Inca Trail, Peru

27 Sep

Stefanie and I at Machu Picchu

I have never done anything so difficult and physically tiring in my life! Three months after first booking, Stefanie and I finally started the trek to Machu Picchu along the infamous Inca Trail.

We left early Thursday morning with a group of 16 hikers, 2 guides, 1 chef and 18 porters. Quite the team! We booked with the company Llama Path, a sustainable tourism operator. We researched quite a bit beforehand and decided that they seemed like the best fit. It was a little pricey, but overall I am very satisfied with the tour. The guides were knowledgeable and entertaining and the porters had adequate equipment and proper hiking shoes, which is more than I can say about the other porters on the trail. I saw some porters who had only broken sandals to hike in and plastic rice bags to carry supplies.

Stefanie and I were too late to book an extra porter to carry our clothes, sleeping bags and mats, so we had no other choice but to carry it ourselves. I was not thrilled. The guides gave us walking sticks and helped us attach the 3kg of sleeping gear to our day packs…. not an easy feat. We took a group photo at the first checkpoint and set off on the trail.

Preparing for the trek

At first, the packs were decent to carry, but once I started going uphill things quickly changed. The trail starts at an elevation of 2720m and the first campsite is at 3000m. Some areas were flat, while others were very steep. The day pack really weighed me down. The guide mentioned that I could pay for a porter on the second day, which is the hardest and most steep climb, for about 80 soles. After day one, this was an offer I happily accepted! I hiked 12 km the first day. I was exhausted and after dinner, I crashed! The first night was extremely cold. I had my thermals, fleece pants, hat, scarf and gloves on to sleep. I may have even spooned Stefanie for extra warmth.

The next day, we woke up at 5:30 am to start the most difficult day of the Inca Trail. We started hiking at 3000m and the first mountain pass was another 1200m higher. This was incredibly challenging, even without carrying my sleeping gear. I was constantly hiking higher and higher! My legs were shot, my breathing was shot… I was just about at my limit! On the trail, you see Dead Woman´s Pass so far up in the clouds and you just want someone to teleport you there. It’s called that because the mountain peak looks like a woman laying down on her back. It felt so unattainable for too long and then FINALLY you make it! It’s all stairs, too. The last 10 cracked steps are the worse. I cursed the mountain the entire time and once at the top, I had to hike back down another 500 metres! It definitely gives new meaning to the phrase, “what comes up, must come down!”

At the bottom of Dead Woman’s Pass, we ate lunch and then it was off to conquer another mountain pass, which was a solid 500m ascent. In total, we spent 9 hours hiking during the second day and covered 16 km. The worst was over.

The third day involved steep climbs, steps and descents. The Inka Trail is all STAIRS…. well, mostly. The nice thing about the third day is that I only hiked for 5 hours and covered 10 km. I also visited some of the most beautiful Inca ruins, only accessible from the Trail. On the third day, I finally had a shower! It was super refreshing and I was thankful to wash away the grime 🙂

our diverse Llama Path group

Every morning the porters bring you a coca tea, but at 3:30am the last thing you want to do is drink tea in the cold. Nevertheless, I was excited to begin the last 5km to Machu Picchu. The last two days, I hiked in the high jungle so it was a lot warmer than on the first day. I started hiking in my fleece pants, gloves, jacket, scarf and hat and ended up in a t-shirt and leggings with a sweaty back. Sexy. The last 1km of the trail is very steep! You literally had to use your hands and feet climbing up…. it was practically vertical! Everyone is so eager to get to the Sun Gate. When you finally reach the Sun Gate and get your first glimpse of Machu Picchu, it’s magical! The clouds are hovering below you and the sun shine beats behind you. It’s hard to believe I made it!

We took a bunch of photos before descending 45 minutes to the ruins. There are about 2000 tourists in Machu Picchu everyday, but only 200 tourists on the Inca Trail. It felt strange seeing all the day trippers, especially when they had it so easy. There’s a different level of respect and appreciation when you hike 42 km to get there.

I spent 4 hours roaming around Machu Picchu. It’s a massive complex showcasing the Inca’s influential and intelligent civilization. It gets blistering hot in the ruins and there is no shade, so at about 1:30pm we said our goodbyes to the mysterious city and took a bus into the nearest town, Aguas Calientes for our last lunch with the Llama Path group.

I was sad, but relieved the hike was over. There is so much anticipation for the trek and then in only 4 days, it’s done. Finito. I really enjoyed our group, too. Everybody was very nice and supportive. We even had a 60 year old couple from Canada who made it! They took a bit longer, but our secondary guide was nice enough to start trekking early with them so that we could all be together in the end. Maybe our main guide Raul was a little too nice to Stefanie – but it was all fun! Ha!

Reaching the Sun Gate. I’m so tired and giddy at this point. I was honestly shocked I made it. Ha!

Again, the Llama Path porters on the trail are absolutely amazing! They carry 25kg on their back. You leave before them and when you get to the lunch spot or campsite, everything is already set up and ready to go. They zoom past you and I still don’t understand how! Llama Path is also the ONLY tour company to offer health insurance for their porters! I can guarantee that no one in Canada would do that job, especially for only 15$ a day. We tipped them fairly at the end.

The Inca Trail is a once in a lifetime experience. I am so thankful I had to the opportunity to accomplish it. I feel like I can conquer so much more. Today is our last day in Peru and then we are taking a night bus to Bolivia! Traveling to new countries are always so exciting, except for the border crossings!

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One Response to “Inca Trail, Peru”

  1. Jess October 1, 2010 at 2:28 PM #

    This sounds amazing! I can't believe you guys have hiked the inca trail. You guys are becoming "wordly travellers!". It's awesome I hope I get to do something like this some day… love you!

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