Gill's Fantastic Adventure on The Inca Trail Peru!

If you are thinking about doing this challenge, don't think twice, do it! It's everything and more and one that takes a long time to sink in. No words can explain it...

Peru 2017 Team with medals at Machu Picchu

On the 21st of June 2017 myself and Jim once again made the journey from the Highlands to London. This was the start of one very big adventure.
We had spent the best part of a year preparing for this trip, getting advice, buying kit, wearing-in boots and training. The time had come and we were on our way for our Peruvian adventure with Walk the Walk.

We couldn't quite believe it when each time we were asked "Where are you heading off to now?" and the reply was " Peru to do the Inca Trail." The words just didn't seem real. We were excited and nervous, this was a dream of a lifetime and now it was becoming real.
This was the first of two very long days of travel, but we didn't mind we were heading to Peru... amazing... I had dreamt about this day since falling in love with Paddington Bear as a child. After 10 hours of travelling, we were checked into our hotel near to Heathrow. Only one more sleep to go... one more sleep until we would meet the rest of the group at the airport at 4am... we would soon get used to 4am!

22nd June 2017
The day had finally arrived, kitted out in our Walk the Walk Bra T-Shirts, trekking trousers and walking boots, with back packs on backs, fleeces around our waists, we checked out and headed to the airport. We were heading to Peru today. The group was soon all together and you could tell from the start that it was a really special bunch of people and this was going to be one incredible adventure.
With the wonderful Kate from Walk the Walk looking after us all, we checked in, did security, got the normal comments and smiles about our bra t-shirts and wandered around Heathrow on the hunt for a cuppa. After all we had a lot of travelling to do today, tea, coffee and supplies were needed.
We flew to Paris then Paris to Lima. After several movies, reading books, laughs, snoozes and snacking we had arrived in Lima... we were in Peru...
We had one night in Lima, once we had arrived at the hotel we had just enough time to chuck our bags in our rooms, this was the start of the many, many laughs that were to come as the military operation started of getting 23 lots of luggage and 23 Walk the Walkers to their rooms with only one lift. Tonight was our first meal together at a local restaurant that also provided a Peruvian dance show :) it certainly woke us up! Fed, watered and tired we headed back to the hotel to grab some sleep before another early start.

23rd June 2017
Lima to Cuzco. This was the real start of the adventure. An early breakfast and a short flight later we landed in Cuzco and into altitude. Following the well given advice, we all took our time, walked slowly and embraced the huge basket of Coca leaves that greeted you on arrival. "Please take 3 leaves" well when in Rome... Coca leaves are what the locals use for energy and to help with altitude, you soon learn to drink the tea, chew the leaves and suck the boiled sweets.
Of course, this is a Walk the Walk event which means a jam packed itinerary from the minute you land to the minute you leave, an itinerary that is thought through, wanting to give you the best experience possible. They have never let us down yet :) and this was to be no different. Our bags went on one bus as we boarded another, the adventure had begun. We headed off on our first adventure with our guide for the day. The air was warm and the sun was shining, the scenery breathtaking as we headed off into the hills to the mountain town of Pisaq, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
This was a wonderful day and an incredible introduction to Peru and Inca History.
We visited the Amuru Community. They taught us about their beliefs, they showed us how to weave, how they dyed their wool made with dye from plants. Their respect for Mother Earth was so moving and something I personally related to. They made us a three course lunch and we also celebrated one of our walker's 50th birthday which included a cake made by the women of the community and of course arranged by Walk the Walk. It was an afternoon of colour and culture and very special. This was real Peru and we felt so privileged to be experiencing it. Despite the language barrier we all managed to communicate with the wonderful help of our guides and make a few purchases of their beautiful handmade goods.
Our journey continued as we headed to ancient archaeological sights of Pisaq. The mountains were majestic and breathtaking, the terraces jaw dropping, it was so much to take in, as we saw our first Inca site. It suddenly started to sink in that we were in Peru and in just two more sleeps we would be starting the Inca Trail.

