Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu has been a dream of mine for a long time, and after a lot of planning and co-coordinating I finally managed to make it happen! After careful research we decided to book with a local Peruvian company called Peru Treks, who had a lot of positive ratings for porter welfare and promoting social programs in the area.
We booked the ‘Classic Inca Trail’ 4 day hike for the beginning of April, right at the tail end of rainy season. We spent a few days in Cusco acclimatizing and having a pre-meeting with the tour company before gathering supplies and setting off on our Inca adventure!
Day 1: Cusco to Wayllabamba (12km)
A small bus picked us up at our hotel and took us to a small town to eat breakfast before dropping us off at Km 82 where the trail begins. All the bags needed to be weighed and contents distributed among the porters. Everyone collected water, snacks and rain gear into day packs and set off on the hike. The first day was sunny with some clouds but cool, which was perfect for hiking.
The landscape was gorgeous, full of broad Andes mountains and lush mountain fields. The trail was fairly easy and there were many other groups on the trail with us. We stopped in a beautiful valley for lunch, which was a wonderful spread of soup, tea, meat and rice. We finished the day early and arrived into camp to have our tents set up for us and supper ready. A perfect first day.
Day 2: Wayllabamba to Pacamayo (12km)
We woke up early to a light drizzle of rain, had breakfast and were on our way. The mountains were covered in mist and everything looked incredibly green and lush. We began hiking through a cloud forest with little blue and purple flowers along the way, and soon passed a waterfall.
About three hours further through steepening woods brought us to the treeline and about an hour and a half further until we reached the “Dead Women’s Pass”, the first and highest pass we had to climb at 3,680m. It was difficult, but everyone in our group made it with a steady pace.
The decent from the pass was steep and I slipped on a wet stone step and fell hard, lucky without serious injury. I managed to be one of the first into camp that night on the valley floor, and this time was exhausted from the day. An early sleep was needed.
Day 3: Pacamayo to Wiñay Wayna (15km)
The third day of hiking as in heavy rain, which only slowed for short periods so I wasn’t able to get many photos. The mist drowned out most of the scenery anyway but we did stop to explore a few ruins on the way.
We finally arrived in Wiñay Wayna, our last campsite before Machu Picchu soaking wet and tired. There was rumor of hot showers but everything I owned was soaking wet so I didn’t feel I should bother. The small restaurant on site had drinks and our group spent some time socializing and playing cards together before I crumbled into bed.
Day 4: Wiñay Wayna to Machu Picchu (5km), Return to Cusco:
We woke up excruciatingly early at 4.30am, and got dressed in the dark. After a quick breakfast we waited by the park gate until we were allowed to enter and complete the journey to Machu Picchu before sunrise.
The sky got lighter as we trekked through the darkness to the almost vertical stone steps up to the Sun Gate. As I trudged up the last of the 50 steps, I could feel my heart in my throat – I was finally going to see it. As we came over the top I saw…nothing. Just a giant cloud covering what was supposed to be the most glorious sight I was going to behold with my very own eyes. Disappointment drowned over me.
I was cold, wet and exhausted, and now I couldn’t even see what I had come all this way for. Deflated, I continued on walking, down to the gate and ticket booth and slumped into a chair while waiting for the group. I got a coffee and a snack at the cafe outside the ruins and an amazing thing happened. The rain stopped and I got to see my glorious sight.
Overall the Inca Trail experience was something I’m glad I did. It was painful at times, but not as difficult as I thought it would be. The combination of stunning Inca ruins, magnificent mountains and cloud forest were all amazing and very much added to the experience. I would definitely do the ‘classic hike’ again, next time I just wouldn’t go at the end of rainy season.
Photos of the Inca Trail
[slickr-flickr tag=”inca-trail” items=”20″ type=”gallery”]
For More Information: