A young trekker finds his way through forests, besides surging rivers and tranquil lakes to take in the sight of Machu Picchu.

“Machu Picchu” — I first heard about this amazing place in school. We marvelled at its history, how old it was and the sheer beauty of the mountainside ruins. Subsequent research told me that it took over 100 years to build, and this happened over 500 years ago.

A visit was inevitable. My father decided on the Inca Trail — a trek that would take us on the route the Incas undertook 1000 years ago. But because of the popularity of this trail, spots fill up a year in advance! So we chose a modified Machu Picchu trek called the Lares lakes Trek.

The Lares Trek involves a hike of four days and three nights. It begins in a small village in the Sacred Valley and passes through hot springs. All through the hike you are surrounded by breathtaking mountains, beautiful streams, crystal clear lakes and small Inca villages where life has not changed much over the centuries. The first two days are challenging as it is uphill most of the way, and also very cold. The reduction in oxygen level further adds to the difficulty.

The trail

Day 1: We hiked for six-and-a-half hours, starting at Huaran at 2,950 meters to an altitude of 4,100 meters. The climb parallels the river Cancha Cancha, through the tropical rain forest. Our guide showed us different plants and their uses. The first night we camped close to the Cancha Cancha.

Day 2: We trekked seven hours up to 4,750 meters. To our surprise there was two feet of snow! And we had to plough our way through it. It was a three-hour hike to reach the top and this steep climb at 15,000 feet was demanding. We arrived at the mountain pass — Pachacutec Pass. To climb to the top, the stipulated age is over 14 years, thus making me one of the youngest to climb to the top without assistance from the porters or the horses! The snow from the previous few days made the scenery vivid. The sky cleared around noon when we reached the pass. We were rewarded with superb 360 view of tall mountain peaks, Pachacutec Lake and the snowy peaks of Pitusiray. The next couple of hours was easier and we passed by numerous clear lakes. We had a late but well earned riverside lunch and in the last couple of hours we travelled through a narrow ridge that took us to the campsite in Quisuarani.

Day 3: We began the hike at 5 a.m. This was an easy three and a half hour stroll to the town of Lares at 3,100 meters. We were hugely rewarded with a nice bath in the hot springs that eased our over-worked muscles, and allowed us to completely relax. We were picked up by a bus that took 2.5 hours down a winding mountain road for some wonderful photo opportunities before reaching the train station of Ollantaytambo. From here we took the Perurail train to the city of Aguas Calientes (meaning ‘hot water’), at the base of Machu Picchu. Here we joined the rest of our family again!

Day 4: We got up at 4:30 a.m. to take the 30 minute bus ride to Machu Picchu. Our guide gave us a tour of Machu Picchu. We saw the astronomy tower, condor temple, and the burial place of the Inca royalty. We saw the rock tabletop where sacrifices of black Llamas were made. We were wonderstruck by the beautiful plantation terraces. The world had forgotten about this amazing place when the Spanish invaded South America 500 years ago! Who rediscovered Machu Picchu? It was an American explorer Harry Bingam in 1912.

Day 5: We wanted to visit Machu Picchu once again to catch the heart stopping view of the sunrise. We climbed the steep slopes of Wayna Picchu.

A trip to Machu Picchu is a humbling experience.

The write is a 7 Grader at Gentry Middle School, Columbia, MO, U.S.