Yeah, I must admit. I puked on some 5,000 year old trail stones but I could not help myself because I got altitude sickness while hiking on the Inca Trail up in the Andes Mountains of Peru. I might have damaged some part of the trail with my vomit but I figured I was not the first, nor the last person to do so. What was I supposed to do when I’m hiking steadily from 6,000 feet onwards to the high point of 13,000 feet? But I was determined to finish out the trail on my own with my backpack on (my guide offered help to carry my bag but I refused) and eventually get to the end goal which was Machu Picchu itself. I wish I took a picture of myself hurling but I figure it might not have been a great sight. I’m sure no one wants to see that anyways but I had no idea I would do it…
Thanks to the previous days of looking around at different Incan sites which allowed me to acclimate to higher altitudes, I felt like I could take on the challenge of the Inca Trail. I didn’t feel this higher elevation probably because I was already in great shape as my body was already used to the rigors of a physical life. Now you must realize that the Incan Trail is actually very long but the most popular of them all is doing the 4 day hike which was what I did. Also, depending on how the tours and arrangements are done, you might also get some hiking companions to go along with you. But here’s a map showing around Machu Picchu and Cusco, the city most travelers fly into:
You first start off on a bus ride from Cusco to Piscacucho where you will go with your guide and porters to the entrance. Depending on what tour you did, you might be able to leave your additional, unnecessary items at the hotel for safe-keeping.
It’s vastly important that you have the guide and your passport with you at the Inca Trail entrance as the Peruvian government considers this area sacred and it is a major money producer for its historical importance. Don’t do anything stupid and listen to the porter otherwise you might find yourself in jail and maybe on the news. My journey that I selected was going to take 4 days, 3 nights. I carried everything except for the food and tents. The porters carried all of that as it is part of their service. It’s actually interesting to see these stringy, but tough-as-nails men who stand at about 5 feet, maybe 5’2”, carrying over 100 pounds of gear with ease. I was always amazed by these guys and their incredible stamina.
The first day was considered to be the easy day as it was a slight, easy up-hill slope going on the trail. No problems. I saw a lot of amazing Incan ruins along the way which to me was like getting served appetizers before the main course of the meal. My guide stopped at certain points and explained to us certain areas of importance as well as any kind of history that came with it. Like I said, it was a very easy walk and I got to know my hiking companions well. 2 of them were from Holland and the other 2 were from the Ohio, USA. We had a lot of fun telling stories and cracking jokes which made the entire day enjoyable and even the night time was fun since there was a fire along with a great dinner to greet us with. It was all fun and games until hell came down the next day.
The next day was a more difficult hike; a very difficult hike to say the least. Length-wise, it was the same as the day before. Only problem was that the hiking went up higher and higher in altitude with steeper slopes making it more difficult to breathe, resulting in a harder time to hike. The hiking got so bad for me that I had to go in spurts of hiking for 1 minute, rest for 2 minutes, and then do it again repeatedly in that cycle. The entire time I could feel in my lungs and guts the impact of being pressured, probably because of the higher altitude. I felt like gasping for air with every step of the way and at times I felt like dying. But you know what? I kept at it and eventually crawled my way to the highest peak of the trail at 13,000 feet.
One of the guys brought a bottle of Coke and we all drank from it to celebrate our climb. In fact, you can see the empty bottle in the picture here. Best Coke I ever had in my life.
Shortly afterwards, we climbed down several hundred feet since this part of the hike was downhill and then I puked. It was all black and liquid. Oof. Not a pretty sight. Obviously, I had altitude sickness. My guide asked if he could take my backpack because he could see I was hurting. But I refused. Even an Argentinean couple asked me if I was alright and if I needed assistance but I still refused. I was adamant about doing this entire 4 day hike on my own so I pressed on and puked a few times continuing on. I could see that other people were worried about me and yet, amazed that I could push on by myself. Once we got to our campsite and that I could see that the tents were already up, I immediately got in one of the tents, got out my sleeping bag, and passed out right then and there. I had a rough time but it felt a lot better to relax lying down and getting my equilibrium back into place. But it was not over. Later that night was one of the worst nights of my life. Every hour or so during the middle of the night I had to get up because I had the shits all night, thanks to the altitude sickness. The higher elevation was causing me to have digestive problems where I had to walk 200 meters to get to the bathroom and back. Gosh, that really sucked. The only good thing I learned about this whole thing was not to push it too much in high altitude settings despite able to do it at sea level. That’s the big lesson learned: take it easy on this trip!
