Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Conquering the Inca Trail

Once in awhile you have to challenge yourself, push yourself in ways you didn´t think possible. Whether or not I would be able to trek the Inca trail was a big question mark. Especially considering how I crashed and burned in Boliva from altitude sickness just a week ago, I was nervous about how I was going to be able to deal with not only climbing up again to 4500m but doing it on foot.

But there´s no way I could or would have backed out. We had booked our places 8 months with G adventures in Sydney, not wanting to miss out as they limit the amount of people that can do the trek per day. Of course, we could have picked the easier Lares trek or even do a day tour where you catch a direct train to Machu Picchu but it would have felt like we would be cheating. After all, one of the seven wonders of the world and a UNESCO heritage site deserves a bit more respect than that I think.

So off we went, not really knowing what laid ahead. The first day was relaxed with a guided tour to Sacred Valley where we saw village women making alpaca goods from handspun wool and visited some old ruins where ancient folks were buried in holes in the cliff. Again, car sickness haunted me and I threw up in my fourth country of the trip. We stayed at a hotel that night and took a glorious last hot shower and prepared our whole 2.5kg of stuff before heading off in the Incan wilderness early the next morning.

We were we group of 14 and there was buzz of excitement as we reached the starting point and took the inaugural group shot under the sign. 42 km of steep rocky inclines and knee crunching steps lay ahead. Luckily, we had a group of 16 porters who were carrying our main bags, tents, food and sleeping bags. We all watched in astonishment as these stout Peruvian guys with massive 70L bags were running up the mountains while us gringos were panting and puffing up with just our daypacks and walking sticks.

Once we reached our first campsite after 7 hours of walking we were pleasantly suprised with our tents already set up and a hot bowl of water to wash our hands and faces. The toilets there were an unpleasant suprise, just a small hut with hole in the ground and a few gross looking logs to balance on. Plus there was no door so you had to go in pairs so you had a guard. There were no showers for the whole time which is kind of gross as you work up a good sweat climbing up moutains all day. The food made up for it it though and every meal we had on the trip had three courses and all was very hearty and tasted pretty good. There was even a special dining tent and napkins folded in swans. 

This trip had a lot of firsts for me. Everyone else in the group had hiking and camping experience and were kind of shocked when they found out this was our maiden voyage. "And of all things you decided to start with the INCA TRAIL??" one person asked me. Yep, we sure jumped into the deep end with this one. The second day was the worst as we climbed up 'dead woman´s pass', four hours up steep stairs. Then four hours down even steeper steps, by the end every step brought a painful twinge in my knee joints and I was so deliriously happy when I hobbled into our campsite. 

The steep track going all the way up from the valley.

Elation at reaching the peak of Dead Woman´s Pass.
But alas the third day brought on sore muscles and another charmingly named track 'The Gringo Killer'. I just kept thinking to myself as my mind, body and spirit was in constant strain "small steps make large feats" and onwards I went, just focusing on my next step and knowing that I was strong enough to keep going. I was so intent on not tripping over that  I had to rememeber to occassionally look up so I could appreciate some of the spectacular views on the way.

And at last, on the fourth day, after a 4am start we finally arrived at the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. It was amazingly beautiful and even more so for having earnt my place by hiking there. For me it´s so much more than just another touristic destination we visited, it´s one of my biggest accomplishments in life so far and I more than earnt my hot shower, KFC lunch and full body massage the following day.

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