It takes four days to trek the Inca trail to the lost city of Macchu Picchu. The only water available to wash is ice cold, it rains most of the time in summer, it is cold sleeping under a tent at altitude, not to mention the blisters on my feet and aches in my knees. Yet I would not have missed it for all the Inca gold. Maybe you had to be there.
Or maybe it was the vistas of the snowy peaks, the exhilaration of climbing 4,000ft to the 15,000ft high “dead women pass” (or the relief of not being one of those dead women), the glimpse of a humming bird drinking a flower’s nectar, the wild orchids in their natural environment in the cloud forest, the Inca cities with pretty names such as “Forever Young” (Winay Wayna) or “Town above the Clouds” (Phuyupatamarca) along the way.
The last day began with an early rise at 4am to make it to Intipunku, the Sun Gate, by 7am. We sat there for a few minutes as the sun rose, but all we could see was fog. All of a sudden, the mist released its grasp and Macchu Picchu appeared in all its splendor and mystery, inviting us to walk the last hour to meet it. By 10am, when the first bus arrived loaded with day trippers, Macchu Picchu had shrouded itself in mist again.
I completed my journey back in time with a visit to Cusco, the historical Inca capital. The Inca Museum is a good place to explore the lost civilization. The richly decorated artifacts bring to life the ingenuity of the Incas, while the mummies remind us of their sometimes gruesome death. When the Spaniards arrived in Peru in the 16th century, they rode horses, carried armor and firearms and brought writing and a new civilization. But the Inca walls are still standing in Cusco, whilst the Spaniards had to rebuild everything after each earthquake.
I am not the only French person staying in my hotel, one of my fellow countrymen is renting a room here too. When he asked at the reception if the French girl was around, they replied “the one who is white?” No-one seems to appreciate that I have acquired a tan since I first arrived in Peru!