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TRAVELING THE INKA TRAIL, 4 DAY TREK TO MACHU PICCHU PART 1

Hey guys, Brent here. This week features part one of my two part adventure series covering my journey to Machu Picchu. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy!

The Inkas had it right. They worshipped mother nature. Heaven wasn’t a place up in the clouds. For them, it was in every mountain, flower, tree and blade of grass. The Inkas studied the stars and could determine when the rainy season would arrive and what needed to be done for the harvest which helped develop a rich and prosperous civilization.

 

Travel Tuesday- Brent Dawes Machu Picchu

Travel Tuesday- Brent Dawes Machu Picchu

For the next 4 days, I had the chance to see what remained along the Inka Trail, 500 years after the Spanish arrived. The first day, I was pushed physically trekking over 2 mountain passes. The 2nd morning  I was over 13000 feet above sea level at Dead Women’s Pass in the Andes and knew after lunch the second pass would bring us into the high altitude Amazon jungle.  I was pushed to the limit and this trek was unlike anything I’ve done before.

The night before the trek  our guide Marco briefed us on what to expect each day and I was able to meet the 16 trekkers! This included  Canadians, Americans, Aussies, and couple guys from Pakistan. Marco explained that tomorrow morning the bus would leave from the square in Cuzco at 4:30am and our journey would begin….
The Trek consisted of 16 trekers and team of 21 porters plus a chef, the porters carry all the tents and camping gear and a small duffle bag for each of us. The rangers were quite strict that each porter could carry 25kilos max. This meant that us trekkers only had to carry a day pack. The porters were machines, they wore red uniforms so we called them the Red Army. They would trek ahead setting up at the lunch and when we would arrive at the campsite all our tents and the big dinning tent would be set up with the chef busy preparing dinner. They were amazing, I don’t know how they did it.

Travel Tuesday - Brent Dawes Machu Picchu 1

Travel Tuesday – Brent Dawes Machu Picchu 1

Day 1: We covered about 14kms and gained about 1900ft in elevation. We walked along and the scenery through the Andes was breathtaking. The mountain range gave me the same feeling  during the trek that I have in the Canadian Rockies. The concept that in all of this, I am about as big as a grain of sand. It always makes me smile and gives me a deeper appreciation of our planet. In the morning, we came across our first Inka ruins. We stopped and Marco passionately shared his knowledge of the Inkas people who built temples and places to study the stars and agriculture. The king Pachacuti was considered the most influential credited for expanding the culture all over South America. He had a plan : to move up! The Inkas were moving up literally higher and higher into the mountains that they worshiped. The sites had rows of terraces built along the side of the mountain. The Inkas integrated their structures  and lives into the mountain.

Travel Tuesday- Brent Dawes Machu Picchu 2

Travel Tuesday- Brent Dawes Machu Picchu

Throughout my trek  the food was incredible with every meal having multiple courses. All meals were served family style on large platters. We sat in the big tent and chatted about the trek. Our group was diverse but we all felt comfortable right away. We were strangers 12 hours ago but now we were sharing an experience like no other.

Travel Tuesday- Brent Dawes Machu Picchu 3

Travel Tuesday- Brent Dawes Machu Picchu

Day two: It’s 5:30am and a couple porters knocked at my tent with mugs of hot cocoa. A couple minutes later there was a basin with hot water and a cloth placed outside the tent. We gathered our stuff rolled up our sleeping bags and made our way for breakfast. Morning crepes with fruit, scrambled eggs, bread and jam. It’s so early that breakfast is mostly a blur! On Day 2 we covered two mountain passes. It was very intense. It made the Grouse Grind in Vancouver look like a cake walk. Everyone went at their own pace but we gathered at the top of the first Dead Women’s Pass (4200m/13779ft)  When I made it to the top the few ahead of me cheered me on as I breathlessly forced my legs to take the final steps. It was an accomplishment! I have been walking 4 hours on a straight incline. Maybe the altitude was getting to us! We took crazy photos and tried to stay warm.

Travel Tuesday- Brent Dawes Machu Picchu 4

Travel Tuesday- Brent Dawes Machu Picchu

During the climb I was so hot and sweaty but when I stopped and it was chilly fast. The rain came and the ponchos came out! It rained a lot  but we made it to lunch. Then we all set out for our second pass where we came across amazing ruins before we arrived at the campsite for the night. We had trekked 16kms, 2 Mountain passes and were now in what is considered High Altitude Amazon jungle. Definitely different vegetation from where we woke up in the morning. After dinner Marco started talking about the many mysteries surrounding the Inkas. The Inkan symbol for knowledge was the snake and the astronomers were decorated with this symbols. When the Spanish invaded they viewed the snake as evil and destroyed anything and anyone connected to it. Because of this destruction all the knowledge of the Inkas was  lost forever. We may never know how they were able to understand what they did so long ago as the Inkas didn’t write. They used a Quipu which was a system of knots using llama or alpaca hair to spread information to each other. It was all very fascinating listening to Marco each day.  Historians are certain that Machu Picchu was a secret place for the king’s top astronomers and other important people. The Spanish never found it and were unable to destroy it. It was discovered in 1911 by American Hiram Bingham. He found hundreds of skeletons, almost all women. They think the princesses and other women were sent there from Cuzco when the Spanish invaded. The women weren’t farmers and knew nothing about agriculture and starved or died of yellow fever. Marco said there was an author who had a stupid theory that Machu Picchu was a whorehouse for the King and his top VIPs. I went to bed thinking If the Inkas didn’t write who actually knows?! How can we be certain? It was an amazing feeling to be walking in the footsteps of this mysterious culture.

Be sure to stay tuned next week for the second half of my trek to Machu Picchu –
Brent

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