Friday, January 7, 2011
The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail was used by the Incan civilization from the 14th to the 16th centuries to communicate between Cusco, the Incan capital, and Machu Picchu, what is believed to have been a sacred religious site. We weren't going to traverse the entire 120km (75 mile) distance, but instead were going to pick up the trail starting at km 82 and hike over the mountains for 4 days to our destination.
Having expended all of my energy on the Day 2 climb, my body could not get going for Day 3. After a climb again to 13000 feet, my mind was drifting and all the candies I had packed were not saving me. I turned to the coca leaf, legal in raw form in Peru and chewed by all the porters and guides. Bitter-tasting but providing a mild stimulative effect, the leaves gave me the pick-me-up I needed for the incredible Incan ruins and beautiful views we would see during the day.
But no, we had come to see Machu Picchu, and on day 4 we would get our view of the lost Incan city. Or would we? Awakened extra early at 3:30 AM in the middle of a pouring rainstorm, our porters hastily cooked breakfast, took down our tents, and dashed down the mountain to catch a 5AM train back to civilization. I was all of a sudden grateful for the $1 poncho I had purchased back in Ollantaytambo -- it was going to get used today.
Again, the journey to Machu Picchu was incredible in itself, but that final day provided the perfect cap to our hike. Do yourself a favor and visit.