Mystifying your life at Machu Picchu

So you decide to take on Machu Picchu and find you’re not physically fit for the task. What a bummer. You actually convinced yourself: “mind over matter, right?” I realized I had underestimated myself the moment I arrived in Cusco, Peru. Samantha and I had done extensive research and planning prior to arriving, yet I somehow managed to miss the last line on the booking website that clearly stated “Travelers should have at least a moderate level of physical fitness.” Lmao. I’m pretty sure the yoga I love to do is not moderate, but light. 
What made the journey difficult for me was that I had to accept quickly that I would need to over-index on my masculine energy… when all I wanted in reality was to express my divine feminine. The feminine aspect is introspective, takes its time, soothes and takes comfort. She takes the time to connect the spiritual with the physical, the energetic and the material. The masculine energy is more like “Ok, we have to reach this peak by noon!” My mind, heart and body were quickly thrown out of sync. Understanding this later inspires me to take future action to ensure there is better harmony of energy on adventures that are heart-led. 
Hiking the Inca Trail requires a go-get-it energy. There’s hardly any room to feel sorry for yourself. I spent 1 of the 4 days that way. My hope is to inspire those who have a similar desire to take on challenging endeavors to find strength in their lowest moments, including facing yourself when you aren’t physically adept for the task. I had a whole day of turmoil to sort through, an emotional mess that started unpacking on me on Day 1 of the 4-day Machu Picchu trek. Not to mention that I am overly sensitive to the lunar cycle. A beautiful full moon in Sagittarius was on full display bringing out all the intense feelings. I felt the universe conspire against me as I pushed through. Looking back, when it’s all said and done, Murphy’s Law is a catalyst for destruction that paves the way for rebirth. A yin/yang spiral that intertwines both. If you’re down, down, it's ok. Just pack on a bit more and surprise yourself. 🙃
It’s funny to remember the shock of finally getting to a resting place just to realize everyone had been there waiting for you already and ready to move on. It’s also not-so funny to think I just wanted the tough task to be over with, instead of truly valuing the landscape and pausing to savor it. I remember feeling like I couldn’t truly value taking in the scenery, because it would be time to move on to the next thing. Also, basic physical needs were a constant front-and-center matter. It’s hard to focus when you’re cold or extremely hot and always exhausted. 
Here is a breakdown of my experience and what I learned throughout this spiritual process of pushing my limits in a foreign place with rich history and ancestral tugs on the strings of my heart.

Day 1: Training day! 
Cusco – Km 82 – LLactapata – Ayapata (14km, 6hrs) - Depart from your hotel around 4:30 am and drive to Km 82 to start the 6-hour hiking on the first day of the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu. The first campsite is located at 3300m (10826ft); we spend the night in comfortable tents. 
We booked with TreXperience and traveled with a group of 10 wonderful souls, 2 tour guides (William, a veteran of 10+ years and Yoner, a novice of 3 months), and countless porters who carried it all: camping equipment, tables, chairs, food, water, and each of our duffel bags. Carrying your own backpack was its own challenging task. Packing light is much harder than it seems. To say that these porters carried all the weight, is an understatement! We would watch them pass us up with a pep in their step as they carried enormous loads on their backs. We were in amazement and awe at their agility and strength. Some porters carried a load bigger than them! Combined, they all did a phenomenal job in preparing our breakfast, lunch, and dinner and educating us on the rich history of their land. Both of our tour guides and almost all of the porters grew up in the local neighborhoods of Machu Picchu. It’s amazing to think they grew up seeing these views daily!
The morning of pickup we began the experience that would change our lives. We traveled by bus to Ollantaytambo, had breakfast, and hit the road. Immediately we felt desert vibes with the rumbling of el Rio Urubamba roaring beneath the creaky bridge we crossed to officially begin the Inca Trail.The group included some from the Netherlands, Scotland, France and the USA. It was funny to note that our fellow European friends were always leading the line, while the Americans trailed at the end. The tour guides did a great job with keeping up with the faster hikers and the last hiker, me lol. 
This is where I realized I’m not very equipped to hike with a group. I’m too much of a “at my own pace” person. There’s something sacred about knowing your pace and showing up for yourself in group settings. Not only was I slow, I just had to pause often to catch my breath. We had acclimated to Cusco two days prior as recommended. But it was still so hard on the body! I grappled with facing defeat on the first day because of the intensity of it all. It probably took me 8 hours instead of 6.  I also saw this young woman get carried down, all the way back to the beginning of the trail. She was laid out on a stretcher and was turning back because of the altitude. I was faced with one of the hardest decisions I had to make: should I give up or should I keep going? Can I even do this? Will I make it another minute longer? All I kept thinking was “Tomorrow is the hardest day of the trek, how can I possibly survive this?” By the end of day 1, I was still debating. I went as quickly as I could to my tent to release all the emotions. I hadn’t even stopped to appreciate the tent setup and celebration that ensued. As soon as I crawled like a hurdled spider to the campsite for the night, I was greeted with applause. That instantly set the tears off lol. Luckily for me, I was with my best friend who held my hand. I guess in the end that’s all it took. I woke up the next day with a renewed sense of determination, grit, and compassion for myself. 
Day 2: The Challenge! Ayapata – Warmiwañuska – Chaquicocha (16km, 10 hrs).- The most challenging and longest day of the 4 day Machu Picchu Trek, passing two mountains in 10 hrs of hiking: The first mountain is Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point of the Inca Trail with 4215m (13829ft). The second mountain is Runqurakay Pass, with 4000m (13123 ft).
Once you acclimate to the idea that you aren’t going back and that’s no longer an option, you suck it all up. Everything becomes “how much longer?” and the more you focus on what’s in front of you - because that’s all you have, you find you inch closer and closer to the closer. You also begin to appreciate your surroundings and try to soak it all in. There’s so much going on, on a physical level, you’re pushed to your limits. Dizziness and fears of falling off the edge of the mountain cliff paralyze your nervous system, but only for seconds because you can’t allow it. Something tells you, you aren’t dying here. As grim as that sounds, that’s the reality I faced. 
There’s also so much nature to appreciate that you find your relationship with God deepening. The various changes in temperature and vegetation are visual aids that ground you and remind you of the fragility of life. We humans are a part of nature, if we get hot and cold so do plants and it's evident. The lush, tropical flora and fauna contrasted with the dry cacti and sand. The history and stories shared by the tour guides really place you back in time. How precious is this desolate area? Does my soul connect with the spirits present? How can I draw strength through my surroundings? How can I strengthen my belief that the universe conspires with me to create the reality I desire? I came in shocked and left stronger than ever.
To reach the peaks of the two challenging mountains, you have to travel through giant rocky terrain all throughout. I mean you’re lucky if you get a flat piece of walkway for a couple of consecutive steps! I begin to partake in celebration and find that I have indeed leveled up, evolved! Suddenly, I sense that this tumultuous journey does have an end. The pinnacle of the trip is now two days away. How ready were we for all the wonder and glory! Because even the smaller archaeological sites were breathtaking in and of themselves. How could it keep getting better? We were in complete awe at how a whole civilization thrived out here. The spirit of the Inca uplifted us as we experienced its rich history. 

