With stories of blisters, a path called “dead woman’s pass”, and sub-zero overnight temperatures – it’s fair to say that we weren’t exactly “looking forward” to the Inca Trail.
It started well with a transfer to Ollantaytambo and an afternoon sat in a market square drinking beer in front of Inca ruins, but the next day at 7.30 we were collected by our guide for the 4 days, Tommy, our bags for the porters weighed (no more than 6kgs), and we hopped on the bus to the 82km starting point.
The first day is a warm up but a fairly grueling 16km later we really felt the thin air and every uphill. Our 18 friends (porters and cooks) each carry up to 25kg in massive backpacks and spend most of the trek leaving after us and then racing past. No matter how knackered you feel the sight of these diminutive super heroes carrying packs bigger than themselves at neckbreaking speeds, sweat dripping, stops any thought of complaining about pain.
Each day we stopped for lunch and were provided with drinks, bowls of hot water to wash in and a huge, tasty 2 course meal. Same again at the end of each day with afternoon tea then a 3 course meal. How they prepared all of this (including a chocolate cake) on a 2 burner gas stove I have no idea.
The second day was the big challenge, a 900m climb over Dead Womans Pass followed by 600m descent to our lunch spot. Lunch was then followed by a steep 300m climb over the second pass and a descent to 3600m for our overnight stay. 10 hours of walking and trying to skip down the hill after our speeding porters was probably the most challenging walking i’ve done for 20 years – we slept like logs in our sleeping bags despite the thunder storms and the cold. We work up the next day to clear skies and an amazing view of a full mountain range.
The 3rd day was the “unforgettable day” mainly because we only had to walk until lunch time. The route is one of the most scenic parts, with the trail going though tunnels cut into the rocks, spiral staircases, stunning jungle and ends up at the beautiful Winay Wayna (Forever Young). Wayne immediately claimed it as his own.
The last day was a 3.45 am alarm call to get us to the entrance and to give the porters time to pack up and get to their return train. We queued at the gate until it opened at 5.30 and then started the trudge to the Sun Gate for the entrance to Machu Pichu.
We made it to the Sun Gate just as the sun came over the mountain and the shadows slid across Machu Pichu absolutely knackered and desperate for a shower!