Chasing the Pink Umbrella to Machu Picchu

MARK:  Straight to the point and no suspense.  We did it! No, we smashed it!  Two middle-aged people walked, climbed and ran the Inca Trail, seeing Machu Picchu at dawn through the Sun Gate – or should I say Cloud Gate?

Yes, we did it!

Yes, we did it!

Surprisingly, we found the challenge hard but not nearly as hard as we had anticipated.  The 45km, four day, 12,000 stair hike was without doubt one of our Round the World highlights and if you ever get the chance, DO IT as you won’t be disappointed!

Our GOAL - reaching Machu Picchu in three days

Our GOAL – reaching Machu Picchu in four days

Where to start?  Well the beginning I guess and a 45 minute mini-bus ride took us to the start of the Trail, from our overnight stay in Ollantaytambo.  On arrival, purple shirted porters were busy preparing their bags.  They had everything you could think of including the kitchen sink.  And boy, were they fit. Carrying in excess of 50lbs they literally ran everywhere…

Running like the wind

Running like the wind

A gentle amble down the valley for 10 minutes brought us to the start of the Trail.  Cue tourist picture.

Classic shot with our guide Jay and a porter!

Classic shot with our guide J and a porter!

Another five minutes and we were at the first check point.  Two hundred people a day get passes to walk the Inca Trail, the Bailey’s had their paperwork reviewed, including passport and we were off!

Cleared to go

Cleared to go

The first morning was a pleasant walk at relatively low altitude – 2,650m along the banks of the river.  Views were stunning, spirits were high, the sun was shining.

Gentle pace

Gentle pace

Every so often, a train would blow its horn, lamas and other animals would run quickly away.  Randomly, in the distance, a man with a pink umbrella was setting a very fast pace.

The first Inca settlement – there would be 10 to see – was reached at around 1100 after two hours steady walking, with little incline.

First Inca Site

First Inca Site

Little friend

Little friend

The views over the site were spectacular, but lunch beckoned and so we flew over the ridge and up towards the camp where we enjoyed a hearty lunch including soup and chicken, all prepared from two gas burners.  Excellent.

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

Great service

Great service

Our Porters having lunch

Our porters having lunch

The afternoon was more challenging with some steep hills, but we took them in our stride and as the sun began to set behind some striking mountains we saw our little red tents all lined up.  Time to wash our feet and to sink a quick beer that somebody had kindly brought! Tomorrow we all knew was going to be a different ball game….

Beer and water

Beer and water

At 0500 we awoke from our semi-sleep.  Fitful would be a better word for it as the air mattresses supplied ensured we felt every bump of the hard ground.

But outside, the sun was coming up and we were ready for the big one.

Sun rise

Sun rise

Day 2 is the day people dread on the Inca Trail.  A four/five hour trek from 2,700m to 4,200m to reach Dead Woman’s Pass and then a steep climb down the other side to 3,600m.  Our Group of 11 quickly split into two.  I was setting the pace with Matt, Sarah just behind with Hannah.  But then Matt (29) and just 60kg, took off like a mountain goat and showed why he was an expert climber.  God, the boy flew. Three hours later, I caught him up, smiling!  He had arrived ten minutes earlier.  But I felt better when I realised that our back marker was over an hour behind us.  It wasn’t a race, but it was a personal test of stamina and fitness.

Matt - boy wonder

Matt – boy wonder

Duck on tour...

Duck on tour…

Half way up towards Dead Woman's Pass

Half way up towards Dead Woman’s Pass

At 1000 we set off again to reach the summit, this time working as a team to keep each other going.  It was hard, very hard.  Calves hurting, the pink umbrella could clearly be seen half a mile ahead.  Heart racing, the last 250m was really tough, but as the cloud closed in we reached the summit in just over an hour.  The view down the valley spectacular, which prompted a short “live” video report.  Click on the link/arrow/photo below to play the video:

This shot from distance - 4km away and 500m higher

This shot from distance – 4km away and 500m higher – Dead Woman’s Pass

At the top - 4,200m

At the top – 4,200m, Matt stripping off

Sarah wasn’t far behind.  All that training had paid off and even though her knee was hurting from the Ecuadorian Volcano fall, she still managed a smile!

Sarah nearly there

Sarah nearly there

Team MASTERS

Team MASTERS

Group photo done, we were off down the other side, a steep track with hundreds of stairs.  It was now that M Bailey Esq came into his own as he sped downhill with poles providing an all important support. It was great fun, music loud on I-pod.  Happy Days.

Camp that night was great fun, superb views and wonderful food.

Sarah and Hannah - from Milford

Sarah and Hannah – from Milford

Great views

Great views even though it was grey!

DAY 3:  This was billed as a “gentle walk”, with the chance to see numerous Inca settlements.  The day though was far from easy.  16km of ascent and descent, with heavy rain during the middle part of the day. Throw in to the mix paths which were a metre wide with 500m drops and you get the rather soggy picture.  Matt though, got me through my bouts of vertigo by walking on the edge acting as a human shield.  Hero.

Grey start

Grey start

Trees are us

Trees are us

Kept going

Kept going

A flower

A flower

Lads

Lads!

It certainly wasn’t plain sailing as during the late morning, Dieter, a lovely 23 year old guy from Belgium, really wasn’t very well and had to be helped down to the last camp by our Number 2 Guide and two porters.  This was getting hard!

Dieter when fit... if you know what I mean

Dieter when fit… if you know what I mean

The descent continued.  This time from 3,600m to 2,600m.  Walking down thousands of stairs is arguably harder than going up.  It really plays on your knees, but we kept on going through caves and along the side of steep gorges until we found the last but one Inca settlement.  This was stunning despite the fact that it was now 6.00pm with the light rapidly fading….

Stunning

Stunning

Going down hill

Going down hill

Treemendous

Treemendous

A quiet group ate dinner that night.  Thoughts were with Dieter in his tent and two other members of the group who were beginning to struggle.  Our Guide, J then hit us with the bombshell that our wake up call was going to be 3.30am next morning, we would clear camp by 4.30am ready for the final 6kms of the trek.  The aim was to be at the Sun Gate that overlooks Machu Picchu by sunrise.

It was cold and wet and miserable, when we woke up.  But who managed to crawl out of his tent? Dieter!!  “I’ve not come all this bloody way not to do this…”  Fair Play.

0430 - pissing down

0430 – pissing down

The final push in low cloud and mist, where was the sun?  A bit of a bun fight developed as 200 people walked at quick speed along narrow ledges and up the flight of monkey stairs – 75 rock steps.  We hung back aware that a tourist had recently been accidentally “knocked” over the cliff face to her death 300m below. We’d come so far and weren’t going to not get there.

Nearly there

Nearly there

Duck getting excited

Duck getting excited

And then we arrived at the Sun Gate, which I renamed Cloud Gate…. But the mist lifted and wow what a view… take a look at the shots below.  They speak for themselves.  Oh yes and I finally met Mr Pink Umbrella – a Doctor from Delhi!

Wow what a view

Wow what a view

Cloud lift

Cloud lift

Nice views

Nice views

Duck made it

Duck made it

Wow!

Wow!

And another

And another

He made it.... Diet' left

He made it…. Dieter right

The Man with the Pink Umbrella

The Man with the Pink Umbrella

We then headed down to MP.  Another 45 minutes!  And wow what a place.  Quite amazing.

Stunning!

Stunning!

Stunning!!

Stunning!!

Lama meets drone

Lama meets drone

We loved walking around all smelly and looking a mess as all the “rich tourists” in their designer gear walked past.  They knew what we’d done.  We knew what we’d done.

As we sign off, heading south now to Lake Titicaca and on to Bolivia, we are into our final month away. May 10th and LHR T5 gets ever closer.  But we live in the moment. If we don’t then we will never appreciate fully just what we are doing and what we have achieved.

Good bye from MP and SB

Good bye from MP and SB

Categories: South America Blog | Tags: , , , ,

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27 thoughts on “Chasing the Pink Umbrella to Machu Picchu

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  1. David

    In UK at the moment ‘offshore accounts’ are virtually taboo, but you have just given us the best yet. When you get home and see the letters MP behind someone’s name, just think of where you have been and consider if the letters are appropriate for someone whose head is either in or above the clouds, who inhabits a space where the atmosphere is rarefied – and who probably needs one of those offshore accounts to get there. Well done..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Greetings David from Lake Titicaca. Your post, in my book goes down as the best received over the last 8 months. I could not have put it better myself. Thanks for following and see you and Barbara soon. M and S

      Like

  2. Paula Tagg

    Amazing. I felt exhausted just reading about it. I think what you are achieving is remarkable and truly inspiring. Not bad for a middle aged couple form Surrey. Well done team Bailey.X

    Liked by 1 person

  3. P.P.S. Loving the duck!

    Liked by 1 person

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