Trails of many journeys

Day 1
Eleven in our group, plus two guides and 23 porters went through passport control at ‘Km 82’ (the distance from Cusco), in view of Veronica, the highest peak in the area, named after the girl who first climbed it, and we were all excited that we weren’t taking the easy train option but instead hiking 42Km over 4 days!

The protagonists:
Manuel & Marcelo, father & son from Toronto (originally Uruguay)
Adele from Wellington NZ, travelling with Michael from Bradford
Peter from Bradford too! He’s been interested in Machu Picchu since he was really young.
David, Larry and Clint from California
Christine and Dana from Canada
And me!

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Proud of ourselves looking back after the first small climb, we then found the first ruin, the two-level Llactapata (aka “the Small Wow”! – David)

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Porters had been passing us with their much bigger loads, the fruits of which we saw at the first lunch stop in Tarayoc and, embarrassingly, we were all welcomed with a clap from them!

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Pushing on (very slowly in my case), we passed David’s family home and eventually reached the first campsite at Ayapata, 3,300m, in sight of Dead Woman’s Pass, our challenge for the next day! Bowls of warm water and a well-prepared dinner (plain rice for me!) set us up for a good night’s sleep before a dawn start.

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Day 2
The climb to Dead Woman’s Pass, 4,215m, is relentless, and the vegetation changes a number of times, but I had a great walking buddy in Marcelo (“you’re fine it’s just around the next corner!”) and as a group we weren’t too spread out in reality. I treated myself to M&Ms for 7 soles as a motivational reward for when I reached the very end of the trail and I would hopefully be allowed tasty food again!

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The pass is still further away than you think – spot the porters…? But I really felt like all my friends were there with me, their words of support in my head and heart, and no demons in my head so no self-criticism! 🙂 I was also thinking of the people I know who’ve already trodden this path, and that was a nice thought!

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Before long a cloud would rise up and bring rain that meant coloured ponchos came out and nobody lingered at the cold top of the pass (except David!) so my next pictures are on the way down the other side!

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Campsite destination Pacaymayo, 3,600m, (and first sight of tomorrow’s path!). From here we saw a flock of bright green birds on the other side of the valley.

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Hummingbird!

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First ones to arrive! (Turns out I’m quick downhill on the wet steps, though it might have had repercussions for Marcelo’s knee!)

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And a great view from the tent:

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A well-deserved lunch. L-R:
Camera-shy but constantly-keeping-our-spirits-up guide David, Adele, Michael, Christine, Larry, David, Dana, Clint, Peter, Marcelo, keeping-up-the-rear guide Edwin. I think Manuel was sleeping!

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Coca tea, which we were woken up with in our tents each morning too.

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Day 3
I was allowed porridge AND pancake for breakfast. Delighted! 😀 The steep climb up to the next pass, it was beautiful but raining a bit from the start! Past another ruin Runkuraqay.

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The top! 3,950m

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The custom is to offer 3 Coca leaves to Pachamama (mother earth) and make 3 wishes, so that’s what I did.

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Down the other side, still drizzling, we could see the next ruin, Sayacmarca, 3,580m.

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Time for an explore, up a left fork in the path.

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Past a toilet stop at a campsite that we didn’t use, and then a beautiful peaceful part of the trail, through high old cloud forest and a short Inca tunnel in the rock, with unusual vegetation and just the sound of the birds; a gentle climb. It was just a shame that (as the name suggests) clouds meant we couldn’t see down into the valleys!

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And lunch at another high pass campsite between 3 valleys, Phuyupatamarka, 3,600m, including being able to see down to Aguas Calientes. After lunch: a delicious moist cake, baked (or steamed) that lunchtime on the trail!

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Then onwards and downwards, missing out Phuyupatamarka’s ruins because of the weather, heading closer to the destination we could see, Machu Picchu mountain:

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The rain set in. We sheltered in a cave for a while. Marcelo’s knee was hurting so we took plenty of breaks. The views promised to be beautiful. A small rainbow appeared!

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We reached Intipata where the Incas experimented with growing different medicines at different levels. The four of us who went closer (me, Peter, Marcelo, David) could see nothing!

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At the final night’s campsite at roughly 2,800m, I had one dry set of clothes to change into for sleeping, Adele and I fashioned a clothes-line in the tent in an unsuccessful attempt to dry stuff overnight; she loaned me a headtorch as I’d forgotten to take a spare battery, and we were given instructions for the next day.

Day 4
Up at 3:10am, nothing dry to change into so I now know I’m going to be effectively entering Machu Picchu in my pyjamas! (Thermals.) Quick breakfast and 10 minute walk down to the checkpoint to wait for it to open at 5:30. The porters have to be on the early train, hence the early start! Some brief stargazing in a brightening sky. When the checkpoint opens it’s all go, a stunning walk with the dawn breaking over the valley of the Urubamba river. (Pictures not doing it justice AT ALL, it was beautiful!)

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A climb up some extremely steep stairs and then the long but less steep steps following.

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After around an hour and a quarter we’d reached Intipunku, the Sun Gate. I took a moment before turning the corner to take in the truly breathtaking view. That wasn’t a trail, it was a journey. It totally exceeded my expectations! 🙂

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Posted in Cusco, How I'm feeling, Machu Picchu, People, Peru, The Inca Trail
3 comments on “Trails of many journeys
  1. Marcelo says:

    You summed it up nicely partner! What a journey.. See? I told you it was just over that next hill! 😛

  2. Rach says:

    Love this!
    Well done Em!
    x

  3. So glad you went through with it. Looks like it was an amazing journey with many great new friends.

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