Autotask: Seen at Machu Picchu

September 21, 2015  By Jonathan Radin
Autotask's own Jonathan Radin recounts the amazing experience of living his long-time dream of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu...

It began on August 11, 1977.  I was 11 years old, and Leonard Nimoy came on TV, not as Mr. Spock, but as the host of a series called “In Search Of…”.  This particular week’s episode, “In Search Of Inca Treasure," sparked my quest for adventure. It told the story of Hiram Bingham, the real life early 1900s archaeologist and explorer who inspired the movie character of Indiana Jones. Bingham, a Yale professor, hoped to find a lost city of the Incan empire, the legendary “City of Gold.”  Bingham followed what is today called “El Camino Inca” or “The Inca Trail”, from the city of Cusco. He did not find a city of gold, but he did find the city of Machu Picchu.
I would later become a big fan of Indiana Jones and I knew that someday I would visit Machu Picchu. 37 years later my brother mentioned in passing that it was possible to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and follow in Bingham’s footsteps. As soon as I heard that, we started planning.
Almost all of the Inca Trail is more than 10,000’ above sea level, which is officially “high altitude.” The Inca Trail trekking companies require travelers to acclimate in high altitude for at least 2 days before beginning a hike. We arrived in Cusco, 11,200’ above sea level, two days before we started our hike. It was quite hard to breathe up there. The air is very thin, which means each breath contains less oxygen. That meant losing my breath very frequently. Even the act of holding my breath to swallow some food or drink resulted in gasps for air the first few days.
The hike itself was outstanding. The Peruvian government controls access to the Inca Trail, so we saw very few people and the landscape and wildlife are undisturbed. There are wild llamas and alpacas everywhere and the dry air meant our view was usually unobstructed except by gigantic mountains.  
On the way to Machu Picchu, we climbed as high as 13,828’ above sea level, through a mountain pass known as Warmiwañusca (Dead Woman’s) Pass. The pass is named “Dead Woman” because the hills around the pass look like the profile of a reclining sleeping woman, but make no mistake – the altitude there can be a killer. We crossed this pass on day two of the hike. That day we climbed about 4,000’ to reach the pass, and then descended almost 3,000’ to get to our campsite. Without a doubt, this day’s hike was physically the hardest thing I have ever done. 
The Peruvian government also controls access to Machu Picchu, but they let far more people in the relatively small area of Machu Picchu than they allow on the Inca Trail.  On any given day, there are up to 500 people on the Inca Trail, spread out over 32 kilometers.  On the same day, there are 2,500 people allowed in Machu Picchu, which is only 5 square miles. The culture change from the solitude of the Inca Trail to the crowds of Machu Picchu was shocking, but it was well worth the crowds to have the experience of walking the streets of this Inca masterpiece.
On the way home, we stopped for some roasted guinea pig, which is an Andean delicacy. If you ask me, it tastes like chicken. Well, more like duck.
Jonathan Radin
Senior Software Development Manager, Architecture
Jonathan manages the Architecture team in Product Development, ensuring that the developers have all the tools and framework they need to deliver the highest quality products that continue to delight our customers. He has been working in software development for more than 25 years, and has been working at Autotask for 10 years. Jonathan is no stranger to global travel – in 2008, he and his family moved to Beijing for six months to help ensure the success of our then fledgling China development group.
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