We make it. Louise cries and I feel proud.

October 15, 2013 - Machu Picchu, Peru

At the start of day three, Louise paid a visit to the toilet/hole in the ground in the run down hut at the bottom of the campsite. I continued to pack up our things and she returned shortly after with a sheepish look on her face. She told me her really lovely scarf had "dipped in", and she would never think of it the same way again. She had abondoned it in the shack. Groooossss.

We were in for another long day as we tried to regain the time we'd lost on the first day and make sure we camped close enough to Machu Picchu to make it to the sun gate in time for sunrise the following morning. This meant we walked for 11 hours. I thought it couldn't posssibly get any tougher than the previous day, but with the sun finally making an appearance and beating down on our heads, combined with the fatigue and sore muscles from the prvious day, on top of two more mountain passes to tackle, it was no walk in the park lady. I was so hot and tired in the morning that I started to feel nauseous. Luckily, I recovered quite quickly, but one of our number was hit by altitude sickness after the up and down events of the previous day. They vommed all over the inca trail. I promised I wouldn't write about it in my blog, so I won't mention names...

The chefs went all out on the last day. The cynic in me puts it down to the fact it was their last chance to impress us and earn a decent tip after the initial palava. But maybe they were just trying to lift our spirits. Either way, we had steak and quinoa for lunch, and a real life, home made apple cake (I still don't get how you make a cake in the middle of nowhere) for dessert that night. Legendary.

Our head guide also decided it was time to let us know what actually went on that first day. Apparenty, our porters all lived in the village we drove through where the snow was deep and falling rapidly. The main source of income for these guys is their livestock. Their animals were dying and they couldn't afford to abandon their farms in the hills or even get down the mountains safely if they had wanted to. Some of the porters finally made it because they were forced to, I suppose. Others were found in nearby villages and were doing our guide a favour. The latter included a 14 year old boy who had never even walked the inca trail, let alone carried 34kg on his back whilst doing it. Oh Lord I'm a terrible person and I'm sorry for ever whinging. Here. Have a super duper tip.

Towards the end of day three, after we had been walking for 10 hours and just as it was starting to go dark, the guide gave us the option of a short cut to the campsite so we could navigate the tricky path in the light. We were exhausted and that shortcut was looking real friendly. But Germany's next top model asked "Well which way would the inca's have walked?". The long way, obv. "Then we shall also take this route. We must do this properly". All we were missing was a rousing orchestral sound track and a few "Huzzah!"s. We went the long way around like real men and it was one of the highlights of the whole walk. Nice one Germany.

The route took us past another inca site. They were certainly getting bigger and better the further along the trail we walked. This one had a huge set of terraces and a killer view. As the sun went down, we watched the light change in the valley, and lingered much longer than our guide was comfortable with. He gave us 10 minutes to look around. We rebelled and stayed there for closer to 30, because it was just... special. I was never going to be there ever again. So as I watched the sun go down, I ignored his calls and allowed myself to enjoy the moment instead. It was ace.

The last campsite was somewhat luxurious. There was a tumbling down building which we managed to bag for a couple of hours to have our dinner in. Apparently, it used to be a bar, and a lady I met in Buenos Aires a week later told me she'd done the inca trail six years ago, and her group had all gotten smashed in that very same bar. Hmmm. Why would you do that? Anyway, as we were sat tucking into that really delicious apple cake (seriously how DID they manage it), someone asked why it wasn't a bar anymore. The response? The building is literall falling down and is no longer safe to be inside. So that's why none of the other groups were fighting us for our spot. Oh well, it didn't fall down. And it was really nice to actually sit on a chair.

We sat around discussing options for the next day. The trail runs through a national park and there are control booths every few miles, where they check your pass and stamp your passport before letting you through the gate to continue the trail. The next control booth at the bottom of the campsite doesn't open until 5:30am, but everyone at the campsite queues up to ensure they're in a decent position going through the gate, and therefore able to reach the sungate before it gets too crowded to get a decent view. The men were all super keen and wanted to be sure we were the very first in the queue (Germany was all over this). So, it was decided, we would set our alarms for 2:50am. Then we would meet back in the death trap building at 3am for hot chocolate and pancakes. We won't want breakfast! We cried. Our guide rolled his eyes. We were wrong.

So we sat in the queue (a small group made it just before us. Damn!) and we took it in turns to take the torch to the edge of the mountain and brush our teeth. We settled into the two and a half hour wait, listening to Girls Aloud and Little Mix on Nick's phone (sorry Nick).

When it was time to leave, it was like we'd all recieved a new pair of legs. We practically ran for an hour and a half to the sun gate and arrived to the most stunning view, huffing and puffing. We'd basically made it. We could see Machu Picchu and we even had time to spare before the sun crept over the mountains and bathed the city in gold. We had a snickers to celebrate and looked on as Germany worked his photo shoot.

After the beautiful sunrise, we finished the trail, descending into the valley and exploring Machu Picchu. On the path down, a middle aged American guy walk past me with his wife. Having gotten the train to Machu Picchu, they were climbing up to the sun gate to take in the view. He looked, and smelled, like a normal, clean person. And he asked me, bedraggled and smelly, "Hey? Did you walk the whole inca trail?". Ha! What gave me away? "Oh congratulations!" he boomed, "that's awesome. Really, really awesome!". I was so happy I met this guy, because he made me think as I walked off, "yes. This is awesome. We did awesome. I've really earned this tour of Machu Picchu". I was literally glowing with pride. I have never had such a strong feeling of having earned something in my life. Not even when I graduated from uni. That was just three years of fun with a certificate thrown in. This was genuinely tough, almost as expensive as university, and far removed from anything I have done or seen, or will ever do again. I don't want to sound like too much of a hippy/traveller/knobhead, but it really is a spiritual place.

Our guide gave us a full on tour of the place which was absilutely fascinating, although Louise and I both admitted to almost falling alseep standing up at one point or another. That was true exhaustion. We were shown the amazing aqueducts they built, channeling the water in really clever ways. We were shown through the temple of the sun with two windows, one to catch the sun at summer solstice, the other for the winter solstice. They even had their own ways of earthquake proofing the buildings, with specially cut stones built to lean in on each other. Amazing stuff.

After the tour, all we wanted was to sit down and get some grub down us. It was another super hot day and we were well thirsty. We got the bus down to the nearest town and Louise fully freaked out at the sheer drop we were flirting with, as the driver drove at break neck speed. Nick and I left her to her drama, chatting about what an amazing experience it had been. We arrived in Aguas Calientes, plonked ourselves in a pizzeria, ordered the biggest pizza on the menu and a glass of coca cola and went to town. You know when you feel like the food isn't even touching the sides? Yeah.

It was a good long way back to the hostel in Cuzco, but when we arrived, I bagsied the shower first, and came out of the bathroom to find Louise in tears. "It's just hit me that I've always wanted to do that and now I've done it. And it was even more brilliant than I thought it would be". Bless. I gave her a hug, got into bed, and fell into a coma.


1 Comment

Ian G:
October 16, 2013
Words can't capture 'that feeling' but you've had a pretty good go. X
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