Hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity! It can be intimidating but it shouldn’t be, it’s challenging but not as challenging as the numbers may suggest. Day one 8.7 Miles, Day two 9.94 Miles, Day three 6.2 miles, Day four 3.67 miles. just hike the Inca way, one step at a time and enjoy the journey!
On the Inca trail, the journey is the destination!
After our briefing, we walked around town looking for water and plastic bags. We were trying to be sure we waterproofed everything inside our duffles. Ended up being harder to find bags then we thought and also ended up being not necessary. But it was good to walk through town and get out some of the excitement/nervous energy!
As we separated our belongings and packed our duffles we all took turns taking what would be our final shower for the next several days. Once we were all organized and clean we fell asleep like kids on Christmas Eve, very anxious for the morning.
The morning of day one felt a bit surreal, we had dreamed about this trip for so long and were just ready to see what the Inca trail was actually like. The trail didn’t start right away, turns out there are some logistics to line up before we would begin. We popped in our van to all the quiet staring faces of our chef and porter team, they looked tired! It was fun to see how real it was all becoming.
Salt Mines of the Sacred Valley, You can read all about that here.
We bought some last minute bananas and Oreos and then off we went to the main parking lot. The ride was about an hour and there was some off roading, it was a weird hurry up and wait feeling. When we got to the parking lot there were several women selling hats, sunscreen etc. Looking around we noticed we were the smallest group.
Turns out we were a private tour, just the 3 of us, JR, our chef Donato, and our 6 friendly porters. The porters started packing huge packs and amongst everything else they took our duffles. It was nice to see them weighing their final packs distributing things equally and to know there are regulations in place of how much each porter can carry.
JR checked us in to day 1 on the trail and then we were officially off! At this point we were all so excited! It was actually happening and then, our first hill! It was hot, and it was hilly! This is where we established our slow and steady technique and our sneaky idea of “picture breaks” when we needed a breather. This very quickly became a joke as rarely was a camera taken out during these breaks.
The beginning of the trail is buzzy, lots of groups passing and unpassing each other every group full of excitement and trying to find their rhythm. As we were standing basically at the base of the hill having our first “picture” break, it sounds like a stampede approaching behind us. Turn around to see a sea of porters marching swiftly in unison up the hill with huge packs and zero effort exerted. No altitude problems for those guys!
Honestly, it was exciting to look for our porters and greet them when they ran past. They’re in a hurry to find the best lunch spot and get things set up for us.
During the first day we saw many families and donkeys and other people tracking through to their villages in the mountains. Throughout the first 2 days you see women with concession stands set up where you can buy drinks, snacks etc. Water is boiled and provided by the porters and chef every day at breakfast and lunch but if you want some flavor you can buy gatorades soda and other options from these women.
JR was great about us stopping for actual breaks and being sure we were drinking water, electrolytes etc. the guides really do pay attention and do their best to keep you conscious of hydration. We also took clif block chews, snickers, bananas and snacks such as these to keep our energy and sugar levels up.
On this day the trail was very wooded lots of up and down, stairs, hills, embankments. We passed some Inca ruin sites along the way that the Incas used as sort of hotels when they travelled along the same route. Lots of time to think on the Inca trail being completely disconnected from the outside world and it’s fun to imagine what it would’ve been like for the Incas long long ago.
After a morning of hiking, “pictures” and learning, it was finally time for lunch. How exciting to come upon our lunch set up, tent with shade, buckets to wash our hands, a full table setting, and great company! Donato and team worked hard and fed us a four course meal. In the middle of no where, four courses! Incredible! This was exciting for us, the food was delicious and we love food so we were looking forward to everything else Donato was going to come up with the remainder of the trail!
After full bellies, you can guess what came next, yep, more hiking! On the trail we noticed all the steps were different heights and uneven, the Incas believed different height steps used different amounts of energy sending the negativity out of your head through the vibrations. Peruvians call this Inca Flat! With every step you take you’re bound to get more positive! I liked that! Gratitude and positivity were recurring themes in Peru and along the Inca Trail. We also learned about Pachimama (mother Earth) and the Incas connection to her.
One foot in front of the other, you can do anything is you just take it one step at a time. Don’t think about getting to Machu Picchu or the 4 long days of walking in between, think about that next step, before we knew it we were at our camp for the night.
We arrived much earlier than expected but gratitude set in and we slowed our pace in the coming days.
