In early July I went and ticked off one of the things that has been on my bucket list for a long long time – hiking the Inca Trail. My boyfriend and I booked our trip into the Andes with G Adventures, who I would 100% recommend. This post is going to explain what we did during our 7 day excursion in Peru and how I found the Inca Trail. I apologise in advance, it is a long post!
Before we set off I was a little bit apprehensive about doing the trek as I had read other people’s experiences and was a bit worried that I would get altitude sickness and be unable to actually arrive at Machu Picchu.
We arrived into Cusco at around midday and spend a few hours looking around Plaza de Armas before heading to our G adventures meeting where the plan for the next few days was explained and any questions answered. Even just walking to the plaza from our hotel, which took 10 minutes, left me feeling a little breathless and my lips were very very dry, due to the fact that Cusco is c.3500 metres above sea level. After the meeting, Marcus and I then went for dinner at … which was delicious. I had a risotto and Marcus tried alpaca which he says was very nice. I did start to feel a little headachy after dinner but I’m not sure if it was due to lack of sleep due to travelling for nearly 24 hours to get to Peru or because of the altitude. We then went back to our hotel in order to pack up our day pack and duffel bags for the porters and get a good nights sleep before our journey began.
We woke up bright and early at 5.30am in order to get our selves organised, have breakfast and store our extra belongings at the hotel before heading out in a mini van to our first destination. We stopped at the Cristo Blanco which looks over the city of Peru .
We then went to a G Adventures Women’s Weaving Coop in order to learn a little more about the lives of the locals. We learnt how they dyed and made the alpaca wool into thread and then how they weaved it into patterns. We then got a chance to look around at what they had made and buy some of their goods. I bought a bracelet and a winter headband and Marcus bought a hat.
After we went to Pisaq ruins and had our first taste of climbing steps at altitude. I was really shocked at how much altitude can affect you. For me, it made me get out of breath super super easily, but my recovery time was also a lot faster.
For lunch we went to the Parwa restaurant, another G Adventures funded project. The food was actually incredible, a proper little feast we had! We then drove for about an hour and a half to Ollantaytambo and stopped first at our hotel for the night, Inka Paradise. After dropping off our bags, we went to explore the Ollantaytambo Ruins and learn a little bit more about Incan history.
We then went to a little shop to make sure that we had everything that we would need for our hike such as rain ponchos, toilet roll and most importantly, snacks! We had dinner (and a few beverages, including a VERY strong Coca sour) and then went to bed early in preparation for starting the hike the next morning.
Day 3 – Starting the Inca Trail
We woke at 7am in order to have a modest breakfast at the hotel and make sure we had everything packed for the next few days. We then drove to KM82, the start of the Inca Trail. It did feel very surreal getting all of our stuff together and preparing ourselves to start the trek, knowing that these were the only people you would be seeing with just the bag on your bag for the next four days. Bags of snacks were handed out for us to eat when we wanted over the next four days, which contained an orange and a banana, some chocolate biscuits, a chocolate bar, and quinoa cereal bar and some hard boiled sweets, and then it was time to start!
I have to admit, I did feel a little nervous leaving the entrance and embarking on our little adventure, as I have never done a multi-day trek before and so this was completely new to me. However, the first day was comparatively easy. The first section was almost completely flat and so was a welcome beginning to the trek. We walked past some houses on the way and got to take in the stunning Andean scenery without having to concentrate too much on breathing.
Our first stop of the day was at some more Incan ruins which were very interesting to have a little look around. We then continued up to our lunch spot. As we walked into our little lunch camp, we were met with applause from the porters and the chefs. This was our first taste of what our chefs would be preparing over the next four days and I have to say it was delicious. Unfortunately, I had developed a headache and started to feel quite nauseous by this point. I’m not sure if it was completely due to altitude or if I just hadn’t been drinking enough water. Our first meal comprised of noodle soup, salmon and rice and jelly for pudding. Up until this point Marcus and I had been using water purification tablets in order to make the tap water safe to drink. However, from now on our porters boiled water for us so that we could fill up our water bottles and hydration bladders.
We then set off for our afternoon trek. This section did start to have a few inclines but nothing majorly hard. The first part of the trek I still felt quite nauseous but by the time we got to camp on the first night I felt okay.
We stopped in Wayllabamba camp which also happened to be a little farm for our first nights sleep on the Inca Trail which was quite comfortable as we had grass to sleep on. After dropping off our bags and heading to our tents, we were given a ‘portable jacuzzi’ (a bowl of warm water) so that we could freshen up a little bit. After relaxing for a little while, we were then introduced to our porters one by one, and then introduced ourselves with the help of Washi, our guide, who translated for us.
After, we went into the dinner tent for ‘tea and biscuits’ and had a chat amongst the group, followed by dinner. Again, we had soup, a main meal and then desert. This nights toilet was probably the best out of all the camps, as it was actually a toilet rather than a hole in the ground.
Day 4 – Dead Woman’s Pass
We woke early at 5.00 am so that we had time to have breakfast before setting off on our second day of hiking! We were woken with a cup of hot coca tea in our tent and another bowl of hot water to freshen up. When I first booked my trip I didn’t realise how cold it would be in the mornings and evenings, and so getting out of the sleeping bag took a little bit of encouraging. After getting dressed we had to have our bags packed and ready for the day before having breakfast, which was personalised pancakes! Then it was time to refill our water bottles and head off.
