Machu Picchu

I arrived for my briefing the Tuesday before my Machu Picchu Trek. I met the other people I would be hiking with and my guide. We had 5 people in total. Two Greek girls, one lives in Zurich, the other in Edinburgh, and an Australian couple who were on their honeymoon. We were given the run down for our trek. Turns out I only needed to take my small day pack and carry my essentials. My clothes, toiletries, and anything else I needed would be carried in a duffel bag by a horse. My first backpacking experience was proving to be a fancy one. Not only was most of my stuff going to be carried for me, but I was going to have all my meals cooked for me, and they were going to be proper meals. No MREs or boiled noodles. We woke up bright and early the following morning. I decided to rent trekking poles because I wasn’t sure how my knee would handle the steep decline. The last time I did a steep decline was in Big Sur, it hurt quite a bit, and since I was going to have to hike for about 4 days I didn’t want to take any chances. I don’t know if it was the hiking poles, or better use of my brace, but my knee never hurt. The only thing that suffered on my trek was my feet, but I’ll get to that. After renting any last minute equipment we might need, we got into the van and started our journey up the mountain. We made one more stop in a town for any last minute snacks and breakfast. The hot chocolate I ordered was terrible. Awful. We needed to get toilet paper. Some toys to hand out to children we would see on our hike if we wanted to, and any other last minute snacks we wanted. We continued to drive up the hill and boy was the scenery pretty. The mountains were so jagged and majestic. They were green, brown, black, and had all sorts of grass grazers roaming the sides. It was a long drive to where our hike was beginning. We left Cusco at about 6:30, and didn’t start hiking until 11ish. The 5 of us hiked with our guide Percy, and our stuff was tied to the three horses who were lead by the horseman and accompanied by the cook and his assistant. The very beginning was quite steep, and I feel my breath shortening and my heart pounding. We started our hiked at about 12,000 feet. Maybe more. It eventually leveled out so we could catch our breath and rest. After a few hours, we stopped for lunch. The horses and crew had taken a road while we hiked on the trail, so by the time we showed up to camp they had a lunch tent set up and food was just about ready. We had juice, guacamole, trout, rice, really fancy food for a hiking expedition. I don’t usually eat this fancy while camping. We sat around for a bit after lunch to let everything digest and then started hiking again. We eventually did walk right through the middle of a small village and yes the kids saw us coming. They are used to hikers walking through their village and giving them treats of some sort. I had a few toys I had bought to give out, and then I shared my bag of M&Ms. I didn’t realize there would be so many kids. I would of brought all the gum my mom gave me and handed that out, but I had left it behind for the school kids. Our camp for the night was just at the outskirts of the village. I watched a girl run up a mountain and cross a creek just to get to us and see what we had. Luckily I had a few M&Ms left. It’s almost like a permanent Halloween for these kids. They live a simple life. Miles from anywhere. Definitely self sufficient. We did see a school, but they live in small homes, and no wifi. We arrived at camp around 5pm. I should of brought a deck of cards, but at least I had a book. The cook puts on a happy hour for us around 6 which is basically tea and crackers. Then we have another 3 course meal, and after we chat for a bit, discuss the following day, and return to our tents for bed. The first night I read for a bit and went to bed around 9 or 9:30. I froze all night. I tried really hard to sleep without socks so my feet could breathe, but I couldn’t take it any longer. I was wearing yoga pants and a ski thermal, and I froze. So I didn’t sleep so well. Our morning wake up call came around 5 or 5:30 with one of the helpers tapping on our tent, “Buenos Diaz Senorita, muna tea.” And I would unzip the tent and he would hand us a cup of hot muna tea. I was originally supposed to sleep in a tent by myself, but I ended up switching with one of the Greek girls because I thought it would be warmer. Day two of our hike was meant to be the hardest. We were going to summit to about 15000 feet before lunch. It was also the most beautiful day, besides Machu Picchu. It was freezing when we first left, but as soon as we started hiking and the sun peaked out from behind the jagged mountains the layers started coming off. One of the hardest things for me was going to the bathroom. It had been over 24 hours since I’d last had a proper toilet, and we had done quite a bit of walking. Squatting and trying to your business was not that easy. Our hearts were still pounding, so we took it slow. We admired the landscape, the llamas and alpacas. It was just us and nature and a few villagers. You would see the farmers in the hills running after their flock in sandals, and here we were in proper hiking attire, walking slowly, and about to keel over. It was a long slow hike