The mark I left on the Inca Trail.

Having survived emergency uplift in a plane courtesy of the dog on the runway, being locked in a coach toilet for 4 hours travelling through the mountains of Bolivia when the flush was broken, a 14 hour flight sat behind the world’s most annoying brat and the ferry crossing from Wellington to Pico at a 5.30am storm and a sensational hangover, the though walking the Inca Trail would be a relative breeze.

I had trained to walk up hills, loaded up on the meat rice and chips standard food offering for the previous 2 weeks so as I stood at the start of the infamous journey and grinned for the camera, I was ready to get started.

The first day was warm, picturesque and the 12 of us in our group were in good spirits. Lunch came quickly and was all in all a pleasant experience until our co-guide ripped the door off the toilet as I was in full squatted position. Apparently being locked is not the adequate sign of ‘in-use’ that it once was.

By the end of Day 1 and the morning of Day 2 it had become apparent we had some serious fitness fanatics in our group. Who wouldn’t want to walk further and faster every day? So the paced picked up Dead Woman’s Pass, legs started to tremble until some well-earnt respite in the form of Ninja poses at the top. The top, being the appropriate word here. Who trained to walk down a cliff? Certainly not me, and nor did I appreciate how quickly this leg ache would start setting in.

As the porters clapped us in to camp after day 2 and we smiled to acknowledge their friendly and unknowingly patronising gesture, a tent has never looked so appealing. Surrounded by a dark and earthy green, we had walked an additional 3 hours in order to get to this beauty spot and, well, as a crumbled into my tent, it was worth it. Also worth it to know that at this time the following day I would be arriving at a hotel in Aquas Caliente.

An early night had by all, I slowly started to drift off until this sudden, dreaded and distant familiar feeling came over me. I reached for the Colca sweets “guaranteed to warn off altitude sickness”. A load of rubbish. As a lifted myself onto my ruined legs I made it out of the tent in order to projectile vomit and not 1 but 2 other tents as a ‘sprinted’ towards the toilet block.

The next 4 hours and 22 minutes were spent in a cold, mud ridden cubicle with my head bent over a hole until my wonderful friend came to escort me back to the warmth of the breakfast tent. My protestations to not eat anything were overruled by the whole group who insisted the best thing for me at this stage was to drink a cup of hot water with a celery stick in it.

Final day and morning heated discussion/lecture as we walked on the importance of conservation of the trail and surrounding area and how we humans litter, leave our presence and cause damage to the area. All very poignant to the sound of heaving in the bush at the back, courtesy of the celery water.

I saw virtually nothing of the landscape on the final day, crashing for a sleep at lunchtime and taking every step one by one. 8 hours after we started that morning I looked up at the Sungate. “We arrived!” exclaimed our guide. Up the ridiculously steep steps to look out over one of the world’s most incredible landmarks.

Except we hadn’t arrived. There was still a 40 minute walk to get to Macchu Picchu……….

Was it worth the public humiliation, insane stomach cramps and legache? As the doctor sat me down and chuckled as he diagnose me with Salmonella, I thought, yes, I would probably do it all over again.

C Bennett

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