The giggle alarm (i.e. Lynne and Lindsay) went off at 4.30 and the official porter alarm at 5am by which point I was dressed and almost packed (sorry Iain!). It was our last day of the trail and I was equal parts sad that it was ending and totally exhausted which made me come over all emotional. Bleugh. I’d spent so many days trying to keep up with the 2 front runners, wanting to experience this amazing once in a life time trek with my friend, that I’d knackered myself out. It’s been like being the baby all over again, trying to compete with my siblings who were older and more experienced than me. The realisation that it was the last day and I wasn’t going to be able to keep up was all too much. I probably could have just asked him sensibly to slow down a bit but pace is so important here and going slower (or faster) than you’re comfortable with is difficult. Saying that after 3 days of ‘getting through it’ Jorge told us to relax and enjoy today. “No rush, no worries, take your time.”
At the top of the mountain sunrise began at around 6.30 and this morning our dinner tent was packed away leaving the breakfast table open so we could enjoy the beautiful views around us. We even had hot chocolate and…I kid you not…pancakes!! Winner! As it was about -2 everyone shivered in coats and hats but personally I think the view was worth it. As this was our last time all together we took it as an opportunity to thank the porters who had worked with us and give them each a tip. Lynne presented Julian, the chef, with his and thanked him for the incredible food which had kept us all going. Kath then thanked the head porter (who represented his team), saying she was just in awe of their strength, agility and spirit as they had always been smiling and joking together. Lastly Christine took her turn to thank Edwin, our waiter, who had been so patient with us being in the way of him setting the table as we played cards, wrote journals and whatever else. There was also a big round of applause for the poor guy who had had to deal with the toilet.
One last group photo and we were off pausing first to explore Phuyupatamarka, with its spiritual baths. There’s a fresh mountain channel which runs right through the middle of about 4 or 5 baths overlooking Machu Picchu mountain. Again amazing architecture but you wouldn’t catch me bathing there – brrr!! After this Jorge stopped holding us together and asked Iain and Lindsay to wait at the terraces we could see across the mountain range. At one point they paused to delayer (you begin the morning in top, fleece, coat, hat, scarf and gloves and slowly strip as you and the day warms up) and I almost caught them up. It seemed as though I rounded the corner they saw me long enough for a quick wave before setting off again. Not fair! Some times I don’t handle situations well and this is a good example. I’d been too sad this morning to accurately word why I was upset and I was too cross to do it now. I understand about setting your own pace but this was the last day – why didn’t these 2 want to walk with their friends and enjoy this experience with the people they’d come with? For me company is such a huge part of life and who you share it with really matters, so I just couldn’t fathom why they wanted to rush through everything with someone they’d only met a week ago rather than, just for this one last day, take their time and enjoy the experience with people they had (in some cases) known a life time. I just didn’t, and still don’t, get it. I tried to explain but Lindsey’s ‘I was right’ set me on edge and I’m sad to say I didn’t handle it well. Katy strikes again. They did slow down but the mood was tense and not how I’d imagined spending the last few hours. By the time the others caught us it was slightly better and then attempting to photograph one of the thousands of butterflies broke the tension. We crept up on one sat on a leaf, cameras at the ready…Iain gently nudged the plant to try and encourage the insect to open its wings but then whooosh, it was gone and even my super fast shutter speed wasn’t going to catch it. Darn!
15 minutes later we reached the terraces and heard a loud whistle behind us. “We’re just ignoring that” said Lindsey “and it could very well be for us!” Turns out it was as 2 minutes later a loud yell from somewhere in the mountain said ‘hellloooooooo!’ It was Jorge telling us not to go any further. So we didn’t. We paused here for a good half an hour as the view of the valley below and mountains above had us all transfixed once again. It was also a chance for more group photos as a nice Canadian pair offered to take some for us.
It was more downhill to our last lunch spot on a hill called Wiñay-Wayna (Forever Young) and the last Inca ruins before Machu Picchu. Everyone was quiet today, tired and pensive so after a little exploration (Lindsey got told off for sitting in a window – jokes!) we all sat on the grass and soaked up the sun before our early lunch at 11.
You pack a lot into these days!
We said goodbye to the porters and Jorge set the pace for the last part of the trail, along some narrow paths with steep drops to one side and sheer rock to the other. Trees and vines obscured the path from view and it occurred to us we were looking out on a world which couldn’t see us. It’s kind of nice to be anonymous and lost sometimes. Jorge had been talking for the last day about the ‘oh my god steps’ – the same ones which made Iain’s friend Anna cry when she came to them. We rounded one last corner and Jorge exclaimed ‘oh my god, oh Jesus, oh no’…we’d reached the steps.
Hmm, methinks you may have bigged this up a bit Mr Jorge! Yes they were steep, almost vertical, narrow and uneven, but they only last a minute – in fact the record for climbing them is an impressive 11 seconds. We launched ourselves up through the gate at the top expecting to have reached the end of our journey. Nope!! It was a further 20 minutes of updulating before Jorge barred the way. “As we began together, so we end together. Congratulations to you all, you have conquered the Inca trail. Welcome to the Sun Gate!’ We’d made it! We walked through the large stones, rounded the corner and there it was, Machu Picchu itself. Some guy said ‘you went the wrong way, from this way it’s only an hour to get here’…whatever you say bud, I don’t think the site would have been nearly as spectacular or appreciated had we not had the journey to get there. The feeling of achievement and relief is unparalleled. Everyone once again sat quietly to enjoy the view, chuckling at the day trippers panting as they reached Intipunku, the Sun Gate from the other direction – wooses!
Jubilation hit as we descended towards Machu Picchu and I found myself encouraging those climbing up “you can do it, the view is worth it!” People looking at us asked how far it was to go – I suppose we must have looked so tired and dirty they were worried as to what was to come! “4 days from where we started!” we replied joyfully. “Oo have you done the trail?? Wow! Congratulations! Well done you!” It was such a euphoric feeling, even our aching muscles didn’t stop me slipping down the path and singing once again. It was especially nice to be walking in the opposite direction to the Intipunku arrows we had seen for days. Been there, done that! We were not entering the city today, instead pausing to have one last group photo at the ‘postcard viewpoint’ then heading down to the bus with aircon and comfy seats!!!!
We were full of good intentions to go out and explore Machu Picchu town before dinner but as soon as the weight was off our feet it was quite plain we weren’t going anywhere. Showers and Inca Colas awaited us and after dinner everyone went to bed – we’re getting too used to being asleep by 9pm and up at 5.
Day 5: The end.
It’s Tuesday now and the last day of our tour. Showered, rested and refreshed we have boarded the bus back up to Machu Picchu to see the sunrise. Others would have camped at Wiñay-Wayna and set off in the dark to reach the site before dawn but Explore! have done this whole trek slightly differently to any literature I have read. Each day has been broken into manageable chunks and we now get to explore our prize feeling slightly more alive and a lot cleaner! Sophie has also rejoined us (having been unable to walk the trek due to a torn ligament in her knee) meaning we can all experience this last morning together. Just as it should be.
This has been without a doubt the most adventurous thing I have ever done. My legs and shoulders ache, I’ve taken over a thousand photo and probably bored you all to tears with epically long blogs. Many have done this before me and there are many more to come, but today we seven are intrepid explorers, the champs who came, saw and collapsed!
Well done Inca chums, we did it!!!!
Asta mañana amigos x