My stories, let alone my pictures, will not do justice to the 4-day trek to Machu Picchu. The journey was completely surreal, hopefully this brief synopsis will provide a sliver of insight into the experience.
We used a company called Peruvian Sacred to the trek along the Incan Trail to Machu Pichu. Along for the journey was our guide, “El Gato;” 9 porters to carry our belongings, tents, food, etc.; an Aussie couple, Stephen and Tina; and me and my friends including Cathy, Jen & Barrett.
After being picked up at our hotel at 8:30 on the 20th, and after a brief stop to pick-up last minute necessities (a rain poncho and Coca leaves to help with the elevation sickness) we were drive to the starting place at the 82km point. We were told that the first day would be rather easy – while it didn’t necessarily feel that way on the day I can safely say the first day is a joke compared to the others.
We started at an elevation of about 2.5KM or 8.5K ft and hiked for about 2 hours before stopping for lunch.
The first taste of what was in store for us food-wise… you’d never believe the amount of food they give you! And the quality – oh my word – if I had any hopes of becoming more trim on the trip that thought quickly vanished. After lunch we hiked to Patallacta, an Incan ruin at the true entrance to the trail to MP where El Gato narrorated the story of the Incans.
After 6 hours of hiking outside of the breaks in mostly arid conditions, we arrived at our campsite for the night, Hatunchaca, had tea time and dinner, and headed off to our tents for the night.
Starting point: 9.6Kft. After proving on day 1 that we were a physically fit group and could make good time on the trail we were allowed to sleep into 6:00am. After a traditional Peruvian breakfast we were off hiking what we knew would be a challenging day by 7:30am. The first half of the day would be a steep climb through the Andes, and by 30 minutes into the hike we were breathing heavy, stopping often and stripping ff layers even though the temperature outside was likely around 45-50* or so. We had already climbed to 10.1K ft (3.1M). To help with the elevation climb we were chewing coca leaves.
The views just got more and more amazing as we climbed through the Andes into a more lush vegetation, with creeks and river falls along the path. We made it to the lunch site, Llulluchapama, as planned by 11am and were at an elevation of 12.6Kft. The views can’t be described… nor can the next 2 hours of the hike. You’re at an unbelievable elevation, continuing to climb stairs stopping every 50 feet or so for air and water to get upto the highest point in the 4-day journey. By 1pm we got to Dead Womens Pass at 4.2K M or 13.8K ft in elevation.
Perhaps the hike wouldn’t be so bad if the air wasn’t so thin – I surprisingly did alright but many had blaring altitude headaches that even the coca leaves and asprin we kept taking couldn’t cure. From this point we hiked down hill for 2 hours to Papaymayu where we stayed for the night.
At 2:45am I woke up to a soaking wet sleeping bag. On the coldest night of the journey, I had a leak in my camelbak that caused the 2L of water we’d just filled it with to be completely absorbed by the bottom of my sleeping bag and half my bag of clothes. But, I was lucky. I had terrible allergies and my head was completely stuffed up so was using a set of clothes to prop up my head, this stayed dry as did the majority of my clothes that were in the 1/2 of the bag that didn’t get wet. With nothing else to do I curled up into the top half of my 0 degree bag (thank goodness!) and went back to sleep. Unfortunately my camera got wet and stopped working — but only for 1/2 of day 3.
Starting Elevation: 11.4K ft. The porters swiftly took my sleeping bag and said they’d do what they could to dry it out. When or how they were going to do that I’m not sure since they too were hiking with 30 kilos on their backs in-between cooking our breakfast, lunch and dinners. Day 3 was supposed to be the “unforgettable” portion of the trip. It was, but unfortunately we couldn’t see most of the views since most of the day it was pouring down rain.
During the 10 hour hike, probably about 6 of it was in the rain, lunch was very very cold and we were drenched. We were in the rainforest, hiking through very lush vegetation that reminded me of something you’d see in Lord of the Rings. All day we hiked up and down 2 more passes, up and down many more stairs and saw a number of Incan ruins.
We arrived at our final campsite at about 4:30pm. And…. the porters immediately brought my COMPLETELY DRY sleeping bag over to me. Are you kidding? No idea how they did it…… That night was a bit different as it was our last night and the campsite we stayed at had cervezas. So, we had a little celebration with the porters and Fernando before heading off to bed.
Starting elevation: 8.9K ft. I’m sleeping in a tent in the middle of no where in the Andes with amazing Porters that have been making amazing food on only a 2-burner stove top. We have a 4am wake-up call to start the journey to Machu Picchu. It’s also my birthday — we pack up our belongings and go to the breakfast tent where the porters come in carrying a birthday cake, singing feliz cumpleanos a mi. Seriously, amazing cake and amazing porters.
I’m still flabergasted and have no idea how the heck they made a cake with the supplies and equipment that they had. This is all just too unreal. We start the hike by 5:30am and get to the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu by 7:30.
This is an amazing site…. I can’t describe and won’t even attempt to. We get to Machu Picchu by 8:30am, elevation 7.8K ft, get the full 2 hour tour from El Gato and before we no it the journey is done.
I would reflect on the experience but frankly it seems to unreal to me that all this just happened. I think I’ll have to look through the pictures and video that Jen took and provide my perspective at some later place and time.
Back in Cusco now and am looking forward to relaxing — my calves and knees are killing me. We walked in total 26 miles from start to finish, most either up or down hill…. what a trip. unreal.
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