The Inca Trail, Peru
26th September - 3rd October 2010
After 2 train and 2 plane journeys we now arrive in Lima, on the West coast of Peru. As we all walk through the airport my nightmare starts to come true, the “celebrities” that are doing the Inca Trail Trek at the same time as us are at the check in desks, okay, I am being a little unfair, Denise Van Outon and Fearne Cotton could be classed as celebrities but I had no idea who the others were.
We just had time for a couple of beers before our last flight over the Andes and up to Cuzco which is 3,200m above sea level. On arrival at Cuzco and as we step off the plane the thin air is noticeable instantly. Most of us collect our bags from the carousel, but four bags didn’t make all the connections, these, we are told, should arrive to the hotel later or first thing in the morning. Just a couple of hours coach journey to the hotel left.
On arrival at the hotel I find out who I will be sharing hotel rooms and tents with for the next nine days, sure enough Sarah the event organiser has put me with Dave who I met on the Macmillan Iceland trek in 2009. After given time for a quick shower it is down stairs for a briefing from the tour guides and doctors. After which we go through to the restaurant for dinner where, that’s right, you guessed it, the “celebrities” are staying in the same hotel as us. This is not looking good for me hoping not to see them on the trek!
After a wakeup call at 6:00am we are taken by coach up to an ancient ruin called Tambo Machay at the top of the Sacred Valley to 3,765m above sea level and slowly trek back to our hotel visiting ruins in Sacsayhuaman.
As soon as we start to trek you can feel that it takes so much more effort just to walk at this altitude. When we get back into the square in the centre of Cuzco we stop for a very long awaited beer.
Tonight we are taken to a restaurant where we are served Guinea pig! It was slightly tough but was very nice.
The Start of the Inca Trail
After a second night at altitude and an early wakeup call we head out for a couple of hours by coach via Ollantaytambo to km82 which is the start of the Inca Trail. We all queue up with our passports at the ready; we get our passports stamped and go through the gate to start the trek.
The start of the trail is a steep accent starting from 2,670m. The first half-day walk is fairly easy and on an undulating path which follows the Urubamba River for much of the way. After lunch a gentle climb takes us to Wayllabamba. There are a couple of steep drops and climbs into gullies along the way, with great views of Mt Veronica standing at 5000m. The path is dusty but firm and there are no steps.
After over 5 hours of trekking we reach camp, Dave and I look up at Mt. Veronica and dream of January and the Kilimanjaro Summit which stands another 900m higher than Mt.Veronica. We sort our tent out and get ready for a good night’s kip at 2,916m.
After getting into bed we see we have a problem, two 6” 2’+ men trying to sleep in a 6’ square tent don’t really fit.
Dead Woman’s Pass
Today we have the big climb; leaving Wayllabamba we descend down the trail to 2700m and then up to Dead Woman’s pass at 4200m.
This is a relentless and steep climb on narrow trails, first through grassland, then cloud forest where some people really started to feel the altitude, where the path is steeper and can be muddy. Eventually it opens out onto pasture where we stopped for lunch. There were snow-capped mountains behind us and a distant view up to the top of the pass, still several hours ahead.
The final stretch to the top of the pass is well maintained with steps but the pace is slow because of the altitude. As I get to the summit and think I am first up there I see Trevor sat there with his camcorder waiting to film everyone getting to the summit, Trevor had sneaked ahead of the guides when we stopped earlier, I’ll get you Trevor!!
As we all reach the summit one by one, we all cheer to let everyone else know they are nearly there, Dave and I even find the breath to shout a chant to Sarah, YORKSHIRE! YORKSHIRE!
We descend 500m on steps to our evening's campsite at Pacamayo below the ruins of Runkurakay.
After dinner we all sit around talking when the heavens open and everyone makes a dash for their tents as the mess tents start to leak.
During the night I woke at 1:00am in a blind panic as I had contracted a stomach bug and needed the toilet NOW!! I couldn’t get out of my sleeping bag, when I did I then got the door zip on the tent stuck, I made it to our little camp toilet with about half a second to spare! Panic over!
After a 5:00am wakeup call and breakfast we head up the path which is mostly steps which are steep in places, we pass ruins every mile or so along the way. We have our second high pass at 4000m, again with steps leading up to the top and down the other side. The descent is around an hour to Sayacmarca ruin (3600m), which is perched above more steps. From there the trail is very pretty, wide and easy-going with interesting fragments of cloud forest on route.
The third pass is reached easily after passing through an Inca tunnel in the rock and a gentle climb. We continue on to the ruins of Puyupatamarca and then descend steep steps, which I could only just get my size 11’s on, to our camp at Winay Wayna (2640m).
The camp has a BAR!! Get in!!
Sun Gate and Machu Picchu
After just a couple of beers the night before??!! We are woken at 4:00am with a shake of the tent.
We set off for the morning three hour walk to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate, along a beautiful stretch of trail, scattered with ruins and some steep flights of steps, with a few large drops down the side to the Urubamba River.
We arrive at Machu Picchu!!!!
After the team photos have been taken we enjoy a guided tour around this extraordinary site. We get our passports stamped on exit and have just enough time for a quick beer in the bar before we head down to Aguas Calientes in the afternoon. In the late afternoon we take the train back to Ollantaytambo and return to Cuzco by bus.
Cuzco, Celebration Dinner and Departure
After a good night’s sleep and a relaxing lie-in we have the remainder of the day free to explore Cuzco
We head off to do some last-minute shopping and grab some lunch where we find out it is election weekend in Peru and nowhere is allowed to sell alcohol. We then find out that a couple of bars will serve you if you are not a Peruvian national and you drink it out of a mug!! Panic over!!
That night the group meets up at a restaurant for dinner to celebrate our achievement. One of the local guides also knew a night club owner who would let us in to celebrate in style, so we did!!
All that was left to do was go back to the hotel, freshen up and depart for home. Just one more coach, three more planes, a tube and a train to Leeds!! I then find out that the tube workers are on strike, I very kindly get offered a lift to Leeds from Heathrow by a fellow trekker.
Home now and want to go back............Bring on Kilimanjaro in January!!!!!