This post concludes the story of my Inka Trail Trek experience. Read Part One here!
Being woken up at 3:00 in the morning by hands tapping on your tent and voices chirping “Señoritaaa” in an all too chipper tone isn’t quite as bad when you are also presented with a mug of steaming mate de coca and a bowl of warm water to wash your face. Another thing inspiring me to crawl out of my sleeping bag was the excitement of reaching our final destination: Macchu Picchu.
Our crew of nine (spoiled) adventurers scrambled to get packed and ready faster this morning than any days prior. We were determined to be the first group to the last check-point (which doesn’t allow access to the final path until 5:30 AM), and the first to reach Intipunku (the Sun Gate overlooking our glorious final stop).
After gulping down our breakfast and bidding our incredible porters adios, we scurried along to the check-point with our very fashionable headlamps lighting the way. We cheered obnoxiously when we realized we were the first to arrive, and taunted the hikers who streamed in after us. By the time the clock struck 5:30 and the gate opened, we’d been sitting their for an hour and a half, giddy and giggly beyond reason.
What happened next can only be likened to the opening of Walmart’s doors on Black Friday.
We took off at an unreasonably fast pace, with two particularly excited (e.g. crazy) trekkers, Dave and Todd, sprinting off into the fog. If I hadn’t heard them laughing like giddy school girls in the distance, I would have thought they’d disappeared entirely. I marched along with Linda, Dave’s slightly calmer counterpart, in silence. We could hear another group gaining ground behind us. Spurred on by some incomprehensible competitive streak, we picked up our pace. When two young men did pass us at one point, we threw death stares and grumbled “buenos dias” in our least friendly tones.
After climbing up a flight of 50 rocky steps (at times using our hands to propel us upwards), we toppled into Intipunku in a sweaty, wheezing, happy heap. We saw Dave and Todd prancing happily toward us, chanting, “We were first! We were first!”, nearly bowling over the few others who had also made it there.
Since it was all but 6:15 in the morning, the fog had not yet burned away, and our view of Macchu Picchu was minimal. We didn’t care.
From Intipunku, we gathered our troops and finished the downhill walk to Macchu Picchu. Along the way, we coined the sacred site with another name: Macchu Peepee. Before you gasp at the sacrilege, understand that we had been using holes in the ground and scratchy bushes to relieve ourselves for four days. Since it has become such a popular tourist attraction, Macchu Picchu is home to some lovely Western-style toilets.
When we finally reached our finish line (and basked in the glory of clean bathrooms), we clapped and smiled and patted each other on the back. The requisite photo-taking and exploration of the site with our guides followed.
The site is much bigger than I expected, and just as beautiful as it is purported to be. We spent a few hours wandering around, in awe of the architectural and technological feats. By lunch time, we were ready to relax. Our bodies were aching and our faces were toasting under the sun, and hot springs and cool drinks awaited us in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes.
The trek was a fantastic way to see the landscapes and micro-climates around Cusco, and to learn about the history of the Inka era. I gained eight new friends and a new respect for the sport of hiking. And now as my time in Cusco (and in Peru) dwindles down, I had better go check the remaining “to-do’s” off of my list (the first of which is to eat some nice, crispy cuy).
Next stop: La Paz, Bolivia.