Machu Piccho, Peru
13° 9' S 72° 31' W
Nov 07, 2006 18:44
Distance 73km

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Text written in: English

The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

Day 1:
Although I was said to be picked up between 5.30 and 6am, I set my alarm for 5.25am knowing that all I had to do was clean my teeth and run out the door. I took two cold and flue tablets and two asprin the night before to ensure that I got some sleep so wolk up feeling at least a bit better and definitely excited. At 6.15 the bus had still not arrived. I had time for some breakfast, a chance to grab some antibiotics and then a lie down. The phone rang and I answered it, it was Quente: they could not find my street. So Peruvian, they just don't listen. It is like when you order food. They truly just bring you what they think you may have ordered or two of something you did order. Another 15mins they arrived, Claudia and James snuggled up and Oli our guide.
Elise, waiting, waiting had begun to wonder if they had left her behind, but once on board we set off at a cracking pace through the streets of Cuzco for the Sacred Valley. The five of us and the driver were the only people on a bus which seated at least 20. It was very cold, as there was no airconditioning so we all began to done our beany's and gloves. I didn't see much of the scenery as I attempted to get more rest but of what I did see, we were passing through a wonderful valley.  As we neared our first stop, Ollantaytambo, the mountain peaks began to frost over and the air crisp. It was a beautiful day.
Once in Ollantaytambo, we were able to buy walking sticks, water, rain ponchos, chocolate and anything else we may need for the trip. We had some breakfast at a little café.  It had a nice toilet too which which a nice surprise, however, just before I went, Elise dropped the whole toilet role in the toilet ...which was something new! For breakfast Elise had an egg, cheese and ham roll and I just had an egg on bread. We both purchased a walking stick for about 5 soles and some water.  By the time we finished the town had filled with tourists on exactly the same pilgramage.  We went back to the bus and were greeted by not 1 or 2 but 10 portors...the bus had filled with small dark men, holding grubby bags, wearing shorts and little rubber sandles made of tyres. I friendly round of ¨Hola's¨ensued and we were off again.
Along this part of the Inca Trail (which is said the be thousands of kms long and includes many different paths through Ecuador, Peru, Chile etc) the track is marked in kms. We were to begin our walk at km 82 and walk to km 112 ending at Machu Picchu. In total we would be walking  about 54km over 4 days up to a maximum altitude of 4,200m.
Just to let you all know early on: it was the best walk I have done and some of the scenery is now up there with the best things I have EVER seen.
So, Elise and I handed over our 4kg each (mine was possibly a bit more) to the portors and paid our 80soles for them to carry it. We lathered up in suncream, insect repellant, put on our hats, had a celebratory group photo to begin our trek, passed the passport check point (totally instrumental to trip...any discrepancy and you potentially cannot go) and then, we set off.  Quite recently, laws were introduced to protect the park and the health of the portors such that a maximum of 500 people are permitted on the track on any one day (which includes about 300 portors, so about 200 tourists).  These laws also restricted each portor to carry a maximum of 25kgs.  So as we set off the portors were lining up outside a weigh station. Once through they prepare their loads which contain anything from gas bottles, tents, food, water, stoves, plastic sheeting, chairs and in their hands eggs, tent poles etc. We were baffled and disappointed that the tour operators that we all pay about $400US to do not buy proper hiking packs and shoes for the portors who are paid an unknown amount in soles. The portors unsually arrange their load on a plastic sheet. Tie it up as best they can and then with a piece of canvas or a rudamentry bag (like a potatoe sack) they fasion the bag to their back with a selection of straps and materials. Most of the porters have hernea belts or lifting straps which they put around their waists, then a light vest (similar to that warm for netball to identify your team - in this case your tour group) then the bag.   The reason for such little clothing is because, about 10mins into the walk and then for the following 4 days, the porters literally ran past us, sweating, huffing and puffing, but running to get to the lunch spot or campsite well in advance of the group. In the first day, I could not get over it. I would watch them pass in wonder and I felt so very sorry for their pain and anguish which was all inflicted by what I wanted to so. After a few days and long talks with Holger (Oli) our guide, I came to the understanding that the majority of the portors are farmers in the sacred valley that are trying the supplement their income by doing about 4 trips a month along the Inca trail. Some of the portors are offered shoes and bags to use but they are hesitant as the companies require them to pay for repairs or replacement if lost and each item is so far out of their price range that it would be a disaster. So they wear little rubber sandles and the impact of such activity on their feet is so plainly clear. Their big toes are often deformed and their toes nails badly damages from countless sumbles and falls. Stubbing your toe on a sharp rock, in the freezing cold, carrying 25kg (and likely more) must be agonising.. However, they are the happiest little men in the world. They trot along in 2s and 3s chatting away in Chechuan (the native language).  They joke around with each other from outside the tent and away from tourists eyes, they play games to get started in the morning once the group has set off. And they all help each other. The weight is evenly distributed between them all each time they set off using a little swinging scale. They are also unbelievable fit.  All of us westerners were straining and puffing up hills and along cliff edges and they run past you or steam past you up the hill. In the small moments you have to see them pass, I could not help but notice the total lack of fat, only skin a muscle wrapping around their small legs. This contants activity keeps them looking about 25. Two of the men that carried our belongings were around 50 and you could hardly tell the difference between them and the 23 year old running often behinds them. When we were introduced to them on the morning of the second day, each of them had their own particular skill: fast, strong, funny, ladies man etc...they were all wonderful.
