Inca Trail & Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail is by far the most famous trek in South America and is rated by many to be in the top 5 treks in the world. In just 26 miles (43km) it manages to combine beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud-forest, subtropical jungle and, of course, a stunning mix of Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels. The final destination of the trail just cannot be beaten: Machu Picchu, the mysterious "Lost City of the Incas".

Hiking the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu has been a bucket list item for as long as we can remember! We had done so much reading and research as to which company to choose – Alpaca Expeditions were head and shoulders above the rest and organised so much more than just this part of the trip for us. Founded and owned by a former porter it is 100% local and their response rate and helpfulness is equal.

Day 1: Km 82 – Llactapata- Ayapata (Trekking Distance: 8.7 miles/14 km (6-7 hours) – Saturday, 28 October 2017

The evening before a representative from Alpaca Expeditions arrived at our hotel to brief us so that we were all set the next morning when we were collected from our hotel at 5am and driven to our breakfast stop at the base of the start of the walk. We were introduced to our guide Yoel. We had 9 porters and a Chef! Elroy was our waiter with the loveliest smile you have ever seen. It was a hive of activity prepping for the day ahead. Breakfast was delicious and we felt amped and ready for the trail!

It was a 14Km walk before lunch – Tony measured 18KM. Easy walking with lovely views. Delicious filling meal of avocado nachos. Saw some interesting sights on the track including Llaqtapata which was thought to have been a rest stop for travellers on the way to Mach Picchu as well as an important astronomical site.Lots of fun walking and had a song for most moments which Tony recorded!

On arrival at camp everything was already set up for us. We had a little ceremony and stood in a circle where we all took it in turns to introduce ourselves, including the full Alpaca Green Machine Team. Shared football shirts and pencils with the team. Met some friendly Dutch guys on the trail called Johan and Palibur. Dinner was AMAZING! Highlight was the bananas flambe – Yum! Played a game of pigs – much to our waiter’s intrigue! In bed at 7pm.

Day 2: Dead Woman´s Pass – Runcuraccay Pass – Chaquiccocha (Trekking distance: 9.94 miles/16 km (7-8 hours) – Sunday, 29 October 2017

Up at 5am and another glorious breakfast. Today was supposed to be 16Km but somehow ended up being 20KM?! Met some Alpacas on the way! We found a lady selling beer so we bought a couple for the evening!

We were feeling very fit, probably due to doing Rainbow Mountain the day before. We reached Dead Woman’s Pass at 4,200m with ease and then the heavens opened! My socks were soaked but thanks to our excellent jackets we were dry and warm. Poor Ness was drenched an freezing when she arrived in tears. Her jacket was not waterproof – felt so sorry for her. The Dutch chaps were also pretty soaked as all they had was the ponchos provided by Alpaca!

Ness warmed up and we sat down to a delicious lunch. I headed off in the wrong direction and everyone laughed! It was tough going to start but then we got back into the swing and walked on briskly. We arrived at the ruins about an hour and a half before the others and did a bit of exploring. It is truly spectacular. We just sat and imagined what it had been like to be an Inca living here … a very spiritual place.

Runkurakay means “basket shaped” in Quechua and is at an elevation of 4,000m. This circular structure is unique among those found along the trail. The ruin is located several kilometres away from the closest road, therefore it is inaccessible to those who don’t approach it through the Inca Trail. This building must have been a post house or an Inca tambo, place where the chasquis messengers would stop over for food and rest for a while, until they could continue their trip onward. Stunning wildflowers dotted all over the place. The surrounding mountains are beautiful, especially at sunset or at dawn.

We also visited Sayamarka, or the “Inaccessible town.” It was so named because it used to be surrounded by steep cliffs with no vegetation, and even now it can only be reached via a path with 100 steep steps. Sayamarka used to be home to 20-25 families, with an extensive network of hallways and rooms over multiple levels. A big rock lies at the centre, a temple where sacrifices were made. In the beginning, the Incas made human sacrifices. The high priest would choose a woman whose next baby would be sacrificed. When this baby reached 14 years of age, s/he would drink a numbing potion made with hallucinogenic mushrooms, San Pedro cactus, and coca leaves, be placed in a hole ringed with decorations like coca leaves, flowers, gold, silver, and bronze, and then essentially be buried alive. Later, however, the Incas banned human sacrifices and switched to llamas instead – particularly black ones, which represented purity.

