So I'm going with the Inca Trail in 2008. It was the hardest three days of my entire life (well, apart from the whole traumatic saga of the next day with Nessa winding up in hospital, but that was a different kind of hard), but boy, was the destination worth the work.
In hindsight, I was pretty freaking unprepared. Sure, I'd been working out three days a week for a year, but I was pretty half-arsed about it (secretly, I was hoping that I could persuade Ness to take the train to Machu Picchu rather than doing the Inca Trail...). Riding an exercise bike for half an hour three times a week doesn't really help with the Inca Trail. And yes, I did a three day hike a couple of months before. But hiking in Australia was never going to be anything like hiking in Peru, even if we did do it with 20kg packs... I sucked pretty badly at the test hike near Mt Feathertop. And that was at around 2,000m closer to sea level.
|Well, hello Mt. Feathertop. Compared to the Andes, you're a speck on the radar...|
|The view from the top of the Test Hill|
|I have to walk to WHERE?????????|
|Me and Nessa at Dead Woman's Pass - 2,000m above the highest point in Australia. Don't I look completely thrilled to learn that I have two hours to go until I can collapse in a heap?!|
Most of our group made it in four. And then there was the hour and a half trek DOWN the other side to camp. During which I couldn't even stop to enjoy the view because my legs were shaking so badly. On the plus side, I did better than Mrs. Watermelon, who had to have porters sent back to her with food and water. She was finally carried into camp as we were all eating dinner several hours later...
Day 3? Less sucky. It featured another climb, but it was only a short one - the rest was downhill. And it features most of the actual Incan part of the trek, so it was pretty awesome from an archaeological perspective. AND we got to see Mrs. Watermelon, the bane of our collective existence, being carried on a stretcher by the porters (who thought the whole thing was hysterical) because she literally couldn't walk any more. Oh, plus? I saw a rock on Day 3 that looked like someone flipping the finger. It pretty much made my whole day.
|The awesome 'screw you all' rock|
|The original Inca Trail|
Day 4 started early. I mean EARLY... The plan is to make it to the Sun Gate in time for dawn to see the sun rise over Machu Picchu. Shame it started raining when we got there... After a very skiddy trip from the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu, the rain had settled in. But it cleared after an hour or so, and that made all the pain, all the tears, all the embarrassment of staggering into camp two hours after everyone else worth it. I even managed to climb one of the mountains overlooking Machu Picchu to get an aerial view over the whole city.
|My favourite photo from my whole nine weeks away - WE MADE IT!|
|Worth every freaking second of pain...|
The Inca Trail remains the most painful and torturous thing I've ever done. But it was worth every single second...