JOURNEY TO MACHU PICCHU
Hiking the 3-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is known for being an arduous experience for the most advanced hikers, but the experience is beyond rewarding! Five of my best girlfriends and I flew into Lima and spent a week exploring the delicious coastal food and vibrant nightlife around Miraflores before we headed up to the mountains.
A few nights before the hike, we stayed in Cusco at the Apu Huascaran Hostal overlooking the beautiful Plaza de Armas. It gave us a chance to begin adjusting to the high altitude before the hike. And we made day trips out to local artistans and Pachacamac neighborhoods, known for their talented artisans and beautiful handicrafts. I always support local industry when I travel by purchasing my gifts and souvenirs from local artisans and small shops.
Finally, the time arrived to begin the hike to Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 wonders of the world. We took the the Classic Inca Trail, which follows original trails that the Inca’s would have taken from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. Each day we hiked between 9-11 hours up and down STEEP inclines, taking in the stunning scenery along the way. We wouldn't have survived without hiring the extremely skilled and highly trained porters, who carried our camping supplies and food for each day. We only carried our walking sticks, water, and small backpacks, which still felt like too much! Luckily, no one in our group got altitude sickness.
But it wasn't all fresh air and roses. By day 2 it started to pour rain that continued throughout most of the day. None of us were prepared for the physically demanding journey either and my knees didn't recover from the trip until a year later. When we arrived at the top of the site, it was early morning and the cloud cover prevented us from seeing Machu Picchu in it's entirety. Exhausted and a little envious of the tourists who took the 45 minute train up the mountain, we laughed deliriously at ourselves.
At last, in the middle of our tour, the clouds cleared and our breath was taken away by the entirety of what we were walking through. Built in the 1450s during the reign of Inca emperor Pachucuti, Machu Picchu is thought to have been either a country estate for the emperor, or an important place of worship. Whether you believe in a spiritual path or not, the special energy in this place is undeniable.
At this point, we forgot about all our aches and pains and enjoyed our lunch with some friendly llamas who came to say hello. Definitely one of the most challengening and rewareding experiences of my life!