Posted by  Daniël Cronk   in  , ,      5 years ago     708 Views     Comments Off on Inca Trail & Machu Picchu: Day 1 & 2  
Having visited Peru back in 2002, I had been very eager to hike the Inca Trail. However, the fates were against me. As I arrived in Cusco in May of 2002 I was met with disappointment, as the company I had used to organize the tour failed to secure me the space required. Prior to this time, hikers had been able to do the hike on their own. But in 2001, the Peruvian government began to instill harsher rules on the trail to limit the number of tourists who used it. As a consolation prize, I was able to hike the 'Sacred Path', a 1-day variation of the hike which travels to the final camp site and then the next morning you get up and hike to the Intipuku (Sun Gate) for a sweeping view of Machu Picchu -- though, as luck would have it, it was too cloudy to see anything.

Fast forward to August, 2013. I often check out a number of websites where people can notify of mistake airfares or deals that are being offered by airlines. I saw that United & Delta were having price wars to Lima out of each other's hubs. As a resident in Minneapolis, a Delta Air Lines fortress, I was given the deal through United Airlines. $400 roundtrip from MSP to Lima. A no brainer. I consulted with my employer about the time off, which was granted almost immediately, and I secured my ticket. [Side note: I was later offered an opportunity to upgrade the flights to Business class for $800, which ultimately I took advantage of, as they often run upwards of $3000-4000, so it was also a no brainer].

I knew exactly what I was going to do. Given my disappointment with not being to do the Inca Trail back in 2002, I knew that was what I would spend my time doing. I began researching companies and finally, through the help of TripAdvisor, settled on Quechuas Expeditions. I immediately contacted the company and inquired about price, the tour, etc. I paid my $200 deposit to secure my spot on the trail, entry to Machu Picchu and entry to climb Huayna Picchu - the tall mountain behind the site).

I arrived in Cusco on May 5th and had until the 8th to help with acclimatization. Back in 2002 I did not experience any true effects from the altitude (being at right around 11,500 feet above sea level), but this extra few days would ensure a more pleasant experience. I did the requisited tours of the Sacred Urubamba Valley, as I had in 2002. I also took a trip to Maras and Moray, the site of the Inca Agricultural Terraces which served as a sort of laboratory for the Inca People, as well as Moray, the site of the Inca Salt pans.

Inca Trail Elevation Profile. Image (c) Peruvian Soul

May 8th arrived quicker than anticipated and soon I was being picked up and on our way to begin the tour. I really lucked out on this trip, as in my group there were only 2 other people (aside from the array of porters, cooks, and guide). David and Karly from Colorado. We immediately hit it off quite well. The only thing running through my mind was: it's raining out! Now, it would be silly for us not to encounter a bit of rain - it is the rainy season after all. We made our way to the beginning point of the tour, at Piscacucho, where you officially enter the Inca Trail.

For the first day, much of the trail is rather flat with just a little bit of a hill to it, so not so bad. As we made our way along the Urubamba river we saw many kind of plants and even tried the fruit of one of the cactus plants. After a few hours walking we arrived at the Incan site of Llactapata, first "discovered" by Hiram Bingham in 1912. Bingham notes the site as being "on top of a ridge between the valleys of the Aobamba and the Salcantay, about 5,000 feet above the estate of Huaquina." He goes on to say that "Here we have discovered a number of ruins and two or three modern huts. The Indians said that the place was called Llacta Pata." He did not, however, investigate the ruins thoroughly, and were not done so for an additional 70 odd years later. In 2003, a study of the site was conducted by Thomson and Ziegler which concluded that the location of Llaqtapata, along the Inca Trail, suggested that it was an important rest stop and roadside shrine on the journey to Machu Picchu.

Llactapata is a beautifully placed site, and although we arrived at the top of the site and did not venture down into the valley to view the main complex, it is just as impressive from above as it is from below. While at the site, a large bug came into my view. While trying to photograph this bug I was yelled at by our guide to 'be careful'. It wasn't until I stepped back to notice that there was a giant tarantula almost right between my legs - he too was interested in the bug. At one stage of this adventure the giant spider jumped up on its hind legs and I could hear it give off a little hiss.

Llactapata
Llactapata

Looking down the valley from the Llactapata ruins.
Looking down the valley from the Llactapata ruins.


As we continued our journey through the valley we came to our lunch spot and had one of the largest lunches I had had in a long time. Another hour or so walking and we made it to our camp at Huayllabamba, at 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) above sea level.

The next morning we awoke to a nice cool, partly sunny day. We had a quick breakfast and headed out to being the ascent to Warmiwañusca (Dead Woman's Pass). I had already conveyed my trepidation to my other two group mates, but fortunately it was not a problem for me. We left the camp at approximately 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) above sea level and made the climb up to the peak at 4,205 meters (13,796 feet). As we headed up the steep path, I noted a bit of heavier breathing, but my legs kept me going and I was able to stay motivated. Finally I turned to my iphone and listened to some music to ensure I stayed just as motivated. At sometime around 10:30 am I found myself at the top of the Dead Woman's Pass. After a 15-20 minute break, and requisite photos of celebration, we headed down into the cloudy abyss to our next campsite, which sits at 3,590 meters (11,788 feet). The guide had told us previously that it would take 5-6 hours to make the climb up, but I noted the time of 11:45 as I entered camp, meaning that I made the climb up and down in 4 hours and 45 minutes; and I was able to enjoy the scenes along the way in almost complete silence. Given our short time to make it to the top meant that we were well ahead of the other groups on the trail. Karly had unfortunately had a knee injury just prior to our trip, so she and Dave took it a bit slower going down. Aside from the odd porter running past me (I believe these guys are crazy with the way they run, and sometimes in sandals).

Inca Trail: Day 1 - The trail heading up
Inca Trail: Day 1 - The trail heading up

Inca Trail: Day 2 - Looking back on our progress.
Inca Trail: Day 2 - Looking back on our progress.


The route down was really cloudy and a bit cool. It was almost like entering the dark abyss of unknown. The vegetation is very much of the paramo (high altitude plants) and I saw many different birds. At one point I saw one of THE largest hummingbirds I have ever seen. About the size of my foot. It had stopped to rest on one of the many plants in the area and just as I was lifting my camera to take aim for a shot, he flew away! Just my luck.

Inca Trail: Day 2 - Dead Woman's Pass
Inca Trail: Day 2 - Dead Woman's Pass - 12,139 feet (3.720 M)

Inca Trail: Day 2 - Looking down into the abyss
Inca Trail: Day 2 - Looking down into the abyss

Inca Trail: Day 2 - along the trail
Inca Trail: Day 2 - along the trail

Inca Trail: Day 2 - along the trail
Inca Trail: Day 2 - along the trail

Inca Trail: Day 2 - along the trail
Inca Trail: Day 2 - along the trail

Inca Trail: Day 2 - Looking down on our camp along the 2nd day of the trail. Looking forward to the Day 3 trail going up.
Inca Trail: Day 2 - Looking down on our camp along the 2nd day of the trail. Looking forward to the Day 3 trail going up.


As I came into camp, I headed to our site and took a quick nap while I waited for Dave, Karly and Eder to arrive.




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I am very passionate about traveling. My goal is to visit as many places and experience as many things as I can during my short journey on this earth.