I got up early at 4:00 am, ate breakfast then went straight ahead to the hotel’s lobby to meet the group for the 4:30 am call time. I think everyone was excited since we were going to see Machu Picchu for the first time. We boarded the train that traveled alongside the Urubamba River. The ride was slow, but the scenery was quite enjoyable. We stopped at Chachabamba (Km. 104), the starting point of our trek, and met our tour guides. Km 104 means we’re 104 kilometers away from Cusco to Machu Picchu. The Inca trail in its entirety takes four days on average to complete on foot, but we were simply covering the last 6 miles of the trek which was about a 6- 8 hour hike (including breaks) depending on your pace.
The trail requires a special permit from the local government. Self-guided hiking is not permitted and only 500 people are allowed to hike including the tour guides each day. We made our way to the check-in point to begin the trail then they checked our names on the list and stamped our passports. The first 30 minutes of the hike were some of the most scenic. We crossed the bridge and started walking up what looked like a steep incline. There were some falls along the way including so many wild plants and flowers.
We stopped to have lunch at Winay Wayna, which means “forever young”. The sight was sobering. I slowed my pace and took time to enjoy the view of the terraces and ruins. After lunch, we had about four more hours of hiking. The trek was extremely grueling, much harder than I was led to believe. I am in excellent health but not athletic by anyone’s standards. Also even more daunting than the physical challenge were the restrooms, each of which was nothing more than a stall with a hole in the floor.
After 8 hours of hiking, we finally reached the Sun Gate. It was one of the most impossibly hardest staircase of the trek but turned out to be a grand welcome to your first glimpse of Machu Picchu. I couldn’t hide the excitement I got when I saw that huge amazing bastard for the first time. It was quiet yet mysterious but just beautiful. Inti Punko or the Sun Gate is set so that the sun rises just above it on the summer soltice. However, in my excitement over finally gazing down on the ruins, I forgot to take any photos of the Sun Gate itself. Haha! From this point, we had about 45 minutes left to reach our final destination- the Lost City of Machu Picchu. (on my next post)
I had survived the trek and I was proud of myself. The Inca Trail is one of those things you have to try to really understand. It was difficult at times but truly was the adventure of a lifetime. It is an accomplishment that I will always remember with happiness and pride.