Tucan Travel - The Inca Trail, Peru.

When you think of Peru there are many things that come to mind, but the one everyone (or so I hope) knows is Machu Picchu. I could not go all the way to Peru and not see Machu Picchu, thankfully due to booking early I managed to get a spot on the Inca Trail hike (only a certain amount of tickets are available for each day and have to be booked months in advance.) Alternatively, you can do a one-day hike to Machu Picchu, catch a train or do a trail known as the Lares trail.

Day one.

I woke up feeling nervous but excited, the day before the company/guide who would be taken us on the trail did a talk with us, going over health and safety, giving us details on how far we would be walking, when we would be stopping, about the food and toilets etc. Everything sounded simple, so it reassured me that the trail would go smoothly. We were provided with a duffle bag to pack our items in that we would not need on the trail and would be carried by porters, I did this in the morning and made sure I had a ridiculous amount of water in my day pack. Once packed, those who were doing the Inca trail headed for the bus, on route we stopped at a local café and shop for breakfast. Next, we picked up the porters who would be doing all the hard work for us! We were then back of the bus ready to start the trail, I decided to rent walking sticks (and trust me they helped a lot) so after adjusting the sticks and buying a Machu Picchu hat to wear to protect my face from the sun I was ready to go. 

Our starting point was KM82, here we posed for photos before heading down to the check point. Here, you show your pass ports and tickets for the Inca Trail, we had a slight problem here as one of the passports details on the tickets was typed incorrectly but thankfully they were allowed on the trail. The views at the check in point were incredible with the Urabamba river and snow-capped mountains in the distance, it was a sign of wonders to come and looking back now I did not quite take half as many pictures on the Inca trail as I probably should have. I was too engaged and focusses of putting one foot in front of the other to keep getting my camera out. The hike on day one was more of a ‘gentle’ uphill slope with a few hills as far as I can recall, it felt like the perfect hike to break you in for the days to follow. Along this route, there are family homes selling drinks and snacks which should be taken advantage of to stock up on water, on day two there gets to a point where you will no longer see people selling drinks and water, and trust me drinking boiled water does not taste good… Eventually, we reached Llaqtapata a large Inca village, photographs do not quite do this place justice it was an incredible site. Here, I took of my bag for a while as it was already making my shoulders ache, sat down and enjoyed the view. Our guide, told us a brief history of Llaqtapata, what the village was used for, how it was discovered etc. 

It was not long before we were ready for lunch, we ate our first lunch in the garden of some local people, who had chickens and kittens and we sat and watched the two children play with these animals and then things got strange and they started painting on the animals… Anyway, a gazebo was put up for us to eat in, with a table with a cloth arrange for us. It exceeded all our expectations, and the food… No words, it went beyond anything I could have imagined for the Inca trail. We had a starter of soup, followed by a main and then a dessert. It was bliss, every time we had food on the trail there was always an animal made from vegetables from toucans to monkeys, it kept us all smiling on the trail wondering what animal we would have each time we sat down for food. The food on the trail was fantastic from start to end, and they accommodated any dietary requirements.

On the first day of the hike our group stayed close together, talking to each other, getting to know each other a little bit better. We had occasional rests and breathers, taking in the scenery and seeing if we could spot any wildlife, we did see a hummingbird. It was not long before we reached camp for the evening, we camped in the garden of locals who thankfully had a flushing toilet (although it ended up getting clogged up and well, not a nice story…) our tents were still being set up when we arrived, so I had a quick walk around. Guinea pig is a common food in Peru and this house had lots of them running around, which made me a little sad since I have had guinea pigs as pets throughout the whole of my childhood and know what fantastic animals they are… but it is also interesting to learn about different cultures. Once the tents were set up we grabbed our duffle bags and settled in, again we had an incredible meal before heading off to bed early (around 7pm) ready for an early start the nest day. I thought I would have the worst night sleep, but thankfully I had such a good sleep, I was expecting to be freezing but I was so warm and toasty the whole night (and not once on the trail at night was I cold.) 
Day two.
This day is meant to be the hardest day on the Inca, and for me it was. We started at around 2,800 metres above sea level and would be working our way up to 4,200m, across Dead Woman’s Pass the name itself sounds so terrifying. However, its gets its name from the fact the mountain shape looks like a woman lying down and if you look closely enough one of the mountain tops resembles a nipple. So yeah, the name might sound scary but the reason behind it not so much.

After a good night of sleep, our porters woke us up early with a basin of water to wash in and a hot cup of coca tea which was such a pleasant way to wake up. I got dressed for the day and sorted my day pack out before putting everything else I would not need in my duffle. To travel light, I pretty much worn the same clothes every day and only changing under garments, I kept a jumper and jacket in my day bag. Ready for the day, I went and had breakfast which was delicious. We then had a talk about the trail for the day and headed off.  

