Great civilizations have always intrigued me. One might even say that I am a history geek. Living in Athens and Rome for many years only fueled this passion. I like reading about the Egyptians, the Romans, the Chinese, learning about the Mayans and their way of life.
It is one thing to read books though, or to learn behind a desk, and another to visit what these civilizations have left behind, their temples, long lost cities, their legacy. To get a first hand experience of what it was like to be living in that epoch, to imagine being part of a society which flourished, declined, and yet left a big mark on our way of life. And the difference between being there as opposed to learning about it at home, is almost the same as looking at a picture vs. watching a 3D movie.
We’ve been fortunate enough to have seen many of sights already, the Forbidden City and Terracotta warriors in China, temples and amphitheatres across Greece, and countless medieval cities across Europe. Many more places will be visited on this trip, Egypt and the Biblical Middle East, Ottoman sites in Turkey, ancient temples in India. Chichen Itza is still on the bucket list. But now it’s time for Machu Pichu.
That’s easier said than done though. We were certainly not going to get there by train or bus, we HAD to do the Classic Inca Trail, which takes four days walking, up and down the Andes, climbing first up to 4200 meters and then dropping way down to 2400. Walking at this altitude is no easy thing, and the fact that we were going during the rainy season didn’t make it better. Nor did the week long lasting case of diarrhea we both had. None of this mattered much to me in front of the prospect of fulfilling a long life dream. I was ecstatic.
The bear felt different. She was pooping her pants. Literally. She doesn’t care too much for history, or hiking, and would’ve been fine taking the train there. The fact she did it with me, for me, is another testament of her love (or so she says).
So off we go from Cuzco to the Sacred Valley. Along the way we meet our tour guide, Wilbert, a Quechua, who speaks English, Spanish and Quechua, but who evidently cannot ride a mountain bike. He was reeling from a terrible biking accident which left him almost an invalid, with a face looking like a bunch of red onions glued together. He apologized for his condition and explained that he tried to get a replacement but that he had been approved by the ministry to be our guide a month in advance and that a replacement would not be possible. As long as he could talk and walk, the rest was none of our business.
We also met the rest of the crew, our cook, and the four porters, responsible for carrying everything necessary for the next 4 days, tents, food, supplies. Unlike us, they had to carry about 20 kilos each, and rush in front of us to set up camp and prepare 3 course meals in time for our arrival. We felt like wimps.
Kilometer 82 is the starting point of the 42 kilometer long trail. Here all the tour groups got together and we could see that some groups had up to 20 tourists in them. In our group there was just the two of us, and the crew of six. We thought, that’s $1400 well spent, we felt spoiled, and somewhat guilty to have 6 people care for us, but hey, they would not have a job otherwise.
So off we are to start the hike, the “Classic” Inca trail, called such because the trail was built solely for the Inca, the emperor, on his pilgrimage to Machu Pichu. No peasants were allowed on it. A trail that promises to take us through ruins of temples where the emperor prayed, houses where he lodged, cities where they raised children to be sacrificed, along with the spectacular views of the Andes and dense Cloud forests. Excited we’re finally here, hoping its worth the hype!