One of the camps for night one had issues from a recent storm so our camp was set up in the yard of a family home. While our friendly porter team set up camp and worked on dinner we played with the little girl who lived here and her puppy. Turns out selfies transcend language barriers!
Camp was amazing! Great views of the valley, very secluded from other people. Donato made us popcorn and coco tea to unwind. The guys set us up a beautiful tent and we each got a bucket of water to take a bird bath. Dinner of course was great, another 4 courses. So much food, all hand carried in. It’s really special what they set up for us. After dinner, we were pooped! We attempted to take some star pics but the clouds were moving too fast, for the better though cause tomorrow was day 2 and it was rumored to be the hardest day of all!
Waking up on day 2 we were slow moving, Justino woke us at our tent with hot tea. It’s amazing with so little stuff how long it takes to get ready and organized. Breakfast was fantastic! Exactly what we needed to start the day. We did a small little stretch/exercise circle to get the blood flowing and a little warmed up and off we went.
Day 2 has the infamous dead women’s pass which is the highest altitude of the entire Inca trail, nearly 14,000 feet. Again JR, checked us in for day 2 so everyone knew we were on the trail, and again so much beautiful scenery all morning! It took about 2 hours into our trekking for the porters to start flying past us. This is honestly a really fun pet cause they are in incredible shape and quite happy when nice girls smile and greet them!
We were the only group who opted to have lunch at camp after dead women’s pass to avoid any sickness on the pass. When every other group stopped for lunch we stopped for a small snack Donato packed us and a nice view of the mountain Veronica. This worked out great, immediately after our little stop we started up the largest staircase I’ve ever seen in my life! Since everyone else was at lunch we had the whole path to ourselves and could go at our own pace.
It’s worth mentioning hiking poles are a life saver! Not only using them to pull yourself up hills and stairs but also using them as balance going down. I found them more beneficial on the down actually.
This was a slow procession up the pass but just kept repeating one step at a time it’s the Inca way. We stopped for several picture breaks but did take mental pictures because the view was amazing and deserved to be taken in!
Stepping at the top of dead women’s pass felt like such an accomplishment. We all felt so proud of ourselves, especially since other groups were still at lunch and looked like the smallest ants we’ve ever seen. This helped solidify exactly how high we had just climbed.
Now like they say, what goes up must come down and once we finished our pictures it was time for us to start our way down. This is where the dilemma started, lunch and camp was at the bottom of the hill but when we got there the hiking and views would be over for the day. I did not want it to be over. Coming down was beautiful! Steep and a bit hard on the knees but so so beautiful!
We must’ve been going slower than expected because at the bottom of the hill and with about an hour of hiking left our porter Justino was waiting for us with tea and snacks. They were worried we hadn’t eaten yet and wanted to be sure we were all okay. We found ourselves an Inca bench (line of rocks) and enjoyed our tea and the moment!
Camp this night was where all the groups were camping, tents everywhere! What a view though! Because we skipped the normal lunch, our team was able to run ahead and snag the spot with the best view! We had lunch as soon as we arrived and skipped tea time so we could start our wilderness wipes bird baths. It was nice to sit and relax before dinner and enjoy the views.
Day 2 dinner was probably my favorite dinner! JR finally introduced us to all our porters so we got to know everyone’s names. Just for fun I made them show us all their calves cause they are huge! Dinner was in the same tent as the kitchen and oh so fun! After dinner the team took a bottle of rum we bought them and made macho tea, it’s boiled rum, tea bags and some other herbs and things. It’s a tradition to share with your porters and honestly really bonded us.
- Hire Crossing Andes and they can work out your entire Inca Trail adventure and team.
More Peruvian Fun Below:
Beginning Altitude Acclimation at Saqsaywaman
Exploring the Colors and Cultures of Cusco
Feeding Alpacas near Cusco at Awana Kancha
Mountain Biking Through the Peruvian Countryside
Salt Mines of the Sacred Valley
Keep Hiking On! Inca Trail Days 3 and 4!
Visiting One of the New Wonders of the World – Machu Picchu!
Don’t Stop, Keep Hiking Higher – Huayna Picchu
A Night Under the Stars at the Skylodge
The Gateway to the Inca Trail – Ollantaytambo
Rainbow Mountains, a Colorful Day Trip!
A Child’s Dream, a Trip to Monkey Island – Peruvian Amazon
Peruvian Amazon, a “Relaxing” End to a Great Trip
Land and Water, Tambopata and Lago Sandoval – Peruvian Amazon
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