That's pretty much how I think I survived this hike. It sounds a little more nefarious than it actually is though. Coca leaves are the raw substance from which cocaine is derived but there is a whole series of drug like making stuff that has to happen before it becomes the white snow that is the bane of drug enforcement everywhere. In Peru, Coca leaves are commonly used to make tea, of which we drank copious amounts, and to roll up into wads of chewable little lumps that are given out by the bagful by guides on the Inca Trail. Our guide, who had a mouth full of pearly whites, also bragged about how good they are for your teeth!
|Contrast of what Machu Picchu looked like|
for Hiram Bingham and for us!
|Flattered but a bit dubious!|
Although I was flattered, I became a little concerned when my oldest daughter commented that they probably did this because they didn't want old people like me dropping dead on the trail. Honestly, I think she has a very inflated sense of my actual age! Since the price with this company was about half of all the others I researched, I decided to throw caution to the wind and hope for the best!
|Ready to start at KM 104|
|First stop - Chachabamba Ruins|
Since I had only met Elmer once, and that was when I was half asleep and it was the middle of the night, I was a bit skeptical about this whole plan and when the train stopped in basically the middle of nowhere to deposit us at the side of the tracks I was even a bit more nervous. We literally jumped from the train and were overjoyed to see Elmer, our trusty guide, waiting for us! We headed to the check in where our papers were examined and stamped, we had our last use of an indoor lavatory, and received some last minute
|Just starting out!|
The physical exertion is one issue but the narrowness of the trail
|Beautiful views but narrow trails.|
The hike itself took us up two different mountain peaks with glorious vistas and scenery. We made it to the first set of ruins, Winay Wayna and were forced to walk to the top of a very long staircase where Elmer gave us a bit of a lesson about the ancient
culture. Now, I'm not saying Elmer deceived us but I'm pretty sure he had promised lunch at this stop so I was rather disappointed when he made us continue walking. We passed the campsite where the four day campers hang out before heading on to Machu Picchu in the wee hours of the morning and still continued walking. At this point, I was definitely having a few issues breathing (goodness knows what I would have been like without the altitude meds I took prophylactically and my trusty coca leaves which I was chomping as if my life depended on them) and I should note that my trusty companions, anxious to reach the lunch site I suppose, abandoned me as they trekked ahead. So much for looking out for the weak one in the group!
|View of Winay Wayna from a distance|
|View from Winay Wayna|
We did finally stop for lunch and believe me, empanadas and passion fruit have never tasted so good! With assurances from Elmer that it wasn't much further (but who could believe Elmer at this point) we donned our backpacks and carried on. At one particularly steep section Elmer told us that three years previously, a young Argentinian girl was so engrossed with snapping photos that she fell over the edge and sadly died. Point noted...no more selfies. I asked if some hikers just gave up and couldn't do the hike. We had seen a couple of women earlier who definitely were
|Just taking a little rest.|
|Not too impressed right now.|
This was probably one of the most difficult things, physically, I had ever done in my life, but that also made it the most rewarding. So if you are somewhat cardio challenged, like me, and doubt that you can hike the trail...just go for it. It is most definitely worth the effort!