Two week trip to Peru was arranged only after getting the slot for the classic Inca Trail. It’s ranked continuously as the best hike in the world by travel and hiking experts and firms. It truly stands by the word. Standing 4200 meters high on the mountains, looking out over the peaks of the Andes, and knowing that I hiked to get there, filled me with thought of joy and craving for similar hikes around the world.
I arrived at Cusco with my friend Graham from Iquitos (the only Amazonian jungle town). The day was spent visiting the city and getting use to altitude as flew it from sea level to 3399m high Cusco. Briefly met with out travel agent and got ourself introduced to fellow 3 trekkers. We are a group of 5 and keeping the number small is quite nice to keep up with the pace as well socialising.
The first day was a gentle one along a wide path that passed through the sacred valley. Described as ‘Inca Flat’, the trail starts alongside the Urubamba River and meanders through the trees and scrub brush, slowly gaining altitude.
We stopped at various points along the way by the guide. He told us the history of, not only the trail and the ruins along the trail, but also of the Incan people and their struggle to survive. The guide was passionate about his ancestors story and, as time went on, we realized that he was not just telling us stories that come from guidebooks but that his knowledge was much deeper. It was dark by the time we came to our camp site as we were taking photos and having a slow pace.
We awake at 6am as we were still getting used to altitude and in good mood. We were served tea and had breakfast at leisure
It was cold as we set out on the days hike – frost clung to the sides of the trail and I could see my breath with every labored exhale. We were already feeling the altitude and still had more than a thousand meters ahead of us. We quickly climbed above the tree line and were rewarded with the stunning views of mountains and valleys that would be our companion for the rest of the day. The climb to Dead Woman’s Pass was relentless. Up and up and up and up along the ancient Inca pathway made up of enormous stone steps.
Then it was down the other side – a 600M drop along a beautiful stone pathway cutting down into the valley below. The afternoon saw us climb another 400M before dropping into another valley that was more jungle than scrub. We crossed the valley to find our campsite overlooking a set of astrological ruins. Fog set in just as the light faded lending an eerie feel to the landscape but also providing some insulating warmth. After 16KM of hiking through two passes, it didn’t take much of the special ‘tea’ and ‘dinner’ to send us all off to a restful night’s sleep.
As much as Day 2 is about climbing, Day 3 is about descent – overall we drop almost 800M. We dropped backed down the tree line, entering into jungle like scenery and could start to understand how Machu Picchu was hidden by jungle for so many years.
We shared camp that night as other groups joined up at the campsite before entrance to the site. There was cold shower at the campsite as a privilege. Tomorrow would take us to the Sun Gate and our first glimpses of the lost city in front of machu picchu
We got up early morning to reach the check point. A few hour walk took us to Sun Gate. Unfortunately we couldn’t enjoy it as it was too too fogy. We waited for the fog to lift but it didn’t. All the difficulties of the trek disappear when we had the first glimpse of Machu Picchu. Sitting on a plateau below, the site looked just as beautiful and mysterious as I had expected.
Wandering around Machu Picchu for the rest of the day I was left in awe as to how the ancient Incans could have built such a formidable city with no modern machinery. The ingenuity and precision was astounding and the level of detail amazing. The buildings and stonework are stunning displays of form, function and astounding astronomical and geographic knowledge. Stones are placed, or carved, to match exactly with the sun’s winter and summer solstice positions or to line up along the ordinal geographic lines.
Seeing a rock carved into the shape of the Incan Cross and then shown how the points match up with a compass, I was amazed at the knowledge that the Incans must have had. The whole city and the mountain backdrop took my breathe away.