Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Machu Picchu - part one - the beginning

In 2004 I went on a group adventure to walk the Inca Trail in Peru to Machu Picchu. I have to say that it was an amazing experience and one of the most enjoyable, toughest and memorable trips I have ever been on - apart of course from the Camino de Santiago which is a totally different kettle of fish. Everything was meticulously arranged and planned by an eco-travel agency whose owner came with us as group leader. There were ten of us in the group, only one of whom I knew beforehand apart from the leader. Happily we all ended up getting on very well which I think was very lucky.

We met for the first time at a briefing dinner where things were explained to us in more detail. The whole trip would take fourteen days, four of which would be on the Inca Trail itself. Porters would carry most of our stuff, do the catering and we would be camping along the way. Without electricity or plumbing we were told toilets on the trail were the 'drop' variety and showers  (if there were any) would be cold water from a mountain stream. Some of the group insisted they couldn´t live without showering and washing their hair every day and looked down their noses at me when I said I was going to just use baby wipes for four the end of the trail it turned out nobody had showered haha.

The Inca Trail is hundreds of years old and runs from near Cuzco in Peru to Machu Picchu over high mountains. It was used by running messengers to carry news throughout the Inca empire. Apart from the steep climbs and descents one of the main difficulties is the altitude. Reaching heights of over 14,000 feet the air is thin and altitude sickness a real danger. Strenuous activity when you feel you can´t get enough oxygen is difficult and you have to move slowly. Our local guide carried a small cylinder of oxygen for emergencies and I saw more than one person (not from our party) being taken back down the trail on horseback to lower altitudes. Age and fitness do not seem to make any difference, a young and fit athlete is just as likely to get altitude sickness as an older and less fit person. Just as well as I was nearly sixty then. You can only walk the trail as part of an organised group.

To be continued...


  1. I bet you have some wonderful photographs. A friend of mine went with her husband when they both retired. He went for extensive medical checks before they went (not sure quite what they were) and I wondered if it was actually worth the risk as there was so much concern! Apparently once there he never experienced any problems at all and they, too, both wondered what all the fuss had been about. They loved it and had no problems with "roughing it".

    1. Yes Rachel, I do have lots of lovely photos. For some reason I never downloaded them to the computer so they only exist in an album and I have to photograph them now in order to add any to my posts. This means the quality isn´t as good as it could be but I´ll be doing it anyway as the tale unfolds. I´m glad your friends loved it, the medical checks are important because the risks are very real. My group (including myself) were all affected by altitude sickness to some degree during our trip.