Trundling the Inca Trail and Arriving at Machu Picchu

Packing a bag for the Inca Trail was hard. We could only pack 6kg of stuff and our sleeping bags and mattresses took up near half of that. I made sure to pack all my knitted llama attire - gloves, socks, hat, scarf. Got to keep those tootsies warm. In the morning we headed to Ollaytaytambo (try saying that after a few drinks...or even before!). Another walk in preparation, this time to an Inca site. I didn't realise how much the altitude would affect me but I was finding it so hard to breathe. The site was half way up a hill and had lovely views over the town. 

There wasn't really much else to do after the walk. We bought a few snacks from the shop ready for the next day then a couple of us went for a coffee, then after dinner an early night filled with fear and anticipation. It was election time in Peru and voting is compulsory. This meant that we had a later start than usual. A bit of a lie in was good but also meant trekking later when it was dark. We didn't get fully set off until after midday. The start of the trail didn't seem too bad, mostly gentle ups and downs. I have to mention the food though and the porters. The porters carry all of your stuff in huge bags, probably twice the width of a person, almost the same height and weighing 20kg. I had read about this before but didn't really realise the craziness of it. They actually run along the trail, some of it is so dangerous and I don't know how they are not seriously hurt on a daily basis. So anyway, when we stopped for lunch a tent had been erected complete with table, table cloth, chairs, cutlery, cups and a bowl each outside with hot water and soap to clean our hands. The food was also spectacular. Most days was a starter of soup followed by a hot main meal like fish or chicken and then a dessert. One day we even got a fully baked and iced cake! There was even 'teatime' before dinner which was tea, coffee, hot chocolate, biscuits and mounds of popcorn. Breakfast was also good: porridge, eggs and even pancakes. So anyway, after lunch we continued to the campsite. The last 20 minutes of the hike were torturous as it was a steep incline. Just as we reached camp it started to rain, torrential rain. The porters had already got there and put up our tents and air mattresses, laid out our sleeping bags and our belongings and gave us a bowl of hot water each to wash with. After dinner we went straight to bed because of the rain and because the porters slept in the tent we ate dinner in. All 22 of them. And basically there was no where else for them to shelter or go to whilst we were in the tent. 

An early start, wake up call was at 6am but at least we were given a hot cup of coca tea in the tent (coca tea helps with altitude sickness). The guide asked me if I was okay. Ha, I really am not good in the morning. My eyes had also swelled up for some reason. I was as grumpy as ever. 

I had heard from people beforehand that the second day was the hardest. It was. Uphill all the bloody way. It was relentless. I think we got up to 4800 metres going over the top. I plodded along, up and over the mountain. Going downhill was also a challenge. It was slippery, steep and uneven, sometimes steps made from lots of stones, sometimes not. Today took about 7 hours of constant trekking. We didn't get lunch until everyone reached camp at about 2-3pm. The view from the campsite was something else. It was a surreal sight watching the clouds roll up and over the mountain, going from a beautiful view to just seeing nothing but white. Teatime, dinner, few rounds of cards and then the rain started and bed. 

An even earlier start today. Wake up was at 5am. You can imagine my face already. The first 2 hours of today were a nightmare. All uphill but you had no energy or enthusiasm. After that though it was a pretty enjoyable day, it eased a lot and we all perked up. We saw some Inca sites and the views were breathtaking. Just before we got to lunch, one of the girls I was walking with, the sole of her shoe came off. We tied it on with a carrier bag but it was a daunting walk the rest of the way. At camp they managed to use some strong tape to fix the sole back on. Unfortunately it was bright green. While the porters were preparing lunch we sat higher up on the mountain and the guide played some music on a flute and pointed out Machu Picchu mountain to us. Tonight was a warmer night and it didn't rain. Tomorrow was the day. Final slog to see the ancient Inca site. What time was wake up? 3am. Can you see the expression on my face right now?! 

The guide explained that this was mainly for the porters because of how the trains worked and it meant they could get home at a good hour as they still had to go into town and drop our bags off for us to collect after seeing Machu Picchu. Tonight we presented the porters with a tip and thanked them. There was also some traditional dancing. I skulked inside the dinner tent and managed to avoid being picked for dancing. Nightmare. Most of us thought the recommended tip for the porters was too high until we saw what they did. I'd have given them everything in my bank account if I could have.
So, 3am. No coca tea today. We hurried to the entrance to the sun gate. Our guide had explained that this didn't open until 5.30am but we would be near the front of the queue. We were the second group there; the first had slept there, why I have no idea. So we waited an hour and a half in the dark, cold and rainy morning for the gates to open. Once they did, everyone raced to be the first to the top. I was exhausted. There wasn't even a rush to get there so I don't know what the fuss was about. From the sun gate you get first glimpse of Machu Picchu. The clouds only cleared for about 10 seconds though. 9 seconds of this I was fighting my way out of my rain poncho. At least I got 1 second. That 1 second of absolute amazingness. 

After this we started the decent to Machu Picchu itself. I was so excited. We stopped to get the classical views of the ruin. This was my favourite viewpoint and the past 4 days had been more than worth it. We took a coffee/breakfast break then our guide took us around the site explaining various parts of it to us. Then we had some time to explore by ourselves. 


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