The Inka Trail

2500 People see Machu Picchu every day. You make your way to Cuzco, then take a nice train to Aguas Calientes and spend the night. The next day, you take a bus up a zigzag road and tour the ancient site. I would say just about anyone could do this. There were babies and little kids and seniors there.

250 hikers and their guides plus porters begin the hike on the Inka Trail, one of the many stone roads the Inka people built 1500 years ago. It's not that long of a hike, but because of the altitude, and the amount you have to hike up and down mountains, it takes four days of hiking and three nights of camping to complete the trip.

There is at least one porter per hiker on the trip. The porter carries a maximum of 25Kg of stuff and sets up tents and mobile kitchens, basically running ahead of the hapless, out-of-breath hikers so that everything is set up for you to arrive to a hot, freshly-cooked sit down lunch and then the same for dinner. In the evenings, they also set up your tent and layout your sleeping mat and place your duffle bag in your tent.

I had checked the weather and saw that the forecast was for cold and rain for the whole hike. I had booked this trip in what was supposed to be the dry season, so I was not amused. It did indeed rain on us each day and our views were mostly of fog. That was a serious bummer.

Day one was not too hard of a hike, but the weather was terrible and the wind blew the rain into us sideways and even with a good poncho and waterproof OR hat, I was wet, including inside my Goretex hiking boots. I think that happened because my hiking pants got wet, which got the tops of my socks wet. I seriously considered turning around. Numerous other hikers were already heading back. We heard someone was having heart issues and they were sending the emergency horse for him.

We got to our camping site, and since I was with just one other hiker, a 31-year-old psychologist named Hannah from Sydney, Australia, we had a choice small, quiet campsite near someone's home. There was a rushing river nearby and it complimented the heavy rain we got all night. Luckily the outhouse toilet was close to our tent. Unluckily, it didn't flush.

The dinner was so good! The chef/porter made us so much food. Dish after dish kept coming. But at that altitude, we found we just couldn't eat much. The porters ate everything we didn't eat and more, I believe. There was rice, fish, chicken, soup, quinoa, salad, cooked pumpkin and something like runny pudding for dessert.

There was water for sale here and in the morning I filled my Camelback with bottled water. This turns out to be a key point, so stay tuned.

The next day was to be our hardest. My pre-trip training seemed like good preparation and I wasn't sore. I did get out of breath much quicker than my traveling companion and guide. But I recovered quickly and was able to set a pretty smooth pace.

We hiked to almost 15,000 ft this day with lots of other ups and downs. The weather on average was fair. What I mean by that was we had wind, rain, fog, and some times when it didn't rain too. At the highest point we saw a stunning view of the Andes mountains and a bit of blue skies. I think we should have seen a lot more views like this, but mostly our views and outlook were misty and cool, if not rainy.

Night two was at a large camping area with a lot of tents, porters and levels of terrain to navigate. It was cold - perhaps 45F - but I took something like a shower that night in the primitive bathrooms. The toilets were disgusting holes in the ground at this point, but what we didn't know is that they were actually get worse the next night.

Day three was about the same, but with a little less elevation to master. I think this was the longest day at 13 miles. Night three was also wet and our mini camping area was precariously on the edge of a hillside. We tread carefully when we had to leave the tent at night. By now, the bottled water was all used up and we were drinking boiled, treated river water.

We went to bed as soon as we could because the next morning we were due to wake up at 3:30 am. Our porters provided us with a sandwich and other snacks for breakfast, then dismantled our camp and hurried to the train in Aguas Calientes, so they could start all over in two day's time on another exhausting trip on the Inka Trail.

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