Since I learned about Macchu Picchu and the Inca Trail when I was in school, I’ve wanted to hike along it to reach the old Inca city. In January I was afforded some free time so I made the most of it and booked flights to Peru and I decided to book a tour with Intrepid Travel for the hike itself. I’d researched quite a bit and it seemed like quite an ambiguous task of purchasing the permit to enter the trail, and another to get a ticket to enter the Macchu Picchu Site. Intrepid promised to handle all permits and tickets, food, camping gear and porters, as well as transportation from Cuzco to the trail and back. This was a far more certain and stress free approach, but was certainly more costly. In Cuzco I spoke to some people who had booked with other tour operators and others who’d untertaken the tour by themselves. There were mixed stories – hiking the trail with just a day bag (a raincoat, some water and snacks) is hard enough at 4000m in altitude, but lugging a tent, sleeping bag, clothes and food is even harder! The person I spoke to who’d gone with another tour had got food poisoning on the last day and so had to be taken to hospital – not the best end to the hike!
The first day we all assembled in Cuzco at the hotel for the safety briefing and registration for the trip, as well as meeting the group we’d be hiking with. The next morning we piled in the bus and headed to a “traditional Peruvian village”. Here we spoke to the locals, they performed a small ceremony and we went inside for some food. After the meal they had laid out some wares for us to buy – hats, scarves, bags, etc and a few other trinkets. There were a few older women showing us how they made them. Everyone was wearing a bright red jacket and hat. While this is part of the Peruvian heritage, it was clear that nobody really wears these clothes on a daily basis, only for tourists. The garments they were selling may well have been hand made, locally, but those that they were wearing were clearly made with a sewing machine. The whole illusion was completely shattered at the end when one of the villagers produced an invoice to our group leader at the end.
After we’d all piled back in the bus, we were informed that we could either spend the evening doing as we pleased or we could go zip lining, in the Sacred Valley. This sounded a lot more fun and a chance to take in the incredible view! It cost about £30 for the two hour session and we climbed up the steep side of the valley in our harnesses, stopping a few times to take in the view and let the slower members of our group catch up.
The view was absolutely stunning! The picture really doesn’t do it justice: you cannot get a feel for the scale of the place. I’ve been to the Alps and the Pyrenees, and they just pale in comparison to the Andes. It was tough going due to the altitude, but we all managed to get to the top of the course where we got to use gravity to go back down!
The whole thing took us a few hours, during which time the sun set, leaving the valley in shadow. The temperature plummeted fast and by the time we’d finished, it was getting very cold.
Intrepid had organised a minivan to take us back to the Hotel further down the valley where we went out as a group for dinner and went to the Kwik-E-Mart to get some supplies for the hike as well as a few beers for the evening.
As we sat out in the deckchairs of the lawn of our hotel in Urubamba, we were joined by some curious visitors – a few llama had come over to see us, but they were very skittish, as we stood up to get closer they scarpered, only to return a few minutes later. So we left them be, lest we get spat on, as llama have a famously poor temperament.