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The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu May 16, 2007

Posted by Jason in culture, Peru, South America, trekking.

Jason and Cheryl at Machu Picchu!

The Inca Trail 4 Day Trek

Day 1

After 3 months of waiting since we booked the Inca Trail Trek the day finally arrived when we would begin it.  There was much anticipation since we had been told so much about the trek. 

We had booked the trek through “Peru Treks”, a trekking company recommended to us through travelling friends in South America.

Inka Trail     Jason and Cheryl near the top of the steps of the Dead Womans Pass     The map of the Trail

A 5.30am pick up at our Hostal took us to the picturesque village of Ollantaytambo, with narrow cobbled streets and Inca ruins.  We had breakfast here before then being taken to the start of the trail at approximately 2,600m at Km 82.  After having our passport stamped we headed onto the trail across the Urubamba river.  The weather was hot and sunny and the trail clear and easy to follow.  It appeared that Chez and I were to be 2 of only 4 people who did not hire a personal porter!  Our bags appeared ridiculously large… we were very jealous of the minute day packs people were carrying!

The 2 guides lead the group at a pretty slow pace stopping regularly which was nice.  We stopped at the first ruins along the way at Llaqtapata, an impressive view of an Inca settlement with agricultural terraces. 

Then we stopped for lunch with was an amazing sit down affair, with a mess tent.  The meal was soup and a cooked meal of fresh trout.  This is like living in the land of luxury after our treks in Patagonia!!

After a short siesta we headed off again up the valley to our final destination for today and our campsite at Wayllabamba.  Our tent was already erected, a 4 man tent for just Chez and I!

An enterprising local was selling beer which we all discovered very quickly!

The evening meal was again fantastic.  A three course meal with more food than we could possibly eat.  All fresh produce, better food than we have found in Cusco!!  We then had a much needed rest for a 6am start!

Day 2 – Inca Trail

Up at 6am woken with Mate De Coca in bed!  Then started walking at 7.30am.  Today would be the hardest day of the trek with the climb up to the “Dead Womans Pass”!! at 4,200m. 

Yesterday was just breaking us into the Inca Trail as the trail was fairly easy going and we passed many small settlements and places where locals would sell water and chocolate.

Today it felt much more like an “Inca” trail as we were walking along paved trail.  The path was steep from the start and the group began to get strung out.  One of our group Ben began to have significant difficulty with the altitude and felt terrible, but he was the only one to be seriously affected by the altitude.

After a steep ascent we reached a spot to rest at Lulluchapampa.  Chez and I were absolutely famished by 10am! This was the last spot to buy water and chocolate so we “stocked up”!  We were given a sandwich by Peru Treks to keep us going.  The plan would be to get over the pass and down to our camp by 2.30pm when we would have our full lunch.  We were very jealous though as a another trekking group were having a teddy bears picnic with table and chairs while the rest of us starved!

The trekking group at the top of Dead Womans Pass     Our Guides Marcelino and Cesar     Cheryl on the steep climb along the Inca Trail

After a rest we continued up the Inca paving steeper and steeper until the top of the pass Warmiwamusca (Dead womans pass).  The view here at 4,200m was fantastic.  Much patting on each others backs for reaching the top and as far as we know no one died in the ascent! Not even Ben! Though he looked like he might!

Atmospheric pan pipes

What made the climb to the top of the pass so atmospheric with the mountains, Inca trail and mist rolling in was the music a guide was playing on his pan pipes.  It felt like we were walking in a BBC documentary!!

After a rest we headed steeply down the other side of the pass along wonderful Inca paving and steps to our camp at Pacamayo 3,600m.

Everyone reached the camp  by 2.30pm and we had lunch at 3pm.  We were then informed that we would have dinner at 7pm!

However, after a brief siesta we were awoken by our guide for “tea”! at 5.30pm.  This involved buscuits, popcorn, Wantons and Mate de Coca!

By the time we had dinner at 7pm I hardly had any space whatsoever for the next 3 course installment!  But can´t complain!