When we arrived at the lunch spot I was blown away but mostly embarresed at the fuss that was being made over the 4 of us (+ Oli). We were greeted by Clamente (50) with a little flag to guide us to our campsite. There waiting for us was 5 small bolls full of hot water, soad and a towel to wash ourslelves before our meal which was served in a specific mess tent just for us. Baltran was our waiter who was dressed in a little waiters outfit. We had drinks poured for us and then a three course lunch beginning with a deepfried wonton with fresh avocado, then a cream soup with noodles, and lastly breaded chicken, rice, a Peruvian salad and potatoes.  It was absolutely beautiful but comepletely over the top.  The portors were outside in the rain or in the kitchen tent getting ready to pack up and start running again. It took me a good three days to get used to it. Being served does not come easily for me and I really wanted the portors to eat with us and spend time with us like we had had in Huaraz, however, they are contantly working and only in the evenings did we have a chance to spend time with them but this was not until the last night and the language barrier was mostly prohibitive. Anyway, the food continued at the quality and quantity the whole 4 days. We had little hope of getting fit or benefiting from all the exercise because at every turn their was more food and loads of it.
More about the walk. On the first day, I was feeling pretty ordinary, although the Sudafed was doing wonders for my energy levels. I was often quite a way behind everyone ...which for me was difficult. And I struggled with the fact that I was holding people up...but in actual fact the itinerary and the attitude of all the guides and groups along the Inca Trail is completely relaxed. You really do have all day to get to the next meeting spot. It is virtually impossible to get lost and there are plenty of people along the way who are walking at your pace to join up with. Elise loved the fact that there was no pressure at all to get to a certain point at a certain time.  And I really started to get used to it too. I was able to examine every plant, flower, animal I passed. Take multiple photos of it, have some water and then move on with little stress of missing some deadline. And the scenery and plants were truly spectacular. The terrain changed by the hours and so too did the flowers. On the first day we largely passed different types of cactus (blooming) and trees and shrubs covered in air plants and moss. There were lots of Bramilliads and largely we walked through an open valley with farmland here and there. The mountains increased in height and grandure the further we walked.
Oli was extremely attentive to us on the first day. Constantly stopping to tell us about the fauna, flora, geology and of course the Inca. We all got along immediately.
The rain. Yes it rained, and on the first day it rained a lot. We learnt pretty quickly that once the first drop feel it is moy importante to don every piece of waterproof gear possible. Elise and I were very happy to have carried waterproof pants for a month as these are essential on the trial. I could have done with a coverall poncho (of which you can purchase along the trail on the first and second day) but I refained thinking my expensive gear would do what the adds said they would. Elise discovered that covered in plastic one gets very hot and sweety so she preferred the poncho to the waterproof pants. She also purchased in ¨Gringo alley¨in Cuzco some puruvian style gaters (a story in them selves). However, you have to learn first how wet the weather gets, and all of us walked through the rain for most of the first day thinking that for sure it would get lighter and that we were moving fast enough for the rain to roll right off....oh we were wrong. By the time we reached the campsite in the afternoon we were all drenched. Claudia was not pleased. She is a 26 year old Swiss teacher who has been maving a long distance relationship with James (South African journalist living in London for 5 years) for 6 years. They met in the Greek Islands, however, they have only spent a maximum of 3 weeks actually together. It was the craziest relationship I have ever known. Claudia was  on her way to London to live with James and give the relationship a real go.
