Travel | 4 comments
By: Diana Zlamalik
15 days Lima to La Paz
Cuzco, Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, La Paz, Tiahuanaco. A full 2 week exploration of Peruvian and Bolivian highlights. Come experience the magic of the Inca Empire’s fascinating culture and archaeology
Day 5-8 Inca Trail
We set off early on the 13th May for our 4 day trek to Machu Picchu.This 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is physically challenging but worthwhile, and the excursion is within the ability of most reasonably fit. It is a 40-km (25 mile) hike, with 3 high passes to be crossed, one of which reaches an elevation of 4200m (13776 ft). The trail is often steep, and it may rain even during the dry season. The temperatures at night may fall below zero, so it is important to come prepared.
We departed Ollantaytambo for 82 km of walking – where we begin our walk in the footsteps of the Incas. Our local crew of porters, cook and guide looked after us well for the duration of the hike. Porters carry the majority of the gear for the hike, so those passengers doing the hike only carry a small daypack with water, rain gear, snacks, a camera, etc. As we walked the trail that linked this ancient empire, we admired breathtaking views at every step as we move from high plateau areas to dense cloud forest. Depending on the season, you may see a great variety of flora, including miniature and large orchids, and fiery rhododendron bushes.
Due to the altitude I think a lot of us found the first day quite tough. Every time I had to go climb steps I found my heart racing and breathing hard! It was still a good day and we saw some amazing things.
The porters were amazing at literally running ahead with everything and cooking us really nice meals throughout the whole trip. On our way we passed several smaller ruin sites, the first of which is Llactapata.
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Beautiful 360 degree view of Matchu-Picchu can be seen here:
Each night we camped at a new site in the mountains with an amazing view. The toilets were no very often more than a hole in the ground and the sun set at about 6 every day so it was very dark in the evenings. We wanted to get ahead each day so we weren´t with lots of other people so most days we woke at about 4:30 and hiked for 8 hours or so with one break for food.
Needless to say we all went to sleep around 8:30pm. One night I was in bed before 8! Lol!
The second day climb the long steep path to Warmiwañusca, or Dead Woman’s Pass. This second day was definitely the toughest as most of it was up hill. We climbed 1,250 feet in one day! My legs and bum were definitely having a good work out! Thank goodness we had a hiking pole to keep me up when it got tough. The cloud forest was really lovely, with the sound of the river almost always by our side.
At 4198 m (13769 ft) above sea level, this pass is the highest point of the trek. The second pass of the hike is at 3998 m (13113 ft) where on clear days, we enjoy superb views of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba. The trail goes through some beautiful cloud forest on the gentle climb to the third pass, where you will walk through a causeway and a tunnel, both original Inca constructions. The highest point of the third pass is at 3700m (12136 ft). On clear days you are rewarded for all this work with beautiful views of the Urubamba Valley below. Soon you reach the serene ruins of Phuyupatamarca, or the ‘Town above the Clouds’, at about 3650 m (11972 ft) above sea level. We camp for the final night close to Wiñay Wayna (Forever Young) ruins, a grandiose terraced hillside site, with panoramic views of the valley below and just a short hike from Machu Picchu.
The third day was the longest distance and the track was very up and down. 16k in total out of the 42k (ish) total. We saw lots of Inca sites along the way which were really impressive. They worshiped the mountains, the water and mother earth.
The rain set in on the final evening and it poured all night! It was very loud in a little tent too! We still got up at 4 and luckily by about 5 when we left the camp site the rain was easing off. We set along the final 6k but were a little concerned about the cloud and mist that covered any views!
On the final day of the hike we climb the steps to the Sun Gate overlooking the peaks that surround Machu Picchu. When we arrived at Sun Gate we could see the outline of a few mountains but nothing of Machu Picchu which was a little disappointing. We´d also missed the sun rise behind the clouds. As we trekked further down the sun was fighting and we could gradually see more and more of the Inca ruin. It was AMAZING!
Machu Picchu is both the best and the least known of the Inca ruins. It is not mentioned in any of the chronicles of the Spanish conquistadors and archaeologists today can do no more than speculate on its function. The local Quechua farmers in the area knew of Machu Picchu for centuries, but it was not until an 11-year-old boy led the American historian Hiram Bingham (who was in search of Vilcabamba) to the site on July 24, 1911, that the rest of the world became aware of its existence. At that time the site was covered in thick vegetation, and Bingham and his team returned in 1912 and 1915 to clear the growth. Over the years, much work has been done on excavating and studying the site. Despite these efforts, many unanswered questions remain.
Diana (Dina) is my long time friend who was born in Zagreb (Croatia), the same city where I was born. Dina has Undergraduate and Masters Degree in Veterinary medicine from the University of Zagreb. She immigrated to Canada twenty years ago and now lives in Oakville (Ontario) with her family. Dina plays guitar and is very passionate about classical music. She is currently attending 5th class at Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.