Last week I promised I would be back with the remainder of my time on the Inca Trail. Here I am true to my word with Part 2.
DAY 3: THE LONG DAY
- Wake up at 5:00am, get ready, and eat breakfast.
- Take a lunch break at Phuyupata Marca (11,930 ft. elevation).
- End the day at Wiñay Wayna (8,692 ft. elevation).
This day was the long day with a total distance of 16k. There were still stairs, but it was much less intense than the day before. Thanks goodness.
We started out the morning with a nice uphill climb, because what better way to start the third day of a hike?! It felt pretty difficult and I’m fairly certain I was dehydrated; however, we were able to see a lot of different Inca ruins and some gorgeous views along the way! #worthit
The first site was Runkuraqay, which was in the shape of a mushroom. Then we climbed up to Pumasillu (Puma’s Claw) and saw an absolutely breathtaking view of the San Francisco glacier. We were lucky that we arrived when we did, because about 5 minutes later the fog settled in and basically covered it all up. You know what they say, early bird gets the worm.
From this point it was a short downhill to the lunch spot. When we arrived to Phuyupata Marca lunch wasn’t quite ready yet, so Edgar asked if anyone wanted to go on a little bonus hike. Elizabeth, Adam, Liam, and I joined in and went up to another peak where we had an incredible 360 degree view. Pictures do not do it justice.
Imagine that, but 432866x more awesome in real life. Our lunch spot was were those little blue tents are.
After lunch it was about two-hour downhill walk. We entertained ourselves by singing random songs. I think across all four days of the hike we burst out into approximately 311 songs. Not full songs, just one-liners. It would go something like this:
- Person A: I’m just taking it step by step.
- Person B: Step by step, day by day, (day by dayyy)
- Person A: Turn around and take a picture.
- Person B: Turn around, bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart….
It was fun and I’m sure we annoyed zero people.
The last site for the day was Intipata. We took some pretty epic pictures and saw some llamas.
And yes, I am really good at jumping.
From here our final campsite was only about 10 minutes away. Since we were in lower altitude, about 8,700 feet, Edgar said we probably didn’t need to take our altitude medication anymore. I wasn’t feeling very good that day, so I was happy to ditch it.
We ate more amazing food throughout the day:
- Breakfast: unsweetened granola, strawberry yogurt, toast, eggs, coffee, and tea
- Snack: cereal crackers and an apple
- Lunch: vegetable noodle soup, Lima beans, chicken salad, causarellena, steak, rice, and yellow potatoes.
- Snack: popcorn, pastry chips with sweet and sour sauce, cake (again!!), coffee, and tea
- Dinner: asparagus soup, rice, chicken stuffed with hotdogs, stir fry veggies, mashed potatoes, and pizza
- Dessert: jell-o!
After dinner had a little ceremony to thank the chaskis. We thought this meant that we needed to perform something special, so we broke out and sang Wannabee in its entirety. Apparently that was unnecessary. Oh well. We thanked our chaskis, tipped them, and said our formal goodbyes. They were incredible throughout the hike. Supermen, all of them. I still wish they woke me up in the morning with a steamy cup of coca tea.
Then it was bedtime. We had a super early wake up call the next morning for our final hiking day. It was a significantly warmer night than the previous one. I didn’t even need to sleep in my sleeping bag! Weird.
DAY 4: THE SHORT DAY + MACHU PICCHU
- Wake up at 3:00am (so early!!), get ready, eat breakfast, and wait until the entrance opens at 5:30am.
- Hike to Machu Picchu.
- Take the bus to Aguas Calientes and meet for lunch.
- Take the train to Ollantaytambo, then the bus back to Cusco.
The last day of the hike! A 3:00 am wake up call!! Machu Picchu day! WHOA!
We had our final breakfast (corn pancakes and toast) and said one last “Adios!” to the chaskis.
