It feels like a long time ago that I was in Peru. I’ve been meaning to write about my time on the Inca Trail for a while – however, it such an amazing experience I’ve stuggling put down into words. When GiffGaff recently contacted me with their new We’re All the Boss campaign, I knew this would be my perfect opportunity to finally blog about it. GiffGaff have asked me and some other lovely bloggers to write about a time we have proved we are ‘the boss’ by taking charge of our lives and doing something inspiring that pushes ourselves out of our comfort zone. For me, The Inca Trail did all of those things.
The Inca Trail for anyone is a massive challenge. The trek, which is carved into steep mountains is an ancient path, followed by the Inca’s hundreds of years ago to Machu Picchu. It is a highly sacred path, used only by the highest ranking or spiritual members of the community, with some of the world’s most spectacular, breathtaking scenery – it was a real honour to be able to do it. As the trail is at high altitude, (with some parts over 4000m above sea level) there is a risk of altitude sickness, as well the physical challenge on your body as the air is so thin, it makes breathing and trekking really hard.
If you have been following my blog for a long time now, you will know that this time last year I was suddenly taken down with a terrible illness. I had chest pains and asthma so sensitive I could barely walk a step. It was a really difficult time, I had to stop working and had to stay in the house for a couple of months to recover. They never really got to the bottom of what was wrong with me, but going from a fitness freak who went daily to the gym to not being able to breath or walk was so scary. I was terrified I wouldn’t recover and have worked really hard on getting my fitness back up.
With this in mind, when I booked my trip to Peru (on a spur of the moment!) I decided to sign up for the Inca Trail without thinking about it too much. The altitude terrified me and the thought of those narrow pathways and crooked steps sent shivers down my spine, but I wanted to prove to myself that I was better and can recover from anything. I knew it would be a huge challenge, not only physically but mentally too.
As the trek loomed I became increasingly nervous as I wondered how my body would react to the severe conditions, but I tried not to think about it. We were having such an amazing time in Peru for one of the first times I tried to take everything in my stride and enjoy each new experience without letting fears or doubts hold me back. Before we knew it, it was time to start the trek.
The first day of the trail was nice and easy, I thought at this point I’d been worrying for nothing! We were all buzzing with excitement, it was a lot of fun, we had lovely food and even had a beer or two at the campsite, and settled into our tent for the night which overlooked breathtaking mountains and glaciers for our first night sleeping outdoors in The Andes.
At the start line | Getting comfy in our tents for the first night
The view of glaciers from our tent | First day trekking
No wonder day one was so easy, as day two was the toughest physical challenge I have ever faced. Our day started at 6am with a five hour steep incline trek up to over 4000m above sea level, this part of the trail is called ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’. I would love to tell you I found it easy, but on the second day I really, really struggled. The air was so thin I could only take 3 or 4 steps without having to stop to catch my breath. Around halfway up mild chest pains started to set in and my lips went blue, however we had come this far I was determined to go on. We took it step by step and in our own time made it up the mountain together. Finally after five hours of continuous steps, we reached the Dead Woman’s Pass and it was the best feeling in the world – everyone clapped as we came in -it was an amazing moment! Luckily, the rest of the day was downhill, phew!
We walked all the way from the very bottom of this valley
Finally going downhill | Looking pale at the top, but so happy to have made it!
Day Three was a really interesting day, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. The pathway headed down the mountains and into a jungle area, called the Cloud Forest. Think tomb-raider style hidden pathways through caves and down circular stairways carved into the mountain, winding through the clouds. Unfortunately it rained all day, but as we were on the move all day we didn’t mind too much as it kept us cool. Our team of porters even baked us a cake at lunch time (in a kitchen tent, how impressive?) to cheer us up – cake aways makes everything better and certainly gave me a boost for the rest of the afternoon. I found day three hard as the steps were so wet and slippery. At some parts the pathway was so steep, I felt if I slipped I would go straight over the edge. Some bits were terrifyingly high, my knees turned to jelly, but we had to just keep on going. I had come this far!
Navigating steep, uneven steps for a whole day
Rain Ponchos | Celebrating finishing day three at the campsite
Our guide Percy who helped me when I was scared | Walking above the clouds
Our amazing team of porters who clapped as we came in | A cake for the ‘Sexy Llamas’ team
Joining the porters to chefs in the kitchen tent to help cook and teach them about pop music
Day Four was our final day. We were up at 3am to do the final and most sacred part of the Inca Trail. We were up early to be at the Sun Gate that overlooks Machu Picchu as the sun rises behind the mountains which is one of the most famous sites in the world. It was one of the most amazing, magical moments of my life. I decided I had struggled with the rest of the trail, my chest problems and my fears got in the way, so on the last day I decided I would push myself to my limits and be at the front of the group and help get us to the Sun gate in time. We had to practically run for around 50 minutes in the dark, with head torches on. I knew the sides of the path was steep but I didn’t think about it, I kept going and keeping my eyes on the prize. At the end of the trail there are some steps called ‘The Gringo Killer’ – which were vertical. You use your hands and just pull yourself up. I didn’t even think about it and just went for it. At the top was the best view in the world and made the whole four days of trekking, pain, camping and no showers totally worth it.
Macchu Picchu from the Sun Gate at about 6am – WE MADE IT!
Beer and a Cookie at 7am | Breathing in the amazing scenery
Llama’s to greet us | Sitting down again!
I DID IT!
I took charge of my own life, pushed myself out of my comfort zone and completed something I thought I would never do, and it felt amazing. It really taught me that if I put my mind to something I am a lot stronger than I think I am. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion when I saw Macchu Picchu at the end of a long four days trekking, it made it all worth it. I am so glad I did the Inca Trail, it’ll be an experience I’ll remember for a lifetime.