Inca Trail, Machu Picchu
We started our trek at km 88 and reached Winay Wayna on the afternoon of the second day, but by the time we hiked down to the ruins we were all so tired we were unable to explore properly and failed to see everything. On the second day i was so tired that i was on my hands and knees several times, and my friend had to help me with carrying my pack! So don't make the same mistake we did, take your time and do it in 3 or 4 days so you can enjoy this magnificent site.
At about 5pm we finally arrived at our campsite at Wiñay Wayna which means Forever Young in English. After a snack we went to the ruins of the same name where the scenery was stunning as the clouds parted for the first time that day. We could even see the Veronica glacier which was amazing.
At this point in the trek I was feeling pretty tired and was sore in my calves, knees and ankles. I decided I needed to make a New Years resolution to do something about my weight and fitness!!
Just before we reached our campsite for the day we came across the ruins of Intipata which I was really impressed with. Intipata means "Sun Terraces" in english, however the day that we walked through there they were covered in cloud.
There were lots and lots of agriculture terraces which we walked right through. It is said that Intipata was likely to be an agriculture centre for Machu Picchu population.
After the Inca Tunnel it was mostly down lots and lots of stone steps to reach Phuyupatamarka. It was quite cloudy around this area, not surprising as Phuyupatamarka means Cloud-level town in English!
Phuyupatamarka ruins contain argicultural terraces as you can see in the picture.
After our lunch stop between Sayacmarca and Phuyupatamarca there is a tunnel that was built through solid rock by the Inca's. The trail just before and after is pleasant to walk along as you are surrounded by rain forest.
There are a lot of downward steps though which can be a little rough on the knees. This is when our sticks that we had bought in Ollantaytambo came in handy.
After seeing the ruins of Runkuraqay we continued on our trek to Sayaqmarca. These ruins are located at about 3,600 m above sea level. To get there we had to climb lots of stone steps (as you can see in the picture I took).
It was interesting walking around these ruins which has an aquaduct / canal where water was channeled from a nearby river. The ruins have a sun temple and an area that was presumed to have residential quarters. The name Sayaqmarca means "Inaccesible Town" in English.
This morning was an early start at 6am. It had rained all night but thankfully the rain had stopped by the time we woke up. The third day on the Inca Trail was the longest walking day.
At Runkuraqay we saw our first ruins of the day about an hour after setting off. It was located about half way up Runkuracay Pass. It is believed that these ruins are a post hut along the Inca messenger route. The ruins are an oval shape and this is how it got its name Runkuraqay which means egg hut in English
After the exhiliration of reaching the high point at Warmiwañusca we began our descent to Pacaymayu where we would be camping for the night.
This side of the mountain was different to the other. There was more vegetation and we even saw llamas. It was quite tough walking down because there were hundreds of stone steps we had to go down which are really tough on the knees. Fiona thought that going down was worse than going up. I still thought that going up was harder but agree that going down wasn't a piece of cake.
As we approached Pacaymayu we saw some waterfalls and a river and it also started to rain again about 5 mins away so we put our rain ponchos on again and arrived rather wet on the outside. The rain didn't let up until the next morning.
When everyone had arrived at camp we had lunch which was corn soup and a chicken & vege dish which tasted great. We then had all afternoon to relax (although due to the rain we just stayed in our tent and read books). Dinner was at 7pm in our little dinner tent as always. We had a spaghetti bolognaise which I didn't really like so much. Went to bed at 8pm but didn't sleep so well. We got up at 6am and thankfully the rain had stopped.
After our snacks we headed off up the mountain (I was going to call it a hill but it really is more like a mountain) to the area known as Warmiwañusca, which means Dead Women's Pass. Warmiwañusca is located at an altitude of 4215m above sea level and is the highest point of the Inca Trail. It was hard going climbing here and I tried to maintain a steady pace using my I-pod to keep my beat. I had to stop from time to time for a little rest and some water though.
At the top I felt quite exhilirated. We stopped briefly to take some photos.
Our destination of the day was Pacaymayu but before we got there we had to get to the highest point of the Inca Trail which is at Warmiwañusca (4200 m above sea level). It was a big climb to get there so half way up, after the bush walking section, we all stopped for a well deserved break. There were stunning views down the valley from above the clouds at this spot also. I have to say I was glad to see that the porters also took a break at this point. It was unbelieveable the amount those guys carried and the speed at which they walked!
We had some snacks and refreshments before continuing the climb.
Day two started at our camp in Wallabamba at 5am when our guide Rueben woke us up with some Coca Tea and warm water to wash our faces with brought to our tent door (talk about service!!). We had french toast and cereal for breakfast. Yum!