This was the day that I had been dreading, as we had to climb 1200 metres in elevation to a total height of c.4200 metres, and was when most people got sick. Our guide, Washi, told us before we started to take it easy and at our own pace and stop when we wanted to, so there was no pressure to keep up with the faster people in our group. The first 2 hours of climbing were not too bad, as I kept to a pace that I was comfortable with and just enjoyed the experience and took in my surroundings. I also chewed on some coca leaves and ate some coca sweets in an attempt to stop any altitude sickness.
We stopped for a break in between each hour, and then began the final ascent. It started off not too bad, but gradually got harder and harder the further we reached. For quite a while you could see people at the peak of our pass, but this did not make the final steps any easier. Honestly, my feet felt like they were made of lead. By this point, I also had a mild headache, either from the altitude or not drinking enough water. However, we made it to the top with many pauses for breath along the way, and I felt so proud to take in the view from the top. Our guide gave me some Agua de Flora to help with my headache and I think it did help a little. We also had Coca leaves as we were going up to try and avoid altitude sickness.
From the top, after we had taken our picture, we then started the two hour descent to our camp for the night. This was almost as grueling as going up, and I could definitely feel it in my legs. I also started to feel sicker as we went down in altitude so that by the time I got to camp all I wanted to do was lie down. But instead, we had a well earned late lunch, as we arrived into camp around 2 in the afternoon. After that it was time for a spot of relaxing and enjoying the wonderful view out of tents. There was the option also to have a cold shower as there were facilities, but after going to the toilet block I decided against it as it was pretty grim.
Dinner tonight was a special occasion as it was one of our group members birthdays! To accompany our tea, we had popcorn to munch on, and after dinner we had birthday cake and a tiny bit of wine! How on earth they managed to bake a cake with their basic cooking instruments I have no idea, but it tasted delicious!
Again, we started early to have breakfast, which this morning was Spanish omelette. We started by going up quite a steep ascent through Ruquraqay, which is at nearly 4000 metres. Once at the top, we hiked to a little clearing where we made our offering to mother nature and laid down a rock that we had been carrying since the start of the Trail. We also experienced some spectacular views from here and could also see Dead Woman’s Pass.
We then had to go down a steep descent which was quite hard on the knees, but personally I found it a lot easier than going up. We stopped for a break at some more Incan ruins, before then carrying on to our lunch spot. From now on I could definately feel that we were going into sub-tropical climate as the flora started to get a lot more jungle-y. For me, this day was one of the most scenic days of hiking as our views were less barren.
From lunch, we then had two hours of steep descent to reach our final campsite. Marcus and I, and a few others went ahead, as it was easier to go down faster. I enjoyed this bit of the trek as well as it was just Marcus and I for a lot of it and I don’t find going down that taxing and so could actually enjoy the views. Once we reached our meeting point, the view that greeted us was absolutely stunning. There was also a baby llama which was very cute!
Once we had all reached the meeting point, we headed down another 10/15 minutes until we reached camp at Winay Waynu. By this point it was early evening and so we sat down and had our dinner quite quickly. We also said our thankyous and goodbyes to our porters and gave them their tip, before trying to get some sleep, which proved a little difficult due to the very humid and hot weather
Day 6 – Machu Picchu
Our last day on the Inca Trail starting early with a 3.30 wake up in order to get through the check point when it opened at 5.30. We got up, head breakfast and then headed to the back of the queue for the checkpoint and waited there for about an hour. Unfortunately, my hydration bladder hadn’t been done up properly and so had leaked inside of my bag, which wasn’t the easiest to deal with when I hadn’t woken up properly and only had the light of my head torch to see by.
Once the checkpoint opened, we set off on the last bit of the trail in the dark. We were able to watch as the sun rose behind the mountains which was pretty cool. It was also quite misty and so the view had an ethereal feel to it. Our first stop was at the sun gate, which is supposed to offer the first glimpse of Machu Picchu, but unfortunately due to the mist, we were unable to see it.
However, as we started to walk down the path, the mist started to clear and we got some good views over the Incan city!
Once we arrived at Machu Picchu, we had about an hour and a half tour around the inside of the site. It is so easy to tell which of the visitors to the site had done the trail and who had just come by bus. I did find it a little aggravating when very clean tourists had donned walking boots/attire, as they weren’t fooling anyone!
From Machu Picchu we then got the bus down to Aguas Calientes and had some lunch there. We didn’t have much time to look around as we had to catch a specific train back to Ollantaytambo. From there we picked up some of our stuff which we had left in our hotel and then drove back to Cusco, after picking up some well deserved beers!
Day 7 – Home time
We spent our last day in Cusco just generally wandering around the city. We went to San Pedro market and bought some souvenirs, and bought some HUGE churros which were delicious.
So there we have it, I COMPLETED THE INCA TRAIL. From booking it up until I actually went I was a little concerned that I just wasn’t fit enough to do it, but I am and I am so proud and feel very accomplished. If you’ve read to the end of my very long and very rambley post then you should also feel accomplished! If you’re reading this and considering taking on the challenge for yourself i’d seriously suggest to just do it. It really is a once in a lifetime adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed despite it being quite tough in parts, and really would recommend going with G Adventures as they really were excellent.
If you have any questions then please feel free to ask!