June 04, 2004

Walk like an Inca

Since we last wrote we have travelled to Cusco and hiked the Inka trail to Macchu Picchu. We heard that the inka trail had a waiting list that was getting longer everyday while we were in Copacabana, Bolivia. We called around and found that there was at least a 2-3 week wait. We ended up booking a tour from Copacabana for May 31st which was about 2 weeks away at the time. We had excellent weather and a good group for the 4 day/3 night hike. Click below to read more....

We arrived in Cusco on May 26th and spent the fews days before we started the inka trail visiting ruins around cusco and doing a Sacred valley tour. There are some really cool ruins above Cusco called Sacsayhuaman that has some very cool stone work. We ended up having a spanish speaking guide convince us to let him guide us around a bit which was good practice for our spanish. We also spent some time walking around the city to the various touristy sites such as the Santo Domingo church which was built over an Inka temple.

On the Sunday before we started the inka trail we did an organized tour of the Sacred Valley near Cusco. It was an all day thing that went to 3 inka ruins and a big market in Pisac. I wasn't feeling so hot that day so it was a long day for me, hiking up the steep Inka sairs and dodging gringos. We had a tasty dinner at Jack's Cafe that night and got organized for the start of the trail the next day.

That night Sarah was up a few times to be sick which we suspect was food poisoning from something we ate that day. I wasn't feeling 100% in the morning either but this was going to be our only chance to do the Inka trail on this trip so we decided that we needed to go. We were in a group of 16 (we thought it was only going to be 8) with quite a few other Canadians. It is a 4 hour drive or so to the start of the trail. From there we got our packs together, I ended up carrying Sarah's sleeping bag as well as my own, and went to the control point at the start of the trail. From here it was a few hours of pretty easy hiking to our first lunch spot. It was another few hours hiking until twilight before we got to our first camp. Our tents were already set up for us and we had tea, cookies and popcorn before a dinner of soup and fried trout. After dinner our guide Celso introduced us to our 14 (!) porters. They carried everything except for the sleeping bags and sleeping mats. This includes, but is not limited to, things such as a 20lb propane tank, a huge lunch/dinner tent chairs and table, tents, food, and more food. They carry all of this stuff on their backs with a makeshift back pack made from old potato sacks and a blanket. That night sarah and I both took a pill for traveller's diarrhea even though we were both feeling a bit better at this point just to be on the safe side.

The next day our stomachs felt much better when we were awoken at 6am with some Coca tea to start our day. We had a breakfast of some kind of porridge, pancakes and toast. Then it was off for what is billed as the hardest day of the trek. It is a long day, 15km, and mostly uphill, around 1200m of elevation gain in the first 10 km or so. This wouldn't be so bad except that at the top it is 4200 meters above sea level. I didn't find it too difficult but I was glad to take a break at the half way point. From here the trail was innundated with gringos and it was hard to get a good pace going. Eventually the slower people stopped for breaks and I managed to get some clear trail ahead of me. I stopped every once and a while for Sarah and some other people from our group to catch up. After the last corner before the top I decided that I wouldn't stop until I got to the top. This seemed to take longer than it should have because my legs were burning from the lack of oxygen. I was pleased to see that the porters were taking frequent breaks and I was keeping up with some of them. And unlike some other people I didn't pay a porter to take my pack up the hill, that would be cheating :)

At the top of the pass we had a celebatory drink of Anis from the bottle I bought on the Sacred Valley tour and took a picture of the people in our group that were at the top at the same time. Then it was all downhill, and chilly, for a good 2 hours before reaching the campsite. By the time I got to my tent I could hardly stand up and not have my legs shake in spasms from the excertion of the day. We got to camp around 1:30pm and had lunch after most of the group got in around 2 or 2:30. Some people took longer though since they had some problems with the altitude. Then we had lots of time to rest until tea at 6 and dinner at 7.

The next day we got up early, 5am, to try to get onto the trail before everyone else. This worked and we had the trail pretty much to ourselves for the whole day. Day three was the nicest day, the hills weren't too steep and the views were amazing. We also passed lots of ruins along the way. We had lunch at a great spot where you could see Machu Picchu mountain and the river below. From here it was a steep downhill slog to the last campsite. The campsite could be classified more as a resort as it had hot showers, a restraunt (with beer) and a hostel. Once again we got in pretty early so we lounged around in our tent until tea and dinner. After dinner it was straight to bed as we would get up the next morning at 4am to be at the sun gate for sunrise.

It wasn't too bad getting up at 4am but it was raining slightly and I felt that our chances of getting a sunrise were slim. We got to the check point at 5am and had to wait until 5:30 when it opened. It was a good thing we got there early because the line was pretty long by the time it opened. Then it was a walk in the dark along a narrow and slippery path to the sun gate, about an hour away. We got there and it was fogged in. We waited for the rest of the group and tried to convince our guide to not wait around for any possible break in the clouds as we saw tour buses arriving at Machu Picchu already. Finaly the Sweedish girls and Sarah and I started walking down to Machu Picchu without the guide because we didn't want to wait around anymore. We got down to the control point at Machu Picchu and ended up having to wait for the rest of the group (the guide had caught up to us by the time we got to Machu Picchu). Then Celso (our guide) gave us a tour of Machu Picchu for the next hour or so and then we had our own time to do what we wanted. I decided to climb the mountain behind Machu Picchu called Huayna Picchu and the Argentinian couple in our group joined me. It was a nice climb up, made especially nice since I didn't have a backpack on anymore, and there are some amazing views from the top. Then I basically ran down to Machu Picchu to meet Sarah and start our hike to Aguas Calliante where we'd catch a train back to Cusco. We hiked down with the two Aussie girls in our group, Chevon and Ellie and caught up to the English couple in our group (Russ and Vicky) as well. I was pretty tired from my jaunt up Huayna Picchu and was the slowest one in the group walking to Aguas Calliante. We had a pizza for lunch and hopped on the train back to Cusco. So ended our Inka trail journey.

Posted by bforsyth at June 4, 2004 04:44 PM

Cool inka trail link
Inka Trail Map

Posted by: Sarah at June 10, 2004 06:41 PM