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Here's my entry...

In April 2013 I went to Peru with my boyfriend and like a lot of people who visit the country, our main reason for going was to embark on the Inca Trail – a four day hike along the historic route up and down mountains to reach the ancient Inca site, Machu Picchu.

I expected the hike to be long and difficult but that I’d feel quite proud of myself by the end of it (being someone whose favourite walking activity involves going from shop to shop on Oxford Street and who balks at the thought of wearing walking boots), but it was a lot more than that.

Peru is a beautiful country, full of some of the most kind and generous people that I’ve ever met, even when they have so little. We were a group of 13 and were totally looked after on the trek, with the guides sharing the fascinating history of the trail and the Incas, and the porters pandering to our every need. They each carried 22kgs on their backs and ran up and down the mountains in order to set up camp - putting us to shame with our small day packs and huffing and puffing as we slowly made our ascent. The chefs were equally as good, and the food completely exceeded my expectations (although I was beginning to get sick of the sight of quinoa soup by the end of it!) We had everything from pancakes to stir fry, and the chef even made a birthday cake for one of the girls in the group (how he did that in a tent on top of a mountain, I have no idea).

The second day of the hike was definitely the toughest. After waking up at 5am, we started the five-hour walk to Dead Woman´s Pass (the name alone was enough to put me off), the highest point on the trail at 4200m above sea level. It was gruelling. It was a steep up-hill walk the whole way, made up completely of uneven steps (good for my thighs, not for my mental state). Mix that with the high altitude and ever-changing weather, and you´ve got a challenge on your hands. Reaching the top we felt triumphant, only to then start an almost-as-difficult three-hour descent to camp, down steps (again!) that were slippy from rain and mist (causing me to have a couple of tumbles).

Day three was the longest we walked (16km), but it was also the nicest walk. It wasn´t too difficult, and the views of the surrounding cloud forest were exceptional. That, and I think that we were all just glad to have put the worst behind us.

Pictured: Walking through the cloud forest

On the fourth and final day we awoke at 3.30am in order to get to the Sun Gate and see the sun rising over Machu Picchu. The hike only lasted about two hours and wasn´t too difficult (discounting going over fresh landslides and clambering up dangerously steep stairs...ok, maybe it was quite difficult). As we finally reached the Sun Gate and saw Machu Picchu slowly lit up by the sun, the past few days of hard work, early starts and quinoa soup were all completely worth it.

I looked around at this group of people that I just shared the past few days with – people from all different nationalities, backgrounds and beliefs – and I was so overjoyed to have shared this experience with them. 

Pictured: The group upon reaching Machu Picchu