Okay, let me back up this story a lil bit.
To give a little context to our trek: the Inca Trail – or “el Camino Inka” – was a religious and ceremonial pilgrimage conducted by the Inca to honor the land and the mountains on the way to Machu Picchu. Along the trail, they built different fortresses or sites along the way for various purposes, that also allowed them to send fire signals (in a domino effect) from one site to another to sound an alarm during invasions or external threats.
Nuria and Natalia by one of the Incan sites on Day 3
So while our journey was historically a very spiritual one, I have to admit looking back that as visitors and tourists to the region, we could have done more (I’ll get onto that point much later).
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Anyway, back to Day 3: The 10 Mile Hike to the Gates
Our mist-covered valley camp for night 2
Even as groggy as I was on the morning of the third day, I realized that I did feel HELLLLAA better. My flu-like symptoms (probably altitude sickness) had subsided quite a bit, and even though I was tired and felt weak, it was able to hike. I must say that someone, some god, or some spirit out there must have taken pity on me, because I have no idea how my health improved so quickly. Or maybe it was the drug cocktails I was taking the day before.
It was probably both.
At 6 am we were off again, starting our trip with two miles of steep rocky steps (it actually ended up not being too bad) where we stopped halfway at one of the Incan sites to learn about the history and the purpose from Victor.
More stair hiking at the beginning of Day 3
The hardest part about Day 3 is that for most of the hike, you’re going down extremely steep stone stairs. While it is downhill travel, it’s a killer for anyone with bad knees or ankles (like myself), plus the steps are often wet from stream runoff. Tread carefully.
After lunch, we finally had a chance to meet all of the porters that had the incredibly hard task of carrying the group’s gear (camping and cooking equipment) on their back for the entire trip. In all we had about eleven men that helped us, from a young 22 year old guy to a 54 year old man. We also had to introduce ourselves and say our name, where we were from, our age, and whether or not we were single (!)
Dark group photo
After lunch, we continued on for another five miles to our final camp. It was lush and green, scenic but still rainy, and warm at different times along the trail.
After dinner that night, we said goodbye to the porters, and gave them thanks for all their help. Since we had to get up at 3:30 am the next day, we all did our best to get rest before the 4 mile hike the next day.
Day 4: A Lesson in Life, Death, and Spirituality
Day 4 was all about waking up and packing up quickly at 3:30 am, eating breakfast, and standing in line at the gates to start the hike to Machu Picchu, the culmination of our trip.
The smallest orchids in the world, on route to Machu Picchu, day 4
As the clock hit 5:30 am, the gates opened and we were all up and hiking. There were a few other groups in front of ours and a few groups behind us, but as we’ve been the slow group for the past few days, some of us straggled behind while everyone else barreled ahead. I stayed behind to hang out with Jennifer, who was limping so badly that we weren’t sure how she was going to hike for 4 miles. Jessica and I tried to brace her knee while I gave her 600 mg of ibuprofen for the extreme pain that she was in. She started to feel a bit better after that.
Me and Jen
As we slowly hiked up the trail – taking pictures and limping along the way – we heard someone tell us:
“Someone fell off the trail, be careful as you hike! Stay close to the mountain and stay away from the edge!”