After arriving back in Cusco we had an early night in anticipation for the Inca trail hike beginning the next morning. Due to a knee injury I decided not to hike the trail and take the train but here is Alex’s view of the Camino Inca!
Peru, is easily the top of my list of beautiful places I’ve been. The whole country; the people, the food and the views. It was the centre of the Inca Empire and for this reason you just about get sick of the amount of ancient ruins there are, they end up getting in the way. Of course, the most notable of theses is Machu Picchu. I learned about the Inca in school and I had eaten ‘Inca corn’ and ‘Inca bread’ and ‘Inca soup’ but I didn’t realise how incredible these people were until I went on the four day ‘Camino Inca’, the ‘Inca Trek’.
The walk started bright and early with what was later determined as a short walk in comparison to what we were in for. Now, the Incas were clever but they were daft enough that when they built a walking trail the longest distance they put between a set of stairs and another set of stairs was about thirty stairs. There was HEAPS of steps. Not small steps, big ones, made of stone, that were slippery, with no building code to instruct that all risers and treads on a staircase should be of the same distance with a minimum tread distance of 220mm and a minimum riser distance of 120mm.
Day two kicked off with a delicious breakfast cooked by our porters, followed by a tropical thunderous belting down of rain, for approximately… ah I suppose 40 hours or so. Actually, not true, at about midday I summited the aptly named ‘Dead woman’s pass’ at 4200m high where the rain eased off… and made way for hail which turned to sleet, which turned to snow, and back to rain. Yet somehow I managed to have the time of my life despite being dressed in a t-shirt and a 30 cent disposable poncho. I dried out overnight with some coca leaves, scotch and card games with some friends and woke up ready to go for day three, the hardest day yet. The Incas seem to have had no idea they could walk around the damn hills and had to build the trek right over the things. The view from the cliffs and passes were incredible as I watched the landscape change as I walked deeper into the sub-tropical rain forests. All the time getting overtaken by porters wearing sandals running up and down the stairs with the agility of a lizard and the strength of an ant, carrying twice their own weight in other people’s stuff. That afternoon our guide took us to a ruin nearby our camp, the temple of the rainbow, I was blown away by the architectural skills of a people that had no written language. Yet they had the ability to predict a calendar and structure their temples around the solstices and the sun.
The final day was the most rewarding, with a pre-dawn wake up I began to trudge up and around the final mountain toward Machu Picchu. There was only several thousand stairs in between me and meeting Vanessa in the site. With the light of a head torch I made my way through the jungle until I got to the final obstacle. The 50m climb of the ‘Gringo killer’ staircase, that was more like a waterfall. Out of breath and almost out of muesli bars, I reached the peak to peer out across the valley through the ‘Sun Gate’. As I sat and watched the sunrise pierce the thin clouds the golden rays illuminated my first glimpse of Machu Picchu. Now I just had to cross that valley and over to the other side.
I don’t think I would have had the same appreciation for the ruins if I had caught the train, I would have got there, looked around and then immediately looked for somewhere to buy grilled corn cobs. But, spending days walking there on the trail that took the pilgrims to the sacred temples on top of the mountains, gave me an appreciation for the dedication they had to their faith and culture and I feel privileged to have walked in their shoes, sandals, metaphor things. I recommend the trail to anyone who is relatively fit, doesn’t have a bad back, heart, knees or cholesterol levels. I look forward to walking the trail again and visiting the site.