COUNTRY OF PROVENANCE
Generally we start from Saint-Jean Pied de Port. The route starts from the Pyrenees. It is about 800 km to Santiago. Cristina, walking around.
I said to myself: “Cri, how about leaving for Spain and taking the Camino of Santiago? and I answered to myself “Why not!”. Cristina, walking around.
I am a walker. I walk with my feet, with my mind and with my heart, but I haven’t always been a walker. Cristina, walking around.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru
Cristina, the walker
Pachamama. Mother Earth. Mother Goddess. A word that I didn’t know before my trip to Peru. A word that is difficult to understand, before having tasted it, seen it, breathed it, lived it. In ancient times there was a female type entity in the Andes, a principle that included everything, an entity that made living beings part of an immense cosmic mechanism, a universal plan that included everything that was created. A religion, a recognition that the human being makes of Nature, the union between human being and Nature.
I cannot explain it better, but it is all that I have seen and that I continue to see in various forms and whose spirit has never left me since that moment.
After buying my Milan – Lima / Lima – Cusco plane ticket, many people told me that after the Camino de Santiago, it is natural to go beyond borders and want to go walking in the Andes. In fact, there is a special path in those parts: the Inca Trail.
Everyone knows Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world, a destination visited by over 340,000 tourists a year, on average. We are talking – unfortunately – of a pre-covid era (at the time of writing, in fact, the epidemiological picture in Peru is disastrous, after a “light” opening a few months ago).
Everyone knows Machu Picchu, as already said, but only a few know the Inca Trail. Few crazy people (or enlightened?) decide to walk, for four days and 3 nights, an entire secret path traced thousands of years ago by the Incas to reach the Sacred City on the Ancient Mountain (literally Macchu Picchu in Quechua language) and remained in oblivion for centuries. Those enlightened fools know that they will have to climb irregular stone steps all day and suffer a bit from soroche (altitude sickness), sleep in tents in the cold and in the middle of nowhere, even reaching 4200 meters of height. All this just to “touch the sky with your finger”. Crazy stuff then, or stuff belonging to those who decide to practice a rite of passage and discover the Pachamama or, just, to walk.
How and when
43 km on foot, from the Sacred Valley traced by the Urubamba River to Intipunktu (in Quechua Door of the Sun) the gateway to Machu Picchu. It is possible to do this journey on foot in any month of the year, although most travelers choose the Peruvian cold season (June / August). The path is closed for maintenance only in February. To book, however, it is necessary to rely on an authorized agency that will organize everything. (I personally recommend Peru Etico and Peru Viaggio Sostenibile). The permits for daily access are limited, about 500 per day and it is necessary to put yourself in the hands of expert guides along the way. Other essential information: it is necessary to book at least 6 months in advance. It is therefore not a trip for solitary and last-minute walkers.
Going up and down continuously for 40 km, sharing joys and sorrows, coca leaves and stories from the 13th century, with travel companions, will be good for your tired body and for your heart, which at a certain point will start beating fast, not only because of the altitude. Group dynamics require some compromise, but we were talking about a rite of passage, right? It is supposed to be challenging.
So to recap: good physical shape, book early and be ready to compromise in group dynamics. On the practical aspects: very light backpack (Max 5 kg), trekking sticks and shoes already used (not new).
What remains of the Sunset
I remember to feel cold and then hot, then fresh again and then hot. The climate in Peru is variable depending on the area in which you are located with a large temperature variation between day and night. I remember rain and then sun, fatigue and immensity. I remember the ritual of coca leaves every morning with our guide, his perfect facial features and the colors that surrounded us. I remember the fatigue and my whims: – “Enough, I can’t take it anymore I stop here” -. I remember a new night in a tent all wet, after the storm that had surprised us on the street and that delicious food that the portadores – the support staff who accompany the groups – prepared for us in each camp in the evening. I remember the mate de coca and the exchanges with fellow travelers. I remember a French family who dreamed of Kilimanjaro the following year after having climbed, always together, Everest the previous year. I remember the two very young Swedish friends who had been around the World for one year and were out of money to tip our staff, because that one was supposed to be the last stop before returning to Stockholm. I remember the last climb before arriving to Machu Picchu and seeing the Citadel, our Destination. I remember breathing the sun there, grateful to my body and legs for taking me there. I remember Peru and everything I saw and experienced in the following days, I remember a dream in which Pachamama hugs me and smiles at me.
Designed as a path of purification and pilgrimage to enter the sacred place of the Inca Emperor Pachacùtec, which remained a well-kept secret from 1440 to 1911, the Inca Trail still remains a spiritual masterpiece that enlightened fools should enjoy at least once in their life.
I walk, therefore I am.
I am a walker. I walk with my feet, with my mind and with my heart. I haven’t always been a walker. I started a few years ago, for fun and for a personal challenge: to walk on foot as many km as possible on the Camino de Santiago. The following year I walked in Peru on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and the following years I took many other walks, more or less known. Walking is a real passion for me and I can no longer do without it.
I love getting lost, only to find myself, along unknown city streets, endless woods or unexplored paths. I am two in one, two souls, two hearts. My name is Maria Cristina, I have two names and walking is one of my very personal forms of “Self-love“.
Will you come with me for a walk?