HONESTLY, I have never known ANYONE be able to talk about, and analyse a game of footy so much in my LIFE. It literally came up in conversation at every mealtime… every. Single. One. I had to admire Gio’s passion, in particular.
Talking of Porters… these men were extraordinary and I am still in awe of them. They were small tanks that carried all our tents, food, equipment EVERYTHING along the trail ahead of us in record time. One of our Americans had his birthday on the trip, and the chefs baked an insane cake for him, complete with decorative words and piped icing! Each Porter carried 20/25kg and most of them did it in sandals… 3 or 4 times a month. *SHOUT OUT* We required porters because there is no way for a mule/vehicle to carry the stuff because the trail is too narrow and steep. Sidenote: originally, the Porters were paid less than half of what they are paid now (still not enough) before the Mayor of Cusco at the time (who was later assassinated) changed the law to lower the weight they carried from 40kg, and to up their pay. Strange what happens when you do something honourable…
Anyhoo, the second day was the hardest and saw us ascend Dead Woman's Pass, so called because, from a distance, the mountain looks like the profile of a woman in repose, and also because when the snow thawed many, many moons ago, a woman's body was uncovered…
It was a very steep climb (and not to go on about it, but I'd only managed to eat a bowl of porridge in 2 days… so that is the only reason I took a very long time... The only reason). The views were incredible through the cloud forest and in spite of the weather being a permanent state of drizzle ('cloud’ forest…), everyone stayed upbeat and took the climb at their own pace. Although the initial view of the path snaking up to the peak appeared daunting (bloody horrific, more like), it wasn't so bad with plenty of breaks. On reaching the peak, there was very little to see due to cloud cover, so it was a quick ‘WOOHOO!’ before the hour-long descent to our camp. And a sweet nap before dinner (and rum).
Day 3 was a very good day; the terrain was more varied and we visited beautiful, precipitous Incan sites and descended more stairs stopping to admire delicate Colibri, ruffled from the rain.
We stopped for another delicious lunch amongst the chilling clouds before heading to a very beautiful, HUGE Incan ruin, where I imagined what it must have looked like before the forest was cleared from its terraces. We also admired a small herd of Llamas. The baby was beyond adorable.
Our final evening was rum-filled (as usual) and we stargazed before an early night. We weren't asleep for long, as we had to get up at 3 o'clock in order for the Porters to pack everything away and get the first train back to Ollantaytambo. We queued at the checkpoint for around 2 hours, before heading back on the trail for another few hours to get to the Sun Gate. We raced up the Monkey Stairs and… there it was.
Breathless already, the view of Machu Picchu made me even more so. The clouds parted for us and framed the city perfectly. This was what we had hiked for 4 days to see, and it was gorgeous.
I then leisurely made my way down to Machu Picchu itself from the Gate, drinking in the mountains and contemplating what had occurred over the past few days. It was, quite possibly, my favourite part of the route… right up until I hit the wall of tourists. Even at 7am, the place was teeming with them and it felt weird; for 4 days it had just been the 14 of us, passing the odd, small group of people and now we were surrounded by loud, jostling strangers.
Walking round the ruins was fascinating, but very difficult as I was sooooo tired. Our wonderful guide, Edwin, was telling us all about the city and I couldn't hear much as I was focussing on not curling up in a ball to sleep…
We bade Machu Picchu farewell, and piled into a bus heading to Aguas Caliente for a couple of celebratory beers and pizza (tip: don't eat pizza with ketchup in front of Americans), before catching the train back to our bus, back to Cusco. The bus had a bottle of rum in constant circulation; no surprises there. The group then went out for a sophisticated dinner… which turned into darts and beers… which turned into karaoke, which turned into a brief trip to Mama Africa and a bonding sesh with those left standing. Sarah and I were in bed by 4:30am, up at 6:44am to be precise, and out the hotel by 9:30am. We. Are. Machines.
We enjoyed a leisurely last day with the crew we couldn't seem to shake off (*shout out*) a delightful lunch with our Northern, Galapagos Gals who'd caught us up, and then another dinner with our Inca Pals before a 4 hour sleep (prior to our next big trip…).
WHAT a turbulent week. The Inca Trail was sensational, made more amazing by a brilliant group and an exceptional guide. It was a difficult trek, and I was proud to finish it… It's a glorious relief the Spanish never found this diamond place, nestled amongst the mountains. Pachamama protected Machu Picchu beautifully and I thank her deeply, with a splash of rum to boot.