It's always been a goal of mine to visit Machu Picchu. Along with 5 other friends, we braved the Inca Trail to visit one of the New Wonders of the World.
The Accommodations: The porters and guides made camping comfortable and easy. The strong and able porters carried our luggage, camping gear, and food. By the time the trekkers reached the campsite, our tents were already set up. Each campsite had restrooms and sinks. Every morning included a wake up call with hot tea and warm water to wash our faces. Though the nights can be cold, the tents and sleeping bags provided kept us very warm.
The Food: Every meal was a feast and no one was left hungry. Meals included breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner. It was surprising what the cooks can come up with while traveling from campsite to campsite. My favorites included the oatmeal breakfast drink, all the soups that came with every lunch and dinner, and the lomo saltado. Every meal was fulfilling and exceeded my expectations. The best part: eating with the rest of the trekkers like a big family.
The People: Even though I was traveling with 5 other people, being able to talk and get to know others from Holland, Uruguay, Spain, and even other people from the USA made this trip more fun. Our guides were so attentive and enthusiastic, they helped make this trip a family atmosphere. Shout out to our guides Carlos, Francisco, and Anita for getting us through the hike. Carlos' energy was simply addicting.
The Hike: Getting to Machu Picchu was no easy feat.
Day 1 (12 km) gave me a glimpse into what to expect for the next 3 days. Lots of beautiful sites and a taste of uphill hiking.
Day 2 (11 km) was the most difficult. With the high altitude and a non-stop uphill climb for 5 hours (out of 7 hours) to Dead Woman's Pass, it was unbelievable I made it. I was grateful that everyone was able to go at their own pace.
Day 3 (16 km) was the longest but gave the most amazing views. The constant downhill steps were not easy but definitely worth the views. Day 3 showed us caves, forest-like paths, cliffs, and a view of the majestic Urubamba river, in addition to the Inca sites.
Day 4 (6 km) was short and sweet. However, because of the rain the night before, the paths were very slippery. In 4 short days, we experienced all 4 seasons during the hike (heat, rain, cold, etc). Reaching Machu Picchu on that last day was indescribable especially after hiking for 4 days to get there. It was simply an amazing place to see.
Overall: I have completed a full marathon and the Tough Mudder, but this was an experience on a whole other level. Hiking the Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu was not easy by any definition, but the journey made the destination an even more unforgettable experience.
-Irene Jimenez, California, USA
Day 1: After the briefing, I was even more pumped and ready for the Inka Trail hike than before I arrived in Peru. We took a couple hours in the morning to get from Cusco to the trail head by bus. Before we could enter the trail, we had to pass through a check point with our passports. However we were delayed a couple hours due to problems with porters not showing up. The delay took away some of the adrenaline that was built up for the hike. Carlos was our main tour guide for the hike and he had to handle the situation so that we could begin our hike. There was also confusion and miscommunication with Carlos regarding the weight of our backpacks that the porters carry. Carlos said we were over weight and that the weight includes sleeping bags and pads. This was not clarified in the briefing. Both problems were a downer for day 1. We were finally able to get the hike started and it was a nice hike. I got a feel for the land and vegetation. Hiking right next to the big mountains and river was awesome! We also saw a couple ruins that would wet our pallets for the next few days before we reached Machu Picchu. The lunch and dinner was also very good and filling.
Day 2: Carlos said this would be the toughest day because of the up hill and elevation. Good thing last night was not too cold and I slept well. Today we hiked up to Dead Woman's Pass and down to a new camp site. The hike was very steep and challenging, the toughest I've ever done. It took a lot of physical and mental strength. Hiking next to my buddy JT helped. We hiked at a steady pace and enjoyed the scenery. Once we got to the top of the pass, I felt a very good sense of accomplishment. The hike was well worth it and the view was amazing. Next was the down hill to our camp. We made it back in time for a late lunch and we had the remainder of the day to rest after the toughest day.
Day 3: This day would not be the toughest, but it would be the longest. It was a full day hike, with a majority down hill. Compared to the previous two days, the vegetation was thicker and had more of a jungle feel. The change in scenery made the hiking experience even more interesting. I enjoyed the sound of the river and all the mini water falls and plants. We also stopped by a couple ruins on the way. The Inca story and history was coming together. The longest day did not feel like it at all. Seeing the Machu Picchu mountain and Urubamba river at the top of a mountian by our camp site was unbelievable. By the end of the day, we were only 6 km from Machu Picchu!
Day 4: We woke up at 3:30am to be one of the first groups to get to our final destination, Machu Picchu! We had a quick breakfast and got our hike started in the dark with our headlamps. It rained all night and morning, but this was not going to stop us from what we had all come for. Everyone was hiking at a fast pace and did not want to stop and rest. The rain finally stopped, however there was still fog and low clouds. We got to the Sun Gate and got a partial view of Machu Picchu. We were only steps away!
Machu Picchu: We finally made it! I can only attempt to describe it in a few words, but believe me, words cannot truly explain the exact feeling and experience of this place. I will just say that this place is mystical, spiritual, and peaceful. It is definitly one of the wonders of the world. This is a different place than what you see in pictures. This is a place you have to see to believe and feel. I know that this was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
Thank You: I want to say thank you to my friends Irene, Cindy, Johnson (aka "Honson"), Lindy, and David for an amazing trip and awesome vacation together! I want to say thank you to the tour guides Carlos, Francisco, and Anita for a great job leading the hike! I want to say thank you to the porters and cooks for carrying everything and cooking amazing peruvian meals! I loved the quinoa soup and salsa! Thank you Machu Picchu and Peru! and Thank you Inca Trail Reservations !!!
Karlsen Cheung, USA
Inca Trail & Machu Picchu