The Peruvian Times recently published an article announcing that Machu Picchu visitors are going to have to follow “drastic new rules” and I thought back to my four days on the Inca trail. A few thoughts came to mind:
On the last morning we got up very early (around 4 am if I remember correctly) to get to the sun gate to watch the sun rise. The stones were slippery, covered in dew, the path narrow and to the right there was a sudden drop. I was exhausted, barely awake and clung to the rocky wall on the left. Like a mantra, I kept reminding myself: stay left, stay left, stay left. Until suddenly, the girl walking behind me slipped and disappeared. It was so quick, like something had swallowed her in one gulp. Luckily, this was the cloud forest and there were plants and trees growing on the cliff side. She was able to hold onto something and pull herself up far enough for the guys behind to reach her and heave her up.
A line of ants
Growing up, I spent many holidays hiking in the South of France and Switzerland. You could go for miles without running into anyone else. When I started the Inca trail, people crowded the path like lines of ants. There was a serious disconnect between my idea of hiking and the reality of this hike.
One of our campsites lay at around 3500 meters altitude. Thunder and lightning woke us during the night, resonating through the valleys and reverberating off the mountains. It was loud, beautiful, exciting, scary.
Take cash to pay the porters
The porters carried tents and cooking utensils and food and more. Some of them wore thin, barely there sandals. They left after we did and arrived at the next campsite before we did, welcoming us with freshly brewed mint tea. On the trail they walked past us carrying loads that looked bigger and heavier than themselves. I was only carrying my backpack, my sleeping bag and a sleeping mat and felt like I had a hundred pounds strapped to my back. It was humbling. I thought that since I wanted to do the hike, I should be the one carrying all of my stuff instead of putting the burden on someone else.
Talk to your guide
Find out about local life, about porters’ living and working conditions, why many Peruvians have English names. Ask questions.