Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Inca Trail

If I’m completely, brutally honest, South America was never high on my list of travel-musts. I might not have planned this trip had I been in charge of the itinerary, but a happy coincidence - in the form of my lovely boyfriend, Oliver - brought me to Peru, in December 2016. Here, we spent the last few days before Christmas doing something that I had always wanted to do, hiking the classic four day, three night Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu. 

We chose to do our trek with Llama Path. This was partly because of their excellent TripAdvisor ratings, and partly due to their ethical commitment to providing their porters fair wages, and decent working and living conditions. We finished the trek feeling unbelievably impressed with Llama Path. Everything was impeccably organised, the food was incredible - seriously, cooked breakfasts, and four course meals every lunch and dinner, all prepared inside a tent - and our guides were really knowledgeable and fun. They honestly managed to exceed every expectation I had. 

We set off from Km 82 on day one freshly showered and full of energy.

Seriously, look how clean we all were! Please, bear in mind that this was not a typical 'blogging opportunity' and try not to be too shocked at the sight of me in all my makeup-free glory. This was certainly not an occasion for makeup. Or showers. Or flushing toilets, for that matter. However, from the moment we met our group to our final meal on day four I couldn’t have cared less - this trek was worth it.

Day one certainly eased us all into things. In fact, I finished the first 8 hour walk feeling quite pleased with myself. I knew I wasn’t going to be setting the new marathon record for completing the Inca Trail (which happens to be an unbelievable 3 hours and 45 minutes) but we were certainly coping. Day one was tough, but it wasn’t until day two that we were really put through our paces. 

Day two involved two very significant ascents at high altitude - the highest point being 4,300 metres. We hadn’t expected walking at altitude to be as hard as it was. To put things into perspective, when we arrived in Sucre at 2,800 metres we found ourselves feeling short of breath just getting up to go to the bathroom, and we both have above average fitness levels. The 10 hours of walking on day two were much harder than we had expected. 

Here we are at the top of ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’. The feeling of achievement after getting to this point was just incredible.

While day two was extremely hard work, I actually found day three more challenging because by this point my legs had completely seized up and I had managed to pull a muscle, which made descending down the steep stone steps excruciatingly painful. Thankfully, we were rewarded for our efforts with stunning views and beautiful weather throughout the day.

After arriving at the final campsite we made a quick trip to the nearby Wiñay Wayna Inca site to take in the views. 

The weather was not on our side on day four. We awoke to pouring rain and by the time we arrived at the sun gate the view of Macchu Picchu was obscured by a dense fog of cloud. What was surprising to me at this point, was that I didn’t feel as disappointed as I had expected. During the four day hike to get here we had ended up having such a great time with our Inca Trail ‘family' that seeing Macchu Picchu no longer felt that important. We set off down the steps to Macchu Picchu and as we reached the second view point, something incredible happened. 

The clouds parted and Macchu Picchu appeared as if by magic - just in time for us to take some pictures. It was the perfect end to our trek.

We both agreed that the four days we spent hiking the Inca Trail had been the best four days of our entire trip. Considering that this was Oliver’s ninth consecutive month of travelling, this was a massive honour to be bestowed! If you’re ever in Peru, I urge you to pay the extra and go on the classic Inca Trail with a reputable company, instead of opting for one of the cheaper (and much less challenging) jungle treks. This was easily the biggest physical achievement of my life and an experience I will never forget. The journey is so much more important than the destination, after all.

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