Hundreds of years ago followed by Incas, once ran by a Chasqui in 3.5 hours, and today trekked by tourists over four days. Organised immaculately by G Adventures, we trekked the Inca Trail with a BBC ‘The Apprentice’ winner, a Canadian cop, honey mooners, Aussies and Americans – a fabulous group of 14 aka the Pisco Mafia.
Easing us in gently with a 7am wake up call, we left the hotel with an itinerary of entrance to Machu Picchu at kilometre 82, followed by six hours of trekking and a lunch stop. Prepared for the worst and hoping for the best, we couldn’t wait to get going.
Half an hour into the trek, our guide paused the group to instill some team morale and excitement. Bursting cochineal bugs found on plants, also used to die alpaca wool, our faces were painted with red warrior stripes. Next, we picked a name for the group. Walking poles in the middle, “let’s go Pisco Mafia” and on we went.
The terrain was fairly easy with plenty of toilet and water stops along the way. After two hours of walking, we arrived at our lunch stop. Cheese and ham rolls? Rather, a slap-up three course salmon lunch. Deliciously unexpected.
After a non strenuous few hours of walking, we arrived to camp at about 3pm to cheers from the porters. Tents were up and dinner table set – the porters deserved the applaud more than us! A local boy ran over with a box of beers and before we knew it, we were invited into the dinner tent for our first taste of happy hour tea and popcorn, served each day at 5pm. After a little team bonding and reflection, dinner was served. We were eating like kings! Credits to the porters and head chef, Puma. Full belly’s and to the tents for an early night.
With a brief of ascending over 1100m, slow and steady wins the race was the theme of day 2. Starting the day at 5am with a welcome coca tea wake up call, followed by an energising oatmeal and pancake breakfast, we left camp at 6.30am. The misty mountain views were incredible. Two hours later we are still trekking uphill and beginning to question why Inca’s insisted on so many stairs. Due to the challenging nature of the day, our guide allowed us to go at our own pace rather than sticking as a group, which meant as many or as little water stops (and nature wees) as desired. Give or take an hour or three, reaching altitudes of over 4200m, we made it to Dead Women’s Pass and the highest point of the trek. Catch your breath and take in the foggy views or feeling of great relief. Time for a snack and a couple of coca leaves.
It’s downhill from here… steep and slippery due to rainy season or the fact that you’re basically walking down a waterfall, our walking poles were a god send. Two hours later we made it to camp. Lunch was scheduled for 2pm, later than usual but that was trekking done for the day (hurrah!) Some tours stop for lunch before Dead Women’s Pass, but with altitude sickness in mind, a delayed lunch was preferable. A free afternoon or siesta to relax the muscles, happy hour, dinner and a good nights sleep.
Are we there yet? This was the longest day of the trek, spent meandering down the mountains. Spiced up with a few uphill legs. Instructed to stay together as a group, conversation ran wild probably due to the tiredness and oxygen deprivation. We probably found out the most about one another on day 3, both in a good and bad way.
In the afternoon, we arrived to one of our favourite lookouts. This called for plenty of posing including the famous happy llama.
Early bird catches the worm, but not when you miss your 3am wake up call. Chucking clothes on in the dark and rain was some what amusing. We both met our personal best getting ready time of 4 minutes and before we knew it, were stood at the check point in a queue.
Gates open and ready, set, go. Crowds walk-ran in single file as if taking part in an early morning boot camp. One behind the Canadian cop, we scurried on making sure we weren’t left behind. A final climb up a cliff face, followed by 100 steps as if we were taking part in Gladiators, again questioning why oh why the Incas loved stairs so much… we made it to the sun gate looking over Machu Picchu city. Cue photo shoot.
Next we walked down to the lost city ready for our guided tour, but first it was time to enjoy a real toilet (yes, with an actual toilet seat) followed by a celebratory beer. It tasted great even after realising it was only 8.30am.
Trekking the Inca trail was an unforgettable experience – one of the most challenging and rewarding things we have ever done. Well worth the 4 day trek.