Machu Picchu, Peru.
The famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most popular treks in the world. To protect the route, only 500 permits are available per day, meaning the number of people on the trek at any one time is restricted.
Luckily we’d read about the Inca Trail as soon as we’d committed to going travelling and so we managed to book our places in February, to start the trek on July 31. We booked with Action Peru Treks who had good reviews online and were supposed to treat their porters well and pay them fairly. Ashleigh requested a guide called Rox, who had been recommended on numerous posts online. We got our man and it turned out he owned the company!
We were picked up at the hostel at 4.30am! It was freezing and we were too tired to start chatting to the other 5 group members who were already on the bus – luckily the feeling was mutual and they were all half asleep.
We spent the next few hours nodding off as we drove towards our starting point, only waking as we felt a bump, which we’d later learn was a dog running out in front of the van.
The first stop was the village of Ollantaytambo which had it’s own impressive Inca ruins, laid out proudly on the hillside. We grabbed last minute supplies (coca leaves for me, sun hat for Ashleigh), checked-out the ruins and then hopped back in the van before heading down the road to the start of the trek.
We were joined by our guide, Rox, 14 porters, and the rest of the group: Gaby, Jessica, Monica, Krystal and Rachel, 5 girls in their twenties from California.
The trail began with a ticket booth where passes were checked, followed by a walk over a bridge across a river to where the Inca Trail began.
The trail began with a two to two-and-a-half hour flat walk that had me thinking that the whole thing was going to be too easy. The views of Llactapata archaeological site (2,750 m/ 9,020 ft) were great and gave us an idea of what to expect.
We kept hiking for a few hours to Hatunchaca (2,598 m/8,525 ft) where we had our first lunch and it became apparent that the food was going to be amazing on the whole trek!
After lunch we carried on for a few hours more to Ayapata (3,300 m / 10,829 ft). As we arrived camp was set up for us – tents for sleeping in, a portaloo and a dining room tent where we had a three course meal.
The camp was nice and quiet and the stars were incredible, so I spent a while just lying there, looking up to the sky and trying to get a photo to capture a decent image.
We passed out about 9.30pm after a long day. We woke at 11pm as Ashleigh was really, really sick. Her illness from a week prior had returned. It was a long night for Ashleigh.
We woke up at about 5am for breakfast. We told the guide about how ill Ashleigh had been all night and he had the chef Pancho make a herb-rich tea which was meant to be a natural version of Imodium.
The guide, Rox, considered sending Ashleigh back home and telling her not to continue but she powered on and smashed day two despite it being the hardest day of the trek and having been up all night and having had no water or food for fear of triggering the bug.
Day two included the highest point of the trail as we went through Dead Woman’s Pass at Warmiwañusca (4,215 m/ 13,825 ft).
I found it much easier to sprint down the mountains rather than walk slowly and carefully, which hurt my knees, so I sprinted ahead on the long downhill.
We both slept like logs after a long, hard day walking and Ashleigh’s illness seemed to have passed.
Views from the camp on day two were incredible and it was especially amazing to wake up there and watch the sunrise. It was also fun as there was a group of llamas that lived by the camp!
Up again at 5am on day three, the highlight came later in the day with a chance to explore Wiñay Wayna, the largest and most beautiful archaeological site on the Inca trail.
The day was much easier than the previous one and at camp that afternoon we had the chance to have a quick shower, so that we didn’t smell too bad for Machu Picchu the next day.
There were more ruins and more llamas but it didn’t get boring.
Most of the day was spent walking around the mountainside, downhill and through natural caves.
But to finish the day at the Inca ruins of Wiñay Wayna was amazing.
Definitely the most impressive ruins on the trail…
And we had a treat for our final dinner as a celebration for finishing the Inca trail.
And we had the chance to thank the incredible porters for their hard work.
And the view from the tent wasn’t too bad!
On the final day we awoke at 4am to go and queue at the gate to the final stretch of the Inca Trail.
It was tough as we were so tired, but once the gate opened at 5.30am we got a stomp on and headed to the sun gate that overlooks Machu Picchu.
My walking pole snapped and I twisted my ankle but we were so close it didn’t matter, luckily.
There we stopped for photos before heading down into the ancient city of Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu was undoubtedly impressive, mainly for the landscapes that surrounded it, but it was a real culture shock to go from the quiet trail to a place filled with 2000 tourists, most who were visiting for the day and didn’t smell like stinky llamas like those who had completed the trail.
We got lots of photos and Rox gave us a tour of the city.
Finally, we headed to local town Aguas Calientes for beer and pizza before a train journey that was messed up due to strikes, meaning we got home much later than hoped.
The annoying home leg did little to taint what was an amazing experience, however, and one that we will never forget.