The saying “it’s about the journey, not the destination” had never completely resonated with me until I stepped foot on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu had always been in my sights, so I had no choice but to plan a trip to South America around it.
The journey was strenuous and long, but every step on the trail was unlike anything I could have imagined. Now I can’t think about Machu Picchu without reminiscing about the trail. The trail was really not as intimidating as you might imagine. It was extremely arduous at times but the accomplishment, nature and ruins along the way made it well worth it. The food was exceptional, certainly some of the best I had in Peru and food breaks were frequent to break up the journey. It was also a relief to have the chefs cook to dietary requirements, so I didn’t have to question everything I ate.
On the second day, we walked up many, many stairs to make it to the dead woman’s pass, the highest point of the climb. The 4,215m mountain is said to be shaped like a dead woman, however I am of the opinion that the name stems from the breath you lose making it up the climb. We then spent hours walking down steps, which while relieving, was also crushing to descend the distance we had just climbed up.
The third day really put into perspective why we made the journey in the first place. The ruins were breathtaking and we were able to experience them without the massive crowds of Machu Picchu. The trail often takes you directly through ruins so it made for several surreal moments. It was magic; the morning took us through what is referred to (for good reason) as a cloud forest were we struggled to see two meters in front of us. That afternoon we were walking on ancient ground on the side of a mountain. A rainbow appeared over the valley and mountain ranges, while alpacas grazed below. I could never have imagined a moment quite like this. We came to appreciate those moments even more after we arrived at the crowded and bustling Machu Picchu.
When I signed up to do the Inca Trail I was just another traveller with Machu Picchu on my bucket list, eager to see one of the great wonders of the world. However, despite Incan toilets (aka nature) and many stairs, the trail itself holds a special place in my heart. Without hesitation I would recommend this breathtaking journey to everyone. Just don’t feel too bad when you see one of the incredible porters run past you with 30kg on his back as you struggle to take the next step. It happens to the best of us.