Back in July, I mentioned that Alpine walks 1,950 metres up would help prepare me for my Summer holiday. Well it did, even though the Inca Trail, at over 12,000 feet above sea level, was quite a different story. To be honest, I'm amazed I did it, as I do rather like my creature comforts. However, it's not that hard if you have a reasonable level of fitness and 28 Peruvian porters and 4 guides to make the journey easier. Nevertheless, I thought I had left camping behind with the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme at school!
You notice it right after stepping of the plane from Lima to Cusco - even there the altitude even makes you feel giddy and light-headed. Sort of like being drunk without the good (or bad) effects of drinking. On the first day in Cusco, climbing even a single flight of stairs leaves you breathless. Still, it gets easier as you adapt during the day, which is just as well given the full four days ahead of walking up mountainsides at even higher altitudes. Nothing could prepare me for what I saw on my journey - everything from jungles to arid mountains to ancient stone ruins. And Llamas. And Alpacas. It really is a truly and uniquely amazing experience and there's nowhere near enough space here to describe everything I saw, felt and experienced. As you can see from the image above, we were quite a large group and the camaraderie amongst us was one of the loveliest aspects of the trip.
The final day sees the epic end to the trail - Macchu Picchu. It's an early start, and I left my cosy sleeping bag (and damp tent!) at 3.15am to be amongst the first to reach the entry checkpoint for 4am. Then it's ready, set, GO after the gates open and the queue of unshaven, unwashed and slightly tired (yet excited) hikers make their way up the final mountainside to reach the final pass which overlooks the famed ancient city of the Inca. I'm still amazed, and I could be wrong, but the banker and I managed to cover the 6km up the mountain in around 45 minutes, making us the third and fourth humans to set foot on the ridge that morning. And the view is nothing less than incredible - it actually did bring a tear to my eye. Seeing the sun rise over the ruined city is certainly one of life's unforgettable moments. And then you descend, not only to see and experience the city, but also to return to civilisation...and a hot shower!