Jackson and I had already been travelling for 2 and a half months before we arrived in Cusco, Peru. It was exciting to meet up with everyone, although immediately we encountered problems – we suffered from dull headaches from the high altitude (Cusco is approximately 3600m above sea level) and our hostel was overbooked, unable to fit us in.
We acclimatized in Cusco for two days before starting the Inca trail, a four day trek through the Andes Mountains. Acclimatization is necessary as we were out of breath just walking the streets of Cusco.
At the beginning I wasn’t looking forward to the trek. I was worried about the altitude, the camping and cold temperature but in hindsight it was all needless concern – it is one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my life!
The trail was of moderate difficulty and well maintained. Of course there were some challenges – camping out in minus temperatures, bad weather and frequent exhaustion/dehydration. However, the tour company we booked, Alpaca Expeditions, were excellent and eased our journey. I looked forward to the delicious meals each day. It was amazing what the chef could achieve with such limited resources at the camp site. We were woken with hot cocoa tea at 5am every morning, our tents were set up before we got to the camp site each day and they would place washing basins with warm water for us to wash our hands before each meal. We were pampered.
On the Inca Trail we traversed stunning mountains and local villages, greeted friendly local Quechua people and animals along the way, visited Inca ruins and saw breathtaking views above the clouds.
The highlight of the trek for me was on day three. It had been raining for most of the day, but the rain clouds dissipated when we reached our camp site. We arrived at camp earlier than expected so I decided to take an additional trek through the mountains by myself. When I got to the end of the trail, the clouds briefly scattered and the sun shone through, lighting up the mountain range.
As I watched the sun cast light upon the mountains, my chest felt heavy, but my spirit light. I had never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. I stood for a while, staring out beyond and reflecting in solitude. I took a mental picture and tried to savour the moment for as long as possible. It felt as though the hike had been leading up to this instance. The challenge of hiking continuous uphill in high altitude and facing the terrible weather of the day was all worth it for this one moment of complete peace and awe for nature.
I could not agree more with the quote ‘It’s not the destination, but the journey’. When we reached the sun gate of Machu Picchu on day four it almost seemed like an anticlimax. It was full of tourists and we had seen other beautiful ruins previously so Machu Picchu didn’t wow like I thought it would. One of the reasons why I enjoyed the Inca Trail so much was the silence and tranquillity of the mountains. Being one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu was the opposite of that.
However, when I reflect back on this trip, I’ll remember how incredibly rewarding the hike was, the cold nights sipping delicious hot soup, the fun and laughter with friends and the incredible beauty of the Andes Mountains.
The Inca trail is one of the best things that I have done to date, and I would highly recommend this journey to anyone that enjoys nature, hiking or photography.
Tip: The only lens I brought with me was the wide angle zoom 17-35mm range and this was more than enough for the Inca trail.
Here are some photos from the trek.
I actually didn’t get a good picture of Machu Picchu, as it was raining both times that we saw the site. This is a room inside Machu Picchu that was believed to be a Noble’s and features interlocking stone structure for the walls.
The last day we climbed Huayna Picchu. It’s so steep that we had to climb down on all fours.
Tour Company: Alpaca Expeditions
Trek: Inca Trail 5D/4N