Day 3 – Inca Trail

Again up at 6am with tea in bed and walking by 7.30am.  Today we would be walking over 90% original Inca Trail, stone paving and steps.  It was fantastic.  The scenery was superb with high green steep sided mountains reaching into the sky as we climbed the passes of the trail. As the trail went on we got deeper into the jungle, forested trail.

The first pass, immediately above our camp was at 3,950m.  We passed the ruins of a guard house on the trail Runkurakay, and then continued up the steep steps to the next pass past several picturesque tarns.

The over the pass to snow capped peaks of Urubamba

Then down steeply along wonderful paving to the next Inca site spectacularly situated, clinging to the hillside as a fortress but also religious/sacred site of Sayacmarca.  This is excellent to wonder round.

Cheryl on the way from the top of the pass     Sayacmarca     Chez trying to get more energy from the Sacred stone before another steep climb!

We then had a 20 minute walk to lunch and another enormous 3 course meal.  I needed to lie down after this!  I was exhausted by all the food they were giving us!

Then we continued along the trail through thick forest.  Here you can see that the majority of the paving is original Inca as it winds through the forest clinging to the hillsides.  The atmosphere was made more spectacular by the clagging mists on the mountainside.

Through Inca tunnels and along winding paths we finally reached tha last pass of the day and then to the next Inca ruins of Phuyupatamarca at 3,600m.  Again built on a steep hillside with agricultural terracing and utilising a natural spring still running today along inca channels.

Inca trail through the jungle

We then had a steep descent though an Inca tunnel and along a steep winding path to an Inca agricultural settlement at Winay Wayna.  Here the hillside is so steep it is hard to believe the Inca´s were able to utilise the land here to grow crops.  The steep high terraces are quite spectacular.

It appears that the Incas had terracing at differing heights in order to grow different crops at their ideal  climate location, utilising micro climates.

With dusk upon us we headed down to the campsite.  And again a chance to buy a beer!

A full menu once again and this time even a cake they had managed to bake on the hillside!!  One of the group had their Birthday the following day! The cake was delicious and so was the food on the whole trek, the cook was amazing.

Tonight was the night that we had to sort out the tips for the Porters and cooks. . . .which took some doing!  But we got there in the end. 21 porters and cook looking after 16 trekkers.

But all minds were on the following day when we would have to get up at 4am! For the sunrise over Machu Picchu.

Day 4 – Machu Picchu     

Up at 4am, and Pancake for breakfast. We started walking at 5.20am.

We started in the dark with head torches but by 6am the light was upon us.

Excitement all round as we continued on the trail and finally reached the Sun Gate and our first glimpse of Machu Picchu below us.  An amazing sight.  You can imagine how this must have looked in the time of the Incas looking down on a Sacred city in the mountains.

The sun lighting up Machu Picchu

After many photos we continued down the Inca Trail to a guard house and Sacred site where we gradually watched as the sun rose and light was gradually spread across the Machu Picchu site.  So Beautiful.

We then continued down the trail to Machu Picchu itself for 7am.

We were so lucky with the weather.  Clear blue skies, perfect for the sunlight to hit Machu Picchu.

Cheryl on the terraces at Machu Picchu

We then had a tour with our Guide to tell us what the Archaeologists have discovered at the site. Then we had several hours to meander around the site at our leisure.

Machu Picchu is NOT over rated.  It is an amazing site.  It´s situation on a hilltop within the mountains is amazing, encircled by the Urubamba river.  It is truly a Wonder of the World.

Jason at Machu Picchu     Llamas enjoying the clean Machu Picchu air!     Machu Picchu

This was mine and Cheryl´s second visit to the site, the first being by bus in the early morning a year earlier.

Even though we had seen the city before, it still wowed us. And coming to the city from the Sun Gate made it an awesome experience.

Although this type of trek is not something we would normally contemplate with guides and porters with lots of people. The trek still had its wow factor.  The archaeological sites are truly amazing all the way along the trail.  The Inca trail itself with its paving, steps, and tunnels is also amazing.  The setting of the mountains, snow caps, jungle and steep sided trail is amazing.

The company Peru Treks were excellent, the food superb, we were looked after very well and the guides Cesar and Marcelino were excellent.

The Inca Trail. . . . in short was an excellent experience and well worth the wait!!   




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