We set off at around 6:30am for what we were told was the hardest days hiking, 12kms in total. All I can say is thank goodness I had my I-pod to keep me going! That day we were to go to the highest point on the trail but first we had to get to the Wallabamba lookout and then through the bush area to our snack and rest spot.
During the bush walk it started to rain. We did our hike during December which is rainy season and cold at night. I had a rain poncho that was really really useful to put on over the top of my pack. I actually took off my trousers though (zipped them off) and just used shorts as it was warmer when walking in the rain.
Once we had gone through the checkpoint we were on our way. Day one on the Inca Trail does feel a little crowded as all the tour groups are starting at the same time but after awhile they do spread out a bit.
We walked on Day one a total of 4 hours to finally arrive close to Wallabamba which is situated at 3,000 m above sea level.
During day one I was so surprised at lunch time to arrive to a pitched tent and a chef in full attire ready to serve us our lunch! I had no idea that the Inca Trail would offer this kind of service. It was first class and what amazing surroundings to be in.
We went through a little village called Qoriwayrachina where we had a drink stop and later saw the ruins at Llactapata (see pics) which sit at 2,840 m above sea level.
We arrived at our camp at 4:15pm and had afternoon tea and then rested until dinner at 7:30pm. I am glad I bought my book and diary so that I have something to do during the down time.
We have an early start and a big climb the next day so early to bed!
After a 30 minute stop in Ollantaytambo we drove to the start of the Inca Trail to a place called Piscacucho which is located at Km. 82.
We had a toilet stop here and handed over our canvas bags to the porters. The day before, in Cuzco, we had received these bags to put no more than 5 kilos of our stuff in them. Fi and I put our extra clothes and toiletries in them. Apart from this we also carried a small day pack which had snacks, water and wet weather gear in it.
Our group for the Inca Trail tour consisted of 5 people, Fiona and I from NZ and Don, Kevin and Brad from Chicago, USA. We had a group of 7 porters and one guide accompanying us also.
I have to admit to feeling more than a little guilty watching the poor porters carting so much stuff on their backs!
After waiting our turn to have our picture taken in front of the Inca Trail sign we then proceeded down to the first checkpoint. This is where they control the number of people entering the Inca Trail each day. There is only a total of 500 people allowed in at any one time and this includes the porters and guides. If you take your passport with you they will happily stamp your passport in addition to your ticket.
Today we woke up at 5:45am to get showered and breakfast before being picked up for our Inca Trail tour at our hostal in Cuzco. After being picked up we went by bus to Ollantaytambo. In Ollantaytambo we had a stopover of 30 minutes.
I went into the shops and bought some more coca caramels and Fiona and I bought some walking sticks each from the local vendors.
I would recommend that people doing the Inca Trail buy one of these sticks as it really was invaluable support during the hike, particularly coming down the many steps we encountered on the way.
I hiked the classic Inca Trail in June of 2007 over 5 days, starting at the classic Km 82 and ending at the Sun Gate and the spectacular ruins of Macchu Picchu. June is not the high season, so our group of 12 didn’t encounter too many other hikers along the well-worn, popular trail. About 15 porters joined us on the trek, carrying our camping gear, food, sleeping bags, and clothing, so we only had to carry a daypack filled with hiking essentials. It was the end of the rainy season so we encountered rain only on a few evenings.
We started at Km 82, the classic start to the trail with its own check-in facility where tourists present their passports and hiking permits. A large sign at the trailhead provides a classic photo opportunity, and the first segment of the hike parallels railway tracks and the Urubamba River. The trail was once part of a spectacular “highway” that linked the cities of the Inca empire to its capital, Cusco, and was traversed by horses, people, and other livestock during the empire’s heyday hundreds of years before the Spanish conquest. Some portions of the trail are still covered by the original stone steps, at some parts so steep that the stones appear to be stacked one above the other in a vertical wall. Other parts have been repaved with new stones and some areas consist of regular dirt paths.
The trail starts at 2700 or so meters above sea level, rising to the most difficult part of the trek -- the Dead Woman’s Pass -- at 4200 meters above sea level before gradually dropping to 2400 meters above sea level at the ruins of Macchu Picchu. Because of the elevation change, the trail traverses through all manner of flora and fauna, ranging from open plains to tropical cloud forests to alpine meadows. Visiting ruins along the trail, crossing paths with native llamas and other animals, and encountering beautiful orchids, giant bamboo groves, and other flora while traversing a path crossed by millions of people over the span of centuries made the hike a memorable and worthwhile trek.