We made the journey back to Cuzco and finally checked into our next Hotel. This would be home for the next two nights, once reunited with our bags we freshened up and headed to our local shop. This was an evening to ourselves, The Inti Raymi Festival "Festival of the Sun" was taking place so the streets were a sea of colour, bright red Peruvian ponchos as far as the eye could see. Our room overlooked the festival and after our quick shopping trip we settled for a room picnic and watched the sights and listened to the sounds of the festival. Then it was time to sleep.

24th June 2017
This was a day to do whatever we wanted. To explore Cuzco, a city which was once the centre of the Inca Empire... it's a beautiful city with cobbled streets, stone buildings and Peruvian history and culture on every corner. Cafes, side streets, colour, shops and more. Cuzco has a wonderful welcoming vibe and we chose to sit on a bench and watch the world go by. It was perfect. We went to a local cafe, the Quechuan Museum and a local shop to stock up on coca sweets and snacks for our trek. It was a lovely day to acclimatise, relax and gather some energy. Only one more sleep till our Inca Trail trek!
That evening we met with our guides who would be looking after us on the Inca Trail. We discussed the route, kit, bags and more but most importantly it was time to split the bags to take up the mountain with us. With the help of ‘stuff sacks’ we had pretty much everything organised back in the UK and just had to move the bags over into our mountain bag. Weigh them, weigh them again and weigh them one more time for luck :) we were ready!
The whole group headed out that night to a local restaurant, chatted, laughed, shared our nerves and our excitement. We were about to share 4 days and 3 nights together on the trail, camping and sharing everything. The bond between us all just got stronger and stronger as we all got to know each other a little bit more.
It was time for bed. Kit laid out, boots n socks ready, alarm clock set and alarm call booked. Tomorrow was the day. The day we had all trained for. Tomorrow morning we would wake up ready to take on an adventure like no other. We were ready, we were as ready as we would ever be to take on the Inca Trail.

25th June 2017: The Inca Trail Day 1
This was it, we were starting the Inca Trail today. Even as I write these words I still can’t believe it. The Inca Trail! Once again dressed in trekking clothes, boots, day packs packed carefully, snacks at hand, camera at the ready, bra t-shirts and of course decorated bras, we made our way to an early breakfast and before we knew it we were boarding our bus that would take us to Kilometre 82 of the trail to Machu Picchu.

We stopped off at Ollantaytambo for the much needed “bra photo”. The laughs started as 21 women got changed into decorated bras on a small bus as the two men of the team kindly stepped outside and changed into theirs. The locals and guides embraced this madness with their beautiful Peruvian smiles. Our lovely guides would soon get used to us, bra t-shirts and laughing.

It was a beautiful day and the energy of the group was wonderful. After grabbing any last minute snacks and coca sweets for the trail we made our way to the Pisacuchu 2700m above sea level and Kilometre 82, we met our team of porters. These guys would be carrying all our kit, tents, food, water... everything we needed for the next 3 nights and 4 days would be on the backs of these amazing wonderful men. We spent time introducing ourselves, learning their names and presenting them with Walk the Walk Bra Pin Badges which they all wore with such pride. There really was no going back now. Once our passes were sorted out we crossed the bridge over the Urubamba River, had a team photo taken and started our trek... we had officially started the Inca Trail.

This was it. For the next 4 days we would make our way to Machu Picchu. We trekked along the side of the river passed a huge cactus, humming birds and all the time the majestic mountains towering above us with their snow covered peaks. The sun was shining and before long we the saw the Inca city Llactapa. It was just spectacular. We had snack stops and water stops on route and was amazed that for a huge part of the trail you could pick up a bottle of water and a snack from a family run stall, sit in the shade and share stories with other trekkers also taking on the Inca Trail. It was a wonderful atmosphere. On we trekked and it didn't take long for the laughter to begin, the songs and let’s not forget 'jazz hands'! Each and every one of us slowly settled into day one, all the time looking at the mountains, the jaw dropping scenery that surrounded us.

As the day drew in and the sun began to set we put on our head torches and trekked the last few miles into camp for our first night under canvas. The beautiful porters were there welcoming us in with their beautiful smiles, clapping and showing us to our line of yellow bowls filled with water and some soap so we could freshen up before our first meal in the mess tent.
The meals on the trail were beyond tasty. Each and every dietary requirement was met, remembering all of this was high up a mountain on the Inca Trail. The food was delicious and I loved being known as the 100% vegetarian, in other words, a vegan. A three course meal awaited us, coca tea and coffee and a brief for the next day. We had completed day one. It was a fun filled day and once again the bond within the group continued to strengthen.