The control gate to continue hiking didn’t open until 5:30am, but we woke up super early so that we could get to the front of the line. That way we weren’t stuck behind a bunch of (slow) people. Plus, we were able snag spots on the benches rather than standing in the cold for over an hour. Win!
From this spot it was about an hour walk to Intipunku, AKA the Sun Gate. As we rounded the corner to the Sun Gate we were so excited to see the view of Machu Picchu, the view that we hiked four days to see! So much anticipation!! But womp womp, it was completely covered in fog.
Edgar told us to wait and said that the fog would lift. So we waited. And we hoped. And we waited. It looked promising for a few moments, but then it got thicker again.
But finally it lifted and Machu Picchu was revealed. Beautiful.
From here we walked down to Machu Picchu. Edgar gave us a tour, walking us through the various sites and telling us about the history and the different structures. It was all so amazing! It is unfathomable to me that those structures have been standing there for about 500 years. Edgar was saying that there are probably so many more ruins located throughout the mountains that we just aren’t aware of, because they are buried in the forest.
I’m so glad that he walked us through it, because (1) he knew what he was talking about and (2) we were all so tired (we did wake up at 3am). I don’t think I would have had the energy to do it on my own.
At this point Edgar left us and suggested that we walk up to another point for a great view. We were so tired that we almost just skipped it. Thanks goodness we didn’t, because it was THE VIEW.
You just can’t go all the way to Machu Picchu without seeing that.
Afterwards we took the bus down to Aguas Calientes. It was quite the winding road (unlike this long and winding road)! I’m so glad we didn’t have to walk down it. We met Edgar for lunch at Apu Salkantay. Apparently this is the meeting spot of all the tour groups. It was fun to see everyone celebrating and reliving the memories on the Inca Trail!
We were hot, sweaty, smelly, exhausted, and ready for a shower and a bed. Did I mention that there were no showers along the trail and that our “bathroom” was basically a folding chair with a hole cut out and a bag attached placed inside a tent? I didn’t? Probably because I was trying to forget it. Apu Salkantay had real toilets and it felt like such a luxury. It didn’t solve the whole not-showering-for-4-days thing though.
Luckily, we paid an extra $22 to take the 3:30pm train back to Ollantaytambo rather than our originally schedule 6:30pm one. Best decision ever.
This train though, it was unlike any I had ever encountered. First of all, it drove through beautiful views along the Willcamayu River. Second, a creepy man dressed in a rainbow suit, a terrible orange wig, and a demon mask danced around to some music (and forced Natalie to join). Third, the train stewards did a little fashion show with some alpaca apparel. If I didn’t know any better I would have totally thought it was all a dream… or too much coca tea. However, it was very real.
A car from Quechuas picked us up from the train station and drove us to our hotel in Cusco. We had a little bit of drama with our luggage. As in, it wasn’t at our hotel. But Edgar swooped in and saved the day and got our luggage from the hotel we stayed at before the hike. Our hero!
Then it was shower time. Then it was bed time (in an actual bed!). Ahhhh, so glorious.
But I kind of missed the tent?
The four-day hike on the Inca Trail was a truly unforgettable experience. It was unlike anything that I’ve ever done before and I had such an amazing time.
If you are thinking of doing this hike, I would highly recommend booking it through Quechuas Expeditions. They were very organized and had great service. We didn’t need to worry about anything during the hike, because they took care of everything. The chaskis were all amazing and worked super hard in order to make things easy on us. Then there was Edgar, who is basically the best guide ever on the planet. He was extremely knowledgeable about the Incas and super fun.
Besides the people from Quechuas Expedition, there were also my fellow hikers. Brian, Karen, Adam, and Liam are an awesome family. I enjoyed getting to know them and hope that we didn’t annoy them too much. Natalie, Danielle, and Elizabeth were obviously awesome the whole time.
This hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was just a part of our total Peru trip. I’ll be back with our experiences in Cusco and Lima!