One of the main reasons why we wanted to visit Peru is Machu Picchu. Throughout the course of our trip, we were exposed to other sights and attractions the rest of the country has to offer.
When we initially wanted to come to Peru the thought of hiking the Inca trail for 4 days never crossed our minds but once we saw it was included with this tour, we were both up for the challenge.
We had an overnight stay at Ollataytambo and in the morning, it was time to drive to Kilometre 82 to begin our hike. I should also note that for every time we had dinner or lunch as a group, we always received complimentary pisco sours. The closer our hiking date approaches, the more Yuri weaned us off the free Piscos.
KM 82 to Wayllambama
Approximate Distance: 11km
Elevation: 2700m - 3200m
We arrived at the starting point with positive thinking and a sense of excitement. We took photos at the starting point and even got a stamp on our passports prior to officially starting our trek.
Day one was reasonably easy and we all took our time. Our guides for the trek, Marcellino and Daniel, told us these porters literally run or jog up the mountain and they weren't kidding. One of the awesome experiences hiking the trail was the fact that there were ruins you can see from the trail. We made a pit stop at one of these ruins and we had some time to explore the buildings.
By the time we arrived at our designated lunch spot, they had the dining tent set up and ready. Not long after we arrived, we soon had our first lunch and it did not disappoint. As a side note, all our meals and snacks (including tea time) were all very good. I think we were impressed at what they could possibly make in the tiny kitchen tent they had. Anyway, as soon as we arrived, the porters welcomed us with a round of applause. Nothing like a round of applause from the guys who carry three times as much as you to boost the morale and motivation.
Right after lunch, we set out again, and our final destination for the day was our campsite, Wayllambama. We had a good hour of daylight left and our guides told us there are ruins just a few minutes from where we are. Lucky for us, there was a lady who sold beers on the trail so we grabbed some cervezas and made our way to the ruins.
Wayllambama to Paqaymayo
Approximate Distance: 12km
Elevation: 3200 to 4200m to 3600m
Day one ended on a great note, day two on the other hand, was a different story. From the research that we did, we pretty much knew to expect a difficult second day. Even though we expected a difficult day, it's definitely different when you see the number of uneven stairs you have to climb and there's no other way of reaching the next campsite other than to just do it. I decided to tell myself that it's going to be fine and I just need to focus on the stairs in front of me rather than the whole mountain we have to climb (we were camping at 3600 m but to get there we had to go up to about 4200 m to Dead Woman's Pass and then back down). Lucky for us, we had a great group and everyone tried to encourage each other to keep going. I was lucky to have Julian encourage me all the way and in addition to that, Casey's singing was also a great distraction (it was the good kind of singing).
After what was literally hours of going uphill, we finally reached Dead Woman's Pass. We reached the summit with Lena and Marianna and we just had 5 minutes to enjoy the fruits of our labour before we got rained on which eventually turned into hail. We quickly put our rain gear on and started the slow and slippery descent.
As soon as we left the summit, the hail stopped but the rain persisted. Unfortunately for Julian, the rain soaked his camera (I call it super fancy) and that kind of dampened his mood. And so goes the story of our second day. In addition to that, it was also a very chilly night at the camp sight that evening. Even though we had that experience, it was still worth it. By the time we arrived at our second campsite, everything was again set up. While we were unwinding, a deer came to our campsite and lingered for a few minutes before disappearing back into the trees. As cloudy as it was, we also had a beautiful sunset. Looking out from our campsite you can see mountain peaks in the distance and just a few metres below are clouds framed by trees at the bottom. They don't call it "cloud forest" for nothing and unfortunately the photos don't do it justice.
Paqaymayo to Wiñaywayna
Approximate Distance: 16km
Elevation: 3600m - 2700m
With day two behind us, I think we were more optimistic about day three. Someone from our group mentioned day two was the hardest while day three was the longest and I couldn't agree more. Although mostly downhill, we hiked 16 km and after many hours of hiking, we just wanted to get to camp. There was another set of ancient buildings that some people from our group wanted to check out and there was also part of the trail where a micro climate existed that fostered a more "forest" type of environment.
After a quick break, it was another two hours to lunch and so we took our time in getting there and enjoyed the scenery. On our last lunch, our chefs had a special treat for us, they somehow managed to bake us a cake! It was a sweet lemony treat and exactly what we needed to keep going.
About an hour from our campsite were another group of ruins and we stopped by for a few minutes to walk around and take photos. We were so close to Machu Picchu but still so far. Marcellino pointed out that one of the mountains we were facing is where Machu Pacchu is located but we were on the other side.
After a very long day of hiking, we finally made it to the campsite. We were all really tired but at the same time really excited because in the morning, we hike for an additional two hours and then we reach Machu Picchu, the holy grail. We had our last supper on the trail and said our goodbyes to our awesome porters.
Wiñaywayna to Machu Picchu
Approximate Distance: 4 km
Despite the early morning wake up call at 3:20am, we were eager to get out of bed because one, the porters had to pack our tents and catch the train and two, we were ready for Machu Picchu. Everyone from our campground set out early to get to the Sun Gate. Unfortunately it was a cloudy morning and we couldn't see any signs of the ancient city. We still made the best of the experience especially when Dave and Lee Anne brought out the bottle of Pisco they've been carrying for the past four days. Dave tried to ceremoniously part the clouds but sadly it didn't work so we just ended up doing a celebratory shot of Pisco.
After another 40 minutes of hiking, we finally arrived! It was still pretty cloudy but at least now we can see buildings. After meeting up again with Yuri, we started our tour. Despite the fact that we made it there very early, the place was already crawling with people. Regardless of how busy it was, we still managed to enjoy the scenery because we all worked so hard to get there.
And perhaps a personal highlight for us was....