Our private tour bus drove smoothlessly down the roads that had caused us so much grief and entertainment on our hot springs adventure. Gliding through small Peruvian towns in our cylindrical white capsual that as safely protecting us from the outside world.This is all too easy I though to myself, is this really clasified as travelling at all?
The doubt I was feeling disolved into a feeling of sheer patheticness on the first day of hiking. We were applauded by the porters as we arrived to our lunch spot. The very same porters who had carried all of our bags, tents, kitchen equiptment, food etc and sped infront of us down the trail to ensure the lunch tent and food was ready for our arrival. I felt like I was cheating - eating a hot 2 course lunch on a table and chairs, especially after only a few hours of easy walking.
Arriving at our campsite that afternoon the impending guilt continued. We were given individual bowls of hot water to wash our hands in and were sent to pick out our pre-set up tents to freshen up before ´snack time´. The porters were always in good spirits, but I still felt like a princess being waited on hand and foot. Especially in the mornings when hot water and tea was brought to each of our tents to wake us up.
The second day of the Inca trail is rightfully refered to as ´The Challenge´. The first 4 hour are straight up a valley leading to dead woman pass, at 4200m above sea level (we had started at 3000m that morning). I developed a rythym in my walking - walk for 30 seconds, rest for 5 - with longer breaks every 5-10minutes. Walking on my own I had to remind myself, just keep walking, one foot in front of the other. As I reached the top, I was cheered on by group members who had summited before me. A bittersweet feeling as you realise all these eyes are watching you and you can no longer stop.
At the top of the pass we rested, waiting for others to come into sight and cheering them on. After about an hour we began what was supposed to be a 1.5-2 hour walk back down the other side of the mountain range. I was so excited to get to the bottom I practically ran to the bottom. 45 minutes later I surprised myself and the porters by being the first to arrive at camp. To be perfectly honest, by the time we arrived at camp that second day I was more than happy for someone else to have taken care of my eating and sleeping arrangements for me.
With the afternoon free and muscles that needed some serious TLC I held an impromptu yoga class for whoever wanted to join in - our group leader Ozzie joined us in the hour of yoga - much to the amusement of the porters and the guys in our group.
Day 3 was an easy hike - after the first 2 hours. The group split and I found myself walking alone for most of the morning - only passing two or so people along the way. Walking alone, I felt like an explorer, discovering the path for myelf - instead of feeling like a worker ant, marching in a line, like on other parts of the trail. That afternoon Ozzie took us on two optional extra exploration hikes to some Inca ruins in the area. Only about 6 people came along so it felt way more intimate and fun instead of trudging away.
The last day Ozzie had us wake up at 3am. He was determined that we would be the first group at the front gate - which we were. We then has to sit at the front gate for 1.5 hours until it actually opened..... The hike to Machu Picchu was mostly easy. We sat at the sun gate as a group and watched the sun rise over the magnificent ancient city - which we were then let loose to explore.
Waiting for the train home I saw so many familiar faces. People I had never met but had crossed paths with so many times on the trail. These people who we had shared the highs and lows, blood and sweat of the Inca trail with. An unspoken bond that somehow connected all of us - seperating us from people who had simply taken the train there that morning. Nods and smiles were shared. We´d done it. Despite the porters and the royal treatment, we´d done it. We´d walked the Inca trail and no one could take it off us.