4 Days.52 Kilometres. 1 Destination: Machu Picchu. Join our featured blogger, Greg Goodman as he takes you on an ancient journey on Peru’s Inca Trail.
You probably booked your trek months ago and the anticipation has been slowly rising. After spending a few days acclimating to the high altitude in Cuzco, Peru, you arose before dawn to begin your journey.
First, there were the bus rides and buffet breakfast.
Then, your passport was stamped at a guard house in Piscacucho.
Now, at last, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for…
The Inca Trail!
Day 1: Into the Great Unknown
Along with 15 other trekkers, 21 chuskies (the local name for a sherpa or porter), two guides and one gourmet chef, your adventure begins alongside Peru’s Urubamba River.
The initial ascent is moderate; passing through desert-like terrain and up into lush-green mountains.
Along the way, you notice several locals with donkeys; each waiting to offer tired trekkers a “taxi ride” to the next rest stop.
With frequent stops and constant conversation amongst new friends, it’s a short three hours before arriving at your first destination: the ruins of Llaqtapata.
Also known as the Valley of the Wind, these ancient terraces precede the Incan era.
Rested and stuffed from a gourmet lunch, only a few more hours of hiking remain.
There are no more ruins today; but, mountainous views and incredible diversity of plants give you plenty to oooh and aaah at.
Plus, if you miss “civilization,” there are of train tracks, giant metal towers and power lines to distract you.
Day 2: Dead Women, Rainforests & an Epic Climb
After having tea delivered to your tent and enjoying a breakfast of pancakes and fruit, it’s time to begin your day’s climb.
The first thing you notice is how different the terrain is from the day before.
That’s because you’re now hiking through a rainforest!
As you weave up countless tree-flanked switchbacks, be sure to take your time and keep your eyes open. Exotic trees, caterpillars, insects, rivers, waterfalls, flora and fauna await you at every turn.
Topping out at 4,215 metres (nearly 3 miles) above sea level, Dead Woman’s Pass is considered the toughest part of the Inca Trail. Many people on the trek have been worrying about it since booking their trip. However, as you tackle the steep ascent, it doesn’t seem so bad.
More worrisome is the distant roar of thunder and a dense cloud covering the valley below.
Like something out of a Stephen King novel, you reach the top of Dead Woman’s Pass to find yourself enveloped in a dense rolling cloud. Then, while waiting for the rest of the group to catch up, Pachamama (Mother Earth) decides to soak you with rain and hail. Your trousers and shoes don’t stand a chance; but, at least you packed a rain jacket.
Soaked and at the front of the line, you find yourself singing in joy while carefully walking down each steep step. Up above: a rainbow of colored ponchos peeks through the foggy path. Down below: hot chocolate, popcorn, dry clothes, dinner and good night sleep await.
Day 3: Ruins, More Ruins & the Gringo Killer
Wakey wakey… it’s time for the hardest day of your trek.
After huffing and puffing your way past ancient ruins, you arrive at the Qochapata lookout point. Located at 3,670 metres (12,000 feet), it’s a great place to catch your breath, enjoy the vista and imagine swimming in the nearby lake.
Then, it’s time to head down … with a brief bit of up to explore more ruins … then more down … until you finally reach an unforgettable tunnel of trees and vegetation … with lunch waiting on the other side.
Finally, you’ve reached the segment Freddy’s been joking about for days: the Gringo Killer. Beginning at the Phuyupatamarka ruins – a.k.a. “The Spot Above the Clouds” – get ready to walk down 2,000+ stairs to reach your campsite.
More than an hour into the descent, you are faced with a choice: The short way takes about 30 minutes, but is 100% steep steps or the long way takes about an hour, but has a more gentle incline and rewards you with the spectacular Intipata ruins.
Despite the incredible shaking in your knees and legs, you opt for the long way.
Day 4: Machu Picchu!
As rain beats down on your tent, you stumble out at 4:00 am to find a wall of mist shrouding the campsite. Missing are the usual sounds of chuskies offering coca tea and saying good morning. In their place: the semi-frantic sounds of “Let’s go!”
Dressed and ready to hike, you instead find yourself waiting in an unruly line for the ticket checker office to open. An hour later, with the sound of the river rushing below, your group is finally on the move.
Looking back, you see a line of headlamps dotting the mountainside like a string of Christmas lights.
Everyone has one destination on their mind…
To the Sun Gate!
As the dark night slowly turns to a deep misty blue, you gaze at the clouds and wonder if you will actually be able to see Machu Picchu.
Even upon arriving at the Sun Gate, fog still obstructs your view. Then, as if Mother Nature waved her hand, the wall of white gives way to the majestic sight before you.
Greg is also a professional photographer, so make sure you visit his blog for more amazing images from his trek to Machu Picchu.
Adventures of a Good Man is the magazine of my life. It's my answer to the age-old question: I traveled; now what? I'm thrilled to have you along on this journey and look forward to exploring our beautiful world together. Thanks so much for visiting and have an amazing day... wherever you are.