Our campsite with in a small field of a local family who lived on the side of a mountain. It had a wonderful view of the valley below and there were very few groups near by and there were toilets.  Our sleeping tents were all set up, sleeping bags, mats and hot water waiting. But the mess tent had not arrived yet. There was a steep climb after lunch and lots of rain. The protors had to pack up well after we had left due to the rain and the need to clean and dry everything before they set off again. We huddled under a thatched roofed open structure, which contained the porters tent for the night.  They were so keen for us to get out of their space that three set off to find the missing porter and then 8 of them set up the mess tent on arrival. For men that erect tents thousands of times a year, it was a painful attempt and took a considerable amount of time with what seemed to be an unnessesary soaking of many men.
All but Elise scurried into the tent and set up for a games of cards (the first of many - I was very thankful to have offered them some weight). Elise said she was feeling a bit tired and that the wonton was not sitting well with her so she snuggled into the sleeping bag and had a nap. A good hour later Elise called out ¨Briony, when you have a minute can you come and talk to me quickly¨. I responded with ¨can I just finish this round?¨ all said through tent walls and across the field, To which she replied ¨not really¨ with haste I made for the tent in the rain. I unzipped the tent and was with a bowel of vomit...neatly collected in the hot water bowel. Pool thing was overcome with nausia and just made it out of the tent (THANK THE LORD!).
I removed the vomit and almost chucked myself. I then went back to the tent to play more cards (Shithead). We were served tea at 5.30, popcorn (perfectly cooked), buiscuts and jam. Elise stayed in bed. When I returned to get Elise for dinner at 7pm she had vomited again. She was feeling pretty rotten now and Oli fussed around her for a while. He needed to know if she had diorrea, cramps, dizzy ..the list went on. We gave her warm towels and tea. Elise came to the mess tent ...but she couldn't eat anything and she returned back to the tent pretty quickly. Oli followed her and later that night after a few more fun games of cards, he pulled me aside to explain that Elise might have to go back in the morning. There was no way she would make it in this state, and it was too dangerous. He was sure it was not altitude sickness but rather food poisoning and probably from the breakfast as that was the only meal the rest of us had not had.
That night, I was very sad for Elise. I left electrolights and water for her to have during the night so try and get her better and FAST. I drugged myself to the eyeballs again to make myself sleep and apart from the few seconds to check that she was alright a few times in the night, I slept right through.
Day 2:
We were wolken up at 5.30am with tea at the tent door to have while still in our sleeping bags and hot water and soap. Elise made it through the night without being sick and by the morning she had had two packets of Electrolights (which we were both delighted to have used). Although she was weak and didn't eat breakfast, Oli gave the all clear and we were all extremely relieved. In an interesting turn of events I was now feeling fine (better than fine) and Elise terrible.
Breakfast was amazing. We started with toasted rolls, jam and butter, tea and hot chocolate and then a Peruvian porridge which was lovely. When we finished, Baltran appeared with a tray containing, pancakes with pinapple, papya, nuts and chocolate topping, Again, it was over the top and we all full before we had even started. We had the hardest day of walking ahead of us and walking with so much food was a daunting task...leaving it though was harder because we knew who and how the food and equipment was carried and that so many people in Peru go without any I threw it all down.
This day we walked up hill all day. Oli wanted us to have lunch at the same spot as the campsite as the hardest part of the walk was last and we would do better not to be full with food. So snacks in hand we set off.
Once again the senery changed by the hour. We were walking along narrow rocky and muddy paths that clung to the sides of the mountains as we climbed. We passed through tall we forests and then open grasslanden mountain sides scattered with flowers and the occasional llama. We had two check points along the way as everyone was walking at their own pace to get up the steep incline. I absolutely loved the challenge. And in between the hard walks I took loads of photos. There were lotts of orchids, butterflys and moths and spectacular vistas of valleys, and mountain tops sourounded in cloud. Again it rained but no heavily and with the heat of walking I was never uncomfortable.
