We Survived The Inca Trail!

Cusco Travel Blog

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Day 1

Woke up at 4.15am having packed the night before.  We decided to rent backpacks as ours weren't suitable for trekking and didn't want to ruin them! They were both quite heavy as we had to carry sleeping bags and water for the trek. 

We were picked up from the hostel at 5.20am both feeling excited and very tired! We had to walk down the hill near the hostel and got on our coach at the bottom, there was only one other member of our new 'family' on it at thattime.  We then picked up the rest of the group which totalled 16 including us and then made the 1.5 hr journey to ollantambo where we had breakfast with our family.  We got hassled by all the locals trying to sell us sticks, hats, gloves, coca leaves...etc.  After breakfast we got back onto the coach and made the short journey to KM82 where the Inca Trail starts.

  Here we bought a trekking stick each costing one pound as we had been warned! At this point we also met the 22 porters who would be carrying all of the camping and ccoking equipment for the whole trek as well as some peoples personal backpacks who had paid for the privilege.  These little men proved to be immense.

We then started to walk with the group to the first checkpoint where we had to show our passports and got an inca trail stamp.  After this we posed for a group photo and then began the trek....

The first day  is said to be the training day as it is the least strenuous.  The first morning was a fairly easy hike with gentle slopes although half way through was tough steep slope but we were to find out that was nothing!!  We made it to the first lunch stop having seen some amazing views along the river and the highest snow capped peak called Veronica.

  When we arrived atthe lunch stop the porters were already there and had set up the dining tent, gave everyone a round of applause as we arrived (which was regular at each stopping point) and gave us a local juice drink.  we didn't have any idea what to expect for food but were amazed when the whole group sat down at the dining table we would get a 3 course meal (avacado salad, then soup then trout with veg and frozen potatoes).

We carried on after lunch and again the trek was fairly easy although Emma's backpack was showing signs of deterioration!! WE made it to the first camp about 3.30 where the tents where all set up including the dining tent and the porters greeted us again.  we chose our tent and then Neil was amazed and excited to find a bucket of cold beers for sale!! He quickly consumed 2.

  At 5pm the group were called together to meet all the staff and introductions.  It was brill!  The main guide Victor introduced all the little men individually with their name, age and where they came from.  The oldest was 54, although our favourite Marco was 50,legend! After a couple of hours we then had our next 3 course meal which again was brill. Every meal was followed with tea so Emma felt at home. We now had got to know the rest of the group - a family of 4 from Canada, a couple from New York, a gay couple from Chicago on their honeymoon, a swiss girl, a single girl from Chicago and 4 cousins from all parts of the US.  The group or 'family' proved to be good fun and we all got on really well.  After dinner Victor gave us the plan for the next day which was  wake up call at 5.
15 with tent service of tea.  we were told the 2nd day would be the toughest.  After dinner everyone was tired and went to bed ready for the next day.

Day 2

We were woken up at 5.15 with tea in the tent which ratty neil spilt over his sleeping bag and roll mat! We had our breakfast (toast, fruit, pancakes, porridge and tea).  As the sleeping bags that we had rented were big and quite heavy and we had struggled with them the first day to secure them to the backpacks, we decided to hire a local porter to cary them to the next campsite for 14 pounds.  This proved to be the best 14 pounds we had ever spent!

We set off at 6.15am. The first part was all through forest with very very steep steps, but the scenery was amazing.

  We were both struggling with breathing and thought we would never get to the first stop, but after a couple of hours we did.  At the first stop we were greeted by the porters with a table set up ready with cheese rolls and popcorn.  We waited here for about 45 mins as the group was quite spread out.  From here we could see where we had to get to (dead womens pass) but it looked a long way and very high up!  We used the toilet (discusting!), bought some water from local women which we had also been able to do on the first day.  This was probably the coldest part of the trek so we had extra jumpers, hats and gloves on. 

We pysched ourselves up and set off.  The next 2 hours were probably the toughest of our lives!!  It is a sheer slope sraight up with absolutely no flat sections, whatmakes it even harder is we could see where we had to get to and how far it was.

  We had to set ourselves small targets to reach and then stop for air and water.  It seemed to take forever and everyone was struggling apart from the immense porters who kept running past us carrying individually probably 6 times the weight of anyone else and they are about 5ft 2"!  WE finally made it to the top and about 8 of our group were already there, we climbed to the highest point of the pass  which was 4255m and collapsed! We waited here for the others for about 45 mins. We had another family photo here as well.

It was now about midday and we set off on the next stage to our second camp.  We were glad to hear it was now all down hill.  We set off at pace but this didn't last long as the steps were so steep but also very big and sometimes had to jump down them!  After about 20 mins Neil started to really struggle as it was the worst possible surface for his knees, in the end he had to let Emma go ahead as she needed a wee!! We finally both met at the camp greeted by our porters and a grape drink.

  We both felt absolutely and utterly shattered!  We then had our 3 course lunch and went to our tent for a couple of hours.  We then got back up for our 3 course dinner which again was amazing and then went to bed after being told about day 3 plan. Neil slept really well this night although the ground was much harder than the first night but Emma got hardly any sleep! Think we were both thinking how could we possibly do it all again in the morning!

Day 3

We were woken with tent tea service at 5.30am and had half hour to pack our stuff before breakfast.  This day we had to carry all of our stuff again but we managed to borrow some bungee cord from someone in our group which meant we could fasten the sleeping bags tight which made it so much easier as didn't swing and Neil had both roll mats on either side of his pack which made it much more balanced.

  Breakfast was at 6am and again was excellent.  We were told that this would be the longest day, trekking 16km and taking about 10hrs.  The group set off in good spirits although everyone was aching.  The first stage of the day was tough and steep again and we were needing to stop lots for water and air! We stopped at the top of a pass i the mountain and had a ritual ceremony where the whole group had to lay down 3 coca leaves and a stone.  We first celebrated by chanted the 4 montains we were surrounded by and the 2 guides spoke in quechua and played music.  They then asked the group to meditate before laying down the leaves and stone.  They took the ceremony very seriously and we found it excellent.  The first stop of the day was high up where we visited an inca ruins and our guide victor gave us a talk, this had happened regularly on the trek and he was very very knowledgable and a good laugh.
After leaving this inca ruins down the steepest staircase yet, we made our way along the next path to th lunch spot.  This path was fairly gentle and the scenery was amazing with small waterfalls and what seemed like a rainforest.  The lunch as normal was 3 courses and was spag bol peru style this day. We were still wondering how we were eating such good food in the middle of nowhere.  After a toilet stop we made the start of the second half of the day which was again an uphill climb.  By now we were surrounded by clouds and the best scenery yet and took this trail quite slowly to enjoy it.  As we were in the clouds we had our first bit of rain, so covered our packs and put on our waterproofs.  We made it to the top of this section and waited for the rest of the group, we were again very high up.

It was now all down hill to the last campsite, the first stage was short as we visited another ruins and from here took some amazing photos off the side of the mountain as though we were walking in the clouds.  After another talk from the guide the group was told to set off to the campsite for the last leg, which would take about 2 hrs. On this part the group got very spread out as some wanted to get to the campsite as quick as possible and they ended up running! The other people like us took it slowly to take it all in, on this part we saw spiral staircases, tunnels lots of birds and amazing greenery.  This path was quite easy but very winding.  Along this path we did not see anyone for about half an hour from our group or any of the other people along the trail, so we thought we might have gone wrong.

  After about an hour we came to the fork in the trail we had been told about so knew we were right and only about 30 mins from the campsite.  We picked up the ace here and think we might have got close to the UK record for this section of the trail!  We made it to the campsite and was greeted by our favourite porter Marco wo showed us the way to the Peru Treks site.  We chose a tent looked at the watch and was 5pm, we then headed to meet the others to go and see the last inca ruins before Machu Picchu. These were amazing and we had a little time to look round them before Victor gave us a talk, during this it got dark and we could see bats and fireflies.
  We walked back as a group with our head lamps for about 10 mins back to the site and went straigt into the camp bar- brilliant!  We all had a couple of beers, Emma had shandy which the Americans did not understand! We sat round and sorted out the tips for all the porters, cooks and guides as we were having a ceremony after dinner. We tok our beers back to the dining tent for our last 3 course meal, after the main course we were amazed when the cooks brought out 2 personalised birthday cakes for 2 members of the group whose birthday it was the following day.  How do you make cakes at 14000 ft in the middle of nowhere?!  The ceremony followed dinner with 38 people in the tent, all our group 20 porters including the cooks and the 2 guides.
  It was again such an experience to mix with quechuan people.  The guides gave a little speach before translating what we had to say as thanks to them all.  We then handed over the tips before shaking  hands with every porter and saying 'see you soon' in quechuan.  A few of us then headed back to the bar as we decided not to shower so had a few more drinks and went to bed really late at 10pm.

Day 4

We were woken at 3.50am but no tea tent service this day as we had to leave as soon as possible to try and get to the sungate for sunrise.  Breakfast was at 4.20am and we were all ready to leave as 4.50. On this day we did not have to carry our sleeping bags or mats as the porters went a different route to go home.  We got a little way along a trail in the pitch black before meeting a big queue of other groups.  Here we waited 30 mins for the checkpoint to open at 5.30am before everybody had to show a ticket to be let on this part of the trail.  Once through it semed like a race with nobody stopping.  It was hard to enjoy this part as it was very dark bit as it became light we came up to the steepest almost vertical staircase of the trek.  We made it up and then had 10 mins down to the Sungate.  At this point it is the first place you are able to see Machu Picchu, but this morning it was very misty and you could barely see infront of you!  Our group decided to make our way down the 30 min trail to the viewing point of Machu Picchu, most of our group stayed together down this part and Victor stopped a few times to show us orchids and fruit.  We made it down to the 'postcard point' and it was still totally misty.  It started clearing so the guides took a few family photos before we made our way down  to the entrance.  At about 10am we entered Machu Picchu for a 2 hr tour from Victor, which was excellent as he was so knowledgable, the place is like nowhere you have ever seen, it is amazing with llamas running around everywhere.  At about midday we were given free time to explore before getting a bus down to Machu Picchu town (Aguas Calientes) to meet the rest of the group and the guides at 2pm for lunch. In our free time we went to see some more of the ruins and then just sat down on the grass in the sun and looked around at amazing mountains surrounding us.

For lunch we shared a massive pizza (much deserved) before having a couple of hours to look around the town.  Neil bought a Peruvian football shirt for 4 pounds and then we met back at the restaurant at 5.30 to collect our bags and go the train station for our 6pm train.  The train was much better than English trains, with reclining seats and was mainly full of trekkers.We got off at a town called Ollantambo where we had breakfast on the way to be met by hundreds of peruvian locals selling stuff and offering taxi rides back to Cusco.  Our group was met by someone who showed us to a coach to take us back to Cusco.  We made it back just before 10pm and was dropped off in the main square for a short walk back to our hostel for some much needed sleep.  In all, it has been the best 4 days of our lives and would do it again. 

If you are reading this buy a ticket, come to Peru and do the Inca Trail!!


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photo by: Vlindeke