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Birthday party on the Inca Trail

Seldom, a member of the Southern Oregon Nordic Club, sent an email to members inviting us to join him on a hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Pichhu — to arrive on his 80th birthday. Four of us locals took up the challenge, along with four friends and relatives from out of town.

We hired a Peruvian tour company, Karikuy Tours, with three experienced guides. After three days of acclimatizing to the altitude in Cusco, Peru, we started on the four-day trek to the World Heritage site. The first day began at 10 a.m. We hiked 7.52 miles to the first campsite, where the porters had set up camp. On the way, we sampled the local brew and were told how it was crafted by the natives.

The second day was a challenge. The hike was only 5.5 miles, but we had quite an elevation gain to 13,796 feet. After lunch we descended to 11,798 feet. It is a misnomer to call them “steps” for the descent. Unevenly placed rocks with differing heights made this quite a challenge — up as well as down provided a difficult 10-hour day.

The third day was the longest trek, going over two passes, descending to 8,858 feet and covering 8.33 miles in 10 hours. Inca ruins were resplendent along the way. For me, this was the most challenging day, with all the uneven steps both up and down. The guides were encouraging and helped me make it to camp.

The last day was only 2.9 miles, and we were to arrive at the Sun Gate at sunrise. The challenge of this day was the 3:30 a.m. start and the Monkey Wall just before the Sun Gate. Here we climbed on hands and knees up a rock wall to the summit. The wonders of Machu Picchu were spread before us. The Incas were amazing engineers — quarrying rocks, sanding them and putting them in place with no mortar. Because of the trapezoidal design, their structures have withstood earthquakes while lesser buildings have fallen.

Seldom and his friends made it to Machu Pichhu for his 80th birthday, exhausted but with a feeling of accomplishment.

Patricia Fuhrman lives in Ashland.

Pat Fuhrman, crouching in front and wearing a red hat, poses at the top of Macchu Picchu with a mixture of sightseers. Locals with her were Seldom, the tall, white-haired and white-bearded guy, Pam Moore, standing next to him, and Socorro Holloway, who is standing in the front wearing a blue jacket and a scarf.