The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
This is the third and final blog post about Ian Sankey’s travels to Peru through G Adventures. First, Ian told us about getting ready for his journey to Machu Picchu. Next, he covered the first half of his trip with fellow GK members. In this post, he will discuss the group’s 4-day hike and end of the trip.
“Some trips we take to reach a destination, others we take for the pleasure of the journey itself. Peru’s Inca Trail is perhaps the world’s greatest hike because it combines the best of both types of travel: a four day walk to the spectacular lost city of Machu Picchu that winds through the zone where the snowcapped Andes Mountains crash into the lush Amazon jungle, creating some of the world’s most dramatic and beautiful terrain.” – Mark Adams
Watch the GK Peru Trip slideshow video here: Peru Trip!
Our journey to Machu Picchu started at a checkpoint early in the morning. The government regulates how many people can be on the trail, allowing 200 hikers and 300 porters into the national park each day. As we waited in line, we checked our gear and snacked on some goodies provided by Vlad, who was to be our main guide for the next four days. The porters supporting our group had already gone ahead and would be waiting for us at the lunch stop, about a three hour hike away.
Let the hiking begin!
Our first day was a relatively easy one with a lot of ground to cover but not that much gain in elevation. We headed off at a steady pace and reached the camp for lunch around noon. There was a large tent set up for us with a table set for lunch. We were greeted with fruit juice, smiles, and applause from the porters. This was to be a scene that would be repeated many times as the wonderfully friendly and supportive porters and cooks greeted us throughout the journey. As Vlad put it, this was really “glamping” as we were greeted by delicious meals, hot cups of tea, set up tents, and smiling porters at each camping site.
We hiked through various terrains, gazing out at incredible mountain ranges, cloud forests, gaping valleys, winding rivers, and the long trail ahead. Our days were long but the time did seem to fly by as we chatted and got to know each other all the while looking around at beautiful vistas and landscapes.
I will say that I was particularly happy that I had a solid pair of hiking shoes and had opted to bring some nice hiking poles. I was not sure about the hiking pole option at first but they turned out to be a great help along the trail and saved my knees from some of the strain of the estimated 10,000 stairs.
Our second guide, Daniel, told us that our group needed a name. We threw around some ideas and I suggested llama pants. This was an inside joke as Fernando, our guide before the trail, had been talking about a place in town to buy llama pants and had preceded to mention llama pants about every ten minutes for the rest of the day. We did end up going to the market and some people did buy the llama pants, which look like leg warmers, to stay warm during the cold nights in the mountains. Daniel liked the llama part but put his own twist on the suggestion and named our group The Sexy Llamas. There was even a hand sign that showed the llama head. And so The Sexy Llamas headed off to Machu Picchu.
There were many wonderful moments during our four day trek but I don’t really have enough space on this blog to expand upon them all. Here are some highlights from the Inca Trail:
Dead woman’s pass. This pass was our main objective on day two. We reached an elevation of 13,779 feet and the hike up to the pass was the longest single stretch of upward trekking, although not the steepest, on the whole trail. We had a nice moment near the top of the pass where we regrouped and waited for each other so we could summit together. When we reached the top there were a number of hikers from other groups waiting to cheer for us and welcome us. We could now see the winding path into the valley ahead of us and the long trail behind us. Some incredible views and a nice feeling of accomplishment.
Inca Ruins. Although they were not as grandiose as Machu Picchu, we saw several other Inca sites along the way to our final destination. The terraced landscapes, stone look out towers, various living quarters, and connecting paths gave you a sense of the Incan way of life and the expanse of their empire.
The Sungate. On our final day of the hike we woke up at 5:00 am to head off to the Sungate. This was the last stop before reaching Machu Picchu. We hiked for about two hours in the morning, including one section that was so steep you had to climb up on all fours, “monkey style” as Vlad put it. We watched the sun rise and could see down to our final destination as the sun’s rays cascaded through the Sungate’s perfectly engineered stone walls and down to the famed lost city of the Incas.
The trail itself. As incredible as Machu Picchu is, my favourite part of the trip was hiking the trail itself. We traveled through many different terrains and saw so many beautiful views. Getting into a nice hiking rhythm and just being aware of all the natural wonder around you was a really special experience. Sometimes we chatted to one another and got to know each other’s stories and sometimes you were alone with nobody else in sight, just you and the trail ahead. Hiking the whole way to Machu Picchu gave us a special appreciation for the lost city and was a great bonding experience for the group.
Machu Picchu. This lost city of the Incas is known a one of the new wonders of the world, and it did not disappoint. The perfectly cut stone walls, large open courtyards, still operational irrigation system, farming terraces, and all sorts of other engineering marvels really showcases the advanced civilization that was the Incas. The Incas built this estate around 1450, but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.
We toured the city for about two hours but you would really need several days to see everything. We then headed down on a bus to the town of Aguas Calientes. It was odd being back in civilization again after so many days on the trail. We had come so far and now the long trek was over. We took a train back towards Cusco and then had a final dinner all together to celebrate before heading off back home.
I would like to say thanks to my fellow travelers. Our group was a really great bunch of people and you all really helped make the experience that much more wonderful. Also, a special thanks to our amazing guides from G Adventures.
Until we meet again Sexy Llamas… here’s to the next adventure ahead!