Friday, 2 October 2015

Inca Trail & Machu Picchu (Peru)


Inca Trail Day 1 – Starting the Hike!

Hiking the Inca Trail and going to Machu Picchu is very exciting, even when you have to get up at 4:00 am to get there. On September 27, we got up, took a 2-hr bus ride to pick up the rest of our hiking group (already in a nearby town), and went on our way to the start of our 4 day, 3 night hike. On the first day, we were supposed to walk 11.3 km to get to our first camp site. However, the road was under construction, and our bus had to drop us off earlier. So we ended up hiking an additional 3.7 km. Our group started out with a total of 16 members but we lost 2 members to altitude sickness.  The first one turned back early because he wasn't fit enough to do the hike (he was breathing so quick and hard we all thought he was going to have a heart attack), and the second guy was throwing up all the way for 3 hours and then turned back. We got to see them again at Machu Picchu on Day 4. The first day was very flat compared to the rest of the days. We start at the elevation of 2400 meters above sea level and ended at 2950 meters above sea level. Here is a picture of me hiking. 

When we reached our tent site, one of the houses in the town of 24 people below was BLASTING music until really late.  And dogs barking all night.  None of us had a good sleep that night.  We were happy to learn there would be no more towns along the rest of the trail.

Inca Trail Day 2 – Climbing a Vertical Kilometre

All the people we know who have done the trail said that the hardest day was the second one, and they were definitely right. Starting at 2950 meters, hiking to 4215 meters and ending at 3600 meters. That means climbing up 1200+ meters, more than a whole entire vertical km! At least the climbing was worth it for the wonderful views. 

We woke at 5:00 am on day 2 and 3, and had breakfast at about 5:45 am. You may think that hiking up is a lot harder than down, well… you are wrong. With the uneven stones laid out by the Incas and the steep steps they made, it’s just as hard going down. My legs are still aching a bit. When we arrived at our camp site, it was also our 1:30 pm lunch. You would assume that the meals they provide are simple and small, like bread, ham and cheese, but the meals were just the same that you would buy at a restaurant. They even took it a step further on day 3!

Inca Trail Day 3 – The Longest Day

Waking up at the usual 5:00 am, today we arrived at our camp site 12 hours later. That means 10 hours of hiking, with a 1:30 pm lunch. Fortunately, it’s pretty much all down. About one and a half hours before lunch, there was a neat cave we went through! Our guide is fun and he uses a small dark corner in the cave to scare people in the group. I got them all on video. :) For lunch, we had a feast, including a surprise for dessert! A big cake! As a group, we had picked a name for ourselves: the Hungry Hikers! And the cake had that written on it. What a treat! 

Also during lunch, it started to rain a lot. So I got on my rain jacket, rain pants, gloves and pack cover and we set out in the rain. It lasted for about an hour and then it became sunny. Right before our campsite for that night, there was a huge Inca ruin that went up the mountain. Here is a picture of me sitting at the edge of the ruins. 

Inca Trail Day 4 – Machu Picchu!

We had to get up at 3:00 am, but it’s all worth it for the final destination: Machu Picchu! The trail was going down a bit at the start, but then became flat the whole way until right before  “The Sungate”, where you first see Machu Picchu. There we had to climb a very steep staircase called the monkey stairs. I’m already a very good monkey, so I got up in less than 10 seconds, but everyone else took a minute.

After The Sungate, it’s about another half hour to Machu Picchu (depends how many times you stop to take pictures!)  When we got to Machu Picchu, we were at the place where all of the postcard pictures are taken. Here’s a picture of us finally at Machu Picchu. Maybe our photo is also worth a post card! ;)

When we got a chance to explore Machu Picchu, we went to some of the places sacred to the Incas, like the Sun Temple, the Three Windows, the Three Doors, and a few other popular sites.

After our time was finished in Machu Picchu, we took a bus to a small town nearby called “Aguas Calientes” (Hot Waters in English) and ate lunch there.  Then we took the train back to Cusco.

Thank you Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, you were awesome!


While there is no doubt that Machu Picchu is a spectacular finale, the Inca Trail truly lends credence to the quote “it is about the journey, not the destination”. 

The Trail was a rite of passage for the Inca elite, the road to the seasonal retreat of Machu Picchu.  Over the forty kilometre section of Trail from the town of Ollantaytambo to the “Lost City of the Incas”, the stone path undulates through mountain peaks and valleys.  Rising from 2,400 m above sea level to 4,215 m and back to 2,430 m, the Trail leads past ancient ruins on green mountainsides, affords hikers with vistas of snow-capped peaks and waterfalls and descends into lush jungle: it is a journey through quintessential Peruvian Andes.  

The final hours of the 4-day trek are consumed by the descent down to the city and the awe-inspiring tour of Machu Picchu itself.  I found myself lost in thought walking between and through the almost-intact homes and temples and picturing lives lived 500 years ago. For most, and possibly all of our group, the pinnacle of the ancient Incas was a major bucket-list item, and there were no disappointments.   

Our entire group -- guides, porters and fellow hikers -- were very impressed by Cooper’s enthusiasm, positive attitude and physical stamina throughout the trek.  (And his parents are equally proud of him.)   The question now is:  what do you do next when you’ve successfully tackled one of the world’s most sough-after destinations at the ripe old age of twelve?  

(Also, our Finca Bellavista "Living in a Treehouse" blog entry is finally up from Costa Rica. Galapagos posts also coming soon!)

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