I’ve been thinking for a while about how to write about my trek to Machu Picchu, because how, in four months of superlative experiences, does one go about describing the absolute highlight? Yes, you’ve heard it all before, but nothing on this earth compares to actually hiking the Inca trail. It is far, far more than arriving at Machu Picchu; the sights, experiences and people along the way make the trip. So in the end, I hit upon the idea of a photo diary, so that you can see for yourselves and so that I don’t repeat: ‘incredible’, ‘amazing’, ‘stunning’, more times than any of us would care for. Enjoy!
We didn’t exactly have to go far to be rewarded with the views; in fact, we’d barely set off when we were greeted with that dazzling landscape. At that point, having just finished lunch at km82, where the trek begins, we were fresh-faced and raring to go. The fact that we had actually started walking, placing one foot in front of the other on the trail, was a zingy, tingly feeling of anticipation.
We didn’t have to walk for long before we came across the first Inca ruins on the path. We’d just completed our first uphill stretch and were feeling inoordinately proud of ourselves (oh if only we knew what was to come). This first citadel gave us just a glimpse of what life as an Inca might have been like.
As dawn broke on Day 2, the first signpost offered a solemn reminder of the day ahead; we were at an altitude of 2,912 metres and faced a 5-hour uphill slog to reach the summit of 4,200 metres. We took deep breaths and began to walk.
Whenever it felt impossible, we just had to look at the porters running past with their huge packs and realised that we had it easy.
…and still climbing uphill. That mountain in the background? We had to walk past that and further up still to reach the Dead Woman’s Pass. Fun.
We felt exhilirated to have finally reached the summit, but we didn’t hang around for long; it was freezing!
The third day got off to a pretty good start; we had camped in a simply gorgeous locaton, which although very cold overnight, meant that we were all in good moods over breakfast and ready for our last day before Machu Picchu.
The first part of the morning continued in a positive fashion; we reached our second Inca site with few difficulties and the views were spectacular.
Having descended to slightly lower altitudes, we had a whole section of beautiful cloud-forest, with exotic plants and this little cutie!
Our third summit brought this view and our spirits soared higher still! This was the last moment of unadulterated joy before the ‘gringo killer’ – over 3,000 roughly-hewn steps down the other side of the mountain.
By step 1,652, our good moods had more or less vanished. Every time we reached a flat section, another set of steps appeared. Nobody spoke. We needed all our concentration not to lose our footing and go flying down a set of 60 stone steps.
Finally, just as we were beginning to lose the will to live, we got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu Mountain in the distance. Until this point, it had seemed like a fable, nothing more than a story to lure us on this long and difficult journey, but there was the mountain and the end was in sight.
To find out the rest of the story, read the second instalment here.