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Inca Trail: Machu Picchu

  Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world.  Visited by 1.5 million visitors each year, people from all over the world travel great distances by plane, train and then bus to be here.  Many are checking off bucket lists.   During the week before hiking the Inca Trail, we talked to an older couple from Canada who had just returned from their hike.  We asked whether the journey to Machu Picchu had been worth it?  The guy laughed and said that the Inca Trail was amazing but not to fall in love with the idea that Machu Picchu was going to be some kind of climax to the hike.   "It's amazing, don't get me wrong," he said.  "But it doesn't compare to the hike itself."   We didn't really understand until we were standing at Machu Picchu.  In many ways, it wasn't different from the other ruins that we had seen:  just on a grander scale.  It did have a more colorful name.  Machu Picchu translates to "Old Penis." Most people in the U.S

Inca Trail: Descent from Dead Woman's Pass

Feeling like we had done the hard work for the day, we started descending from Dead Woman's Pass just before noon.  Earlier in the day, Freddy made the strategic decision to delay lunch to our final camp down below in the valley.  

The path down started out at a gradual grade.

Then the weather started to change.  Clouds quickly covered the pass, and a light rain began to fall, creating slippery conditions.

The trail turned into an alternating set of gradual downward grades, which Freddy called "ramps," and steep stairs.

Serious Focus

In the above photo, you can see that G is hiking on his own with Freddy and P bringing up the rear.  G soon passed Julia and started attacking the stairs more aggressively.

We were almost to our camp just past this bridge when G went down hard and did not get back up, screaming in pain.  My first thought was that he had broken something and that it was G, not P, who was going to need to be evacuated.  

G was writhing in pain and grabbing at his ankle.  Freddy arrived with P within a few minutes of the fall.  Freddy and P helped to get G's shoe off and then nearby porters carried him to the closest camp, where they prepared an herb-infused bath to soak G's foot and ankle.  

Our own camp was just around the next bend, so Julia and I continued on, wondering what was going to happen if G was unable to complete the hike.  Paul showed up at our camp shortly thereafter ad informed us that this was a chronic problem for G, having sprained that ankle several times before.  On these prior occasions, G's recovery had been  fairly quick, but Paul was worried because the next day's hike was over ten miles--our longest day but over relatively flat to descending terrain.  

It was a somber afternoon.  By supper time, G was gingerly walking around with one shoe and one sock. He said that he felt much better after the soak.  G quickly dismissed the idea that he wasn't going to be able to finish the hike.  "I'll be fine tomorrow," he promised.  "I've dealt with this a bunch of times."

That night's camp was more spartan than the night before.  Our water came from upstream.  The toilets did not have seats, and it was pretty obvious from the smell that the discharge was downstream.  Some of the camps were right next to the toilet, and we were very glad that our porters had chosen a narrow, flat ledge further away.

Everyone was present for dinner.  P was feeling much better, and his appetite was back.  G was still hobbling around, but his spirits were high.  We were cautiously optimistic about the next day, which would be the final full day of hiking.

Three of our porters in background


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