Inca Trail, Machu Picchu
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.
The Inca Trail (in Peru) is one of the most popular hiking trails of the world and ends at the most popular tourist destination in South America, Machu Picchu. Traditionally held over 4 days and 3 nights it involves a 45km hike at altitudes from 2650m (8692ft) to 4200m.
The Inca Trail can only be done through a tour company, costs are about $500USD, the track is closed in February every year and in the busy months of May - August booking well in advanced is advised.
In my case, I went with Q'ente and their details are on a seperate page.
Overall I found the track hard with the added altitude problems, but as the days progressed it became more a mind thing then a fitness issue. Reasonable fitness is required but no further training really neccessary. Guides are used but in my case i carried my own clothes, snacks and sleeping bag.
Camping facilities on the trail:
Each camp site will have running cold water and some toilets. By toilets I mean holes in the ground with no lime or even water buckets to wash it down with. Bring along some scented toilet paper to hold to your nose and a torch to stop you from stepping in anything at night.
You porters will bring all the tents you need. You will usually be sharing a 2 person tent and you will need to bring along all your sleeping gear (ie sleeping bag and bed roll). The porters will also set up a dinner tent complete with tables and chairs to be comfy with.
There are numerous camping grounds along the trail and your group leader will have had one booked in advance. (hopefully).
Don't expect any showers until the last night of camping. All the trekkers stay at this camping ground and it actually has facilities. Toilets, showers, some electricity and.... a pub!! Take my advice though and don't drink at altitude (bad mistake!).
Described as an "easy trek" you really do need to train before you go!! We soon discovered that the altitude mixed with Peruvian flat (very steep hill) can really take it out of you!! Although our group had to complete the trek in 3 days instead of 4 because of permit issues (not our fault!!) and porters quitting and leaving our bags, all of us thouroughly enjoyed the challange and the views, although it would have been easier to complete in 4 days without carrying all our stuff!!
We treked for around 12 hours per day (normal is 8) past some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. The first day we had to catch up on some of the trekking that we had missed and so trekked right through to Llulluchapampa (3740m and 1500m straight up in one afternoon) and camped for the night. The second day was physically the hardest in my life. We completed all 3 passes in one day (4200m, 3975m and 3650m). The third day for us was mostly downhill - watch your knees!! The last day is only a 3 hour trek to the Sun Gate and on to Macchu Picchu. The passport control opens at 6am so make sure your group is the first to get there and try to be the first at Macchu Picchu for sunrise (I didn't quite make it that early!!).
There are only a certain amount of people allowed on the Inca Trail at any one time and as a consequence you will need to book and get your permits early in order to get the date you want. Check with the tour operator beforehand that they have the permits.
During the trail you will (or should!!) be given 3 meals a day and lunch and dinner will usually be a 3 course hot meal!! Bring along any extra snacks thay you may need. They will provide you will boiled water for drinking. Your group will usually have porters to carry all the tents and sleeping equipment that you will need and for an extra fee you can hire a porter to carry your bag as well. The porters will also carry oxygen should you feel the effects of altitude sickness.
I beleive that the Inca Trail is definitely preferableto getting the train to Macchu Picchu (if you have the time). You see all the amazing countryside as well as accomplishing something within yourself that perhaps you didn't know you could do. Although exhausted when you get there, the ruins mean so much more.
The elevation on the Inca Trail can ascend to over 10,000 feet, and altitude sickness can be a real concern even for those who are in good physical health. Give yourself at least three days in Cuzco to acclimatize to that level of elevation before you attempt to climb further on the trail. Drink the coca de mate if you can find it. The coca leaves are not harmful, and scientific evidence or not, the locals swear by it, and I do too.
Drink lots of water before and during your climb. Give your body time to adapt before you start, and you'll be able to soak in every moment of this breathtaking trek.
In 2001, due to the damage caused by uncontrolled tourism and insufficient preservation efforts, UNESCO threatened to remove Machu Picchu's designation as a World Heritage site if measures were not taken to better preserve the ruins. In response, the Peruvian government now limits tourist permits for the Inca trail to no more than 500 per day. This may seem like quite a lot, but I've been advised by frequent visitors that you should try to get your permit at least 3 months n advance of your trip, if not sooner.
Permits can be secured through a number of travel companies on the web. Price generally goes for $200 and up with an optional $50 or so plus tip for a porter to carry your gear, if you so desire. This usually includes entrance to the ruins, tents, a guide, and meals.
Disclaimer: I did not do the Inca Trail hike up to Machu Picchu. I just saw it and talked to a few people.
The picture posted with this tip is taken from the train. It is a small section of a rest stop where the various groups of guide led expedition hikes to Machu Picchu. The train actually stopped to let a few in and out. There are so many people on this trail. And there are now buildings built on the trail to sleep in, and buildings to cook and eat in. To better accomodate the hikers. But I thought the point of doing the Inca trail is to experience the sacred trail just like the Incans used to do.
That kinda takes the fun out in my eyes. You decide, and check up on the facts for yourself.
These are the first glimpses you get of Machu Picchu, and how impressive they are our party were speechless as we gazed upon the Ruins below, I had read the guide books and seen the photos, but still was not prepared?quite a spiritual moment.
If you have 3 extra days to spare, hike the Inca Trail. It's truly a privilege to follow the footsteps on ancient Incan pilgrims. Orchid is the national flower of Peru and you'll find plenty along the way. Be prepared reach maximum physical capacity on first day because you are going up almost 4,000 feet before you reach Dead Woman's Pass (highest peak of all three). The steps are steep and air is thin. So pace yourself and breathe slowly. Second day gets a little easier. Third day is difficult again for some as you descend to about 10,000 feet. We went down about 2,000 steps in a couple of hours. Machu Picchu park gate opens at 6 am, hikers line up around 5 am. It's another two hours hike until you reach Machu Picchu. It's relatively easy with the exception of a small, steep purgatory section.
You will be spoiled rotten by the porters and cooks. Respect and tip them well. It's a tough job.