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Machu Picchu! Inca Trail Day 4
Written by Tina Sibley in August 2019

The day I finally completed the Inca Trail, went through the Sun Gate and arrived at Machu Picchu.

So - YES!!  A (formerly) fat old bird with high (now normal) blood pressure, a (minor) heart condition and a (former) fear of heights CAN indeed hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu!


Tuesday 27th August

After lying awake most of the night again, I was so pleased to finally hear the wake up call of ‘coca tea!’ After a quick wash and freshen up, it was time to vacate our tents for the last time (I was SO glad to say goodbye to the tent!)

At only 3.30 am it was too early for breakfast, so we were given a packed breakfast to eat along the way and we made our way to the checkpoint. Then, we waited at the shelter – it was such a long wait! The reason we had to be up so early was not just to join the queue, but to allow the porters to get the early 5.30am train back to Ollantaytambo after all their hard work.  

Finally, we were allowed through the checkpoint and began the trail. By now the first light was filtering through so we didn’t need our head torches any more. Today’s hike was much more gentle – only 6km and undulating – mostly downhill. 

However, as yesterday afternoon, there were some sections of the path that were very narrow with very steep, sheer drop offs to the side of them. The altitude was getting to Ben and he began having trouble with his vision, so was lagging behind. I also took my time and hung back because of the downhill sections and the very steep drops. I was behind the main party but ahead of Ben and Javier so often found myself walking the trail totally alone. These moments were very special as I was able to enjoy the solitude and reflect on the incredible experience I was having.

We were once again surrounded by spectacular mountain peaks and there was one smaller mountain in the middle that was really cute. I asked Javier what it was called and he told me it was known as the ‘happy mountain’. I thought that was so sweet. 

At one point, I came across a section of path that rounded a bend while the path got narrower and the drop at the side seemed even worse. I confess I waited for Ben and Javier so I wouldn’t have to tackle it alone. Javier helped me around this bit and I was grateful for his support as it was very daunting – although due to an optical illusion, not as bad as it first appeared. 

One of the obstacles we tackled this morning was the ‘monkey steps’. These were very steep sheer steps – thankfully upwards. Javier took my hiking poles from me and instructed me to take the steps on all fours using my arms and legs. This is where the steps get their name from as they couldn’t be walked up normally but had to be scaled like a monkey. 

Then it was back downhill, then more undulating until we finally got to the steps up to the Sun Gate. Once through the Sun Gate, we would see Machu Picchu for the first time. I didn’t rush this bit, wanting to savour it all and even paused for a photo of me looking back just before I went through the gate. 

Then I passed through the gate and saw the spectacle of Machu Picchu in the distance. I can’t adequately describe this vision or the feeling I had. 

This moment had been on the bucket list for many years and been everything I had been working towards for the last 8 months. The sacred ruins were sitting there in the sun and it was my own eyes that were seeing them, rather than the many pictures or videos that I had seen. Again, the emotions welled up and I shed a few tears of joy and wonder. 

I felt a great sense of pride as I realised that I’d done it! 

I had hiked the Inca Trail from start to finish – well – almost to finish as we still had about 45 minutes worth of hiking to get down to Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate. But the feeling of achievement was as special as the view that was in front of me. 

When I booked the trip, I really didn’t know if I could do it – the odds were certainly against me at that time. Many times I doubted myself and told myself I was crazy even attempting it. But the hard work, training and determination paid off. 


Then it was time for celebrations, hugs, high fives and photos and we stopped to have our breakfast while we enjoyed the spectacular site of Machu Picchu in the distance. It was a good call hanging back and being the last group through as there was nobody behind us to jostle us and keep us moving forwards. We were able to take it all in and enjoy every moment. 

Finally, it was time for the final leg down to Machu Picchu. Although very tired, adrenaline and excitement kept us going and we finally reached the ancient city of the Incas. The first thing we came across were terraces and more llamas and lots more people! 


We had now got to the part of the site where the tourists who came by train were walking around and there seemed to be hundreds of them! Then we got to the point where all the iconic photos are taken from and we took our turn for ‘THE PHOTO’! 

At this point, the main city was empty of people, as the guided tours had not yet begun, so the photo looks cool with the empty ruins behind us.  

Then we made our way down to the point where we could ditch our backpacks, visit the facilities and get ready for our guided tour.

One of the things that struck me as quite funny was that all the tourists who had come by train were fresh as daisies, wearing smart clothes and make up and some were wearing fashion hats that they twisted into different poses. Then there were us lot of grubby hikers who hadn’t had a shower for 4 days and our clothes were filthy from scrambling and climbing – but we wore our filth with pride as WE hadn’t come by train! We had HIKED the full Inca Trail and our dirt was a badge of honour!

Next it was our guided tour, which was fascinating. The history and walking through the ancient sacred site was simply wonderful. 

During the tour, fatigue started to kick in and I confess that I felt too tired to take in all the history and information that we were being given. I focused on the buildings and stones and the memory of what I was seeing and touching and knew I could fill in the history later. 

Once our tour was over, it was time to get the bus to Machu Picchu town, where we had a celebration lunch. This felt SO good – and the atmosphere was incredible, we even had live entertainment from an Andean band playing the pipes. 

After lunch, we walked around the town, bought some souvenirs and then said goodbye to our wonderful guides, Nati and Javier who had successfully led us on our journey. 

Finally, we took the train back to Ollantaytambo, had a lovely service with pineapple tea and snacks, and we passed the bridge that marked our initial starting point that somehow seemed so long ago. At Ollantaytambo, we collected our luggage and then got the bus back to Cusco where we had the best shower ever! It felt so good to feel clean and get into clean clothes! 

Then we went for a celebration dinner. Most of the group celebrated with cocktails, but I still needed to be sensible and stick to water as I was determined to hike up Rainbow Mountain the following day.

I needed to be up at 3.30 again for my Rainbow Mountain hike, so I went to bed early – although for some reason, I still couldn’t sleep!  

It had been a wondrous and incredible day, topping off an incredible 4 days and I was so happy and proud and re-lived every inch of the trail in my mind. 

The recurring thought in my head was ‘I did it!’ – I actually did it!  I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. 

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