Walking The Inca-Bahn

The Rocky, Rainy Road To Machu Picchu
Gorp.com
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Cusco, Peru
To most people, Machu Picchu is an ancient Inca city that has been hidden in the Peruvian jungle for centuries. To me, it's also the name of a three-color toxic drink served in Cusco bars that I tried for journalistic purposes (covering all angles of Machu Picchu) and that made me sick for two days, which delayed my trip on the Inca Trail.

Most tourists go to Machu Picchu by train and bus, a few by helicopter, but budget travelers usually opt for the four-day journey on foot. This 40K hike goes along the most popular Inca Trail. Popular with tourists, it was probably not nearly as popular in ancient Inca days.

Inca No. 1: Hey, guys, let's take the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu again.

Inca No. 2: Uh, I've got some stones to cut at the office.

Inca No. 3: The wife has got me knitting a poncho.

Inca No. 4: You know, this is the big virgin sacrifice week.

I wanted to go alone, but I discovered that renting a tent and a stove, buying food and paying for transport to and from the trail would cost me about $60. That's $10 more than going with a tour group, which included "information-providing guides" and "porters to carry the food and cook it." As much as I wanted to do it alone, and as much as I disliked the idea of other people carrying my gear, even if it was just the tent and food, my wallet got the better of me.

I was assured by the tour agency that there would only be 12 people in my group. At 6 a.m., I boarded the bus to the trailhead and found 20 others on board. Surely they were part of a separate group. I also noticed that we were being followed by a second busload of people. Surely they were going someplace else. Well, sure enough, there were 40 of us standing around at the trailhead, each having been promised a group smaller than 12. Efriam, head guide, symbolically divided us into three groups, each with a guide, then said that we would all walk together.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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