26th June 2017: The Inca Trail Day 2
Another early start as today was a big day, this was the day we would conquer the pass known as Dead Woman's Pass. After being woken up with a fresh cup of coca tea, breakfast was served, water bottles filled, snacks gathered and on we went. It was a cold morning and the stars shone brightly but as the sun started to rise you could see the sun up ahead hitting the side of the mountain. Up, up and away. It really was a day of going up and this day truly started the singing that would bring us so many laughs over the next few days. The change in temperature from the cold chilly start to walking in to the sun was immediate fleeces off, sun lotion on in literally one step.
Once again the scenery was breathtaking, it still hadn't sunk in that we had already finished our first day on the Inca Trail, no time to think, and putting one boot in front of the other we slowly made our way up the pass. We laughed, we sang, we took photos, we chatted, we shared our coca sweets it was very, very special. Then we saw it... we could see the summit of the pass and what would be our highest point of the whole trip. The feeling of reaching the summit was a huge sense of pride and achievement. Everybody at some point had dug deep that day, some more than others... the feeling of team spirit was wonderful, we were definitely all in this together. As we reached the summit it really did feel like we were on top of the world... it was beautiful! We sat there grinning, taking photos and eating snacks... we were at just under 14,000 feet, the day wasn't over and we still had to get to camp. On we trekked.
We made it to camp for lunch time, the camps were always in a location that took your breath away. Our day was finished, we had a few hours before our evening meal for everyone to get some rest, freshen up and once again enjoy another three course meal. Another brief and another early start to look forward to! We still had two passes to cross on Day 3.

The camaraderie in our Walk the Walk mess tent was fabulous, food, tea, coffee, water, coca leaves making their way up and down the table. These were memories that we would never forget, no matter what, everyone came together in the mess tent, shared their stories of the day and then we headed to our tents for a quick refill of our back packs. That days socks firmly tied up in a plastic bag and put to one side, these would soon be known as nuclear waste!

Snuggled up in sleeping bags, this was a perfect time to just try and absorb everything that we had seen that day, a time to reflect before drifting off to sleep, always smiling. It was all going by so very fast. In a few hours time we would be up once again drinking tea, filling bottles, grabbing breakfast and heading off on Day 3.

27th June 2017: Inca Trail Day 3
The one thing that humbled us all on the trail was the porters. These amazing men carried everything on their backs, to make sure we were fed watered and had shelter for the night, plus our kit bags. They were always the last to leave camp but the first to arrive, they put our tents up, took them down, gave us coca tea with a smile every morning, clapped and cheered us into camp each lunch time and at the end of each day. They filled our drinking bottles with water and as the day drew on would head back out onto the trail to see how we were all doing. We couldn't speak their language and they couldn't speak ours but I know that each and everyone of us respected these hard working men with every inch of our hearts.
On the trail you always stop and move mountainside to allow the porters to pass, you would often hear the shout of "porters" throughout the day, we would stand to the side and cheer them on, clap and whoop just like they did for us. These stops were known as porter stops. Always a good moment to grab quick rest, take a photo or offer round the coca sweets. Where would we have been without these men? Kindness oozed out of every single one of their beings. The porters are people we will never forget.

Our guides Saul, Edward and Max guided us for 4 days and 3 nights, they joined in the jazz hands, photos and embraced the songs that we sung throughout the day, ok most of the time we only ever knew one line but still, the songs were always relevant to the situations. The porters encouraged us, helped us and laughed and smiled with us.

