Machu Picchu, Peru

Life List #120: See Machu Picchu.

Not Hike the Inka Trail...

I had written it there, I swore. “See Machu Picchu,” was on my life list.

I was sure I had added it at some point but, as I scrolled through the list on my phone, as I googled my web address and “Machu Picchu,” it wasn’t showing up.

Had I imagined it?

It took a few times skimming through the list to find it. Not, “See Machu Picchu,” but, “Hike The Inca Trail.”

“Hike the Inka Trail,” I read, sitting an a hostel in Aguas Calientes, otherwise known as Machu Picchu Pueblo.

I hadn’t hiked the Inca Trail to get there. I hadn’t hiked to get there at all. I took the train.

I could have hiked. There were plenty of options from easy treks to adventure trips that included biking and zip lining. I even met a guy in Puno who trekked there on his own. I could have hiked.

I couldn’t have hiked the Inca Trail. Even if I wanted to. Not just because I would spend the entire time panting in misery and pain. Not just because I couldn’t even go up the stairs in Cusco without losing all my energy. Not just because after trekking Colca Canyon I kind of never wanted to trek anything ever again. Ever. Again.

But because it was sold out.

Only 500 people are allowed on the trail a day, and that includes trekking staff, and all the tour companies sold out months in advance. I was there, after all, at the peak of high season.

And with me, being the complete non-planner that I am, who decided only a few days before when she would go to Machu Picchu, booking that far ahead didn’t really work.

That didn’t stop people from telling me that I’d made a mistake. That the Inca Trail was worth it and was the only way to get to Machu Picchu. That it didn’t matter how out of shape I am that I should have done it. Because people liked to say that to me.

And I’m sure every bit of the Inca Trail would have been amazing. Even if I spent the entire time feeling as if I was having a heart attack. Even if I spent the entire time freezing my ass off.

But, as it stood, I arrived in Aguas Calientes by train, I woke up at 4am the next morning, climbed for an hour and ten minutes, being passed by ever so many people, got to the top out of breath, sweaty, ten minutes after Machu Picchu opened for the day.

And that was trek enough for me.

Maybe, someday, I will get used to elevation. Maybe, someday, I will be used to trekking. Maybe, someday, I will be thoughtful enough in my travels to book ahead.

But, for now, I’m content with taking a train, hiking for an hour, and basking in the wonder of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

“Hike the Inca Trail” “See Machu Picchu” was number 120 on my life list.


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Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Amanda
    September 1, 2014at8:50 am

    Haha, still sounds pretty awesome to me! I have no desire to hike the Inca Trail. Why make myself miserable for days just to say I did something? That’s stupid. I would totally take the train, too.

  • Ali
    September 4, 2014at10:45 am

    I agree with Amanda, why make yourself miserable if it’s not something you really want to do? I have no interest in hiking the Inca Trail but I do really want to see Machu Picchu. I’ll get there eventually, and when I do, I’ll be doing it your way, by train. I’m glad you gave yourself the flexibility to change the item on your life list from “hike Inca Trail” to “see Machu Picchu.”

  • rebecca
    September 9, 2014at4:33 pm

    Good to know you did it and did it your way! Also good to get a heads up that these things need to be booked well in advance. I probably would of done the same as you and not booked in advance.

    Your pics look like you had a good time however

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