As the sole survivor of the first month of volunteers and the only one left to tell the tale, I feel it is my duty to write a blog about our week-long Inca Trail adventure. The grandeur and beauty of Machu Picchu is world renown but can sometimes be overwritten about and in many accounts lacks the challenges of the journey which are all too important and often overlooked. From my own personal experience I have learned that the journey is far more noteworthy and important than the destination itself. Yes, this is the biggest cliché of all time but in a world of clichés we lose focus of their messages and their messages are just as important today as when they were first said. So here is my account of our journey to Machu Picchu and the challenging yet rewarding experience it was.
The first day consisted of a scenic three hour bike ride through the Andes, mostly down hill. Aside from Anna flipping her bike and another biker riding into a cliff, there were no interruptions in this peaceful portion of the tour. Luckily the first half was paved, but for the second part we had the pleasure of riding over the rocks and debris of construction along with mud holes, enduring the shock for a good solid hour. Once we had arrived at our base, some of us decided to keep the adrenaline rush going and try water rafting for an extra 35 US or 71 soles, a much needed cool-off from a long day of biking. Note to self: always wear bug repellent when in Peruvian bush and when at dusk. I managed to survive with only 100 bites on my feet, my new German friend on the other hand…not so lucky. What really made this day worth all the bug bites though was when our rafting instructor flew out of the raft in the midst of a level 3 rapid. I will never forget the look on our faces and paralyzed state of disbelief that delayed our rescuing him by a good 30 seconds. He’s alive. Needless to say, it was an action packed first day.
The theme of day two however, would have to be “intense pain”. After we happily united as a team by painting our faces with random tree juice, we began to ascend the mountains and it was all up-hill from here, literally, for about three hours. It would have to be the most informative day out of the 4 as we learned an enormous amount of information about the local produce and Incan history from our trusty guide Leo. We climbed and climbed and climbed some more, soaking in the surreal scenery of the valleys until we reached the most relieving and much needed oasis of hammocks and our delicious pasta lunch. Our few moments of rest were cut even shorter since there was still much trekking to be done, in fact there was another hour of straight uphill trekking to be exact. With red sweaty faces, sunburns and mosquito bites galore we finally hit the road for two hours where good conversation and much needed level-walking was had by all. The level of intensity and exhaustion we felt on day two is really hard to relay to someone else who hasn’t experienced it, but was surely evident in our swollen feet, our spotted legs and scraped up arms.
Day three on the other hand was much less horizontal and there were many highlights and mess-ups along the way. But I think for the sake of time and space I will skip to the last. Day Four was the big day, the day we had all been waiting for, the day that would make our swollen ankles, the early wake-ups, the killer climbs and bloody bug bites all worth while. So we woke up at 3:30 am to wait in line for the earliest bus to Machu Picchu at 5:30 so we could get one of only 400 tickets to climb Huayna Picchu and see the site in all its glory. We were successful in this since my ticket number was lucky number 340. But as I would soon discover my ticket would go unused as we spent the next 7 hours in the grey fog that prevented us from seeing more than 20 metres in front of us, leaving the 40 minute long anticipated climb unconquered. So there we stood amongst the ruins with our guide; drenched, soaked to the core, raindrops dripping down our faces and without shelter until the end of our tour. At this point I expected everyone to become discouraged as I myself was heading in that direction after a long journey of unexpected mishaps and injuries. But this was not the case with Team Leo. We decided not to let the weather get the best of us and to trudge on despite our water-damaged cameras, our soaked underwear, swollen ankles and the fact that we were as cold as icicles. I squeezed the water out of my passport, embraced my water drenched clothes, bought myself a ridiculously expensive poncho/garbage bag and head out to the ruins in the pouring rain for a second time. There we were given the most memorable fake tour by one of our Team Leo members and spent the rest of the day playing in the rain and mud as if we were kids again in an Incan castle.
I hate cliches, but my confidence in this one has been reinstated. Yes Machu Pichu was the goal, but getting there was much more fun despite the hardships. If you expect the most out of the end, you miss the value of the experience along the way. Would I do it all again?… In a heartbeat.