The camp site was in a stunning spot. I had a little nap. Loved our loo with a view! The others arrived and we enjoyed the most divine Dutch Apple cake! Yum!! Dinner was amazing as usual. Too tired to play pigs and in bed asleep by 7pm! Upset as phone and camera soaked through and neither working.

DAY 3: Day 3: Chaquiccocha – Wiñaywayna (Trekking Distance: 6.2 miles/10km (5 hours) – Monday, 30 October 2021

Today was a lovely easy stroll – really enjoyable walking. Got to camp way before all the other 200 hikers arrived. This is the only camp that we had to share with others as it was closest to the Gate and we wanted to get a head start in the morning. Had first shower – it was icy cold but very refreshing! Played pigs – AT LAST! I won a game! Another delicious cake for dinner – in bed by 7pm again!

Day 4: Machu Picchu (The most exciting and magical day (early wake up 3.30AM) plus Mach Picchu Mountain 3,061 m above sea level, 631 meters higher than Machu Picchu 1-2hours,- Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Up at 3am and 3rd in Queue at Gate which when opened ensued in a race! Sun gate was covered in cloud. Walked on and Yoel gave us a brilliant tour. Absolutely magnificent and a BIG BUCKET LIST item ticked off. Felt so privileged to be there. 80% has been rebuilt. More than 7,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu is the most visited tourist destination in Peru. A symbol of the Incan Empire and built around 1450AD, Machu Picchu was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

After the tour Nessy headed off with Yoel as too tired to climb Machu Picchu. Only 400 tickets a day are sold to climb this mountain. Tony raced up but poor Paul was half dead – it was a real upward slog which seemed to never end. Unfortunately Tony did not get the view as he headed back down to Nessy but fortunately for us it had cleared when we got to the top- Spectacular. Machu Picchu looked microscopic! The path to the top of the Machupicchu mountain is mainly made of stone stairs built by the Incas many years ago . These steps extend for approximately 2Km. It took us just over an hour to get to the top.The exhilaration was overwhelming and the vista awe inspiring. We were so pleased that we had done this – it was worth every agonising upward step!

Paul had a guinea pig for lunch! We bid a fond farewell to Yoel and stopped off for a quick shop ion the market. We headed off to board the Vista Dome train back – we arrived at 1.27pm for the 1.29pm departure but they would not let us on?!!!! Grrrr. We were so tired and annoyed. Went back to town and had another beer to wait for the 3.40pm train. The train has glass windows with panoramic views which were really lovely. The waiters do a live traditional Andean dance and then a fashion show to try and sell you alpaca products. They also serve snacks and the trip takes about 1hr30mins. The photo of the train below was taken as we started our walk from Km82 at the beginning of the Inca Trail. We also took a photo from the train of the bridge that we had crossed when we took the photo of the train.

After arriving back at Cusco we were transferred back to our stunning hotel (Palacio del Inka) and waited for Tony and Ness in the bar but the waiter said that they had just left. Here we are celebrating our accomplishment with a well deserved Pisco Sour.

We went for a quick shower and then headed into into Cusco centre which was completely overwhelming and manic with people dressed up in halloween like costumes everywhere!! We found a bar on the square which had a balcony where we enjoyed a pizza and a beer and watched all the crazy action below us! Great ending to a great time in Cusco! (We couldn’t get in touch with Tony and Nessy – they had probably had enough of us! LOL. We found out the next morning that they were in fact sitting on the balcony at the bar right next door to us taking the same photos!).

All Saints’ Day (Día de Todos los Santos) and All Souls’ Day (Día de los Difuntos, also known as Día de los Muertos—Day of the Dead) fall on November 1 and 2 respectively. The manner of passing both days differs from region to region, but Peruvians typically attend mass before heading to the cemetery, where family members leave gifts such as flowers or food items at the graves of departed relations.nFamily feasts are common, typically revolving around lechón (roast suckling pig) and tanta wawa, a traditional Peruvian bread baked to resemble a doll or infant. In some regions, most notably Cajamarca, family members symbolically share food and drink with the deceased, often eating and drinking at the graveside.

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