Im sitting under the covers at my hostel, layered in as many clothes as I have, drinking my 3rd cup of tea, and trying to muster up some sort of resentment towards the Inka Trail for making me so sick. No luck so far. Im pretty its just the Inkan way of saying, ´You think youre a big shot for hiking the Inka Trail? Thats cute. Heres the flu.´
My trek to Machu Picchu began last Sunday, the night before we left. Our group met up to go over what the next four days would be like and to meet one another. It was very first day of school. I wore my cleanest outfit (the one I had been wearing for the last four days) and tried to be nice.
Our group consisted of 11 people. Heres the breakdown:
-2 British girls traveling together
-5 Americans traveling together after their semester abroad in Chile (From American University in DC)
-1 American traveling solo after completing a separate Chile study abroad program (From UCSB)
-1 American dentist
-ME (1 super popular girl traveling South American by herself)
Our meeting was led by our tour guide. An Inkan god looking man, he does things like RUN the Inka Trail marathon to Machu Picchu in under six hours. Dont worry, his ego was just as impressive as the run.
It would be impossible to go into detail about everyone, so I will just describe the biggest `character` of the trip, the dentist. First of all, he was straight out of the REI Spring Catalogue. There must have been an article in the July Vanity Fair on ´Trekking with Style´, because he nailed it. One of the first things he said was that if he could be someone else in his next life, he would want to be Prince Philip. Wow, thats specific. Also, he appreciates how sexy Brad Pitt is, but sitting through Troy wasnt worth it. Sometimes, he said really cool things like `grassy-ass`(gracias)
The full Inka Trail trek is three nights, four days, totals 49 kilometers (30 miles) and reaches altitudes of 4200 meters (over 13000 feet). The Inka Trail is one of many ways to view the lost city of Machu Picchu…For those a little less adventerous, you can just take 2 hour train ride.
I got picked up at my hostel at 5:00 am Monday morning. After a couple hour bus ride, we were ready to start. My first impression was that the views were stunning. I was hiking through the Andes, holy shit!
The first day was considered the `easy` day, 14 km in 6 hours. It was actually pretty painless. Mostly, I just had to get used to hiking at such a high elevation and figuring out when I was cold and when I was hot. After we finished our day of hiking, we were welcomed into our campsite with hot cups of coca tea and our tents already set up by the chasquis.
Without the help of the chasquis (kinder word for `porter`), the trek would have been absolutely impossible. The only thing I was required to carry was my daypack consisting of water, sunscreen, and multiple layers for when it was freezing. The chasquis carried everything else. As in, ALL of our food, tents, sleeping bags, etc. Historically, chasquis have been exploited and made to carry astronomical amounts of weight for tiny pay. There are new laws in place, limiting the weight to 20kg per chasqui and there is a minimum wage. I dont think their job sounds ideal, but I am glad to know there are now regulations in place. All of the chasquis were short with HUGE calves. The packs they carried were practically their height. And they made it to camp hours before us to set up our tents and cook our meals. So incredible.
The second day of the hike was the `challenge` day. It was only 12 km, but consisted of summiting two huge peaks, including one that reaches 4200 meters (known as Dead Woman`s Pass). Everyone dreads the uphill, unless you recently had your ACL reconstructed. In that case, the thought of walking down uneven, steep steps sounds more painful than the surgery itself.
The hike up to Dead Woman`s Pass was definitely a challenge. With each uphill step, I distracted myself by looking at the gorgeous snow capped mountains or thinking about how toned my calves and glutes were getting. The most difficult part for me was altitude. No amount of coca tea or acclimating could prepare me for the extreme lack of oxygen. Nevertheless, I made it to the top in good time. The view overlooking the pass was breathtaking, which was ironic because I didnt have any breaths to give away.
Then came the downhill. Despite all of my worrying, my knee was fine. I always insist that I dont have a bad knee, because I dont. All I have is a healing knee protected by my robo brace and trekking poles. I have practiced more stepdowns, thanks to physical therapy, than any one else with a non-surgically reconstructed knee. So I would actually say I was lucky compared to those with chronic knee pain. Ouch.
Then came another summit, steeper this time, and another downhill. We made it to camp after 9 hours of hiking. A sleeping bag never sounded more appealing.
After the difficulty of the second day, I was looking forward to the third day where we would make it to camp by 2:00 pm. I got my hopes up too high, because the third day contained lots of tedious downhill. Not even the views could keep me from internally pouting.
But then came the fourth day, the day we made it to Machu Picchu. We woke up at 3:30 in the morning to make it to the Sun Gate by sunrise. The Sun Gate is a summit where once you pass it, you come in full view of Machu Picchu. We sat at the top of the Sun Gate watching the sun slowing rise and shed light upon Machu Picchu. Super impressive. Then came another hour hike down until you actually reach Machu Picchu.
Once we got there, we were bombarded with all of the tourists who took the train to get there. Feelings of intense hatred (strong words, I know) came over my body as I looked at their clean clothes and fresh faces with digust. Assholes.
We got a two hour tour of the lost city. Machu Picchu was beautiful. It cant be considered `ruins` because it is perfectly intact. It was built in the 1400s, but then abandoned before it was finished because of the Spanish Conquest. The Inkans destroyed part of the Inkan Trail to keep Machu Picchu hidden from the Spaniards who would have likely destroyed it. The lost city of Macchu Picchu was then `discovered` by an American historian from Yale, Bingham, in 1911. A white man announcing the discovery of a place that has been in existence for hundreds of years?? Wow, that never happens. I dont think he deserves much credit especially considering he stole artifacts to bring to Yale and never returned them. But hey, I guess it made him famous.
Walking around Machu Picchu felt like such an accomplishment after the four day hike. I was dirty, sick, and tired, but I was seeing a place that most people will never see in their lives. So I guess having a fever now is worth it.