On the Inca Trail

Peru is a land of incredible diversity, history, culture and adventure. It’s most famous for Machu Picchu, an Incan citadel in the middle of the Andes mountains. Lucky for us it wasn’t destroyed by the Spaniards because they didn’t know it was there. The first rule of Machu Picchu is that you don’t talk about Machu Picchu. The population never spoke of it and kept it a secret. It couldn’t be seen from below, and the Incans went so far as to destroy all roads leading to it.

All of this makes for an incredible adventure. Today there are a few different ways to get there, but the most rewarding is by foot. The trail winds through the mountains, with sheer drops in many places, culminating in the final steps leading up to the Sun Gate. Despite your fatigue, you are tempted to race up, and as you walk through the Gate you get your first view of Machu Picchu down in the distance. The vista before you is a fitting reward for your labour.

We sat there with our legs dangling off the edge for a while, while llamas wandered around us, the river glistened in the valley far down below, and Machu Picchu basked in the afternoon sun. Achieving this strengthened the camaraderie in the group as we cherished the scene together. Alas, we had to move on, as Machu Pichu itself was still an hour’s hike away.

This last part of the hike was easy, mostly downhill and on a wide trail. Machu Picchu gradually grew bigger and bigger, until finally, we were standing right there on the site itself. It was much bigger than I had imagined, and there was far more to explore than the photos show. All that had to wait though. It was late afternoon and our wobbly legs could barely get us to the main gate where we took a bus down the zig zag roads to the town of Aguas Calientes.

After a good rest and refreshing hot shower, we all went for dinner, excitedly sharing our thoughts about the day’s experience, and eager to explore the site fully the next day with our expert local guide. The good news was that we wouldn’t have to hike back up again. This time we lined up with all the regular tourists and took the bus up to the gate. Good thing too, because there were so many steps and lots of walking and climbing as we explored Machu Picchu, and learnt of the wonders of Incan construction and science. Even though it was built hundreds of years ago, the engineers of Machu Picchu made everything earthquake proof, built canals and had a running fresh water system.

The Inca empire eventually collapsed due to civil war, colonization, and disease transmitted by the Spanish. Machu Picchu however remains standing to this day. It’s your time to shine and walk in the steps of the Incas to this royal citadel up in the sky. Get ready for Peru.

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