We arrive in Lima at the end of March and leave for Cuzco the next day. The impact on arrival is immediately very strong, as the effect of the altitude is in fact noticeable since when you get off the plane. It is a sensation that is difficult to describe: you feel a little tired and wheezing, your legs are weak... Some even faint. After all, we are at 3399 meters above sea level and here the vertigo of the height is the master of the house. Of course, you can take the "soroche pills" (ie the pills for altitude sickness, called "soroche"), which should theoretically help acclimatization, but the reaction to altitude varies a lot from person to person: I feel weighed down, tired, while my partner is fine, she doesn't feel any particular problems. In any case, the ailment diminishes as the body adapts and soon we are ready to face the rest of our journey.
In the thin air of Cuzco - the historic capital of Peru and the Inca empire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 - colors, smells and flavors become stronger and more vibrant: their intensity strikes you immediately. We noticed this in the San Pedro market, a veritable swirl of colors on products for sale, on fruits and vegetables, but in particular on women's clothes and hats and even on animals. There are shades of warm colors everywhere, in the thousand variations of red and earth tones, which stand out incredibly among the streets of the town.
The next day we have an early rising at 4.30: the train to Aguas Calientes, the starting point for the trek to Machu Picchu, awaits us. Like any mountain enthusiast - and every traveler eager to dive into the discovery of a new country - getting up early does not scare us, it is part of the experience we’ve chosen, such as the fatigue of the climb, the sweat and the unexpected due to the weather. All factors that we face anyway with a big, steady smile on our lips, because we have strongly desired to be here, a few hours walk from our destination.
We arrive therefore in Aguas Calientes and it is bizarre however, after having seen innumerable images of the site perched on a mountain, to realize that in order to reach it we must go down of altitude. It seems a paradox, but it is like this: the village is in fact "only" 2040 meters above sea level, more than 1000 meters lower than Cuzco. This descent however is not perceived at all during the transfers, it’s more a curious fact read on the map, while the sensation remains that of constantly ascending. And the ascent to Machu Picchu soon confirms this impression: here the prevailing dimension is vertical and the slopes to be faced are very steep.
Anyway, here we go. Together with the guides we finally take the path that leads to Machu Picchu. From Aguas Calientes it takes about an hour and a half walk, along the final stretch of the Incatrail that takes us directly to Intipunku, the Sun Gate, and official entrance to the site.
Arriving there in the morning, with the peak shrouded in fog, has something mystical. And the magic of this place is mixed with the incredulity of finally being here, among these majestic ruins, and the incredible satisfaction of having made it: the dream has come true. In front of us the archaeological site opens up and, 400 meters below, once the fog is raised, the view opens onto the Urubamba valley.
Being here, in the presence of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, takes your breath away. The charm of these ruins is undeniable and resists even the advent of modern tourism: in fact, a precise planning of the excursion is necessary to arrive up to here, there is no place for improvisation. The Inca Trail can only be traveled with authorized guides, who require an advance reservation. Once reached Machu Picchu, then, the visit route is obligatory and takes about 4/5 hours. It is not allowed to go back, but only to proceed along the set route: even the best points to take the photos are indicated by the guides that accompany the visitors, to prevent someone from losing the best view and the perfect shot on the site. Here nothing is left to chance: there are not even garbage bins so as not to disturb the suggestion of the place.
This was our first stop in Peru, then we moved to other areas, to discover the other spectacular landscapes that this country has to offer: we chose to explore some lakes set between the Andean peaks and the plateau that houses the immense Lake Titicaca. We will tell you about their colors and the people who live there in the next blog article, see you soon!
In the trek to Machu Picchu, as in later excursions, we wore Garmont's Toubkal GTX boots: we didn't have time to test them before we left and we were therefore a little worried about testing them from new. We didn't have any problems instead, neither blisters nor anything else, and the boots surprised us for comfort during the walk.