They shared Inca history with us and made sure that we would all complete this challenge safely. They pointed out the humming birds, taught us local language and told us about the plants and their medicinal purposes.
Once again we were woken early, for another day of Inca Trail beauty. This was our last really full day on the trail, we still had two passes to cross, More Inca sites to view and steps lots and lots of steps... steps made by the Incas, these soon became a topic of conversation and along with the call of "porters" you would often hear "steps" "big steps" "smooth steps" "uneven steps".
The energy in the group blew me away. No matter how high into altitude we were, how many steps we had to climb up and down, how many coca sweets we shared, never have I laughed so much.
The support amongst our group was very special. Everyone shared their sweets, snacks and coca leaves, encouraged each other, checked up on each other, made sure everyone drank, ate and just felt ok. We helped each other out when faced with a fear and on we trekked through natural tunnels, beautiful flora and fauna and saw some amazing Inca sites. Phuyupatamarca "Town Above the Clouds" and it really was at 3700m above sea level.
The snow capped mountains never ceased to amaze us and every now and again you just had to stop to breathe it all in, making sure you would never forget the stunning Andes mountains.

As we carried on with the sun setting over the mountain range we knew that our time trekking was coming to an end, despite the long days it was all going by so fast. What would life be like after this adventure had finished? We once again rooted out our head torches and continued down the many, many steps of the Inca Trail. We knew that soon we would be back to civilisation. It felt strange. We had been trekking for only a few days yet it all felt so natural and normal as we had settled into our campsite routine, our mess tent chats and our early mornings. We had also learnt about “Peruvian time” - 30 minutes didn't always mean 30 minutes.
As we kept dropping down we could hear the sound of the campsite when suddenly we were face to face with a herd of friendly Llamas. We had made it... we had completed Day 3 of the Inca Trail.
It was a quick freshen up and straight for celebration cake, yes cake! The chef had made a cake and decorated it to ‘Bake Off’ standards and presented it to us and the guides to share amongst us as it was our last night in camp. We had our final meal and bid a final farewell to our wonderful porters. Although we would see them very briefly in the morning this was our last night altogether as the Yellow Team. We tucked into our final meal, had our final briefing... tomorrow we would be making our way to the Gate of the Sun and seeing Machu Picchu for the very first time. It was a night of mixed emotion, sadness that our trek was nearly done mixed in with the excitement of the Sun Gate to come in the morning. So much to take in... so much to process. The Inca Trail had well and truly filled our souls with joy. The energy of the group filled our hearts. The sound of singing and laughter filled the air. This really was one incredible adventure!
As we snuggled up in our sleeping bags for one last time we didn't want it to end, we wanted to trek more, it was another night of reflection. What would tomorrow bring? We had all carried the image of Machu Picchu for so much of our lives... in a few short hours and quite a few more steps we would be there, we would be at the Sun Gate...

28th June 2017: Inca Trail Day 4
Another very early start! We had all gathered up bags of stuff from our kits to give to the porters, Anything that could be spared and would be of use to them was out in a bag and as we filled our water bottles for one last time and grabbed our breakfast bag we handed the bags over of gifts over. It was another humbling moment. It was time to say our last goodbyes to the men who had looked after us so well for 3 nights and 4 days.
We found our place in the queue for the Sun Gate, with head torches on we rolled out foil blankets and ponchos and settled down for the next few hours, munching away on our breakfast bags, and of course laughing and chatting. It was quite a wonderful sight looking down the line of trekkers all with head torches on waiting for our moment to trek to the Sun Gate... not long now and it will all be over... the Inca Trail under our belts..
Our guide Saul announced our departure... it was our turn, it was time for the final trek. It was time to find the Sun Gate.

