Inca Trail, Machu Picchu
Stumbled across a really great way to see machu Piccu and to see some authentic Peruvian life along the way. Some friends found a Dutch guy in Cusco who arranges tours on behalf of a Coffee cooperative. It is a bit of a DIY tour in terms of not having a guide with you every step of the way but that was one of the bonuses for me. If you don't speak Spanish they can arrange for someone to accompany you who does. It is a great way to avoid the more mass produced tours, get an insight into real peruvian life and to give something direct to the community you are visiting. We were a group of 5 and travelled from cusco in a normal public minibus for about 4 hours and arrived at the first coffee farm. The family were really welcoming and friendly and we were served a fantastic lunch immediately. In the afternoon we did a tour of the farm and were shown a wide range of fruits that were grown and picked some to have with our dinner. We walked through stunning scenery to a neighbours house where we caught trout from his pond to have for dinner. We all got involved helping prepare dinner with the family and all sat down together to eat, it was really nice to sit and chat with them hearing about their lives and interests. The next day we set off after breakfast and caught another mini bus for about 45 minutes and met our next coffee farmer in another village. We set of with him on foot up a mountain, the trek was stunning and is part of the inca trail jungle tour. we trekked for about 2 hours and reached the second farm in a little village right up in the mountains. On this farm we were shown the whole coffee making process from picking to roasting and drinking, it was really interesting. The next day we set off and trekked down the mountain to meet a pre arranged taxi. He took us to the hydro electrica and we trekked from there to Aguas Calientes, agin this was a really stunning walk up the railway track with the river to our side. We stayed in a hostel in Aguas Calientes and then got up at 4am to trek to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was stunning really amazing, we trekked to the top of Huayna Picchu as well which is well worth it for the views. We caught the train that afternoon to Ollantaytambo. We stayed there the night and then went to Moray to see the Inca ruins there then visited the nearby salt mines before returning to Cusco. All in all a fantastic few days and a highly recommended way to go to Machu Picchu. It feels really authentic, really interesting and benefits the local community. The families are brilliant to stay with the accomodation and food is great and there are hot showers. The dutch guy in Cusco is called Geert and his email is email@example.com
Geert told us that they are going to offer the first part of the tour on mountain bikes which in my oppinion is the only way it could be improved. Geert also has a wealth of knowledge and contacts for other similar stuff in Peru and ecuador which is really handy.
If you are in good shape and love hiking through the wilderness but also like a bit of pampering this four day, four night trek around Apu Huallanay is for you. The Ecoinka description of the trip is " The terrain is similar to Machu Picchu with the difference that you hardly meet other trekkers on the trail, you will experience the peasant life as you watch people work the land, camp near their homes in the midst of a pristine environment reminiscent of ancient times." and that is exactly what it is in addition to some phenomenal scenery. We did indeed have llamas which don't really carry much and horses and mules which did all the work. Each day after waking up to a pan of hot water to wash our hands and faces in and hot tea or coffee served to us in our tents, we had a hot breakfast, packed up what we need for the day and headed off down narrow trails up the sides of mountains, across fields, and streams. We were treated to fantastic scenery at every turn. Our Peruvian crew would forge ahead of us, set up camp for lunch then again trek ahead and have the tents and camp set up for the evening as we dragged our tired selves into camp exhilarated and exhausted.
i can't say enough about our guide, Juan Cornejo Gonzales. He was fantastic. We wouldn't have completed the trek without him. He was patient, thoughtful, managed the entire crew well and was good company. His love of his country and particularly the Andes was infectious and made our trek that much more enjoyable. It was the experience of a life time.
Along the trail you won't see many animals, but there is a wide variety of plants and flowers if you like this stuff. The most amazing was these wild orchideas, but there were moss, mountain flowers...
You will probably be the first on the site and will enjoy, if lucky, the sunrise over the Machu Picchu... Generally, if you do the Inka Trail, you will arrive around 6.30 - 7.00, what also means that the only way to arrive as early as we did is to walk up to the Machu site on your own, starting from Aguas Calientes (begin walking at 3.00 AM).