I spent a lot of time walking with our porters after the first check point.  The name of our tour company ¨Quente¨ means humming bird in Cechuan. And at the second checkpoint I saw my first of many humming birds! They are absolutely beautiful and because there were so many flowers out they were out in droves. The walk from the second check point to our first of 3 mountain passes on the walk was the most difficult climb. I walked half of it with a very sweet porter, who kindly struggled through my Spanish. He was carring a load twice the size of him and he was smaller than me. I can't remember his name unfortunately. The last few hundred metres of the climb before ¨Dead womans pass¨ was tough but fantastic. Along the way I was scared to death by a huge llama that appeared out of the fog, sodden from the rain. I was so close that I was sure Elise would get her dream and it would spit on me. From behind I heard the laugh of a porter who I guessed was assuring me that it was fine and so I took a photo ...a pretty good one at that!
I made it to the top of the pass in 45 minutes...which was a fantastic achievement. I waited another hours for the rest (Claudia and James first then Elise and Oli).  Elise was still pretty weak havning had no food and James was starting to feel the effects of altitude. After another celebratory group photo we put on all our rain gear, warm cloths and made our way over to the other side of the pass. This part of the walk was all down hill, thousands of steps made of slippery rocks, cold blustery wind to begin with and rain. Within a hour the weather had cleared a bit and we could relax. Elise and I walked together and at a turn we met two German boys. Bastian and Torbin from Hamburg. Not long after we also met a girl who was later referred to as Candy...I got talking to her...she gave the impression of being a bit younger and i assumed she was american as she was talking with an american accent BUT as it turned out she was Australian...I coudl not believe it. Often people think I am English and so i acknowledge that and explain that some people think that. In thas case, Candy refused to acknowledge that she had an acent. When she said Aowstraeleea ...i was absolutely stunned and without thinking said "but you just said Australia like an American?"...she was adament. It was all too much so i had to remove myself from the conversation. This was just in time to witness Bastian taking a terrible fall and landing with his leg and ancle in a very unatural position. Little did i know that Bastian had taken a bit of a liking to Elise and at every moment (on Elise slight trip or stumble) he would run to her aid. Elise stood next to him at a distance and, making no effort to assist, just asked with a pained look on her face "are you ok?". He explained that he had already hurt his knee and amazing stood up and continued to walk (albeit with a bit of a limp). It is astounding how much conversation and joviality we all got out of these two incidents. I had a new nemasis and Elise a bow. It was update on these two characters continued throughout the trip and many a laugh was had over dinner!!!

James and Claudia had dropped back on the decent. James had taken a turn for the worst with altitude sickness. He began to stager all over the track. Claudia took the back pack when James no longer made sence and Oli whipped to action by providing some smelling salts. He stagggered into town an hour or two after Elise and I and looked particularly green. There were quite a few people on the trail that suffered this way...some worse. We past one girl a few times who was in a constant state of puking or looking as though she was about to or had already. Poor thing. Elise and i have been so luck...never have we had troubles with altitude. It really is the luck of the draw as it does not matter how fit you are at all...

We arrived extremly early at camp - 2pm and you all know how bored i get. So after lunch once everyone (literally everyone, all camp sites, most portors and guides) had gone to bed I took myslef for a walk in search of the perfect humming bird photo. Wow,...was it wet. It rained and rained and rained. I wondered around for an hour ( i was not alowed to leave the campsite which was tucked in between two mountains but still extremely high and trecherous terian) and got a good look at at least 4 different species (or types - sorry Pol) but never was i fast enough to capture the bird. They appear as blurs in front of the flower.  I decided that i woudl stake out a flower with a good vantage point for a photo (ie close)  ...and wait for the bird to come to me. In all the excitement i had finished one battery and was onto the next (this was a dangerous thing as i did not want to go overborad on the birds having not even reached Machu Picchu - i did not want to arrive at the most famous inca site in the world and run out of battery). So I decided to be a bit more selective. I waited and waited and it rained and was not the most exciting thing i have ever done and being in a tent in my sleeping bag, warm and dry was becoming more and more appealing. My expensive and suposedly "completely waterproof" jacket coudl not stand up to the rain of this mountian region. I began to get wet but in a moment of brilliance i realised that i shoudl take a film of the humming bird!!! And of course just as i was changing the mode on the camera, along came a beautiful bird - emerald green, bright white features under the wing and an overal glimmer of blue. Its pin thin beak extenting into the flower without even a flutter of a petal. I jumped to attention and clicked on the camera ...just in time to capture the little critter. They are so increadibly tiny and so very fast!
Satisfied, i returend to a dead silent campsite and crawled into the tent after a poor attempt at converstion with the porters who were waiting their turn for a sleep. Elise was asleep but wolk up for a bit and i giggled about all the days goings on and not soon after it was time for our afternoon popcorn, tea and a game of cards...Elise didnt join us as she said she wanted to get warm...or sleep. We had a hilarious time all the way up to dinner when Elise joined us. Afyter dinner more cards and this time we played spoons...Baltran joined us.
The night was freezing ...I didn{t sleep at all and i was desperate to get close to Elise who was like a ball of heat. Knowing she had no wish for me to snuggle up to her i shivered through the night. Although i did sneak a good 30mins back to back ...haha ha!!!

Day 3:

I got up and felt absolutely awful. Recovering from a cold, sitting in the rain for an hour and then freezing all night had given me my favourite thing in the world - a chest I started the day hocking my lungs up...however, because of all the walking i effectively coughed it all up by about 10am and was fine! Great to read itsn't it...but i am not screening - this is the way it is!
The walk on the 3rd day was undulating (this was my most hated word when i was doing alot of hiking years ago...but now i love it) through the cloud forest. The walk was wondeful. We were actually on the original Inca Trail for most of the day. It was paved roughly with stones to stop the well worn track (originally used by mesengers, merchants or travelling Inca) from becoming muddy and the hillside eroding away. Most of the track hung precariously on the side of the mountain. It was contructed thousands of years ago and although it is maintained during February (when the track is closed) the trail is still in amazing condition. Parts of the track passes through mounatins and go only knows how they carved a route through the mounatin back then. There were sections with hundreds of steep rock steps (either calved into a big rock protruding from the cliff or placed on the hillside) - it was seriously steep!!! We then passed through a bamboo cloud forest which was amazing, mostly we were engulfed in plants, orchids, mossy branches and the constant dripping sounds of water, flowing streams and birds.
 I walked most of the way with Oli, the others walked ahead. We hunted for orchids, birds and other wondeful things. Unfortuanltely, we did not see a spectacled bear, that are to be found in this area (but in the 5 years Oli has been walking the trail he has never seen one). We pushed on for lunch past the popular lunch spot and to have a place to ourselves. Our tent was purched on a cloudy mounatin top that overlooked an Inca ruin (Concha Marca). This was only visable when the cloud lifted. It was a magical place. We satyed in our tent, ate our 3 course lunch and chatted for quite some time. Our group really got on well and oli was great fun. I took a great photo of Clamente and my feet. His feet are truley battered.
From lunch I walked with Claudia and Elise, James had a spurt of energy feeling much better from his atituide sickness and Oli dragged behind (i think he was bird watching). We talked the whole way. It was great! We followed the trail through a forest with enourmous tall trees and through the trees we cought wonderful vistas of the cally below and the mountains that hemmed us in. We were passed constantly by porters. Oli had emphasised at lunch that it was important to stay mountain-side as the track was so narrow that if a porter with a large load went past he coudl unknowingly knock you off the mountain...and for good reason. The track was extremely steep and narrow and there was a constant flow of portors running past. This was so common that when a small porter pasted us at a walking pase he cought our attention. His rubber sandle had broken and his foot was bleeding from the fall. We tried to ask if he was ok and he indicated that it was hard going ...but as they all do, he continued on. About half an hour later we found him crouched next to a ruin (away from the eyes of the other porters who had all stopped a little way down the track) trying to fix his shoe. We all searched our things for something that would assist him. Elise was in her element. This is what she does best. She is so generous. First she handed over her hari band and then she pulled out her money belt and, with Claudia's pen knife, she cut of the strap. He was very appreciative but time was obviuously of the essence as he went straight to work on his shoe. Claudia and i had simialar ideas as to how this Magiver type task could be fixed and Elise another altogether...but he had his own ideas and without pushing the issue we left him to his own devices. We all left seriously doubting his method which appeared at the time to be very wrong we were. Not long after, he approached us on the track at a flying pase and, with a huge grin on his face he puffed a silent "gracias" as he pased. And he had done a slendid job and the shoe. Claudia and i looked at each other - impressed.
