The Inka Trail
This journey will be etched in my memory forever. Part of the reason being that I got the altitude sickness.
On the first day all was fine. The sun was shining, the backpacks weren’t too heavy, the porters were treating us like royalty. It was one of the biggest surprises as we didn’t pay for a luxury tour. Not only were they carrying all the camping equipment and the kitchen, but they would wake us up in the morning with some hot water in a bowl to wash our faces and hot water with coca leaves to drink. Not to mention the afternoon tea, that also included coffee, hot chocolate and tons of biscuits. Oh, and each meal had a vegetarian option as well (there were some vegetarians in the group). The porters would eat in a separate tent, set up the camp, then take everything down etc. and for someone who grew up in a socialist environment, that felt bizarre.
On the second day, just before the Dead Woman’s Pass (very appropriate name) I almost passed out. Got some coca leaves, slowed down a lot, managed to walk on. That place is the highest on the trek – 4200m above the sea level, so in theory I should be getting better afterwards, but no. It just got worse.
On the third day I was throwing up on the side of the trail and had fever, taking naps at every place we stopped for a rest. The porters helped me by taking some of the heavier things out of my backpack. I know we saw some ruins on the way, some amazing views and I didn’t even register them. When we got to the final camp for the last night I didn’t even bother to try and queue for the shower. Along the trail you only have basic amenities. By basic I mean often the toilets were optional and obviously no running water. So that was the first place where you could potentially wash yourself. Every day there are 500 people allowed on the trek. Imagine all of them trying to take a shower in one evening with only few of them set up. Hence, I didn’t even try.
We had our last supper and I know as the only Spanish speaker in the group – apart from the guides of course – I gave a speech to say thank you to them and the porters. Not quite sure what I said but there was applause. Then again people who were clapping didn’t speak Spanish. We gave everyone tips, I even went to the guy who helped me carry my things and gave him something just from me cos without him I would have been crawling the Inca Trail.
The morning was horrible, we had to get up around 4am in order to get in the queue to the National Park. I think we waited for about an hour, maybe more. I couldn’t stop shaking, couldn’t think straight. My friend seeing me in that state was trying to keep me sane with a conversation. It helped although I didn’t remember a word of it afterwards. When we started moving the only thing that kept me going was watching the moving feet of the person in front of me and repeating in my head all the lyrics of all the songs I could remember. The last bit before Intipunku (the Sun Gate) it’s just massive stairs made of stone – I pretty much crawled up on those on my four. It’s all hazy in my head.
But I do remember the first time I saw Machu Picchu. Just before sunrise, or rather right in the middle of it, before the sunshine covered the ruins. The air was clear and I could see the city in a distance on the top of the mountain, seemingly out of reach. It made the whole trek worth it.
Then someone next to me lost it. The three days were exhausting, we were all tired, and so someone started crying, even sobbing as they couldn’t catch their breath. Suddenly I felt that I was on the verge of breaking down as well. The whole group was resting and I just said to our guide that I needed to go right now. If I sat down, I wouldn’t have been able to get up again. And he let me go, together with another guide. So, I got to the ruins, or rather the terrace overlooking the ruins about half hour before the rest of my group. And I sat there eating an apple, watching the sun shine over Machu Picchu and waiting for everyone else. A dream come true.