When I first arrived in Peru, my plans were refreshingly spontaneous. Besides booking my flights to and from Lima and the subsequent flight to Cusco, I had only secured a single night’s stay at a hostel. With no concrete itinerary in mind, I was free to let my journey unfold naturally.
A Fortuitous Discovery
Upon my arrival in Lima at 8:00 pm, I had a mere 12 hours before my flight to Cusco. I decided to utilize this time by inquiring at my hostel about the famed Inca Trail. To my surprise, the owner helped me secure a spot on a tour set to commence the day after my arrival in Cusco. This stroke of luck was quite unusual, as booking the Inca Trail typically requires significant advance planning. Nevertheless, I found myself with a confirmed spot, and within two days, I was standing at the trailhead, ready to embark on an adventure that had been on my bucket list.
Expectations and Realities
I must admit that my expectations were not exceedingly high from the outset. I was aware that the Inca Trail is a highly touristy route, attracting individuals from all walks of life, including those who had never experienced camping in a tent. As the journey began, my group consisted of seven individuals, including a German, American, and French couple. The American couple encountered health issues from the very first day, likely due to altitude sickness. Surprisingly, I, too, had not acclimatized, but I felt remarkably well.
As the trek unfolded, it became apparent that my group’s pace was considerably slower than I was accustomed to. This prompted me to approach the tour guide and request permission to walk independently. He agreed, under the condition that I would meet the group at designated lunch and rest spots. This arrangement allowed me to explore at my own pace and, in many instances, join a more youthful and agile group led by another guide.
Walking with two different groups also exposed me to a wealth of information from both guides, often with contradictory insights. This provided ample fodder for intriguing discussions. While the trail did lead us past numerous Inca ruins, my focus at the time was primarily on the landscape, not the cultural aspects.
In terms of the scenery, the Inca Trail left me with mixed feelings. I had anticipated a pristine, awe-inspiring environment, but the trail appeared less pristine than expected. Perhaps my critical eye was due to my slightly subdued mood during the hike. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but notice some litter along the way, which was surprising given the trail’s fame.
Machu Picchu’s Revelation
Ultimately, our journey culminated at the world-renowned Machu Picchu. While the ancient citadel undeniably had an impressive presence, it didn’t overwhelm me as I had imagined. Its relatively young age of just over 500 years, when compared to historical sites in Europe, tempered my awe. Nevertheless, the sheer audacity of constructing such a marvel in such a remote location with limited resources struck me as nothing short of incredible. Also, to mention here is that it is forbidden to do the handstand on Machu Picchu this brought me and my guide in real trouble there. After a long argument with the park rangers, we agreed that I can keep my smartphone but that I have to delete the photo, but happily I was able to restore it again :).
In the end, my trek along the Inca Trail was an experience that left me with a myriad of impressions. While it may not have fully met my initial expectations, it was an experience that allowed me to appreciate the marvels of ancient engineering and the enchanting landscapes of Peru.
For the all-inclusive trek (food, tent, porters for food, tent and sleeping mat), I paid 700US dollar (The sleeping bag, which I brought with me, I had to transport myself. I think in a lot of other offers you find in the internet they also pick this for you). In the end, our group decided anyway that each of us gives a tip of 150 soles to the porters and the cook, since it made the impression that they were very badly paid for what they do.