Our first day on the Inca Trail started before dawn with a three hour bus ride to Ollantaytambo. We were in a group of 15 trekkers, 2 guides and 18 porters. The trekkers in our group were from all around the world; Australia, India, Great Britain and the U.S. We followed our guide, Fredd along the Urubamba River and took a break at the Willkarakay ruins on our way to our first campsite. Down below, we saw the Q’Entimarka ruins by the river.
By the time we got to our next campsite, we were exhausted. I collapsed in our tent and rested a little before dinner. We had an amazing feast and everyone exchanged stories of their experiences from the long day.
Our third day took us up through the Inca Tunnel on our way to the Puyupatamarca ruins. We stopped here for a bit and watched the fog drift in and out to reveal the valley below.
A huge three-course lunch was waiting for us a camp. With full bellies, we took naps and relaxed the afternoon away. Before dinner, Fredd led us to the Winyawayna ruins directly next to camp. We explored past dusk and I began to feel emotional that our trek was coming to an end. Tomorrow we would get up well before sunrise and hike to Machu Picchu. Was I ready for what was to come? The ruins thus far have been amazing and it’s hard to believe a more beautiful place.
We woke early and got into line to enter the park. An hour later, the gates opened and our turn was up to pass through. Five of us in the group bolted ahead of the rest. We were eager to be the first ones to arrive at Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. My legs felt fast and I had tons of energy. By descending, our lungs took in deeper breaths and more oxygen. The trail wound along-side the mountain and I carefully passed other hikers. The last bit up was a “monkey-crawl” of steep stairs to the top. I was the third one to arrive at the Sun Gate for the day. This was my first view down into Machu Picchu and it was absolutely breathtaking.
As I stood there amazed at the quiet beauty below, more trekkers arrived and gathered in the area around the Sun Gate. Fredd then led the group down into the ruins at about 8,000 feet above sea level. We all snapped photos from the famous postcard setting, anxious to get a good picture empty of other tourists. Hundreds of visitors took the easy way by bus from Aguas Calientes. By mid-morning Machu Picchu was crowded.
Fredd gave us a tour through the Temple of the Sun, the many terraces, Temple of the Three Windows and much more. It’s incredible to see how in-sync the Incas were with the constellations and how their advanced skills helped them build such amazing structures. The stones they used were massive and it’s hard to believe it was all done by human power alone.
After hours of exploring the ruins, I left Machu Picchu filled with amazement and wonder. Down in Aguas Calientes, our group celebrated with a few drinks and a dip in the hot springs. It was a well deserved treat after an incredibly journey along the Inca Trail.
Since being home I have been asked what was my favorite part of Machu Picchu. It’s hard to choose just one specific place or setting. I tell everyone that it was the entire journey along the Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu that will be my favorite memory.