Dare I say that the 4-day Inca Trail hike was what made Machu Picchu special.  It truly is the journey that matters, not the destination.

Our trail started at Piscacucho, reaching up to almost 4200 on the 2nd day, then downwards to Machu Picchu on the 4th day.

Inca Trail map
Inca Trail map
our porters preparing our stuff for the 4-day hike
our porters preparing our stuff for the 4-day hike

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The trail: The Inca Trail was mostly stone steps, some were original steps from the Incan times. The hike itself was fun, intense and annoying all at the same time (annoying because at times it seemed that it would never end.) The 2nd day was the hardest for me because of the high altitude.  But the amazing landscape was worth it a thousand times.

trail hike

trail mountain

trail down

trail hills

The pole sticking out with a red plastic bag lets travelers know this is a "chicharia" : Houses along the trail that sells chicha (fermented corn drink)
The pole sticking out with a red plastic bag lets travelers know this is a “chicharia” : Houses along the trail that sells chicha (fermented corn drink)

***

The landscape:  It was difficult to keep walking when all I wanted to do was to sit down and enjoy these views all day.  (The sitting down won most times resulting in me being the last one to arrive in our campsite every day!)

river

clouds and snow

me and mountain

mountain smoke

Urubamba river
Urubamba river
waking up before sunrise is all right with this view
waking up before sunrise is all right with this view

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The ruins: There are many trails one can do around Machu Picchu but what made the Inca Trail different from the others were the ruins along the way:

Patallaqta ruins
Patallaqta ruins
Willkarakay ruins
Willkarakay ruins
Runkuraqay ruins
Runkuraqay ruins
Sayaqmarka ruins
Sayaqmarka ruins
within Sayaqmarka ruins
within Sayaqmarka ruins
Intipata ruins
Intipata ruins
Intipata steps
Intipata steps
Waynaq'ente ruins
Waynaq’ente ruins

***

The campsite: Our porters carried our sleeping bags, mats, tents, and 3 kilos of personal stuff.  While we trudged slowly along the trail, they run ahead with big packs to get the campsite and food ready for us.  Every time we reached the campsite we were greeted with applause, cold drinks, and warm water to wash our face and hands with. The cooks did an awesome job preparing 3 course meals and even baked us a cake!

campsite

our cooks: Juan and Valerio
our cooks: Juan and Valerio

tent at night

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For those who asked about the facilities, let me put it this way: the traveler in me embraced the adventure, while the microbiologist in me resisted the urge to disinfect the entire campsite.

toilet

***

Machu Picchu:  My first views of Machu Picchu was from the Sun Gate miles away: a tiny patch of stones next to a huge mountain. Here we waited as the sun rose slowly, bathing the ruins in gold. Then we walked another 40 minutes towards the ruins itself.  Machu Picchu was beautiful in a picture-perfect, postcard way. The site was bigger than I thought, and the landscape around it: the Vilcabamba mountain range, glaciers, the town of Aguas Calientes below, all added to its majestic presence.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate
Sunrise at Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

inside machu pichu 2

inside machu pichu 3

machu pichu flower

inside machu pichu 4

Temple of the Sun
Temple of the Sun

machu pichu 6

 

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