Other than the flow of porters in the morning (whcih had almost stopped in the afternoon) and we didn't see many other tourists for our walk because we had set off early and pushed on for lunch which was wonderful. We had an optional side route to an agricultural Inca ruin (Intipata) with hundreds of terraces. Claudia went directly to the camp site as here we had the option of having a warm down the mountain she went. Oli, Elise and I continued along the side track to the Inca Site. It was a great walk through a forest with huge trees, dence canopies, hundreds of types of birds, the most orachids we had seen all day and lushous ground plants. There were also alot of begonias which was surprising. We came out into the open and spread down the mountain were the hundreds of terraces...and the view from this place of the Urubamba Valley was spectacular. You can really imagine how exciting it must have been to discover this place. It woudl have been completetly overgrown, like someting out of Raider of the Lost Arch (i really want to see that again). We swung our legs over one of the terraces and sat in silence (well until i said something) looking over the valley. From the terrace we looked over our campsite way down on the opposite mountain, the train that made its way to Machu Picchu on the vally floor, the mounatin which blocked our view of Machu Picchi and the rushing torrent which carved its way through the vally - the Urambumba River.
Oli talked to us about the valley, the founding of the site, the plants and animals that woudl have been farmed here. The systems of farming, the way the Inca organsied the farming of the land and the possible demise of the population in this area. During our contemplative discussion a halk swooped down, grapped some brackin from the terrace and flew to a nest in the tree on the edge of the site. Within seconds an even bigger bird (an egal at least twice the size) swooped in and the two birds undertook a airborn fight and flight right before our eyes. Oli was becide himself, I had my boonaculars wedged in my eyes trying frantically to follow the comotion. It was great!
From our view point we got Oli to radio camp to play the waving game (like when your mum is in a stadium, say at the Olympics), calls her friend who is somewhere in the stadium and jumps up and down trying to be seen. It was hillarious. From here we set off down the mountain to ensure we made it out of the forest before dark. We were also being eaten alive by bugs so we Vamos!  Back in the forest, we did some more bird watching, a supurd blue bird with a yellow collar, a little black bird with a brown mowhawk and a crazy bird that got a bit skittish and shat on Elise's head. We laughed so hard...little did we know that this was to be the begining of many "incidents" for Elise on our south american adventure.  
I didn't have a shower. Only one day to go and by this time everyman and his dog woudl have used it so it would not have been plesent. This campsite was the most spectacular of the 3. We were perched on the mountian side, flower laiden plants softened our view of any campsites below and tall trees behind draped their branches over us which shaded our campsiet and framed our view of the spectacualr valley below. From our tent door, we could out into the valley. It had not rained that afternoon and the good weather continued into the night. This night we talked to our porters much more and a few were game enough to enter the mess tent and play cards with us. Dinner was wonderful. As the last night they brough out red wine and excelled themselves although i can't remeber what we had. We also had to pay our tip this night (which was incredibly awkward as we were sure they were acustomed to alot more money but as our group was so small we coudl not fork out what we had herd some groups of 16 gave their porters). The reason we gave this so early was because we had to get up at 4am and depart at 5am to get to the check point at 5.20am and start the days walk to the Inca Sun Gate (the entrance to Machu Picchu).

Day 4:

4am is not so early when you are excited. We all got up pretty quickly. I had drugged myself to the eyeballs to sleep properly and it worked so i was ready to go (after a good cough or two, three four..) for the climb to the Sun Gate. None of us ate the porridge that we were served (not sure if it was the time or that we knew somehting else was on the way)...thankfully i had waited as we got pancakes and in mine was a love heart remanicent of the one left for me on my bed in the galapagos.
We were the last in the que to exit the campsite (the gates opened at 5.30am). As we stood in the que it was raining alot and the mood was a bit sombre at the thought that our walk for 3 days would be a bit in vein for Machu Picchu would be clouded in rain. At 5.45am we were through and as soon as we started our walk the weather improved. We marched like an army of ants, but a presession of poncho wearing pilgrams, toe to toe throught the green lushous cloud forest. We walked donning red, yellow and orange rain gear a distinct contrast to the drown wet ground and green surrounds. It was quite, we were all looking carefully at our feet, only afording a few glimpes at our surrounds. We were unable to overtake due to the narrow path, so for some time all the groups were bunched together but with time the line spread out and the pace quickened. Slow people were passed and the exciting was rising by the minute. This was heigtened with the rising of the sun over the tops of the mountains. Rays of sunlight peirced through the cloud forest, drying out our raingear, and as the pace quicked people were derobing along the way but not stopping for too long as the Sun Gate was near and if we were lucky (and our luck had been improving by the minute) we would get our first glimps of Machu Picchu.
