Views 10 Ene The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Day 1 + 2
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Hiking the Inca Trail had always been a huge ambition of mine.  Directly after arriving at the Amauta Spanish school in Cusco I met a group of students that were booking for later that same week, through their in-house travel Agency Dos Manos Peru! Admittedly I was quite relieved that there was still space; I guess the trail doesn’t get so booked up in the wet season.

The staff of Dos Manos made the whole booking process very easy for us and was very professional in accommodating special requests and dietary needs of one of my fellow hikers. Our guide, Simón, gave us a briefing two days before we left, allowing us time to buy last minute necessities. He described the trail, what our plans were, what would happen each morning before walking and the type of food we could expect. I received a great feeling of confidence and excitement and really lived up to the moment of the first day:

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Day 1
We were picked up very early that fateful Friday from the Amauta Spanish School, and travelled to Ollantaytambo, a town 75km from Cusco for a snack breakfast. This is often a compulsory stop due to the need to pick up porters. Since we were a relatively small group this was a quick affair and we were quickly on the road again, heading for Km 82 where the trek would really start!

After a lengthy entrance process (where our passports were cross-checked with our tickets for name/number discrepancies) and a bridge crossing, we were off! The first morning passed pleasingly and the walk itself was not challenging; quite flat before a slight incline to lunch.

Here was when I was lost for words, and not for the only time on the trek. What Lino our cook was able to conjure from the cooking tent with nothing more than a few hobs was simply incredible. For him to race ahead with the porters and then cook the food in time for us to arrive was no mean feat and we were extremely appreciative. This wasn’t just the best food I’d eaten in Peru, but the best food of my last few months travelling.

This powerhouse of a lunch pushed us on to Wayllabamba and our first campsite nearby the last indigenous community we would encounter on the trail. On the route, we hiked alongside a river, passing a few remote Inca ruins, including the very impressively situated Ilaqtapata.

Over the day, looking over your shoulder at the direction from where we came showed some stunning scenery, and this was a theme for the whole trip. The snowy Veronica Mountain was on show for much of the day and looked absolutely gorgeous against the clear blue sky. After another amazing meal, we settled down in our tents. Everyone was put into 3-man tents, but with only one other person, meaning there was plenty of space.

Day 2
It’s a good thing I slept so well because day 2 is a tough one. From around 3,000m above sea level we climbed to over 4,200m. This means that you climb, more-or-less, the height of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, before heading downhill for a few more hours. 

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

We started early and immediately started climbing. We had already climbed what I thought was a small mountain when we reached the checkpoint that marked the start of the 2nd day. We hadn’t really done anything yet! Much of the days climb to lunch was through the forest, having little breaks at some cleared spots making for some very beautiful photos and interesting viewing.

The climb also marked the first Inca steps we experienced. All the time we were being overtaken by porters; some in sandals, some even with bleeding feet but all of them carrying far more than us. This was a really humbling part of the trip; seeing the struggle on their faces as they lugged 25kg up 1,200m, all for a relatively small payment. You could also see the different levels of care provided by varying tour operators, and I’m glad to say that Dos Manos’s porters were among those who were best looked-after on the trail.

So up we climbed up the pass, the equivalent of 1.5 Burj Khalifa’s – the tallest building in the world. Simón kept us going at a slow pace and allowed breaks every half an hour or so. Slow and steady pilgrimage steps is far better than a faster pace with more breaks; it’s all about your heart rate – keeping it constant reduces chances of exhaustion, allowing for much longer endurance.  Off in the distance we were able to see why the pass was called Dead Woman’s Pass, as the landscape made it look like a woman lying down.

The top was cold but absolutely fantastic. A small wooden post marked the summit which was a perfect moment for a team photo before heading downhill around 600 vertical meters to our campsite in Pacaymayu. No one could deny burning thighs after such an altitude gain before dropping half that distance, but spirits were extremely high: we had survived Dead Woman’s Pass! No surprise that everyone slept like a baby that night with only the sounds of a gushing river nearby.

For a detailed trek to Machu Picchu factsheet you can contact Dos Manos travel agency in Cusco, and also continue reading my story of empowerment on day 3 and 4 here!  The best is yet to come!

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6 Responses

  1. 1
    Maria 

    I did the Inca Trail back in 2008 and it was one of my very best trekking experiences. What a beautiful trek!

  2. 2
    mag 

    haha, the equivalent of 1.5 Burj Khalifa’s !!

  3. 3
    Colleen 

    That trip looks amazing. I’d love to visit the Inca Trail one day. It sounds like the tour guides took excellent care of the travelers.

  4. 4
    South AmericanTravel Blog 

    Yes Maria it certainly is a unique trek and to arrive to Machu Picchu as the Inca’s, did on the forth day would have to be the best part!!

  5. 5
    South AmericanTravel Blog 

    Hola Colleen!! Yes the guides at Dos Manos Travel Agency love guiding the keen trekkers from around the world! They love meeting the new people and recount the spectalur history of the Inca’s! If you are looking at doing the Inca Trail in the future they would only be too happy to have you join one of their groups!

  6. 6
    Nienke 

    I am now in Argentina, and do not have time to go to this tour. Such a pity!! I really hope I can come to Peru next year to walk the Inca Trail. I would love to! It sounds like an exhausting trip, but I guess its worth it!

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