travel

Need to Know: Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The pinnacle of our South America travels lead up to the New Wonder of the World – Machu Picchu. A 4 day trek, following in the footsteps of Inca Kings, was a great way to say goodbye to Peru. The Inca Trail is known as the most popular route because the 4 days of trekking leads you directly to Machu Picchu. On the way you will explore ancient settlements, Incan ruins and come up close with nature.

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The History
The Inca Trail was used as a route of pilgrimage by the Kings (Incas) in the 15th century. This ‘royal road’ was only for religious and ceremonial purposes, making this an extremely spiritual place for those who walk in their footsteps today. Along the route, the Incas would conduct rituals to honour the mountains, the river and the earth. Machu Picchu was re-discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham and work continues to excavate and study the site.

The Logistics
In the run up to the trek I was bamboozled with the logistics! Do I need to carry all my belongings with me? If not, where do I leave my rucksack? How much do I carry? What’s the right footwear… the list could go on. Luckily, we had Manuel from G-Adventures to sort us all out!

You are given a duffel bag to put the clothing you would like to take with you, your sleeping bag and air mattress. The grand total is 6kg in your duffel bag. The sleeping bag and air mattress can be hired from G-adventures with a weight of 1kg each. We decided to just hire the sleeping bag so we had 5kg each for clothing and additional snacks. Worth noting that the tents do come with a roll mat already but the air filled one would give you extra comfort. The duffel bag is carried by the porters and you can carry your own small rucksack with all the necessities for a hike. The rest of your belongings are locked away with everyone elses in the hotel and you return to the same hotel at the end of your hike. Makes sense?

Inca Trail Start

Footwear was even debated within our team and it is honestly so difficult to say what is the best. I wore my Asolo Mountaineering hiking boots and didn’t regret it. They provided ankle support, they had great grip, were waterproof but naturally are heavier than trainers. We were fortunate with the weather throughout the hike with it only raining on an evening. A few of the team did slip in trainers walking down the many steps you will encounter, so if you prefer a lightweight shoe maybe go for trail running shoes.

The porters are absolute legends! Quite honestly, I feel it would be impossible to do the hike without their support. Between them they carry your tent, duffel bags and food for the whole trip. In 2002, Peruvian Government introduced Porters Laws meaning that the porters now have a minimum wage of 43 soles (approx. £7.50). Also, they can now only carry a maximum weight of 20kg on the Inca Trail. This is why you are limited to 6kg duffel bags to respect these new much needed laws that avoids overloading the porters.

The Journey
Day 1 was approximately 5 hours of trekking beginning at the floor of the Sacred Valley. You will explore ancient Incan sites along the way. It was incredible to see how forward thinking the Inca’s were with how they built their homes, stone paths and stored food for up to 20 years! The first day you stuck together as a group for the impressive explanations from your guide.

Inca ruins 1

Day 2 of the trek fell on my 26th birthday which was the most perfect day! Even though we were trekking for 11 hours, I knew I wouldn’t moan one bit as it was my Birthday after all. We were woken by porters with hot water bowls and ‘Happy Birthday’ was sang to me and even a gift snuck in the rucksack. This day we were able to walk at our own speed which for me meant steady and for the mister meant speedy. However, I had my new found friend Emmy by my side the whole day. Considering we were walking at altitude, we never stopped talking all day! ! We climbed up to the highest point of 4215 metres to Dead Woman’s Pass (Warmiwanusca in Quechua language).  This naturally occurring high point, when seen from the valley below resembles a woman’s body. I must admit hearing Duncan and Nathan shouting our names, waving and dancing, gave us the motivation to get ourselves to the top – the most rewarding moment of the hike! After endless up hill, we headed down the never ending downhill steps to the tunes of Take That and Spice Girls!

Dead womans pass

After a well deserved feast that evening, I was greeted by the chef with an epic Birthday Cake to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’ from the team. This had been organised, without my knowledge, the first day of the Peru on a Shoestring tour, by Manuel! I still have no idea how they managed to steam a birthday cake in the middle of nowhere… but it was delicious and a perfect end to the day!

Day 3 leads to Choquequirao known as the Sacred Sister of Machu Picchu. This other lost city, that is believed to have been created around the same time as Machu Picchu, is actually bigger and more tranquil due to less people. Only 30% of this site has actually been restored. The views of the mountains, the detail in the ruins and the terraces are simply awe-inspiring. You can feel the excitement building, as you get closer and closer to the end goal!

Inca ruins 3

Day 4 is an early one, waking at 3am in order to be the first group at the checkpoint that opens at 5.30am. With a small breakfast making me feel more like a human, we set off with sore feet, aching legs and knees. At the Sun Gate you get your first glimpse of Machu Picchu, a surreal moment that made most people a little emotional. What we had been trekking for was around the corner! Be aware that as you enter Machu Picchu there will be many people who have arrived on a bus… now as frustrated you could get by this, don’t let it ruin your experience. There is plenty of room for everyone and your stinky clothes, red faces and smelly feet will keep them away!

Side note: Before setting off on our round the world trip, my nephew expressed an interest in all the places we were going. We would sit on Google Images and search for pictures of Christ the Redeemer, Machu Picchu etc. He spotted a picture of Machu Picchu with a Llama and was transfixed by it and said I had to take the same picture! You never guess who wanted to join us in our postcard picture… take a look for yourself!

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At Machu Picchu you have a guided tour and nearly 4 hours to explore in total! It was magical, surreal, awe-inspiring and even spiritual. Considering how many people are within the grounds, it is a tranquil and serene experience. You can take your time and really soak up your surroundings, breathe in fresh mountain air and reflect on your past three days trekking.

Booking in Advance
If this sounds like something you would love to do, be aware that you need to book approximately 6 months in advance. Due to Peruvian law, there is now a limit on how many people can walk the Inca Trail a day. There is a total of 500 people allowed, with 300 of them being the porters and 200 hikers. We booked through STA Travel with G-Adventures on the Peru on a Shoestring Tour. With G-Adventures you can be reassured in the knowledge that the tour guide will be knowledgeable, funny and patient. The food will be divine and the tents and equipment will stand up to the elements.

Read my Planning: Peru on a Shoestring Tour here.

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I would like to dedicate this blog to our new found friends, Emmy and Nathan who had the most romantic engagement I have witnessed at Machu Picchu! It was a pleasure to be a part of your special moment, and we wish you a lifetime of happiness!

 

Go the Distance in Peru,

Chloe

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2 thoughts on “Need to Know: Inca Trail to Machu Picchu”

  1. This trip meant so much to me in so many different ways! You’ve summed it up perfectly here! So glad that we met you both on our incredible journey – hopefully we can join you on another leg of your grand world tour! Thanks for being part of such a special moment (and for sorting me out before the big question!!)

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