It’s been a busy and tiring week, with a lot of early mornings, and a huge amount of walking, but it was definitely worth it after finally seeing one of the wonders of the world…
Before all the details of the past week, I’d just like to give a quick heads up on why we were in this part of the world, and why it’s so famous.
The city of Cusco was the capital of the Incan Empire, which spanned from southern Colombia to southern Chile, from early 1200s to the 1550s, until they were conquered by the Spanish. It was during this time that they built many structures, within the cities itself, to structures high up in the mountains. Many of these structures were forgotten about and even turned to myth or legend, including the long trails within the mountains which were used by the Incas for transport. It wasn’t until the early 20th century when many of these trails and structures were explored and re-discovered, the most famous of which being Machu Picchu, the ‘lost’ Incan city deep within the Sacred Valley mountains.
So…after arriving in Cusco late last Saturday, we got an early night and on Sunday went on our tour of the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo, the location of our stop over on Sunday night. These two locations were an insight into some Incan structures, and how and why they built such architecture. It was an informative intro to the Incas. And it was our last night also before we left to start the Inca Trail on Monday morning, a 4-day 42km long trail through the high altitude Sacred Valley mountain range, finishing at Machu Picchu on the fourth day. The trek would take us through various altitudes, the highest being 4200m on the second day.
Me and Karina haven’t done any hikes, not any grand four day ones at least, so we were a bit wary of what to expect. The thought of living ‘in the wild’ for four days was a bit daunting, but we looked forward to the experience. And so when we began on Monday morning, with our tour guide Ruben and four others in our group, we were in pretty good spirits! Day one took us on a gentle introduction through the mountains, a 12km fairly flat hike from 10am to 5pm, with lunch in between (more info on the food a bit later). The first day’s hike wasn’t all that bad, but it was surprisingly very hot on the trail. We were fairly tired come Monday night, and we were tucked up in our sleeping bags (with all our layers on!) around 7pm.
The second day was by far the toughest day of the whole trail, which included an absolute killer uphill walk from 7am to 11am. We finished relatively early at 3pm, and had lunch. Now, with hikes and living outdoors in general, I imagined we would be given a few sandwiches here and there along with a bowl of soup if we were lucky, but the food was by far the biggest surprise during the Inca Trail. We were cooked fresh pancakes and eggs for breakfast, and a full hot 3-course lunch and dinner, and not forgetting the popcorn with tea for snacks at 5pm daily. It was amazing food, and we were looked after so well by the porters, chef, and guide. The porters in particular were amazing. They each carry 20kg, and go quicker than any of the tourists (sometimes in sandals!) to get to the destination first, and to set up the arrangements for lunch/dinner, and to set up the tents. They wake up earlier than the tourists, and are still working after the tourists are sound asleep in their tents. We were so amazed by their hard work, and the Inca Trail would not have been the same but for them and their hospitality. As for the toilet situation, let’s just not go there…!!
Our third day involved the largest distance, 16km, and took us from high passes to lower regions of the valley. This day was probably the most enjoyable, as it took us through a lot of scenic locations. By the end of the third day, we had a view of the back of Machu Picchu mountain (Machu Picchu city being on the other side). We weren’t that far away now…
Finally, after many rough sleepless nights, and our bodily hygiene being somewhat dodgy, the fourth day had arrived! So at 4am on Thursday morning, we took the final 6km of the Inca Trail to Inti Punku, once the main entrance to Machu Picchu, and now the location of our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. And it was quite a sight. I’ve seen Machu Picchu in pictures, but seeing this site in real life was something else. It was a large stone city ruin in the middle of the mountains, one we had hiked more than three days to see, and one that had been forgotten about until not so long ago. We sat and admired it whilst sunrise took place.
We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon exploring Machu Picchu and it’s vast ruins. I personally thought that being in Machu Picchu looking outwards was as impressive, as it gave me a feel for how the Incas would have viewed the outside world whilst being in this grand city. Some structures mimicked the shapes of the mountains in the distance. The Incas were very clever people. And the views were incredible. All in all, we were very impressed by Machu Picchu, and the 42km Inca Trail to get there was well worth it in the end.
We got back to Cusco last night, and have a free day here in Cusco today, where we’re catching up on some much needed rest, and giving me some time to write this up! Tomorrow, we head to the south of Peru, and then onto Bolivia on Monday. Speak soon!