One week in and we’re already getting stuck in! The inca trail pilgrimage in search of Machu Picchu was our first adventure (and my own personal challenge).
We set off by bus at 5am from Cusco, and having already battled with altitude sickness the two days prior, the early start was tough and did nothing to settle my nausea.
We began the trek by about 9am by which point my nerves had turned into excitement and I was ready for the challenge ahead – 45km trek in the brown Andes and Amazon jungle.
The first day if the trail is described as ‘easy’, the second as ‘a challenge’, the third as ‘unforgettable’ and the fourth as ‘unique’. For me however, I found the first day the toughest both mentally and physically! I was definitely out of my comfort zone and the prospect of 3 more days of inca steps was not something I had prepared myself for. The excitement I had quickly turned into fear and I began questioning why hadn’t we just got the train up?!
It was the amazing breath-taking views of the snow capped mountains and Rio de Urubamba that kept me going. And of course Sam’s patience and encouragement. After my first day of moaning and being a general grump, the second day was much more bearable and fun – despite the 1000m climb to Dead Woman’s pass! Sam kindly walked at my snail’s pace (despite him being able to go four times my speed!) and bit by bit we conquered the trail. I am grateful to our guide Isaac who stayed back with me and made sure I was ok! He was a character and always full of positive energy. We learnt a lot from him about the Incas, Pachamama (mother earth) and coca leaves.
Day three was the best day all round. It was a tough 16km trek but it offered us the most incredible views of the Amazon and the mountain vistas that surrounded us. We were quite literally in the clouds and feeling jubilant!
Our group was great. There were 8 of us- Erin & Michelle (the girls from Calgary), Simon & Kendi (the boys from New York) and Andy & Naomi (the couple from Southampton). We bonded very quickly – we couldn’t stop discussing how horrendous the toilets were. Like people talk about the weather, we talked about toilets – at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was an obsession and in a way more of a conquest overcoming them than the Inca Trail itself! I still shudder writing this…
The site of Machu Picchu from Intipunku (the sun gate) on day 4 at 7am was magic. It was one of the most amazing and breathtaking views I’ve seen and you quickly realise how worth the previous 3 days are just to see the lost city highlighted by the sun’s rays, emerging from the morning’s marshmallow clouds.