I’ve never had the patience for details so by default I’m a
big picture kindof girl. As far as traveling goes, this part of my personality
allows me to dream big and do great things while having very little
expectations. And as far as expectations
of the Inca Trail went I had none. And hot damn if the Inca Trail didn’t
provide the most gorgeous scenery I have ever had the privilege to see. I’m not sure why I’m surprised, and maybe I’m
not, I just didn’t think about it.
The Inca Trail is a well-traveled 4-day hike and almost
every day of the year about 400 travelers, guides, and porters start the
journey from the beautiful mountain town of Cusco.
I arrived in Cusco at 1pm the day before I left for the trek
where I spent the day gasping for air, feeling flu-like symptoms and other tell
tale signs of mild altitude sickness. I suppose if I even thought of a guidebook
I would have planned my trip differently to allow time for acclimatization.
No, I wouldn’t have.
My trip was perfect, ass kickin’ and all.
The first day on the Inca Trail was spent hiking a gradual
incline through a deep and narrow valley surrounded by edifices so staggeringly
high and lush green it was hard to believe I was still on planet Earth.
I very randomly met three of Max Gordon’s friends along the
trail. It took four sentences to figure
out that they were 26 years old and from Burlington, Vermont.
“Do you know Max Gordon?’ and the rest is history.
I hiked with a company called Weiki Treks which made us all
feel like we were some kindof royalty who enjoyed things like three course
lunches and dinners, birthday parties, pancakes, mango flan, ceviche, and happy
hours atop mountain peaks.
The six other people who I was serendipitously paired with
for the hike were truly the funniest, coolest people I’ve met in a long time
and the friendships were instant. I
didn’t just laugh every day; I crawled on all fours in laughter every day. My crew quickly devolved into a bunch of
people trying to make each other laugh while we feasted in our portable dining
room. The exhausting and beautiful walks in between meals seemed like something
to endure so we could sit down and start laughing over popcorn and powdered
Day Two of the trek is aptly named Dead Woman’s Pass. Our guide literally said to us, ‘There are
many challenges in life. Today will be one of them.” (!?!?) It took us six
hours to ascend the 4,000 meter mountain pass in the pouring rain followed by
bright sun and increasingly less oxygen every step. You’ll be shocked to hear
that I didn’t pack well because I did zero planning and zero research. My camera gear alone weighed 15 pounds and
that was just what was hanging around my neck.
On my back you could find a change of clothes for each and every day, a
couple of books, my journal, and a cure and ointment for every possible malady
that would never arise. Besides a rather
humbling experience, Day Two offered hour after hour of getting to know all my
new friends. We each told our life story, one by one, and I fell in love with
everyone. It’s also worth noting that I
dominated that evening in both charades and the four hands of Bullshit we
played while crammed inside a one-man tent with three other people.
Day Three was called The Gringo Killer, and I’ll surely
reference this day when talking nostalgically about my healthy knees. We
ascended and descended 3,000 ancient stone steps in the cold and spitting rain
for ten hours. My body hurt, I was
cranky, I got my period, and I was thirsty.
I laughed at lunch, but eventually had to sit down and cry for about 10
seconds. The tightness in my calves
rendered me unable to bend at the ankle which felt as weird as it sounds. My new friend Abe aptly named his calves
Donzel Washington and I couldn’t agree more though I’m pretty pissed I didn’t
think of the moniker first.
Day Four had us up and at ’em at the non-hour of
3:30am. We had our first glimpse of what
we were told was Machu Picchu, but we wouldn’t know because it was 6am and the
morning fog still had hours before burning off.
We took many a tourist photo in front of a thick white wall of clouds which
we found absolutely hilarious. We spent
the next three hours making fun of ourselves until the fog cleared.
Machu Picchu proved to be so mind blowing and magnificent no
camera could ever do it justice. In
fact, I couldn’t believe I was actually looking at it. The ancient city never
found by the Spanish conquistadors is perched high amongst the giant fangs of
the green Andes and is truly breath taking. We spent the morning hanging around Machu
Picchu and I took something like 400 photographs. I doubt even one will do it justice.
After the hike was over and we made our way to the mountain
town in the valley the afternoon and evening were spent either in a bar
congratulating ourselves or remembering the good old days of four days ago when
our knees worked. We played drinking
games on the train home and horrified every English speaker within earshot of
our Never Have I Ever game.
I hope I never forget those four days on the Inca Trail and
how much fun we had and how hard we laughed.
It ranks in the top experiences of my life and I never saw it coming.
Three cheers for not planning!
A hot shower, laundered clothes, a good sleep, a day off,
and a night out with friends had me ready for the next phase of my journey.
Off to the jungle I went.