Vous serez probablement les premiers sur le site et vous profiterez, si vous etes chanceux, d'un superbe lever de soleil sur le Machu Picchu. Generalement, ceux qui font l'Inka Trail arrivent plus tard. Aussi, le seul moyen d'arriver a cette heure-ci est d'aller au Machu a partir d'Aguas Calientes (commencez votre marche a partir de 3.00 du mat').
From the top of Huayna Picchu, one can take in the whole view, from the Urubamba River in its deep canyon on the left, up the bus road to the concessions and ticket building, and into the Machu Picchu ruins.
The fourth day was the most special of all. I knew this and so I didn't get much sleep in anticipation. We woke up bright and early at 4 AM and by 5 AM some of us were already hiking the last leg of the trail. I got to Inti Punku (Temple of the Sun) just in time to await the first sunrays hit Machu Picchu. The first rays came around 6 AM. The view from here before, during the first sun rays, and once the sunrays had hit Machu Picchu was not only phenomenal, but also unforgettable. I do have to say that the final walk to the temple is good to, but about 5 minutes before getting there, there is a smaller temple that tricks you thinking you got there, only to realize you didn't. Machu Picchu is all that I had expected and more. The final walk from the Temple of the Sun to the ruins is inspiring. You get to see Machu Picchu up close.
The view of the Vilcabamba mountain range from the third overpass is amazing. We even got to see Inca terraces. We stopped at Phuyopatamarca, a beautiful ruin complex. Unfortunately, it rained on us so I really didn't get to see it that well. We walked for another hour and made camp near Wiñay Winay at 2700 meters above sea level.
The walk to Phuyopatacana was on the same amazing Inca trail through changing vegetation. We passed several tunnels and at times the path was elevated about 10 meters from the ground and lied supported at one end by a cliff.
Then, we walked downhill until we reached the ruins of Sayamarca. The walk from the top of the pass to Sayamarca was on an amazing Incaic trail. At times, the Incas actually levels out the cliff and created the path. The incredible ruin of Sayamarca is a fortress with probable religious purpose. It was an excellent photo location for I took 30 photos just here. We stopped for lunch about an hour from the ruins. At this point it started raining ;(.
The third day was my favorite day of the trek. Our first stop for the day was at the ruin of Runkuracay. From here, the view of the Pacamayo valley was amazing. At times, it was covered with mist, but then it cleared up revealing the beautiful mountains. We walked past the ruin, uphill, to the second pass.
The second day, the hardest of the trail by far, took us up Dead Woman Pass (also known as Warmiwañuska; Altitude 4200 meters), the highest pass. After the Santa Cruz Trek near Huaraz, however, it wasn't much of a challenge ;). We hiked all in all for about 4 hours. So on the course of the day we climbed over 1400 meters. We hiked uphill for the first 3 hours, and then hiked downhill in about 1 hour. It was the second day when we started walking on the stone Inca trail that was used by the royal class in Incaic days.
The first day we took a bus out of Cusco, past Urubamba, past Ollantaytambo, and to kilometer 82, which is the starting point of the trek. The first day we hiked for 3 hours. On the way to the first campsite at Huayllabamba (altitude 2800 meters), we saw the famous kilometer 88 marker and the Incaic ruins of Llactapata. The ruins were spectacularly located at the edge of a cliff. Further on we camped at the village of Huayllabamba.
If you wanna see updated practical info about the Inca Trail, there is a good FAQ section in the Thorn Tree of www.lonelyplanet.com
See the link below:
View from the ruins to the right of Huaynu Picchu into the Urubamba Canyon.
Sheer vertical cliffs wrap around Huaynu Picchu.
View of the Torreon from above.
This view is looking upstream into the Urubamba Canyon, in the direction of sunrise.
The large window is seen in the next view also.