On monday we set of early for our 5 day trek to Machu Picchu. We´ve been looking forward to this for ages and it was incredible. There was only three of us in the group and we had 2 horses with a horse driver, two cooks and a guide. The first day we trekked mostly along a dirt round with a few steep short cuts to get to our first camping place. The first day was pretty hard as we were at quite a high altitude but we´ve been this high for a while so it wasn´t too bad. When we arrived at our camp site our tents were set up and dinner was cooking. The food for our whole trip was amazing... all they had was 2 gas stoves but they managed to make 3 course meals for lunch and dinner with pisco sours (a peruvian cocktail) thrown in. Things were looking good! The second day we were woken up at 5.30 with coca tea and set off after breakfast for ´the hardest day´ and it was pretty brutal! the hardest part was the ´switch back´a path that zig zagged 14 times up the side of Salkantay mountain. At the top we did a ceromony with our horse driver who was part incan or something, where we gave gifts to the mountain (to ensure us safe passage) which was really good.
The mountain was amazing and the views were stunning, it was covered in snow and glaciers and we were so high up that we were actually trekking into the clouds.
By the time we had lunch it felt like we´d been treking for the whole day but we had a good 3 hours left. We headed off again and the landscape was awesome, because there were clouds everywhere you couldn´t see much infront of you exept shapes of rocks and the sound of the river.
At one point we stumbled across a poor calf that had falled down part of the cliff and looked really ill, our guide (who didn´t look particularly big) picked the cow up put him on his shoulders and carried him to to the road so the farmer could help. It was amazing, this cow was pretty heavy and he was just carrying him with no trouble at all!
We found the farmer and continued trekking through the clouds, all our clothes were getting wet even though it wasn´t raining because the air was so moist. It felt like trekking through Jurassic Park minus the dinasaurs. That night we had a lovely dinner then sat round a camp fire drinking pisco tea, the night was really cold but the pisco did help!
The third day we started really early, the girl with us decided to hire a horse for this day as her shoes had ruined her feet on the first 2 days. This day was trekking through jungle and it was really nice, the climate was a bit warmer and there were lots of passion fruits, avocados and bananas growing on the trees.
We hiked for about 7 hours till lunch time and then we stopped, today was just a half day (sort of), so in the afternoon we washed our feet put on some clean clothes and had a bit of a rest. On the the 4th day we walked uphill along a section on the Inca Trail not included in the typical Inca Trail trek, which was cool.
When we got to the top we saw our first view of Machu Picchu which was really nice!
The landscape around it is beautiful! After getting to the top we had alot of down hill which was pretty grueling on the toes. At the bottom we walked along the river to the hydroelectric plant and the to the train track where we had lunch and got the train to Aguas Callientes, the town near to Machu Picchu!
At the town we stayed in a hotel with hot showers, which was lovely! After a shower we felt human again and went out for some dinner before having an early night. We had the choice of getting a bus to Machu Picchu or walking and we decided... we´ve walked this far, why stop now! We also wanted to climb Huayanu Picchu (the mountain in all the pictures) and only 400 people are allowed to climb it a day so you have to get there early. Sooo, at 3.30 we got up and started trekking in the dark at about 4. The walk was up steps the whole way there and you could see loads of lights through the trees of other crazy tourists up that early walking to the ruins. Eventually we arrived at the queue to get into the ruins at about 5:30 and waited at the gate for our Huayanu Picchu tickets and guide until the park opened at 6.
When we got in, it was awesome, just like the pictures only better! The sun hadnt quite come up yet so it was quite chilly to start with, but it meant we got to see the sun rise up over the surrounding mountains and shine all kinds of cool sunbeams onto Machu Picchu and that. Our tour guide took us round and told us loads of stuff that is mostly speculation because the truth is that people dont really know shit all about Machu Picchu, because it was abandoned for an unknown reason, and nothing of its history was ever documented. Still, it was really cool going round all the old buildings, most of which are a lot more intact than I imagined, just minus the roof- you can actually imagine people using it, carrying water around and selling things. It was also a lot bigger than I had imagined and it took us almost 2 hours to walk around just the main center of the town, seeing temples, sundials, royal houses and all that. After our tour finished we had a while to wander round and chill before our scheduled climb of huayna picchu, which was nice because it was still pretty early and so there werent that many tourists yet.
At 10:00 we started our ascent of huayna picchu, which involved a fairly intense scramble up massively steep, exposed steps along the side of the mountain. After a fairly impressive time of about 35 mins we arrived, huffing and puffing at the top of the mountain. The peak consists of about 5 or 6 rocks where we sat and had some snacks while looking at the immense view of macchu picchu below.
The descent was harder than the way up in fact, the steps were smaller and steeper, with a sheer drop to one side, and youre looking down the whole way so its a bit more scary. The trail down takes you past a load more ruins and terraces (I want to know how the hell the incans got the huge stone bricks to make these buildings all the way up the mountain) and after a vertigo inducing climb down we were back at the citadel where we explored a bit more and got the postcard shot of the town, had a bit of a nap and then headed back to Aguas Calientes (by bus this time) for some food before hopping on the train back to Cusco.
We had an awesome time, probably one of the best things of South America so far!