At first I thought this map showed the direction the path would take us. Turns out it was elevation.

Dear Visual Diary: The Inka Trail

Don’t let the humble trail map carved into wood fool you. Ahead of you are 4 long days of calf-burning ups and knee-shattering downs. The prize — Machupicchu.

Words as written in my diary, 2006.


Day 1 — The “Easy” Day

After disembarking from our bus (not as sexy sounding as a train is it?) we simply flashed our passports, crossed over to the wrong side of the tracks, and were on our way.

Hikers are required by law to walk the Inka trail with the aid of a guide, which for our budget means doing it in a group mostly comprised of loud Canadians. And for every 3 loud Canadians I can count there seems to be a solitary Peruvian porter lumped with the task of carrying our bullshit luggage from camp to camp – mainly so that the women who packed too much may powder their noses of an evening. Poor porters.

We followed a creek most of the way and the so-called ‘easy’ day actually proved to be less challenging than I’d imagined. Saying that, we did walk 9kms to a small town called ‘Wayllabamba’ — and my legs know it. We were pleasantly surprised by the local ‘discoteca’ and their supply of cerveza. It only comes in one size — “grande!” Snooze button.

The local discoteca. I think the sign was actually a joke for the amusement of the locals.


Day 2 — The “Challenging” Day

I don’t know how I didn’t realise the seemingly impassable chain of mountains we slept under were the very mountains that would challenge us today. Challenge is an understatement. The only way was up — as the crow flies, we only walked 3 kilometres, yet, we went up over a kilometre.

It’s clear the one’s who are cut out for the walk and the one’s who should just catch the train to Machupicchu. About seven of us excelled and left the other’s behind on the way to the first pass and a place the locals translate to mean “Dead Woman’s Parts” — it’s a knoll at the top that resembles a nipple. Creepy.

When the oxygen is thin, all you can think about are nipples

At the top we made visual contact with our campsite (even though it was about a million steps down the valley). The porters had caught up with us, and I decided to compete with them — me with my day bag, and them with 60kgs of our useless junk on their backs. They won. Their usual pace is to run, they only walk when they’re tired. So basically I ran down a couple of thousand steps, and it felt good. The campsite sits by a creek that runs from a lake nestled in the mountains. Sleep.

This kid did trips back and forth on a mule. He’d unloaded in this shot.


Day 3 — The ‘Unforgettable’ Day

Today we would walk about 15 kms of ups and downs on what they call the Inka Flats… flat my arse. We explored some smaller ruins before having lunch. It’s funny. For such an isolated place, everything smells like piss. It seems someone has pissed on the track every couple of hundred metres, which also gives you an idea of how many people walk the track every day. After lunch we had a huge descent (again) so I decided to run (again) only this time my left knee had had enough and I hobbled into camp.

Hot showers! Cold beers!

We shouted the porters a beer each and slept with clean consciences. Tomorrow would see us hike a short distance to Machupicchu.


Day 4 — The “Machupicchu” Day

4am. We got up in the dark and started hiking with torches towards the ‘Sun Gate’ where the Inka’s were able to tell the time and date, also a great view of the ruins below. We decided to make it to the ruins by sunrise… disaster! Matt sprained his ankle in the dark with about 1km to go! Poor fella. Poor tour leader too. After hopping for a short while, Russell had to piggy back all 90kgs of Matt down the mountain. All in all a great start to the day!

I ‘helped’ by carrying Matt’s camera and taking some photos of him. Having the time of his life.

The ruins are beautiful, though they are overrun by tourists who take the train and bus up. You can’t help but feel totally ripped off having walked for 4 days only to be pipped at the gate by overweight tourists! Still, we did get to see a llama threesome before we headed home.

Stay classy Machupicchu!

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