After spending five lovely and fun-filled days in Cusco, we woke up at the very early hour of 3 am to join up with twelve other hikers and two guides to spend the next four days traversing the Inca Trail.
The Inca Trail is a 26 mile trail that travels through mountain passes, cloud forest, rain forest, and alpine tundra and includes Incan paving work, tunnels, ruins, and a grand finale of Machu Picchu! In other words, this was definitely an experience that was about both the journey AND the destination:)
Around 2001/2002, the Peruvian government started to regulate the number of people allowed on the Inca Trail each day and also required hikers to travel with a certified guide/company. We traveled with Peru Treks and I would highly recommend the company!
Although we were responsible for carrying all of our personal items (clothes, sleeping bag and pad, snacks, water, etc), we also had nineteen porters with our group that carried all of the tents, food, and food prep equipment.
Despite the fact that we were carrying only a fraction of the weight of our porters, they literally ran past us on the trail after packing away all the tents and/or meal equipment. Talk about humbling!
Day 1 on the trail was a nice and easy 7.5 mile warm-up for what was to come. We ended our day with an impressive four course meal (the fact that it was prepared in a tent blows my mind) and rolled into bed before 9 o’clock:) Both the bedtime and the quality of the meal were the norm throughout the trek!
Day 2 was also about 7.5 miles, but these miles were brutal! We spent all morning hiking up to reach Dead Woman’s Pass (an elevation gain of 4,000 feet…read: steep) and then turned and hiked straight down all afternoon. One thing I know for sure, Incans do NOT utilize switchbacks! Our goal was to make it to camp before dark and every single person in our group made it:)
Day 3 felt like a nine mile dream after tackling Dead Woman’s Pass the day before. The elevation gain/loss was minimal, but the amazing views were plentiful!
Day 4 started with a 3:30 am wake-up call and no hot chocolate…did I forget to mention that we were woken up each morning with hot chocolate in our tents?!? I’m not sure life gets any better than that! Anyway, no tent service on the last day so 3:30 am was rough, but we managed to get ourselves onto the trail.
Before long the sun was rising and we arrived at the Sun Gate for our first view of Machu Picchu!!!!
Can you see it when you squint really hard?!?!?
Neither could we! We stuck around for a bit as it seemed like the clouds might give us a little view, but they were just playing games with us! It was another hour or so on the trail before we were rewarded with a peek.
And then we rounded the corner and were face-to-face with one of the seven wonders of the world! I was overwhelmed with gratitude for being in such an amazing, historical, and awe-inspiring place!
We were able to spend a few hours roaming around before being over-run by other tourists that didn’t look as bedraggled or smell as “natural” as we did (aka people who took the train) and then had a tour before heading down to the town at the bottom of the mountain…more to come on all of that:)