This was the day I had to hike at night. Headlamps for the slower trekkers are a must. If the daytime wasn’t scary enough, nighttime is not to be played with. All you have to guide you is the light on your head that must stay on the path directly in front of you. Although it took me 12 instead of 10 hours to reach our resting spot for the night, I was blessed to experience the sunset in ways I hadn’t prior. I started to freak out because our goal to reach was a distant light that just seemed to ironically glow further away. I thought “hang on tight!” and prayed for a safe arrival. I decided not to bring my airpods because I wanted to fully immerse myself in the experience. But, that was a HUGE mistake! You need a good distraction throughout those long strenuous hiking hours for sure. I’ll never do that again. This night was indeed the coldest. The extreme altitude and intensity of the sun left you burnt to a crisp during the day and freezing at night. You walked nonstop for hours upon hours, shivering in the mornings and nights and sweating profusely throughout the day. Eek!

Day 3: The easy day! Chaquiccocha – Phuyupatamarca – Wiñaywayna (10km, 6hrs). The most beautiful and relaxing day; hiking is only 6-hours passing through different ecological zones. Today, you will also visit several beautiful archaeological sites, including Wiñaywayna, located at 2600m (8530ft); we camp only 2 hours from Machu Picchu.

This becomes the turning point. The reality of this hike reaching its end begins to settle in. More gratitude and love for the place grows on you like little lichens surviving the frost on ancient rocks. After breathtaking morning views with frigid temperatures we make our way to more of a jungle landscape.

The stairway to heaven opens something up in you. The scenery is much more lucious with plant life and warmth. There’s more time to talk to your travel buddies and truly  enjoy it. Your confidence triples and you start to feel triumphant before the big reveal and final destination.
We visited archaeological sites as a group so that our tour guides could teach us all there is to know about the sacred places, little history lessons or story time. Once our hike was over for the day, we all enjoyed the early afternoon at the campsite.
The opportunity to shower presented itself. Almost everyone jumped at the chance to cleanse off the hardships of our journey, even if it was freezing cold water! Luckily, Sam and I warmed up some water and made the best of the smallest commodity we had! Then, we all rested, laughed, and soaked in the beauty and joy that filled our hearts.

Wiñaywayna in the afternoon after a shower was epic. We witnessed the sites the Inca farmed at; their farming techniques unlike others. These terraces sustained their community, it was awe-inspiring. The dinner they served that night was top notch, with a cake and everything! 

This was the ceremonial part of the trip, where we had the time to talk to each other, including the porters, chef, and go around and formally introduce ourselves and share a bit about us. I even shed a tear or two, the native aspect just moved me so.


Day 4: Discover Machu Picchu! Wiñaywayna – Machu Picchu – Cusco (6km, 2 hrs), Wake up early and hike for 2 hours to Machu Picchu through the Sungate from where we will have a unique view of Machu Picchu. After exploring Machu Picchu, you will board the Panoramic trains to return. Drop off back at your hotel around 7:30 pm.

Beauty continued to ensue in the early hours of the last day. There was still much to hike to reach it, but at this point nothing compared to how hard the first days were. The last day starts very early so that you can try to beat the rush to the Sun Gate. Everyone wants to make it first to avoid long lines, where exhausted hikers meet those who just show up to Machu Picchu for a quick day tour of the place. We felt like champions anytime anyone recognized we were a group that hiked the Inca Trail.  

At the Sun Gate we waited to witness the sunrise and reveal the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu - the whole purpose of the trip! It was sweet, the rest was history! We left a part of our souls there, Sam and I. It was a beautiful, memorable, and transformative experience. 

The final day was so worthwhile. We enjoyed the afternoon visiting the local town of Aguascalientes, Peru. We had dinner, laughed, and caught a train back to where it all started in Cusco. Then, we all parted ways with our trekking group. Thank you TreXperience! I highly recommend this sabbatical and hope you found this helpful.  It is definitely a once in a lifetime trip.

1 comment

  • Wow!! What an intense and incredible journey you two went on!! Thanks for sharing! 🤟🏽🫶🏽


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