The trek as always was amazing, steps, views, more steps more views, it was perfect. Once again we faced our fears and there they were, the steps up to the sun gate. In single file we climbed the steps, encouraged by Kate who was sitting half way and fellow team members who had reached the top.
It’s hard to put into words the next few moments. As we went through the Sun Gate, there it was... the view of Machu Picchu, the image we had all carried in our heads and our hearts... we had made it, we had trekked to Machu Picchu! We had completed the Inca Trail. It was a hugely emotional moment... I don't think I will ever find the words to describe the feeling, it was a very personal experience for each and every one of us and yes there were tears, lots of tears, smiles, hugs and silence as we stood and took it all in. I don't think any of us could quite believe we were there. That feeling at the Sun Gate will stay with me forever.
Eventually, the time came for us to do the very last bit of trekking as we made our way down to Machu Picchu. We felt like explorers as we worked our way through the visitors who had just arrived by train. We wanted to shout from the roof tops that we had spent the best part of four days trekking to get to Machu Picchu. As we made our way through the crowds, wearing our medals with pride nothing else mattered at that moment in time, we were dusty, we hadn't seen shower or a mirror for 4 days, wet wipes had become a luxury item along with hand gel and for some dry shampoo.. we had completed the Inca Trail 23 of us set off on that Sunday morning and 23 of us hugged each other with pride at Machu Picchu.
I saw fellow team members digging so deep to complete this challenge it was humbling and yet inspiring, I saw such strength and determination to get to the Sun Gate that once again can't be put into words.
It was time to leave Machu Picchu, a quick visit to the loo and our first look in a mirror was quite a funny moment, a splash of water and a very quick freshen up... it was time to say goodbye to two of our guides Max and Edward... another emotional moment. It was time to head to our celebration lunch with our guide Saul, it felt strange to not be in our mess tent up the side of a mountain but the smiles said it all.
A delicious lunch and then off we went to our gorgeous lodges to finally have a shower and spend the day doing whatever we wanted to. We went to the local market which was huge and spent a wonderful four hours in there buying Peruvian hats, ponchos and more. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

29th June 2017
Another early start... this time to wait for the bus to take us back to Machu Picchu for sunrise, followed by a tour. The sunrise was stunning as the sun rose above the mountains. There is something very special when you are above the clouds waiting for the sun to rise.
During our final few hours at this amazing Inca site myself and Jim had asked our guide Saul if he could do a blessing in memory of my dear friend, as the 3 of us stood quietly we held our 3 coca leaves each as Saul did the blessing in Quechua the language spoken by the indigenous people of the Andes, his blessing to Pachamama, Mother Earth. We blessed the stone and offered our coca leaves to the mountain. This was so special, so emotional and I felt so privileged.
It was time to leave and say goodbye to Machu Picchu. A last wander around the local town, we boarded the train back to Ollantaytambo. Well, it really was a train journey with a difference that's all I'm going to say... you will have to do the trek to find out more!
Soon we were back on our bus on the final leg of the journey back to Cuzco, it was time to say goodbye to Saul our trusty guide. The last few days had flown by. There was so much to take in, so much to process.

As we celebrated that night in a local restaurant the laughter continued, the air was buzzing. It was our last night in Peru, our last night together all 23 of us, all wearing a medal all of us smiling.

30 June 2017
It was our last morning in Peru... today we would start our journey back home but first, we had to wave off 5 of our team who were heading off to the Amazon. A group hug soon turned into a ‘Hokey Cokey’ in the reception area of the hotel followed by the trademark Walk the Walk ‘Tunnel of Love’ as our 5 beautiful friends who we had shared so much with boarded their mini bus and as we waved goodbye the tears were streaming.
We had many, many hours of travel ahead of us and several airports to explore. The team stuck together still laughing, still joking all the way back to the UK.
This was the hardest part of the whole trip we now had to say our goodbyes. Goodbye to a group of people that we had shared a journey of a lifetime, we had shared every meal together, we had smiled, laughed... oh my word the laughing, I hadn't laughed like that for years! We had sung and we had jazz handed our way around the Inca Trail and beyond. We had shared our coca sweets, water, every person encouraged the next one. This was a very special group and myself and Jim feel extremely honoured to have shared this journey with them and to call them friends. We were from all walks of life and dotted all over the UK but yet we clicked, it worked.

As I write this the emotions are still there, we have been back just over two weeks it still hasn't sunk in yet. This event, this journey, has been life changing. Peru stole our hearts, our group enlightened our souls and as we slowly made our way back home the following day, the world seemed a slightly different place, we had been to a place that I had dreamt of my whole life. Deepest darkest Peru, the home of Paddington Bear. This trip will never leave me. New friends have been made and existing friendships made even stronger.
The laughter alone really was the best therapy.
We couldn't have asked to share this adventure with a better bunch of people and to do it for Walk the Walk was the icing on the cake.
If you are thinking about doing this challenge don't think twice, do it! It's everything and more and one that takes a long time to sink in. No words can explain it...


A massive thanks to the lovely Gill for sharing her incredible Peruvian adventure with us! Would you like to be part of this trip of a lifetime in 2018? Find out how to join us for this unforgettable adventure next year here.




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