The Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is one of the most popular treks in the word, so popular that we had to book it 4 months in advance to secure a spot. Some people love it, some hate it; but everyone admits that overall it is the most authentic way to arrive at Machu Picchu given that it follows the same pilgrimage route that the Incas constructed and followed on a their religious journey to the temples of Machu Picchu.

Is the Inca Trail a victim of its own success? Yes. Is it crowded? Yes at the camps, though surprisingly not on the trail. Is it worth it? In the end this is a personal call, but we say that it is. Completing the trek is a S. America rite of passage, for there is no trail with more ancient ruins along the way, and at the end you arrive at beautiful Machu Picchu from above at sunrise. In our view, putting up with dirty toilets and cramped campgrounds is worth the price of admission. All other “trails to Machu Picchu” only take you to the nearest town where you take a bus up to the site like all other tourists, not the most inspiring first approach to Machu Picchu after days of hiking.

Words of advice to potential hikers, spend the night before (and after) in Ollantaytambo (bus pick-up at 8:15 versus 4:45am in Cusco, and train stops in Ollanta on the way back anyways making it a much shorter transport day). Also, we highly recommend getting tickets for an extra day at Machu Picchu after the trail, and spending a night in Aguas Calientes where you can soak in the hot springs after the long hike. Arriving at Machu Picchu after 4 days hiking, you just don’t have the enthusiasm required to fully appreciate the granduer of the site (we felt much better the next day after beer, pizza and a shower), plus you can also climb Mt Machu Picchu or Huana Picchu for nice views over the ruins.

Here we start at KM 82 on the train tracks between Cusco and Aguas Calientes (town at base of Machu Picchu). The train line was built in the 1920s.

DSC02619

Our group included 14 hikers, 2 guides, a chef and 17 porters to carry all our equipment (we’ve never hiked with so much luxury!).

DSC02616

The porters carry all kinds of stuff strapped to their backs in huge bundles. We felt a little bad about it, but they are able to supplement their farming jobs with the income from working as porters. Look at the size of those packs! There were full on tables, chairs, gas fired kitchens and a full array of cutlery in those bags. Made the camps very comfortable though.

DSC02615

We start at the Urubamba River and work our way up into the mountains climbing over 3 passes, the tallest at 13,776′ high!

DSC02621

DSC02622  DSC02629

DSC02623

DSC02626

The trail gets more scenic each passing day, with day 3 being the most scenic.

DSC02627

Here is a view of the first Incan ruins we visited, a large site with terraces and old ruined buildings.

DSC02632

DSC02631

DSC02634

Our guide showing us our plan for the day.

DSC02635

Here is our entire group porters, cooks and all.

DSC02641

Our chef even baked us a cake on the 3rd day for dessert after lunch! Didn’t want to start hiking again after that meal.

DSC02642DSC02646

DSC_0515 DSC_0517 DSC_0527 DSC_0528 DSC_0531 DSC_0534 DSC_0536 DSC_0537

There were a lot of steep stairs to climb to the highest pass on day 2.DSC_0545

Lewis is taking a rest at the top of the pass.

DSC_0547 DSC_0550

We made it to the top of Dead Women’s Pass at 13,776′. Named after a mummy they found in this area, or perhaps for the shape of one of the rock formations.

DSC_0554 DSC_0555 DSC_0570

It was nice weather the entire trek, with sun shining and some fog down below sometimes.DSC_0576 DSC_0583 DSC_0597 DSC_0604 DSC_0610

Our guide was very spiritual, he talked a lot about the spiritual beliefs of the Andean people (including some far out trips on San Pedro Cactus and Ayahuasca teas, both hallucination drugs popular in the area). I respect all people’s spiritual beliefs, though admittingly some of them sounded a little wacky. Especially the parts about the geodesic points and magnetic centers of energy. Coca leaves are a big thing in the Andes, so we did a little ceremony with 3 coca leaves each representing a wish for our family, community and self. It was a charming little ceremony at a beautiful spot on the trail.

DSC_0611 DSC_0614 DSC_0615

Lots of cool flowers on the trail, especially neat orchids as we got to lower elevations.

DSC_0619 DSC_0623 DSC_0630 DSC_0633 DSC_0635

This was a really neat Inca ruin site with spectacular views over the valley below.

DSC_0640 DSC_0642 DSC_0645 DSC_0655 DSC_0660 DSC_0663 DSC_0666 DSC_0674 DSC_0680 DSC_0681 DSC_0686 DSC_0689

Walking on Incan paved walkways was pretty cool.

DSC_0695

There were even 3 caves that we passed thru.

DSC_0709 DSC_0712 DSC_0716 DSC_0720

Bonnie made a friend at the 3rd pass.

DSC_0742 DSC_0753 DSC_0757 DSC_0758 DSC_0761 DSC_0771 DSC_0773 DSC_0781 DSC_0787 DSC_0796 DSC_0798 DSC_0807 DSC_0810 DSC_0811 DSC_0818 DSC_0826 DSC_0827 DSC_0841 DSC_0845 DSC_0846

The final ruins before Machu Picchu were these large agricultural terraces called Winay Winay where food was grown to feed the population of Machu Picchu.

DSC_0849 DSC_0852

Incan terracing is a sight to behold.

DSC_0857 DSC_0859 DSC_0861 DSC_0864

This is the prettiest orchid we spied on the trail, it looks like something out of a storybook.

DSC_0867

 

DSC02655 DSC02650 DSC02656

 

Another cool orchid.

DSC02672

This orchid grew fairly common.

DSC02679 DSC02675

Overlooking the site of Machu Picchu at sunrise from the Sun Gate.

DSC02682 DSC02687

Here we all are. We made it the 26 miles with quite a lot of elevation gain.

DSC_0928 DSC_0930

For those interested, here is the elevation profile for the trail.

Inca Trail Marathon Course Race Elevation Profile graph

Advertisements

One response to “The Inca Trail

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s