Friday, September 12, 2014

Flashback Friday - Peru Part 2 - Machu Picchu

This was a trip that had been on Dave's list of trips for awhile, but we weren't sure when would get the opportunity.  We decided that the end of my maternity leave would be the best time - I wouldn't have to take vacation, and we knew it wasn't a trip we could take with small children, and it might be harder to take ten days away another time. 

We talked to some of our friends who had done the trip.  We decided to book the hike through Peru Treks.  Other tour companies offer an extended tour of other parts of Peru like the Amazon and Lake Titicaca, but we just wanted to do Machu Picchu.

On the morning of our hike, we were picked up bright and early from our hotel by our guides, then we drove around to pick up the rest of our group.  We headed out of Cusco through the hills outside of the tourist areas and saw how many people in Peru live.

We had breakfast in Ollantaytambo.  This was the best chocolate caliente I've ever had. 

We were told to buy a walking stick, poncho, and cocaine coca leaves to chew on to help with the altitude.  We ended up not using the poncho or the coca leaves.  The walking stick was the best purchase of the trip.  I don't think I would have made it through parts of the hike without it. 

We then went on the bus for another half hour to get to the start of the Inca Trail.  I had chosen the porter option where most of my stuff was carried for me.  I carried a small pack with my sweater, camera, water, and other small items.  Dave carried all of his clothes and his sleeping bag.  There were about 20 porters that accompanied us to carry our tents, food, cooking supplies, propane stove, chairs, and everything else.

This is our group.  We had four other Canadians, two Brits, and eight Californians.  They were a great group, and you could tell right away that it was going to be a fun trip.

Our guide Juan

 When we arrived at our lunch spot we were greeted by our porters with a cold drink and lovely three course lunch.  Everyone was impressed with the quality of the food.  After a fairly easy hike and some introductory conversations with our fellow hikers, we stopped at our first campsite.  We talked with everyone until our supper and then to bed for an early night. 

We were awake the next morning at 4:45 for our first early start.  We were met at our tent with choice of coffee, tea or hot chocolate.  Breakfast was delicious and welcome after a somewhat restless first night.

Breakfast Table

We hiked up hill all morning and into mid-afternoon, ascending through the first pass of 4,200 metres.

A break for lunch

It was cold at the top of the pass and the way down was misty and rainy. 

This was definitely one of the times I was glad to have my hiking stick.

We came from way up there, the dip in the mountain.

We finally got warmed up at our next campsite with tea, popcorn, and a few hands of cards.
Our third day was the longest hike of 15 kilometres.  Most of our hike took us through the jungle and led us a net downhill of 1,200 metres.  For the most part we had a pleasant hike with rain coming while we ate our lunch (including pizza!). 

 Most of this leg travelled over original Incan roads, unlike the other days where we were on a trail mostly reconstructed by the Peruvian government. 

On this day we opted for the longer route that took us past a site with numerous agricultural terraces.  We were some of the first to arrive at our next campsite and enjoyed a snack and spirits with the other Canadians.  Although our porters were very interested in the Peru Bolivia World Cup qualifying match, they provided a great snack of popcorn and cookies (in the same bowl, mind blown!).  That night we were formally introduced to our porters who made our journey so enjoyable and comfortable.  It was humbling to see them do their jobs and we were so grateful to them.

Alpacas just wandering around the terraces.

Day four was the day we were waiting for - the day we would arrive at Machu Picchu.  Wake up call was 3:45 and that was later than some groups that passed our tents while we were still sleeping.  Quick breakfast and we were off to the check point.  A one hour hike took us to the Sun Gate.  Unfortunately the Sun Gate had yet to live up to its name and many groups left without seeing the iconic view of Machu Picchu.  Our group waited patiently and eventually Machu Picchu emerged through the clouds. 

A further hike took us down to the Incan town itself and after a much needed beer and snack, we had a quick information session from our guide. 

We then headed to Hyuna Picchu because we hadn't had enough hiking!  This hike was challenging because of the steepness and narrowness of the trail but the views were spectacular and it was worth the trip. 
Unfortunately it started raining as soon as we got off the mountain and that made for a long wait for the bus to Aguas Calientes.  When we finally arrived we shared some beers and hands of cards with our new friends before heading back to Cusco by train and bus.

This was an amazing trip and if you have the physical ability and time, you should do the hike.  We didn't actually spend as much time in the actual site of Machu Picchu, but the entire trip, journey and experience was enough. 


  1. I didn't actually realize you could do a long hike to get to Machu Picchu. This is sooooo cool! Is there a way to do it without camping?!?!?!

    1. No, you either hike and camp, or you just take the train directly to Machu Picchu.