When my roommate and I booked our trip with Inca Trail Reservations to Cuzco to do the four-day, three-night trek along the Inca Trail to visit the archeological ruins of the ancient city of Machu Picchu, I had only a vague idea of how hard it might be. I have trekked and camped before and I knew from friends’ accounts that the experience would be “life-changing,” but of course we don’t ever truly understand something until we are experiencing it firsthand.
We arrived in Cuzco after ten hours of overnight travel and after spending almost the entire first day adjusting to the extreme shift in altitude, we met our tour group and amazing guide, Ramiro, that evening at orientation. We immediately felt a comforting energy among our fellow adventurers and we knew we were about to experience something magical.
Over the course of the next five days, we became a family that supported each other and loved and laughed together. That five-day trek through the Andean mountains along the ancient Inca Trail was the most difficult physical, mental, and emotional challenge I have ever overcome. Ever.
Each staff member who supported us along the way created a magical experience for each of us in our group. The food was amazing, and the porters were inspirational. They practically ran the whole way with a MOUNTAIN of luggage and supplies on their backs, often in sandals, in rain and over slippery, steep rocks, in time to set up camp for everyone and make a BOMB meal. I was in absolute awe.
We spent four days day climbing over 10,000 harrowing stairs and descending steep and narrow pathways alongside terrifying cliffs, but Day Two still stands out in my mind as the day when I truly felt deep in my heart and soul (and joints!) the power within and around me—in each of my companions, in my own strength, in the history below my feet, and in the natural world surrounding me. We passed along ancient Incan archeological ruins and learned about the intricate and tragic history of one of the most advanced civilizations in all of human history. We learned what true friendship was when we each found comfort in seeing the others’ hiking boots steadily taking steps in front of us. We became friends with familiar faces along the journey, encouraging one another to keep going and sharing in laughter and joy at every turn.
The morning we reached Machu Picchu was truly and utterly beyond words. My legs somehow found an energy motivated by sheer adrenaline and anticipation, and my lung capacity had greatly increased from the previous three days of non-stop uphill climbing. When I took the last steps into the opening of Sun Gate, I couldn’t stop the quiet, joyous fit of tears. This experience truly changed me. Thank you so much—beyond words—for creating this unforgettable memory for me.