We survived our Inca Trail hike! We were up before the birds to meet our guide, Hector, for our trek and soon were on our way to catch the train to take us to the start of our hike. It was so cool in the morning, we were all shivering at breakfast and through the wait for our delayed train. Once on the train, we had a very scenic trip before the train stopped in the middle of nowhere and we got going!
After going down a little path and over a bridge, we got to our starting point Where we got our passports stamped, stopped for a bathroom break and headed off. We came across our first Incan ruins almost right away, which was a nice way to start the hike. Hector pointed out where we'd be having breakfast and off we went. We seemed to make pretty good time despite stopping frequently to make sure we were hydrated and to capture all the scenery. We had blazing sun for most of the pre-lunch portion but did get a bit of rain right before lunch. The trail was both easier and harder than expected. We were hiking up more than I would have preferred (but to be fair, we were climbing a mountain) but the trail itself wasn't as uneven or rugged as I thought it would be. We quickly learned the difference between flat and "Inca flat" and let me tell you - there wasn't a lot of flat. There were a couple of shelters built along the way which made great places for snacks and longer breaks out of the sun. We certainly earned our lunch, climbing from about 2200m to 2600m in just over three hours. Lunch was right after reaching Winay Wayna and man, it was the best lunch ever.
After that, it was fairly flat for another hour or so to reach Sun Gate where we got our first view Machu Picchu. It was pretty spectacular. Then, we got to start heading downhill into Machu Picchu which was a nice change from climbing but challenging in its own way. Once at Machu Picchu, we hiked down to Aguas Calientes, reaching the town just after the sun went down. Then it was over to our hotel for hot showers, dinner and bedtime.
It rained through the night which meant our morning was pretty dreary. We went back up to Machu Picchu for our tour and our hike up Huayna Picchu. Hector guided us around and we watched the fog roll in and out of the mountains. It burned off in time for our hike Huayna Picchu, which we did in just under an hour. It was no Inca Trail - rough, steep steps that would have been near impossible without the cables that had been bolted into the mountain. It was totally worth it though. The view from 200m above Machu Picchu and over the entire valley from the top of the mountain was in-freaking-credible.
Then, it was back down the mountain and back to Aguas Calientes to have lunch and catch our train and bus back to Cusco. Once back, we had time for dinner before heading to the bus station for our overnight bus to Puno where we are now waiting for our tour to start for Lake Titicaca.