Rise and shine it’s 430am!
Leaving Cusco to embark on the world renowned, brain draining, muscle flailing, emotion invoking Inca trail.
Four days of intense physical and mental trials and tribulations ensues.
12 tourists, 3 guides and one driver, like ecstatic school children heading to an uber-exciting excursion.
We were bused for an hour and a half to a small village to purchase last minute snacks, drinks and coca leaves (the most important commodity).
We stocked up on agua sin gas, muesli bars, chocolates, juices, paracetamol, toilet paper, peanuts and corn kernels, then piled back onto the bus and drove for an hour and a half to reach the beginning of the Inca trail.
We stamped our passports, were rigorously I.D’d, participated in a pep talk and were dubbed the ‘Extreme Condors’, then lifted our walking sticks in the air as a good luck salute and before we knew it, we were on our way.
The altitude was already somewhat of a battle for some as others persevered and pressed on. We walked for what seemed like hours but were well rewarded when we finally reached our lunch site.
We were all foreseeably flabbergasted. The porters had set up two huge tents. One acted as a lunch room and the other a kitchen. On arrival not only did we receive applause but also ‘chicha morada’ a traditional Peruvian drink made from purple corn. The taste was somewhat reminiscent of blackcurrant or Ribena.
As we relaxed and attempted to recover, the porters organized a bucket of warm water so we were able to wash before lunch.
Then…Lunch was served.
Another three or so hours before we reached camp for the night and as the adrenalin subsided and exhaustion kicked in, we were all feeling very lethargic and ready to hit snooze by 8pm.
A 5am wake-up call.
The porters gently shook our warm tent as we slowly remembered what we had gotten ourselves into.
They served us coca tea in our sleeping bags to assist with the altitude giving us the much needed morning kick.
We packed our duffle bags ready for the porters to whisk away and set up at our next site. We crawled out of our temporary homes and made a beeline for the breakfast tent.
Fresh mixed fruits, toast jam and butter, pancakes with chocolate, porridge and tea and coffee awaited us in all its delectable glory.
We ate, not unlike a pack of starving wolves in an attempt to sufficiently fuel up for what is dubbed the ‘hardest day on the trail.’
The porters were then introduced to us one by one, we learnt their age, number of kids and number of wives. Twenty in all, ranging from ages 19 to well in their 60′s and each carrying approximately 30kgs.
Our day then began.
It was 6:30am
and with muchos gusto we embarked on what would be, not only physically but an incredibly mentally challenging climb.
The porters were off and running and as we turned the corner to continue the journey, we were immediately met with an enormous hill. Using our walking sticks and well conditioned legs we began to power on as a pack.
As the day progressed so did the space between each member of the group, each finding their own rhythm and pace.
Five hours of intense physical exertion, litres of sweat and tears, predominantly uphill terrain, porters hot on our heels and countless muesli bars for fuel later we reached dead woman’s pass.
An epic 4200m in the air, extreme cold, our head in the clouds and enormous cheers from fellow Trekkers we had finally reached the summit.
The sheer elation, personal achievement and adrenalin was a feeling of something entirely unexplainable. We were all cold, sweaty and tired but ecstatic to have finally reached our goal for the day.
From here on in it was one hour of pure knee-crunking downhill rocky terrain. I decided to run the majority of it whilst others took it slower taking in the scenery.
Beating my personal best at being a mad dawg was of utmost importance at this point.
Without Fred Durst and Christina Aguilera in my ears there is no way I would have made it!
We finally reached camp at approximately 130pm. Wet wipe baths ensued and we all exchanged stories and laughs that occurred on the hike.
Lunch was promptly served, fried onion rings, veggie soup, baked eggplant, egg omelettes, stuffed capsicum and veggie quinoa.
After we all had a long lunchtime siesta it was time for popcorn and card games as the blue sky grew to night.
Dinner was later served, some of the extreme condors had to miss out as they were suffering severe bouts of gastro.
A Sleep In was allowed. The porters shook our tents at 530am
offering us all a hot cup of coca tea to get us up and raring for the day ahead.
We had 18kms and ten hours of hiking ahead of us.
A few more awoke with signs of gastro as we all discussed our bowel movements at the breakfast table over tea, toast, omlette, porridge and frittered bananas.
We began our trek as soon as our tummies were well full.
Forty minutes of pure uphill fiascos which lead to an incredible Inca building, we then had a history class and found out the building was built in the 1400′s and only discovered in 1911. It was strategically constructed to ensure all areas of access to the site were visible in case of the threat of intruders or enemies.
We persevered on for another one hour uphill battle.
Then, for the next three hours, it was all knee-jarring, thigh jerking, 6000 stone steps of downhill strutting.
I heard along the Inca grapevine that lunch was being served at the third Inca pass.
The lunch spot was incredible. We were witnessing Veronica Peak, surrounded by snow capped mountains and low-level cloud.
After everyone began arriving we all sat down for a meal, followed by a very welcome half hour siesta.
We still had approximately two hours worth of hiking to our night site, where a cold cerveza (beer) and jugo de naranja (orange juice) was promised.
After a two hour trek and countless repeat plays of Pitbull’s ‘Hotel room service’ (reserve all judgement thanks) I had finally reached the next stop.
There were loads of other gringos (tourists) scattered about the site. There was a bar setup, a real banjos (toilet) with a seat and a hot ducha (shower). We all relished in the booze and celebrated an almost victory with beers, wine and a farewell banquet for our porters (cooked by the porters)
We all got rowdy (vino and altitude is not a good combo) but hit the hay promptly as we were told our tents would be shaken at 330am!
Drunk and disorderly hikers all frog-marched straight to their sleeping bags as soon as this hour of rising was set upon them.
Waking at ridiculous O’Clock, our eye was on the prize and Machu Picchu (meaning old mountain) was only two hours away.
We began walking at approx 5am
and arrived at the world famous site before all the other loco snaparazzi tourists did.
We enjoyed the history, architecture and picturesque location on an incredibly clear sun-filled magnificent day. Today the sun gods were really treating us. There were adorable fluffy llamas roaming about freely, thousands more steps, incredible architectural techniques and all perfectly located in a self-sufficient Eco-system .
Although the trek was physically and mentally challenging feat of strength, comradery and perseverance, I’m super pumped to say ‘I survived the Inca trail!’
Good to know before you go: A good level of fitness and pre-trip training is essential for the Inca Trek. You will trek on hilly terrain or mountainous terrain at altitudes of up to 4200 metres, for up to 7 hours per day.
Ensure to pre-book with a tour guide or tour company, I went through Geckos, whom were fantastic as number of hikers are limited every year.
Below is a packing list, however, I was very un-prepared completing my climb in jeans and a T-shirt.
- 1 pair light walking pants
- 1 pair jeans
- 3 t-shirts
- 3 pairs running socks
- 1 rain jacket
- 1 Rain Pants
- water bottle
- First Aid Kit
- 1 light thermal top
- 1 light thermal bottom
- light gloves
- hiking boots
NO SHOWERS which mean Wet Wipes are your best friend!
- safety pins
- memory cards
- Torch and batteries
- day pack
- Fill your music player up with tunes!