on April 27, 2005
On the final day of hiking the Inca Trail, it is hard to sleep. Waking up well before the sun rises at 3:45am, I packed my belongings, rolled up my sleeping bag, and gave the porters the gear you want them to carry for the last time. Then I gathered in the eating tent the last time with my group and guide and had the last hearty meal made by the amazing chefs in the magic tent.
By 5am, we are already hiking down through the campsites and back on the Inca Trail. Around 5:10am, we reached the control point and waited until 5:30am for it to open. Once open, they stamp your passport, check your ticket, and then you're off towards Machu Picchu.
Most of the trail winds along the side of a mountain, with spectacular views of the valley below covered in fog. About 5 minutes before I reached Intipunku, also known as the Gateway of the Sun, I come across some of the steepest steps you will find on the Inca Trail. At these steps, I heard rumors that the Gateway of the Sun is only 300m away.
Quickly hiking, I saw a stone structure ahead of me with a large number of trekkers already stopped. It HAD to be Machu Picchu. Finally, and then I turned a corner and saw the valley open up below me with Machu Picchu sitting on the top of the mountain below. I paused with everyone else, snapped pictures, and waited for the team to catch up.
With the team all together again, our guide told us to head towards Machu Picchu and meet at a large rock that used to be at a place of worship. On our hike there, the "lazy people" who took the train to Machu Picchu were walking in the opposite direction of us towards Intipunku. They smelled good, and we smelled bad.
In a few short minutes after that, you finally reach Machu Picchu and the guide takes the last group photo of everyone. It was hard to believe that the hike was over and we had made it.
There are many tour companies around the Plaza de Armas in Cusco that offer treks to Machu Picchu. With these companies, you can always walk up and make a reservation. However, you may need to wait a week before you can get a date you want. And, during peak season, it might even be a longer wait. Another option is to book online through a trekking company. I booked through Andean Life (www.andeanlife.com) 3 months in advance. Booking online may cost a bit more, but the experience may be better with a reputable company. Just because a company in Cusco has a cheaper price does not mean it is the best trekking company. If you would like to arrange a trip with my guide, please contact me and I will gladly give you his contact information.
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