"Nobody told you that you don't have to walk anymore? You can take a train now," one of our guides said after we informed them we would be hiking the Inca Trail.
Day 1 - KM 82 to Ayapata - 10 miles - 24,726 steps
We woke up dark and early at 4:30am anxious to begin what we had been planning for the past 6 months. After a few morning hiccups with our ride - we met up with our four hiking partners, our guide Roger and the Red Army - which consisted of nine porters and two cooks. We arrived bundled up in layers which were very quickly shed off as the heat and humidity took over.
While today was the longest distance, it was relatively flat, giving us time to adjust to the pace of the group. Right away we were greeted with beautiful views of Mt. Veronica and the Urubamba River. The views continued to impress as we caught sight of our first inca ruins along the trail - Llactapata.
As we neared our first campsite, we could hear the cheering of our porters and cooks who had already set up our tents and cooked our meals for the night.
Day 2 - Ayapata to Chaquicocha - 7.5 miles - 19,070 steps
We knew this was going to be the toughest day on the trail but that helped motivate us to get started. If we could tackle two passes in a day - the rest of the hike would be a walk in the park.
While the first day we rarely encountered other trekkers, today we felt like we were a part of a giant team with the other groups - all trying to conquer Dead Womans Pass. The sun wasn't doing us any favors as it beamed down on us for the entire hike up the never ending stone steps. We had to remind ourselves to look around and take in the scenery because we were mainly focusing on getting our feet up to the next step. It felt like an eternity but we somehow managed to reach the summit at 13,779 ft. One by one all the groups made it to the top, everyone cheering as a new hiker made it to the highest point on the trail. After we celebrated and took our photos - we were reminded by Roger that we still had yet to make it past our second pass.
After a bit of downhill and lunch, we collectively groaned at the sight of the next set of steps up. While it doesn't gain as much elevation as Dead Womans Pass, the second pass is much steeper. Definitely was thankful for our trekking poles as I think this was the point where I first started using them to lift my whole body up to the next step.
Not long after we reached the summit we heard some thundering in the distance. A few moments later, sure it enough, it started to rain and hail. We pulled out our ponchos as quickly as possible and realized the last leg of day two was going to be completely wet.
We reached camp cold but mostly dry and immediately sought cover in our tents.
Day 3 - Chaquicocha to Winay Wanya - 5.5 miles - 19,253 steps
We woke up this day with a new boost of confidence thanks to conquering the toughest day. However, I am hesitant to say this was the easiest day only because in the morning our legs appeared to be made of rubber. After one last pass, the majority of the hike this day was downhill. As we descended from the Cloud Forest, we were treated to some of the best inca ruins yet - Puyupatamarca and Intipata. We even got to hang out with a couple of llamas during one of our rest stops!
Since our day two was longer than most other trekkers, we got to enjoy an early arrival at the last campsite along the Inca Trail. After lunch and a quick nap in our tents - we explored the nearby ruins Winay Wayna. The views here were the best on the trail yet and we had the whole place to ourselves to explore.
At dinner we were surprised by our porters with a celebration cake! This was the last we would see them, so we designated Kris to say some thank yous to our team before we said goodbye. The remainder of dinner we discussed our game plan for tomorrow. Our goal was to be the first group to the Sun Gate.
Day 4 - Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu - 3.5 miles - 23,413 steps
We woke up at 3am, skipped breakfast, packed up our gear and headed to the last check point. We were the first ones there but had to wait in the dark for a couple hours before we were allowed to continue past on the trail. Once 5:30am arrived we were allowed to pass through and we raced for about 40 minutes in the dark to the Sun Gate. We weren't quite sure were we mustered up all the energy from, but we have never hiked faster in our lives. We were simply focused on getting through the last stretch of our journey and to set our eyes on Machu Picchu for the first time.
We arrived at Machu Picchu just in time to watch the sun rise and light up the Incan City.