Today, everyone went at their own pace. Everyone on the trail is at a different level of fitness and tolerance to the altitude. For me, I just took my time, I did not want to rush it and push my body pass it limits. But today was hard, there was so many steps. The altitude made it even more difficult, I stopped several times because it was just so hard to catch your breath. Our guide showed us how to roll and crush coca leaves and ash to chew on to prevent altitude sickness, you place the leaves in your mouth chew for several seconds and repeat every now and then. I am not sure if it prevented altitude sickness, I did not get it (I had felt fine previously in Cusco,) but it did make it easier to breathe as the leaves numb your mouth and open your airways. 
It was hard to take in the surroundings at times, when you are focusing on walking and breathing but the sights were incredible. From dry and barren landscapes to walking in cloud forest streams running through. As a group we decided today that rather than stopping for lunch we would walk directly to where we would be camping for the night and have lunch on arrival, this was to mainly save time and it also benefited the porters. Reaching the peak of the pass was hard, up and up it went and as soon I you thought you were there you realised there was more steps and hill to climb. Those that had reached the point before others in the group were there waiting to cheer us as we all one by one reached the peak.  It was such as incredible moment to finally reach the top and be in awe that I climbed all that way (I was planning to, but I did little training before doing the hike) once at the top I sat down and relaxed, taking in the surroundings and having a quick snack. Half an hour later I was ready to carry on walking. 
I arrived at our camp, Pacaymayu in the afternoon. I was so ready to take of my shoes and get rid of my daypack. I made the terrible mistake of going to the toilet, which were now long drops wearing flipflops, never again!! We had lunch once everyone was at camp and spent the afternoon resting before dinner. I was exhausted and so ready to go to sleep after dinner, unlike the other night however I did not sleep well and woke up several times needing the toilet. However, going out at night was stunning. The moon was so bright I could see as if it was day.

Day three.
This was by far my favourite day on the trail and what our guide called the cultural day, as today we would come across several Inca ruins. The walk was also very scenic and not as difficult as previous days, but there was still steps to climb up and steps to climb down from! Unlike other days though, there is more of a descent on day three which can put a lot of pressure on your legs, so others struggled with this day more. I mentioned that I had hiking sticks and they really did make a difference. 

After breakfast, we were ready to go. The first site we came to was Runkuraqay a cylinder and small archeologically site. Our guide told us a brief history of the site, why it was built, which was more than likely a store/post house where people would stop and rest on their journey to Machu Picchu. Our guide went into talking about buildings, and how the Inca’s designed and built buildings in a certain way, buildings will align or face towards the sunset etc. It is really fascinating when you consider how the Inca’s may have done this and for what purpose. Today, we had two passes to cross the highest being 3.950 metres. Thankfully, it was not half as gruelling as the day before. After the first pass we came upon another site, Sayacmarca.

This was the biggest ruins we had seen so far and it was incredible, to enter the site you have to climb a one way staircase (which is a task in itself) some people might choose to skip the site but I would recommend going up! The site is split into two sections, a residential area and a temple. I’ve been told this site was not originally built by the Inca’s but was vastly improved by them, how accurate that information is I do not know. Sayacmarca is a place that would be incredible to watch the sunrise and set, due to the way the site was built and situated. Our guide gave us a good tour of this site and provided plenty of information, most of which I have forgotten because I did not write anything down!

Not long after we stopped for lunch, again the food was incredible. I can’t even begin to describe how good the food was and to consider the fact we were miles away from civilisation and being served good quality food. The beauty continued as we carried on our hike, vines entwined across the paths, flowers, the sound of birds and my favourite we went through two Inca tunnels! These are natural tunnels that occurred in the mountain but made wider for the Inca’s to use, it was really fascinating to see how the incorporated natural stone into the trails, and not to mention it is incredibly fun walking through a mysterious tunnel! We got to a point where you could see Aguas Calientes in the distance (the town where you can catch a train to Machu Picchu) not long after, the trail split in two, one route was meant to be quicker than the other, but I ended up choosing the longer route on the basis it was easier.
This route led us out to more ruins, and our reward at the end was getting to see some llamas (you could pretty much walk up to them) we spend a while trying to get a good photo before heading to camp. Our site was so far away from everything, it took us a good fifteen minutes trying to find someone from our group before we spotted a porter. We dropped our bags off before, our guide told us to follow him, he took us to the last big site before Machu Picchu, Winñay Wayna.

Rows and rows of terraces were used to harvest crops and the houses were commonly used to house people travelling to Machu Picchu. The site has small square stones waterholes that trickle water out of a spout, this water is believed to have been used for cleansing purposes before entering Machu Picchu. It wasn’t long before it started to get dark, so we headed back to camp and for our last meal! At the end of the hike it is customary to have a celebration of kind, where we are introduced to the porters who have worked incredibly hard, told their names, age, about where they are from, if they have children etc. before we shake hands and say thank you. I was so grateful to our porters, and at times I felt they go incredibly underappreciated. Honestly, I am not sure how much money they get for doing this, but I don’t believe for a second it is enough. The only advice, if you do tip, be kind and give each porter the same amount individually. We had a problem with our tip, we gave it in a lump sum and we soon discovered afterwards that it was not split evenly, with our three guides taking the majority. (Our guides were amazing though, but I was slightly upset about this!)

Anyway, we all went to bed early knowing we had to get up super early to get in line for Machu Picchu. I had a fantastic time on the trail, and I could not believe it was coming to an end so soon.

If you have any questions about the trail, feel free to ask. 

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