The next day was more peaceful as my hiking group went downhill and then some uphills but overall, it was easier to hike. I did not have any digestive problems thankfully and the sights of seeing everything were simply amazing. I remember looking back at the 13,000 foot mark and realized that I could died from internal bleeding possibly. Oh well…
All I had to do is continue on and saw even more Incan ruins all around with our guide explaining certain sites and how even now, the Peruvian government was continuing to find more Incan sites to this day. I thought the best part about this day was seeing this fortress which I have pictures of below.
There was this other fortress that we came across and we all agreed to climb to the top and take a good look around since we were there.
The last night was probably the best night as our campsite had hot showers and beers available! MP was only a day away and seeing civilization’s comforts like running hot water and electricity were nice to see again. A hot shower and a cold beer were blissful as it helped to re-energize me. This site also happened to be the last time you’ll see the porters because their trip ends at that place. My hiking companions and I decided to reward them with beers and some tips to appreciate their services in getting tents set up, the food cooked, and making sure everything was prepared properly. After a good night’s rest, we ended up waking up early and waited at the entrance of the trail. Apparently, nobody is allowed on the trail until a certain time because of security and safety issues. Man, I couldn’t believe the long line of people standing there just waiting to get on the trail and get to MP first. There was this animosity feeling in the air where line-cutting would result in a fist fight. But the good thing was that gates opened and we started hiking again. Because all of us were in good condition, we all went on a faster speed where we ended up running the entire course and bypassing people. I thought it was funny seeing these glares of “how dare you pass me to see Machu Picchu before I do?!” looks when we passed them. After a good time of hiking, my guide pointed out where MP was. As we got closer and closer, I could see a better glimpse of it and finally I see it amongst the clouds as seen below.
I finally saw it. There it was. The goal. But it didn’t do anything good for me unless I could touch it. After days of hiking and some puking, I made it. Sweat and vomit and all. The site itself was breath-taking. Amazing sight that I believe everyone in their lives should undertake the trip to go see. After walking around on MP for awhile, I was stunned on how people back in the past could push these stones on top of a mountain and somehow configure them into the shape of a fortress. Yes, there are theories of aliens and/or special technology existed, but if it was pure human muscle, then damn, that is a feat that people today would be able to do without technology to help them.
People especially my friends still wonder why I took this painful route instead of taking the easy way of getting a guide, going on a train, get on a bus afterwards, and then see the World Wonder. Forget it. I’m not into that crap. What crap? The path of least resistance. If it were easy to obtain, it would be not regarded as been worthy. Just look at the difference between a $500 car and a $500,000 car. The more expensive one is regarded as more worthy and valuable not just because of the price but it was harder to obtain and perceived to be more difficult to just get, let alone just looking at it. Just think of all the pain someone had to go through to get it. Now that’s a prize after a lot of hard work. So in essence I did the same by taking this longer, harder route. I found the experience to be of more spiritual value where I still remember to this day how I climbed to the top, walked each step with increasingly difficulty, and finally achieving the goal. I talk about this accomplishment with great detail to everyone who is interested even though I get that look of “what in the world were you thinking?” Yeah, I get that from most of my friends who thought I was crazy to do this but in the end, I thought my friends were the crazy ones for never pushing themselves and never going anywhere because pain and struggle were involved. It’s the adventure that sticks with you for life that was worth the trip.
Down below is the contact info of the travel agency I used to go on this Peruvian trip where I ended up taking one of the package deals. Yes, it is true that you can get cheaper deals down in Peru but to me, I didn’t want to do the research for every little trip in the package only to save a few hundred bucks. It was worth it to me to have them arrange all the logistics for me.