GPS Machu-Picchu

The Inca Trail to Macho Picchu …

Lynne – our Satmap officer manager – heads off to the mountains …

For my milestone birthday instead of being offered a sedentary spa weekend or a week lazing in the sun, I was given the incredible opportunity of either trekking the Inca Trail or climbing Ayers Rock.  What an easy decision, the Inca Trail had always been on my list and on Thursday 12th April 2018 one of my biggest ever adventures and challenges began ….

 

 

Day 1  : The trek begins …

Around 7.30 a.m. our group of eight were dropped off at Piscacucho, kilometer eighty two. This point is where our hiking trail began, it is also the location of the first official Inca Trail check point.  Strangely enough I was actually feeling nervous  but after clearing the gates and crossing a suspension footbridge across the Urubamba river, the trek began with a gentle climb.  Despite the already high altitude, I was led into a false sense of security, this felt relatively easy – how wrong I was!  We followed the course of the river, the first three hours being on fairly flat terrain. We witnessed superb views of the snow-capped peak of Wakay Willka as well as the Urubamba mountain range which divides the jungle and the Andes.

 

After our first impressive three course lunch prepared by the porters we continued hiking towards the extensive Inca settlement of Llactapata and appreciated the impressive farming terraces of this complex. The Inca Trail followed the left bank of the river up to the village of Wayllabamba at 9840 feet above sea level where we enjoyed yet another three course meal and camped for the night.

 

Day 2 : Considered to be the hardest ………

 

The first morning of our early wake up calls, with hot coco tea being brought to our tent.  Coco tea/leaves helps to combat altitude sickness. We needed to complete a steep ascent reaching an altititude of 13779 feet above sea level at Warmi Wanuska Pass.  After breakfast we departed the campsite at around 7 a.m. From here the trail traverses a beautiful cloud forest full of Polylepis or Queñua trees before entering the puna, a zone characterized by treeless grasslands only found at this altitude across the Andes.  We stopped many times to regroup, a real necessity although we were all fairly evenly matched with regards to fitness despite the ages ranging from 23 to 67.  The last hard climb took us to the highest pass of the Inca trail at Warmi Wañuska. Once at the top we were rewarded with spectacular views of the Andes, the Huananay massif and the surrounding snow-covered peaks.

 

   It wasn’t just myself who felt a sense of accomplishment after conquering Dead Woman’s pass. The climb was almost cruel at times, the air was so thin and it was difficult to breath and therefore walk for more than a few seconds at a time.  After a much deserved rest we continued our way along the undulating slopes on the left side of the valley all the way to our campsite in Paqaymayu at 11811 feet above sea level.

 

Day 3 : The longest day of Inca Trail hiking …

   After yet another tasty breakfast prepared by the porters we left the camp around 7.15 a.m. and started with a steady ascent to the second highest pass at Runkuracay reaching 12400 feet above sea level and passing through a circular Inca control point that occupies a commanding position overlooking the spectacular Vilcabamba mountain range below. After this point the majority of the Inca Trail is mostly downhill. It was at this stage in particular that our walking poles became invaluable, as the descent was extremely steep in places and without them our knees would definitely have been feeling the strain.

 

Day 3 trek was vastly different from the previous two days.  The surface was a monumental structure of granite stones, continuing through ever-changing layers of cloud forest full of rare orchids, hanging mosses, bromeliads and tree ferns. We passed through a couple of Inca tunnels and a gentle climb took us to our third pass at 12139 feet above sea level offering incredible views of several snow capped peaks including Salkantay (20574 ft) and Veronica (18865 ft).  We continued along splendid paved Inca roads to the impressive agricultural site of Intipata and up to the third and last campsite at Wiñayhuayna aka forever young (which certainly wasn’t how I was feeling) located at 8856 feet above sea level. Wiñayhuayna, named after a variety of pink orchid that grow here, was the last official campsite before Machu Picchu. The most impressive ruins until this point were located minutes away and as tired as we all were after our 9 hour hike, we explored the archeological site.  It was at this stage, after many hours of descending, that my legs decided to take on a life of their own, wobbling and shaking as if I’d had a boozy night out.

 

Day 4 : Our final hike to Machu Picchu …

 

   The day began a lot earlier than normal.  We were woken at 3.15 a.m. and it was with sadness that we bid farewell to the porters, the hardest working group of people I’ve ever known.  We were on the trail by 4 a.m. in our bid to get to Machu Picchu as the sun was rising .  This last part of the trail from Wiñayhuayna to Machu Picchu took about 2.5 hours of hard hiking, a lot of it in darkness.  Unlike the others I had only taken a simple torch, so I had to be guided by my groups head torches.  The path was narrow with many sheer drops and small wooden bridges along the way.  Along this track we passed through a lush cloud forest of giant ferns until we came to an almost vertical ascent of about 50 steps to Intipunku, the gate of the sun at 8920 feet above sea level.  The steps were so dangerous and difficult we had to pass our poles to the guide and clamber up using our hands.  Upon reaching the top our guide hugged each of us, and after his congratulations upon almost finishing our trek, he said ‘now take your first look at Machu Picchu’ ………

 

   Our efforts up until this point were rewarded with an unforgettable sight. A backdrop of natural beauty, human art and forested peaks framing the magical city of Machu Picchu. We’d passed many Inca sites along the way but nothing could have prepared us for the sheer enormity and beauty of Machu Picchu.

 

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