Trail-ing behind the Incas ...
What’s the best way to bring in the new year? New year’s kiss? Resolutions? Fresh starts? How about a bucket list hike to one of the greatest wonders of the world? I know which one I’d choose. So, on January 1st 2017, I celebrated the New Year with the famous Inca Trail 1-day hike. I would have loved to complete the entire, four-day trail but unfortunately time was not on our side, with so much of South America still to see. The morning started with an early breakfast, followed by a short train journey on the Inca Rail from Ollantaytambo. The train travels the entire distance to Aguas Calientes the town at the base of Machu Picchu, but we were jumping off early at Kilometre 104.
We went through our first of two checkpoints, showing our permits and passports. So, unless you’ve got a permit, you’re not making it onto the trail. The total distance of the 1-day trek was 12km, and our guides gave us a run through of the trail. The initial 4km were set to be the worst with a continuous steep incline, and the rest wasn’t going to be a walk in the park either. There were aptly named gringo steps towards the end of the trail which no one was looking forward to. Our group of 24 split down into four smaller groups of varying fitness levels, each with their own guide. I joined up for the lead group and enjoyed the hiking challenge. The trail was not as busy as I had anticipated it to be; the permit restrictions have a positive influence on the area, enabling hikers to enjoy the serenity.
We only came across a few other small groups along the trail. Along the hike, we walked past scenic highland landscape, waterfalls, jungle and even Incan ruins. We enjoyed lunch just outside Winay Wanya, a ruins site with never ending stairs, safe to say we did not skip leg day.
Our guides had given us a packed lunch to each carry at the start of the trail. We had a delicious chicken and quinoa dish along with fruit and other snacks. But after lunch was finished we were gearing to go, having made it beyond the halfway mark. With our guide’s approval, we headed through the second and final checkpoint and off we went. Lunch had given us that extra burst of energy we needed and our pace had quickened as we were that little bit closer to Machu Picchu. After plenty more inclines and stairs we reached the gringo steps, where we had to literally crawl up on our hands and knees. We had only another two kilometres to go and our adrenaline was pumping, there was no giving up now. We reached the final steps to the sun gate, and with the legs feeling like jelly and starting to fail with pushed through and were treated to the most beautiful sight. I don’t think I could have imagined it looking as spectacular as it did. All the pain from the hike just alleviated and I was on cloud 9. I sat in awe of the view; Machu Picchu itself and the surrounding highlands.
We waited for the remaining groups to join us at the site, sitting in awe. I could not imagine visiting Machu Picchu any other way. If you are considering visiting Machu Picchu and not sure whether you should do the hike. You should DEFINITLEY do it. It is one of the most unforgettable things I have ever done in my life and would do it all over in a heartbeat.