up, especially the last part which was the most steep, but it was so worth it. The view of the Lares Valley was calming. After spending time is a busy, firework loving, car honking Cusco, it was nice to be in a more remote and peaceful part of Peru. I felt more connected to the country and what it represented. We left camp before the helpers had finished taking it down. They had packed up camp and zoomed passed us on the mountain. At the end of our trek I called them loco for running up the mountain. After summiting, we took a nice well deserved pow wow. Photos were taken, food was eaten and I stretched. We were going to descend basically everything we had just walked up and then some for the rest of the day. Lunch was after the initial decent. The view for lunch was probably my favorite of the hike. I did acquire a bit of a headache and had some coca tea with lunch and took an Advil. I felt better, and then proceed to whack my head on my way out of the lunch spot. So mixed with lots of walking and high altitude, my head was throbbing. We left lunch early because it had started to rain. It was only a light rain, and it stayed away just in time for us to reach our next camp for the night. It was on the edge of another village. We arrived at 4, but I had to take a nap. My head hurt. Plus it was raining, and there wasn’t much else to do. After happy hour and dinner, we retired to our tents for bed. This place had about as proper of a toilet you can have in the middle of the Andean Wilderness and helped alleviate some stomach cramps. We were awoken the following morning with the same wake up call. Buenos Diaz Senorita, Muna tea. I slept much better that night. I wore socks. I wore my yoga pants and rain pants. And I wore my ski thermal and a fleece. I was toasty. We were only walking half a day on day three. Once we reached Ollantaytambo for lunch, we would have the day to explore before taking the train to Aguas Calenites or Machu Picchu Pueblo. And for night 3 we would be staying in an actual hotel, where we wouldn’t freeze, a true bed, proper toilet and we could shower! It was a dream come true for my group. The hike into town was a downhill gravel road. And it destroyed my feet. Since I wasn’t able to let my feet breathe because there was a lot of horse poop around, so I always wore my boots, or it was cold so I always wore my socks, my feet looked like they had been in the shower for to long. I had blisters all over my toes, the one on my pinky made the toe double in size, and the balls of my feet. I think the worst part was the athlete’s feet I started to develop. It was tearing my sensitive skin. As soon as we reached Ollantaytambo, the boots and socks came off. I apologized for any offensive smells. We didn’t explore the town. In our defense it was pouring rain, but we were also beat, and my feet hurt. So we sat in the cafe and drank awful coffee until our train. The train ride was gorgeous. Even with its misty atmosphere. Our guide picked us up at the station and showed us our hotel. We had 20 minutes to shower before dinner. Luckily I had a room to myself. It was an amazing shower. And I was really excited that I could wear shorts and no socks to bed. We got back from dinner late. It was a great time, but we all missed our cook’s food. He was an amazing cook, and earlier that day we had said our goodbyes to our team except the guide. We went to bed around 10 or 10:30 that night and had a morning wake up call at 4:00am. The reason for our trip had finally arrived. We were going to Machu Picchu. Our guide did not knock on our hotel doors and hand us a cup of tea, but the hotel did provide us with a sack breakfast. Everyone looked clean and refreshed from our days in the Andes. We had to get in line for the bus which wasn’t leaving til 5:30. Even though we arrived at about 4:50, the line was already long, and we were on the 6th bus. The bus ride up was steep, windy and gorgeous. There were some people hiking up. We were glad that wasn’t us. We had done enough hiking, and still had some more to do at the site. We waited until the gates open at 6am, and watched the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Just like the Incas. We took some tourist photos, and our guide gave us the run down on the incomplete ruins. Thank goodness the Spanish never found it. We said our goodbyes to our guide, and decided to climb up to sun gate. Basically its another gigantic hill you climb, in the heat, to get an epic view of the site. Sun Gate is where the Inca Trail trekkers first see the ruins. It’s where the “sun first hits”. It was another long and hard hike, but beautiful. Everywhere you looked was beauty. Everything was so green, and ridged. We ate our lunch at the top and then made the climb back down. We took a few more tourist photos and decided we were ready to relax. After taking the bus down we grabbed lunch, did a bit of shopping in the market, and waited for our train. The next 3 to 4 hours were long. It was a train ride, and then an exceptionally long bus ride home. It was after 9pm when we got back to Cusco. And by the time we ate dinner and showered we all were going to bed close to midnight. It was a long but magical day. One I will remember forever.

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