September 2011 • Canon 40D camera
UNESCO World Heritage site
Part of the Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System
Last night I witnessed with my eyes something that I had never seen before except through photographs, the Milky Way. It was enormous, spectacular, heavenly. So many stars clustered to form a bright band of light. I stayed up to stare for so long at this natural wonder. My only regret was that due to my camera equipment, I could not get a decent picture. But I will always remember that night. The campsite was high up on a mountain. It was a cold night and I did not sleep that much which was a good thing as I had planned to wake up to try and capture sunrise.
The early morning was chilly and I had my gloves on to take pictures. Heavy cloud was still in the sky, a beautiful hue of dark blues that slowly turned lighter as time went on. The orange light of the sun was seen briefly over some mountains in the distance but I did not see the sun itself. As the morning went on the clouds disappeared. It was a calm, breathtaking experience to soak in as I stood high on the mountain like I was on top of the world.
The morning also brought in view the spectacular view of the mountain top and our campsite. We had arrived the day before in heavy rain so I did not realize how high up we were. Our tents had an open window to one of the best sceneries you can wake up to and have breakfast. This was also our last day with the amazing porters who had carried our bags, pitched our tenets and cooked our food.
This last part of the trail would end at Machu Picchu and we would spend the night at a hotel. So this morning after breakfast, we all gathered round our porters to thank them for their hard work, to shake their hands out of the respect and give them a well–deserved tip.
Our campsite was actually above a famous Inca ruin along the rail, Phuyupatamarca. We headed off this morning to the ruin for a closer inspection and Silvia to explain the history behind it. We were still high up and the temperature was still cold and misty because of the clouds.
The ruins were well preserved with the brick walls still intact. This place was used for sacred and religious rituals and had places for baths. The ruins also contain agricultural terraces that seem to form a ‘v’ shape going down and meeting together.
Every year there is an Inca Trail marathon of 26.2 miles. It is considered the most difficult marathon in the world. The steep ascents and descent with the different elevations along the trail make it a challenge for any endurance runner.
Winaywayna (Quechua for ‘forever young’) was the next stop on the trail. This Inca ruin is built on a very steep hillside with agricultural terraces going down. It consists of two sections, upper and lower connected by a long staircase.
The stone buildings are well preserved and the green scenery made it look like a nice place to stay when it was inhabited. It was a beautiful valley with the Urubamba River in the distance. Rays of sunlight shined through the clouds to illuminate the green area.
We then continued into another cloud forest on our way to the penultimate stop of the trail—Intipunku or the Sun Gate as it is known. A narrow, cliff hugging trail leading up to the gate which is the end of the Inca Trail and the main entrance to Machu Picchu.
It was a steep climb up the stairs. With my heart beating I was eager to reach the top and see what was on the other side...
We finally made it through the Sun Gate to complete four days of hiking on the Inca Trail. From the distance we could see the reward of completing the Inca trail: Machu Picchu. It was now later afternoon coming up to sunset. There were thick clouds in the sky but still warm. We all congratulated each other for completing this journey together. A sense of achievement filled the air and all posed together for final group photo.
We slowly followed the steps down towards Machu Picchu. It was now shut to visitors so it was empty and great to view with mo one around. We would go inside tomorrow to spend the day looking around, but for now we gently walked passed the city we had trekked four days to visit. Though sun and rain, cloud forests Inca ruins and camping below starry nights our journey was finally over.
We stayed the night at the town of Machu Picchu. And it was such wonderful expedience to have a nice hot shower after four days of hiking. And I was looking forward to a comfortable bed to sleep on tonight. I enjoy camping but always look forward to a nice hotel after a few days in the wilderness. We had dinner together as a group this evening in town.
Some of us was adventurous to try the local specialty of grilled guinea pig and the famous Pisco Sour cocktail to clench our thirst. It was a quick meal as we were all tired and wanted to sleep early. And I wanted to dream of my experience on the Inca Trail...
On every traveler, adventurer or curious person’s bucket list, the Inca Trail truly lives up to the magic and wonder people talk about. You should go and soak up this magical experience if you can. You will not be disappointed. After taking photos to capture the life–long dream of doing the Inca trail it dawned on me that I most likely would never be able to do this trail again. A once in a lifetime moment had now been and gone.
I will always have the memories and photos to look back on. And it was an epic, adventurous experience. Full of wonderful sites and enchanting forests. The beautiful sceneries and nature that surrounded me throughout this journey would never be forgotten. On my bucket list for a long time I am grateful for having the opportunity of fulfilling my dream.
The start of the classic Inca Trail with a gentle hike on a sunny day
Hiking up to the highest and most challenging part of the Inca Trail
Misty forests to ancient ruins along this enchanting part of the Inca Trail