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More Detail on the Inca Trail


By smithdm3 - Posted on 15 May 2007

As promised, a little more detail on our Inca trail trip.

Day 1:
We woke early (5am) on Sunday morning and made final preparations for the day. We were picked up at the B&B we were staying at 6:15am by Olly, our guide. We then picked up three Americans (Maggie, Amy and Matt) before making our way to Ollyantambo to grab some breakfast and our final group member, Steve a Brit at the end of a 10 month around the world trip.

From Ollyatambo it was another 45 minutes or so drive to Kilometre 82 (measured as a distance on the railway) where we would embark upon the trail. The beginning of the trail saw us take a group photo under what has got to be a famous Inca Trail sign, and then make our way through the first control point. Our porters also had to make their way through a different checkpoint in order to ensure that they were carrying less than 25 kilos each. We had to check in with our passports and then began our journey by crossing a suspension bridge across the Urubamba river. On the other side of the river Olly told us to pick up little stones that we would leave at the first pass the next day.

Five of us had large packs that we were carrying, whilst Steve had been told the way to go was to take a porter. We hiked past a small 'graveyard' and through a few little villages, a couple of which we stopped at for a rest. In the villages there were women selling cold drinks (water, pop, gatorade and even beer) for hikers to buy.

A little before lunch we came upon our first real climb, though it paled . At the top of the climb we were able to see the first Inca ruin we'd see along the trail, and a sizeable one at that called Llactapata. The primary use of the community that was this ruin was probably agriculture, though there is one round building near the water that probably had a more ceremonial use.

It was difficult to know when it happened, but at some point our porters passed us and arrived at our lunch spot in time to cook up a hot lunch. We arrived at a homestead of sorts, complete with washrooms for hikers beside the river and were greeted by our first Inca trail meal. The meal was quite good, three courses served to us in a dining tent complete with stools and tables. The cook and his assistant had another tent set up to make all our food.

After lunch we continued for another few hours and arrived at our campsite around 4pm, maybe an hour or so before the sun set here in the mountains. We were provided with warm water and soap to wash up with, and then fed tea which included pop corn. Meg, and I, as well as two of the Americans decided we'd get porters to carry our 30lb. packs for the second day which of course included a huge climb of nearly 1,000 meters in elevation. After dinner, another three course meal, we played some cards with the group and our guide, and then it was early to bed as the next day started at 5am.

Day 2:
We woke up as planned at 5am, and were greeted by a warm cup of tea. We packed up our belongings, handing most of it off to porters, choosing only to carry our jackets, cameras, some snacks and water for the day. After breakfast it was off on our climb to the Dead Women's Pass - Abra Warmiwanuska. There was nothing easy about this part of the hike, and we were both glad we'd decided not to carry our packs. Meg kept me going, she waas able to simply maintain a good pace, and I did my best to keep up. Along the way we saw a number of llamas, including some that were on the trail itself. I stopped to take pictures when I felt I needed a rest. That helped quite a bit, but I ended up with quite a few pictures of the same mountain :)

The view from the top was quite impressive, and the winds made it quite chilly. We left our stones from the day before, gathered for a group photo, had a short snack and then it was off down the other side towards our lunch. The journey down was ideal for me, but not for others. The pathway down you see is largely uneven stone steps, which was tough on Meg and most of the others in our group. The porters on the other hand just flew down - man, they can't do this for too long as their knees must be shot.

At the bottom of the trail we were led to another nice lunch. We'd actually made really good time in both the uphill and downhill sections and we all agreed with our guide that we would do the second pass this day as well. It turns out that our third night campsite wasn't the one that most people hope to get, and was actually near the second pass. So instead we were going to go past it on the second day, and then go past Machu Picchu on the third day, coming back up to Machu Picchu on the fourth day. This ensured we arrived at Machu Picchu nice and early, and didn't have to do some crazy set of steep, downhill stairs in the middle of the night.

We had yet another filling lunch, careful not to eat too much and then began our climb up to the second pass. This climb was only about 450m. Certainly not as hard as the climb to the first pass. About halfway to two thirds up the climb was another Inca ruin. This one, Runkurakay, was an interesting, round shape. Our guide indicated that typically rounded buildings were believed to be used for ceremonial purposes. The other thought was that this might be a stop for runners along the Inca trail in ancient times.

Our brief stop at the ruins finished, we made our way to the top of the second pass and again were treated to a breathtaking view. Meg and I beat the rest of our group to the top and after waiting for the others and a short snack break we were off again on the downward trek towards our campsite. We passed a couple of ruins on our way, one - Sayaqmarka - that we could have climbed up to, but our group decided we'd seen enough from our vantage point and would pass. The other, Qonchamarca, we passed by just a few minutes before reaching our campsite for the night. We arrived fairly early in the day and so had a chance to dry some stuff in the sun and have tea again before taking a nap in advance of dinner. Dinner was good, and we played some more cards before turning in.

Day 3:
We awoke a little later on Day 3 then we had the second day, having a shorter, mostly downhill distance to cover on this day. We hiked to the third pass which was a very short climb from our campsite, and arrived where we would have spent the night if we weren't continuing on at roughly 10am.

Just past the third past, down a couple of steps was another Inca ruin, Phuyupatamarka. These ruins included an interesting set of irrigation channels, as well as another building. It was likely that this ruin was used for agriculture and storage of food for Machu Picchu which wasn't far away now.

Then it was off down more steps, lots of them. When the steps were done, we were able to see another Inca ruin. This one was called Intipata, and is a convex shaped set of terraces on the side of the mountain. There weren't many buildings there, mainly it was used to grow crops. The path here forked, one side that would take you to the ruin, and one that would take you by way of a zillion (maybe it just felt that way) switchbacks to where most people want to camp on the third night - and our spot for lunch - the Trekker's Lodge.

Meg and I watched Steve take off, and made our way down ahead of Amy, Matt, Maggie and Olly. After at least 45 to 75 minutes of walking back and forth on switchbacks we arrived at a set of buildings and waited for the others to catch up. Once they did, we actually went inside and found Steve who had been there for over a half hour waiting for us. Lunch was served by our porters inside the lodge and then we took a short walk to another Inca ruin - Winay Wayna - which in some ways is the counterpart to Intipata. Further down the hill, it's a concave shaped agricultural ruin.

After our visit and lunch, we set off towards Machu Picchu. This part of the trek was fairly easy, until the last 25 stairs or so up to the Sun Gate or Inti Punku. These steps were straight up, but talk about a reward when you reached the top - a beautiful view of Machu Picchu. We revelled in the view for a while before setting on down to the city itself, knowing that while we'd pass through it today, we weren't staying. Upon our arrival at Machu Picchu proper, we took some photos and then passed through the gates out of the ruin. All we had left to our day was another 25 to 30 minutes straight down stairs to our campsite at the base of the mountain.

On the way down the stairs, I was startled to find human waste on the path. Shortly later Steve, Meg and I who were together all of a sudden heard some shouting. Then, suddenly a little boy ran by us. A little while later a second boy flashed by, but this time he stopped just in front of us at a place where the trail down crosses the road that the buses from Aguas Calientes. At the road he stopped and waved at a passing bus, then beat it down towards the next place the road and path crossed. It was at this time that I realized that these boys who flew down the hill were probably the ones relieving themselves on the trail - gross.

Meg, Steve and I arrived at our campsite, set up by the porters already, and decided to take cold showers while we waited for the others. Meg showered while I waited at first, and Matt and Amy arrived. Whilst I was in the shower Maggie arrived and the whole group was back together again. Meg and I purchased cold beers from the little vendor at the site and took the chance to enjoy them and relax, reflecting on our journey thus far.

At dinner we discussed tipping of the porters and decided on 90 soles from each of us, which worked out to be about 40 soles per porter or $13. While that doesn't seem like a lot, it's probably in the midrange of tipping and was pretty much all of the cash that each of us had. The porters and Olly graciously accepted their tips and shook all of our hands. Because we'd come so close to Aguas Calientes on this day, we'd made their job a little easier as they wouldn't have to run down the hill at break neck speed early in the morning to catch the train back to the beginning of the trail.

Day 4:
Our final day on our trip saw Meg and I split up. I hiked back up the steps to Machu Picchu with Matt, Amy and Olly while Meg road the bus up with Steve and Maggie. The climb back up wasn't as bad as the climb down the day before, as it was cooler. We arrived at the top just minutes after the folks on the bus did, and then waited as Olly retrieved our tickets (he'd left them the previous day). When Olly returned we made our way back into Machu Picchu proper and he gave us a tour that took us by the Sun Temple, the Three Windows, the quarry, the Condor and the Royal Sector.

After our tour we had free time until our train left later in the day. Meg and I wandered for a bit, taking photos and just exploring before setting off on the path to the Inca Bridge. The path was much like the Inca trail itself, and brought you the bridge which is an interesting site. Stones are stacked up against a cliff face leaving a small section open that is bridged by logs or something like that. Apparently this provided a line of defence, allowing the Inca to pull up the logs so no one could pass.

After the bridge we sat around enjoying the sun and view on the terraces of the city. Machu Picchu is certainly something special. We then explored a bit more before deciding to make our way, via the bus, to Augas Calientes to look around. The bus takes quite a while to get down, and follows a switch back road that is imipressively long.

In Aguas Calientes Meg and I went for a beer, then walked through an artisan's market before rendevouzing with the rest of our group at a restaurant. We were able to find out that Steve of our group had in fact climbed up to Wayna Picchu the mountain and ruins facing Machu Picchu. Not only did he do that, but he also continued on to the Temple of the Moon. His pictures were quite impressive. After a nice lunch, I had pizza - seriously though, all the restaurants were pizzerias it seemed - we all made our way to the train. The train back to Ollyantambo was a nice ride, with most of us dozing off a bit. We passed by a number of ruins along the Urubamba river on the way. In Ollyantambo we boarded a bus back to Cuzco where we ended our amazing journey.


Although reading your story before, I just had to read it again, for my Inca Trail trip starts tomorrow (as long as the strikes don't hinder our road).

I probably end up with a lot of pictures of the same mountain hehehe

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