We had completed Days 1 and 2, the hardest part of the trek with the rest all now mainly downhill. I (Carrie) had really suffered on the second day, not from altitude but from a severe stomach bug and had gone to sleep at 5pm hoping the next day would be better.
A slightly later wake up call this morning and only a half day of hiking, aiming to finish at lunchtime at our final campsite. I still had a dodgy stomach and only managed quarter of a piece of bread at breakfast.
The scenery on day 3 was by far the most stunning. Although our guide Casiano had promised us it was all downhill, the day started with what he called ten minutes of “Inca Flat” – Not flat at all. Very much uphill. For about an hour.
We reached the final Inca site before camp, an impressive set of ruins with high terraces and inca stonework. Resting happily at the bottom of the ruins was the celebrity of the day – a Llama. He was completely happy to pose for photos and selfies and we left him with his crowd of admirers as we headed on down the last hill to camp.
We finally arrived, greeted by a round of applause from the porters (this was a daily occurrence, even though they had literally run past us every day and arrived hours before us, they still applauded every time we made it to camp).
The tent was like an oven, the midday sun beating down and I began to feel feverish. We went for lunch, I took one mouthful and had to run outside to throw up. At this point we were really worried, I’d hardly eaten anything for 48 hours and was now being sick too. Luckily we had a lovely nurse in our group and she, along with the guide decided I needed antibiotics which they had in the first aid kit.
We went back to the tent, I managed to eat some soup broth and went to sleep covered in cold towels. Unfortunately it meant we missed the final and most impressive Inca Site of the day, Wiñay Huayna.
I was feeling much better by the time dinner came around, the antibiotics had kicked in and I was finally able to eat some food! The chef had even prepared a huge chocolate cake using only a camping stove. We all sat around for our last supper, reflecting on the last few days, excited (and relieved) that tomorrow was the day we finally got to Machu Picchu.
Distance hiked: 10km
Highest altitude: 3680m/12073ft
A 3am wake up call and race in the dark to be first in line at the checkpoint and wait for the Rangers to open the gate to the path at 5:30am. Once open, another fast hike to reach the Sun Gate and our first view of Machu Picchu. The group kept a similar pace on day 4 and we all made the final climb to the Sun Gate together.
And there it was. Still covered in the shadows of the mountains, waiting for the sun to reveal it in all its glory. We’d made it.
I wasn’t the only one in our group that suffered. Several people had altitude sickness, cold and flu, fevers, vertigo, joint problems and nausea, but every single one of us made it to Machu Picchu on foot – not a donkey or helicopter in sight! We couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to share the experience with and we’d never have made it without the help of our amazing porters and guides.
I wouldn’t have made it without Seth, who if he wasn’t carrying both our bags and all the water, would probably have carried me too. Apart from me being ill and despite his complete lack of any training, he found the whole trek annoyingly easy!
Machu Picchu was more incredible than we could have imagined, made all the more special by the fact that we’d walked the original Inca trail to get there. We joined the hordes of freshly showered, clean-clothed, train-riding cheaters down on the ruins. It was strange to be back in civilisation, having to deal with more than just our group of 16 hikers and 2 guides we’d become so used to.
It really was a once in a lifetime experience and something we’ll never ever forget.
Physically challenging. Emotionally draining. But so worth it.