Supporter, Joshua Taylor-Rose gives insight into his trek to Machu Picchu
Written by Aaron Dennis, September 24, 2019
Josh recently took on the amazing challenge of a 6-day Inca trail trek and made it to Machu Picchu after 5 long days! Josh, who has haemophilia, decided to fundraise for the Society because;
With help from The Haemophilia Society, I have been able to lead a ‘normal’ life. I hope that by completing this trek, I can do my bit by making people more aware of Haemophilia, and who the society is, as well as raising some money at the same time for a great cause.
Here, Josh tells of his experience:
Day 1 & 2: We are picked up at 7am by our guide Leo. There is 10 of us, made up of 4 couples, myself and a girl my age trekking. We have 17 porters, 2 guides and 2 cooks – quite a lot for the 10 of us. The porters and cooks are equipped with everything we are going to need, such as carrying our personal items (clothes) food for all days, tents, mattresses and sleeping bags. Each porter carrying 25kg across the trek – an unbelievable weight to be essentially running up the trek to ensure everything is set up for when we arrive to camp each afternoon.
The cooks were unbelievable and possessed an incredible creativity to create the most delicious meals on humble cooking equipment. The porters traditionally come from rural communities in the Sacred Valley. They work exclusively for our partner agency and part of the money spent on our trek will go into a fund for them and their families.
We have a casual first two days through the sacred valley, which help us acclimatise to the trek and go through with Leo what to expect. Both he and Claudia, another guide ensures we only have things that are essential, as well as having everything that we will need for the trek.
At the end of these leisurely days, I’m ready and excited to get stuck in, the following morning, we drive about 1.5 hours to the town of Ollantaytambo where we have the chance to buy last snacks and have breakfast, then 30 minutes to the trailhead. KM82 – our adventure officially starts.
It is busy, with tourist groups arriving, guides explaining and staff packing their enormous rucksacks. We show permits and passports and then we are off, crossing the bridge over the Urubamba River and gently climbing uphill along a pleasant path.
On this part of the trek we meet lots of locals – 2,000 people live here in settlements along the way. Red plastic bags hoisted on wooden poles catch my eye. “Chicha”, says Leo – it’s a sign that Chicha is ready and available to buy, the popular fermented maize drink of this region – drunk by locals by the litre, I could only manage shot size glasses!!!
Leo turns out to be an endless fountain of knowledge and explains medicinal uses of the plants we see, as well as naming the mountaintops surrounding us.
Day 3: This was the day we started to climb. We started camp at 2,550m and will climb to 3,200m today, a gentle introduction to the incline of our trek. We are rewarded with views of the impressive Lactapata ruins below us, where the Cusicacha River meets the Urubamba River. Lunch awaits soon after – and with it our first pleasant surprise of a complete 3 course meal, served in a dining tent.
With full bellies we walk on, and after a wonderful day, arrive at our campsite for tonight, Jatun Chaka. Each group is assigned a campsite, which are spread along the way. All tents have already been put up and our kitchen team is awaiting us with a bowl of popcorn and a cup of hot chocolate.
There is time to relax and I’m glad I’ve managed to bring a book as part of my allowed 3kg as it’s a good way to pass time at camp.
It’s another three courses of ample servings for dinner, followed by brushing teeth under starry skies before falling asleep in our warm sleeping bags, on comfy thermarest mattresses.
Day 4: This was the hardest day by a mile; “Tecito de Coca” is our wake up call the next morning – a cup of Coca tea, brought to our tent together with a bowl of warm water to wash. Breakfast doesn’t disappoint, porridge and a delicious omelette give us energy to get going. We will need the energy today, as the “Dead Woman’s Pass” awaits – at ,4215m the biggest challenge of our trek.
“Take it easy, one foot in front of the other, gentle walking – and enjoy the scenery”, Leo says. So we plod on, first through beautiful, fairy-tale like mossy woods, then out in the open surrounded by views of the mountains beside us and the valley behind us. After 5 hours we reach the pass and pose for a well-deserved picture.
I quickly realise that I certainly won’t go hungry on this trek – every day we are given a little goodie bag of snacks to keep our energy levels high.
Walking poles help knees on the descent that follows, down to our another campsite (Pacamayo) at 3,600m. The views from our tent are breath taking.
Day 5: We start off with an uphill to the Runkuray ruins, which we reach after about 30 minutes. Clouds are hanging low today – no views but instead a wonderfully mystical atmosphere.
After another 90 minutes we reach the second big pass of the trek, and soon after we are on the first set of original Inca steps. “From now on”, Leo tells us, “95% of the path are old Inca steps.”
At the top of the pass we offer Mother Earth, or Pachamama, coca leaves before descending again. The clouds have lifted by now. After a couple of hours we reach the ruins of Sayacmarca, overlooking the valley below. Leo shares his knowledge on the life and culture of the Incas with us, bringing the ruins to life for us.
Gradually we descend into cloud forest and catch glimpses of the mighty Salkantay peak in the distance. We’re not done yet and before long find ourselves climbing to the third pass at Phuyupatamarca. Lunchtime!
From here it’s all downhill. About 3,000 steps of downhill – four whole hours during which I thank God I hired walking sticks. When the going gets tough we are rewarded with stunning views and the fact that before us the ancient Incas have walked this path.
Below us runs the Urubamba river and ahead of us lie the terraces of Intipata and most importantly, Machu Picchu Mountain. We’re getting closer.
After another hour, we reach a fork in the path and have the choice of heading straight to camp, or venture on the longer path to see the site at Intipata. We reach for snacks and get the energy to go on the detour.
It is worth it – we have the ruins to ourselves and the views are beautiful. We take our time and enjoy the peace and quiet.
After this, the arrival at Winay Wayna campsite is a shock to the system – of all the campsites, this is the busiest as it’s the last before reaching Machu Picchu. It can be very crowded, don’t let this ruin the last day for you – the nearby Winay Wayna ruins are surprisingly quiet and really rather lovely.
Day 6: This was an unpleasantly early start. Logistics of getting porters back to Cusco early and to a (admittedly lesser) extent the desire to arrive at Machu Picchu for sunrise means we are leaving camp at 4:00am.
It also means that after an hour, we arrive at the gates of Machu Picchu before they open and sit in darkness while we wait. It doesn’t make sense but it’s just one of these things that every hiker has to do. And once we are in the site, once we enjoy our first glimpse of the beauty that is Machu Picchu, we’ve forgotten our slight frustration. The views are breath taking and what a spiritual place it is – the pictures do not do the Incan Site justice.
“I would recommend this trek to anyone – what an experience”