Sunday, February 23, 2014

Inca Trail: Days 3 & 4

Day 3 of the Trail we knew would be a much easier day.  There was some up and down, but for the most part it was a gradual descent into the Cloud Forest.  As we entered the Cloud Forest (a jungle), the landscape changed and became very lush.  It was rainy/misty so it made the jungle atmosphere that much cooler.

We had to walk through these ruins to get to our final campsite.

We got to our final campsite around noon.  We beat all of the other groups (everyone camps at the same place before the final trek to Machu Pichu) so we had the campgrounds alone.  We made the most of this and after lunch went to visit local ruins called Winywhyna (I'm sure I spelled this wrong).  The ruins were absolutely breathtaking.  These were my favorite ones from the whole trip.  We were alone at the ruins and it was truly magical.

I sat here looking over the ruins and the river below and had the most magical experience.  It was empty and quiet and beautiful.  Clouds rolled in from below and rose up and words cannot describe the power of the moment.  This point in the trip was one of my favorite and a moment I will never forget.

That night we hung out at camp, had a treat of a little Peruvian wine and had our final dinner together.  Everyone enters the trail to Machu Pichu at the same time and it can get very crowded.  The gate to the trail opens at 5:30am so we decided to get up at 3am and get in line at 4am so we could be one of the first groups to hit the trail.

Unfortunately for me, that night while everyone was sleeping I got VERY sick.  I had the chills and was up all night.  It was torrential downpour all night so when the 3am wake up came around, I was wet and weak and sick.  Given the situation, I had no choice but to suck it up and hike.

My "Inca Family" was an amazing support.  They gave me electrolyte water, carried my day pack, shared their hiking poles and provided much needed moral support.

I knew reaching the Sun Gate and getting to Machu Pichu would be an emotional experience, but given how sick I was, it was that much more special to me.  Leading up to that, as I was walking, I literally just repeated the mantra "I am healthy. I am strong." over and over in my head.  The power of the mind is what got me to the Sun Gate.  When I reached the top of the stairs and knew Machu Pichu was below, when I knew that I had made it, I was overcome with emotion.  I have never felt so proud, so independent and so strong in all my life.  Silent tears rolled down my cheeks the whole walk from the Sun Gate to Machu Pichu.

Our view from the top of the Sun Gate.

My first glimpse at Machu Pichu.

Sick and weak, but so full of joy.

We took a tour of Machu Pichu with our guide.  He provided amazing information about this incredible place and culture.  I was exhausted and still not feeling well so I definitely did not fully enjoy the experience.  However, for me, so much of it was about the journey and getting sick in no way left a cloud on the overall experience.  I would love to go back to Cusco some day and maybe I will take the train to Machu Pichu and see it again.

It was so cloudy when we were at the top earlier, despite being exhausted, we decided to hike back up so we could get the "classic" picture of Machu Pichu from above.  I seriously considered not going because I was so tired/sick, but after everything I had been through, I figured what's one more hike!!  It was TOTALLY worth it and I am so glad I was able to get these pictures and see Machu Pichu like this.

Sorry for the squinting.  It was SOO sunny!!

After we left Machu Pichu, we went to the town of Agua Calientes to wait for our train back to Cusco.  We crashed in this restaurant for hours.  It was so fun to get to hang together after we made it.  It was so sad to say goodbye and leave them after spending every moment together for the last 4 days.

I still miss my "Inca Family" and hope that we all stay in touch, but even if we do not, I am honored to have had to opportunity to know these people and share this life-changing experience with them.


Anonymous said...

These are great photos! What a great experience. So sorry to hear you got sick. That's not fun when you're on vacation.


From Foothills to Fog said...

What a great experience! I loved reading this, sounds incredible! I can't wait to see you and hear more about your trip!

Stephanie said...

Wow, what an awesome experience! You are such a trooper for seeing it through to the very end despite the exhaustion and sickness. So proud of you! I'm glad you went back for the classic Machu Pichu shots, too. :)

Katie Cook said...

Absolutely amazing photos!!!! LOVED EVERYONE!!! Would you recommend it? We want to go!!! xoxo Katie