James, Claudia and I marched forward at a cracking pase up the throusands of stair to the Sun Gate. It was tough but once at the top we felt fantastic! Machu Picchu was nowhere to be seen but the droves of Inca Trailers perched themselves on different parts of the Sun Gate ruin and waited with high hopes that the clouds woudl lift. Not knowing exactly where it was, how far away it was or what it actually looked like in real life, we were all making predictions and prementure sightings...but just as Elise arrived, the cloud lifed enough for all of us to make out the mountain on which it sat and then the ruins of Machu Picchu...there was sheer excitment amongst us all and absolutely joy at what we had achieved and what we were doing. It was a fantastic day already and it was only 6.30am!!! Elise and I had a quick chat to a couple from Beecroft in their mid 50s -60s who were regualrly had a check in with over the past 4 days. They were in rapture over their efforts and the rewards to come in the next our when we walked into Machu Picchu, just as the Inca would have done hundreds of years before.
Oli had lagged behind so once he arrived (and we had given him a bit of a dig for being so slow) he lead us down to Machu Picchu. By this time the weather has cleared completely and it was a magnificant sunny day. The best weather we had had on the whole trip. We were absolutely stunned. After we had stored our bags and officially checked in Oli took us on a tour of the ruins for two hours. I am not going to spoil anyones trip to this wonderful place...but it is truly amazing. There are so many mysterys about this place. How did thye get such enourmous rocks into such perfect shape. How did they constrcut such indestrauctable buildings. The amount of knowlage the inca had about the seasons, plants and geology was amazing. What ever you take from this place will be great and i recommend everyone making to trip to visit. Either on the train, or by walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Oli left us at this point and travelled down to Aguas Caliente, a town at the base of the site. James, Claudia and I then walked up the steep and terrifying Wynapicchu mountain. It took us 30mins and we were lucky not to have killed ourselves. It was one of the hairiest climbs i have done. From the top howveer we had a perfect view overloooking machu Picchu and everything as far as the eye coudl see. It was such a perfect day. My camera had been running on low since before the Sun Gate as although i had rationed myself, i had gone crazy as the sun came over the mountains in the morning. One shot at high resolution scared me to death as it imediatly went red!!!! Anyway by 12pm  I was still snapping away and now that i had taken a multitude of Machu Picchu I was free to make a film of the view from WynaPicchu...which fittingly was the end of the road for my camera taking.
I walked back down the mountain and met Elise for a walk to the Inca Bridge. By this time it was very hot and we had run out of water ..but we pushed on knowing we would only be here once in our lifetime (and that we had eaten and druncken more in the past 4 days than ever before and woudl probably last a week on reserves). The Inca Bridge is something to be seen to be believed. It is a path constructed litterally on a totally vertical cliff wall. A huge cliff wall at that. I don't know how they did it. I can't think of how many inca died building it and how many have tied falling of the edge since. It was the most precarious trail i have ever seen. Thankfully it is closed and cannot be crossed.
Tired and really hungry we returned to the bus stop for  our journey down the mounatin and the begining of our journey back to 20th Century civilization...what a depressing thought. Elise paid 9 soles for a coke whcih was incredible and an indication as how thirsty she was and then only to be dispapointed as once on the bus they gave us all a free bottle of water. We met Oli at a resteraunt for a well deserved lunch. I had done an amazing amount of walking that day so inhaled everything put infront of me!!!
We caught a 4hours train back to Cuzco, EC and i had a bit of a disagreement and so spent the first hour in silence but quickly overcome we all relived the adventure we had just was great and something to remember forever.

Photos / videos of "The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu ":

The begining of the trail A porter running by with a huge load Lunch stop with all the bells and whistles Lunch!!! Breakfast on the last day...hehehe Arriving at our first campsite...VERY wet. Note tent under the shelter is not ours but our porters ! Elise after puking twice and more to come All our porters, cuide and cook + the 4 of us ...crazy! Sun rise on Day 4 The most beautiful Orchid in the park Claudia and James Briony and Elise A Nasty Llama that jumped out of the fog and rain and scared me Briony and Elise pretending to be cuy (guinea pig) Reaching the top of Dead Womans pass The Porters finally relaxing on Night 3 Orchids Strange air plants flowers Misty cloud forest My foot and the foot of a 50 year old porter Fungus Porters More fungus - but beautiful Little yellow bird pooed on Elise ! hehehe Huge Valley of ? Inca construction Machu Pichu!!! Machu Pichu from Wynapichu An ant with a mission Reaching the top on Wynapichu Inca City