My wife and I recently travelled to Peru to hike the Inca Trail following the footsteps of the famed US explorer Hiram Bingham – discoverer of the ancient city of Machu Picchu. The 3.5 day hike took us to elevations as high 4200m above sea-level, up and down undulating landscapes in the mountains, and through natural and man-made tunnels that have stood the tests of time and nature. On the last day of our hike, we reached a landmark on the trail called Intipunku – otherwise known as the “Sungate”.
From this point on the trail, hikers can catch their first glimpse of the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu down below, a huge reward after such a long and arduous trek. At first, the city looks like a small speck and is hard to discern, but as you climb down the trail and get closer, the size and grandeur of the ruins becomes more appreciable.
For those not able to hike the actual Inca Trail or have limited time, there is also a commercial train that takes tourists up to Machu Picchu. On the descent from the Sungate towards Machu Picchu, we frequently encountered tourists climbing up the trail towards the Sungate who had already reached the city via train.
Out of sheer luck, I happened to recognize one of the many train travellers walking past us in the opposite direction as Dr. Lynn Tomkins – the Past President of the Ontario Dental Association.
Dr. Tomkins is a tremendous ambassador of dentistry, a huge supporter of The U of T’s Faculty of Dentistry, and was one of my clinical demonstrators in the Emergency Clinic at the University of Toronto. As our meeting on the Inca Trail was quickly turning into a bottleneck with hikers building up in both directions, we quickly exchanged greetings, took a photo opportunity and went on our ways.
If you are thinking about doing the hike up to Machu Picchu, stop thinking and DO IT! (Get medical clearance from your family physician before you go, of course). You will be rewarded with one of the most awe-inspiring views that this world has to offer. And you never know who you might bump into when you’re up there!
– Dr. Michael Banh