Machu Picchu special trek

Now looking back this trek was extra special. Not only did I get to experience this mystical city in the clouds with my little brother just prior to his first deployment, but this introduced me to my passion of extreme adventure travel.

We booked last minute in November, so it truly was a whirlwind. Flights from Orlando to Miami to Lima and finally the remote Cuzco, which is the launch point for all Machu Picchu treks. Upon arrival, we indulged in authentic cuisine (I think it was ceviche) and I got addicted to the fruity beer Quara (they don’t import but if you ever come across it, please think of me!).

Our travel group was a hoot and we started out exploring the ruins in the quaint town of Ollaytumbo. Then we were off into the wild Peruvian jungle for 5 days of climbing to see the sacred city.

If you’ve ever done a mountain trek, you know the sherpas or porters are your lifeline and they make the trip possible. They load up with 20kg of your gear x 2, rig it up on their backs and attack the mountain. In addition, they carry their own attire (usually minimal as to not add any unnecessary weight) plus meals and camping supplies. And I should mention, they are literally running in sandals past the group of weary travelers because we are so slow and they are on a mission to set up the next nights’ camp prior to our arrival. They are the real heroes on the trail.

Along the route, your mind wanders and you get into the groove in line with your fellow thrill seekers. You snack occasionally and put on headphones during the grueling uphills to stay motivated. You take solace in conquering small peaks just to see the never ending trail weave in and out of even more summits in the distance. The weather changes frequently, so we get the true experience of how rugged and self sufficient the natives had to become in this unforgiving wilderness.

Upon sight of camp nightly, we collectively let out a sigh of relief and escaped from our hiking boots ASAP. Our tents gave some relief to the relentless winds and we all huddled into the eating tent to reminisce about our day and chow down. Meals typically consisted of rice, bread, eggs, meat, noodles – lots of protein and carbs to nourish our tired bodies after our average of 6-8 hours of trekking. The grand finale was hot chocolate and popcorn while playing cards.

Sleeping was hit or miss on the cold ground, while wearing most of the clothes in your bag for extra padding and warmth. It was always tricky after a downpour to dry out clothes for the following day.

One of the funniest moments still to this day in all of my travels was courtesy of a hilarious mate from Wales. She was using the outhouse (which is literally a hole in the ground) and happened to lose her camera in this raunchy pit. We heard her scream from a football field away and all came running. She had then concocted a huge retrieval stick and miraculously retrieved her prized possession. Most people would have probably let it go, but this was at the start of the digital camera phase in the early 2010s, prior to cell phone cameras being of any decent quality. So her storage cartridge was everything. The guides even gave her bags of rice to try to dry it out and salvage it. I don’t remember if it ever worked again, but I’ll never forget this running joke of the trip & all of us wanting to see her put that camera back up to her face!

On the night prior to reaching this elusive city in the clouds, we had to be ready to leave camp at 3:30am with our head lamps guiding the way so that we could reach the “Sun Gate” at sunrise. This spot affords travelers with the first far off glimpse of MP if you get lucky with weather (which is only favorable 30% of the time). We were not so fortunate, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention we had to conquer the “Gringo Killer”, which is a set of extremely steep steps built into the rock face, immediately prior to our stop. Whoa!

We arrive first to the ruins of all groups and see wild goats grazing all over and get set free to go explore all the crevices and walkways we can find. Half the day we get lost scaling walls and peering out from surreal archways. Fascinating is an understatement and without question it is in the top 10 places I have experienced in my lifetime.

Reluctantly, we hop on the short bus ride down the steep embankment to the small town of Aquas Calientes for an overnight stay. We eat local, grab massages and soak in the natural hot springs prior to boarding our express train back to Cuzco. What a ride!

Published by elliottcm

Love adventure travel, work hard & play hard, happy in both extremes - relaxing on a remote beach or rappelling down cliffs, take joy in simple things, love being on & near the water, visited 55 countries & 47 states so far in this crazy beautiful life! Goals by my 50th birthday - 50 states. 75 countries. 50 national parks. Be in Antarctica on my big day.

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