Sometimes it is about the journey, and sometimes it is about the destination. But sometimes, when you are
really lucky, it is about both. Our 4-day trek to the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu was wonderfully, delightfully
and completely about both.
      It was a spectacular journey. In the months leading up to this trek Jarrod and I focused on the actual ruins of
Machu Picchu. We did not give the trek too much thought. The idea of walking the path the Incas used to reach
Machu Picchu was alluring and seemed to be a terrific way to end our adventure of a lifetime. But the scenery along
the trail…we didn’t give it a second thought. Therefore we were blown away by the breathtaking diversity—from
stunning mountaintops to alpine tundras to foggy cloud forests. We both readily admit we would do this trek all
over again even if Machu Picchu didn’t lie in wait at the trail’s end. It’s that beautiful.
       The famous “Inca Trail” is actually
one of a few paths the Incas used to
access the hidden fortress of Machu
Picchu. Some of the path is still lined
with the original stones the Incas laid. I
stopped in my tracks several times to
fathom the fact that this roadway still
exists more than 500 years later. Along
the way we saw a handful of smaller
Incan ruins, from complete cities to
agricultural terraces. Each one
commanded an expansive view. For the
Incas it was more about the advantage
of being able to see what was
approaching. In today’s more peaceful
times these locations make for
gorgeous vistas. Overall the trail is not
Our campsite the second night. Above the clouds, below the mountain tops.
There's not a better place to be.
too strenuous, although the second day does involve climbing to 13,769 feet to reach “Dead Woman’s Pass”, the
highest point of the trek. Don’t you worry—I inquired as to the origins of the name of this pass well in advance of
arriving there. It is due to the fact that the ridge line of the mountains in this area resembles the profile of a
woman lying on her back. A woman because there is a slight peak near the upper chest level…if you catch my drift.
I was okay with that description, and we pressed on to Dead Woman’s Pass.
Erin hiking on the original stones laid by the Incas.
Alex, our guide, explaining the layout of the Inca empire.
       The last day of the hike starts out early, around 4 am. After a quick breakfast we hurried, hurried, hurried out
of the campsite to….wait, wait, wait. You have to wait in line for the checkpoint to open which gives you access to
the last part of the trail leading to the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu. The closer to the front of the line you are the
fewer people you will have to share the view from Sun Gate with. Our group made it fairly close to the front, and
we managed to pass a few more groups during the hour and a half hike to the Sun Gate. Keep in mind this is all
taking place before sunrise, since the purpose of all this craziness is to reach the Sun Gate and see the sun rise
over Machu Picchu. So the hour and a half hike in the dark is really funny. It is more of a speed walk competition,
as you don’t want anyone to pass you. Luckily our entire group was high on the competitive side so no one
minded the quick pace that we set which probably won us an arrival about 10 minutes in advance of the groups
behind us.
       From here the spectacular
journey transitions to the
spectacular destination. And the
destination lives up to its billing.
Machu Picchu is situated in such an
incredible location. It is perched on
a narrow ridge on heavily forested
slopes. It blew our minds to
imagine the manual labor involved
in reaching this site, not to
mention building the impressive
tructures that still stand today.
We snapped the obligatory picture
of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate
and crossed our fingers that the
photo turned out well. We then
headed down into the gates of
Machu Picchu to explore this
wonder. At this point I will pause
and give thanks to Alex, our guide
from Llama Path tours. Alex made
not only Machu Picchu, but the
entire hike along the Inca trail
come alive for us. He was
This is what we crawled out of our tent at 4am for! Well worth it.
intimately knowledgeable about each of the ruins we passed along the way. He would scout out the most
breathtaking spots to use as a classroom and then explain how this site fit into the overall web of the Inca’s
empire and what it was thought to have been used for. This is my kind of classroom! Once at Machu Picchu he led
us around to the major points of interest, such as the Intihuatana Stone which is believed to have been an
astronomic clock or calendar. After seeing the obligatory sites we were given the choice of leisurely meandering
around for another few hours, or climbing the mountain adjacent to Machu Picchu, named Wayna Picchu, which
involves a steep ascent of another 1180 feet. Did I mention our group was competitive? All of us made the climb.
In hindsight it was by far the most dangerous part of the trek. It is relatively steep, and there is only one way up.
That way up is also the way down, which leads to massive gridlock at the top. And the top is just an outcrop of
boulders (which do provide a stunning view of Machu Picchu below). Not very safe, but fun.
Jarrod and Erin at Machu Picchu
Jarrod on the very top of Wayna Picchu
      After clamoring down from Wayna Picchu we took a last sentimental stroll through the grounds of Machu
Picchu. For Jarrod and I, this was more than just saying goodbye to Machu Picchu. This was goodbye to our trip
around the world. Goodbye to 1
4 months of exploring new sights every day. Goodbye to 14 months of…well, you
get the idea. We tried not to focus on what we were leaving behind too much, and just enjoy the moment. It was
an incredible jouney and an incredible destination. And we will have incredible memories for the rest of our life.
Plus, we still have one more night at Emma’s house to look forward to.
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Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu