Our ‘Classic 4D/3N Inca Trail Expedition’ begun on the 23rd of October. Over the next 4 days we hiked 45km, through 3 high passes (the highest being 4,215m), visited several archaelogical ruins before reaching The Lost City of the Incas, through the Sun Gate – Machu Picchu. This is only 20% of the original Inca Trail which started in Cusco but was destroyed to hide the city from the Spanish Conquistadors. Machu Picchu ruins were not discovered until 1911 by an American Historian Hiram Bingham. Still the site has not been completely restored leaving some for future generations to uncover.
The actual trek itself was not as hard as we thought it was going to be. Day One was a ‘moderate’ 14km mainly gradual uphill. We started in a dry, rocky, exposed area with cactus and lots of mosquitos. We saw our first Inca site, Patallacta, before stopping for lunch in a small village. We chose Alpaca Expeditions for our tour company. In our group we had ten hikers, two guides and 15 porters (which included a waiter and a chef – in uniform!). The food they could whip out at a campsite was quite amazing. We always had 2-3 courses for lunch and dinner – soups, quiche, vegetables, lasagne, trout, stuffed peppers, ceviche, rolled stuffed chicken – I was well impressed! Porters on the Inca Trail are limited to carry 30kg – these guys are amazingly strong and they often run past you on the trail.
Day Two was the ‘challenging’ day covering 16km and two high passes – the highest called the Dead Womans Pass. On the ascent we walked through mossy forest cover and then into alpine. Unfortunately the cloud cover came over on our way up so upon reaching the summit it was freezing and we missed out on the view. Andrew led the pack and didn’t seem fazed by the altitude or steps. I on the other hand had to take my time with many stops to the top – though we waited about an hour at the top for the rest of our group – so felt pretty good! After lunch we visited two ruins, one of which – Sayacmarca – was definitely a highlight.
Day Three ‘easy’ day 10km in total mainly downhill and through the jungle. Which actually I found quite hard on my knees and ankles – must be getting old – thank god for hiking poles. We had our first glimpse of Machu Picchu mountain and passed through two more ruin sites. Andrew ran part of the way downhill with one of the other guys and I was alone in the middle of the group – it was quite peaceful being in such a beautiful landscape by myself – as parts of the trail can be quite busy. Our campsite on our final night was by far the best – our tents were set up on the edge of a mountain overlooking the Sacred Valley. I had the pleasure of having a hot shower set up by the porters – I was the only one in our group who could be bothered – it was so good after 3 days of sweating it out on the trail. In the afternoon we had a tour of another site Winay Wayna – the most spectacular Inca site on the trail after Machu Picchu. Our happy hour in the evening included a freshly baked cake! We each had a small slice and shared the rest with our porters who were very grateful.
Day Four the unforgettable 5km to Machu Picchu. We were woken at 3am to hot coca tea from our porters (they served this first thing every morning – coca tea helps combat the effects of altitude). We walked a short distance to the locked checkpoint and sat in the dark until 5.30am when the ranger came and opened the gates. We were the 2nd group through the gates and were lucky to get to the Sun Gate before many trekkers to get the first views of Machu Picchu. The view was a little bit hazy but we were happy it wasn’t covered in cloud. We walked the short distance down to the city and were quite amazed at how many tourists were there already (ones that came by train). Our guide Jose took us on a 2hr tour and showed us some of the main sites of the city – it’s amazing how big this place is and crazy to think it was never completed and that it hasn’t been fully recovered yet.
The whole trip was amazing – it really was more about the journey on the Inca Trail not just Machu Picchu itself. Highly recommend Alpaca Expeditions (The Green Machine) to anyone thinking of going on this journey.