Hiking the Inca Trail was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m so excited to recap my experience with you.
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Hey everyone, I’m back! Well, technically I’ve been back for almost a week but the world’s worst cold hit me the moment I returned and so I’ve been down and out for a few days. Finally, I feel like my head is coming out of the fog and I am able to start working on my Peru recaps. I’m starting with the Inca Trail for two reasons. One, because it fits the Wild Workout Wednesday theme and also because it was definitely the highlight of the trip. But trust me, Peru has SO much more to offer and I’m excited to share the rest of my recaps as well which I’ll be sprinkling in over the next little while.
Because I have so much to share about the Inca Trail I’ll actually be splitting it into three posts. Two will go through the day to day and show all the beautiful pictures and my third post will give the details about the hike – logistics, bathrooms, what to pack, etc. in case you get so inspired that you decide to book your own trip.
Total Distance: 12 km
Our pick up time from our hotel in Cusco was 5 a.m. I barely slept the night before. I’m not sure if it was because I had coca tea too late or because I was just so excited. We drove about an hour and a half to a small town for breakfast and then continued to kilometer 82, the beginning of the Inca Trail. We got a chance to see our porters loading up their backpacks. It was incredible, for 5 of us, we had 10 porters and each of them were carrying 25kg of stuff on their back.
Our group was very small, just the four of us and our guide. Most other groups we saw had 10-15 people in them, so we felt very fortunate to be in such a small group.
Our guide, Fredy, told us the first day of the hike would be fairly easy. For the first couple of kilometers, it was very flat. It was a great chance to chat with our group and to get to know one another. Finally, we started a bit of a climb. Feeling pretty winded at the top, Fredy said look over here. I looked over the edge of the mountain and all I could utter was “wow”. Our first Inca ruin.
At this point, Fredy sat us down and began to tell us the stories of the Inca people. I wish I could tell you all the stories but I would do a terrible job. But his knowledge was incredible. He has been a guide for 15 years and has completed the Inca Trail 487 times so suffice to say, he really knew his stuff.
After some more hiking, we arrived at our first lunch. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But my mind was blown. As you walk up to the lunch site, the porters greeted us with a fresh juice. Then they poured bowls of hot water so we could wash our hands and led us to our dining tent.
Lunch was a three-course meal every day. It began with a small vegetable appetizer. Second course was always a soup and then the main course was huge platters of food we ate family style. It always consisted of a salad, cooked vegetables, starch and protein. The food was incredible. Probably the best food we had the entire time we were in Peru. How they did it in a tiny tent with a propane burner, I’ll never understand.
The afternoon had us climbing some more but when you have gorgeous views all along the way you don’t mind.
We arrived to our camp around 4:30 and had some time to relax in our tents before “happy hour” which consists daily of fresh made popcorn, crackers with jam and tea. After happy hour it’s about another hour or so until dinner which again, was an incredible four-course meal. After dinner, we all went back to our tents and it was an early night. I think I fell asleep around 8 p.m.
The first night sleep was pretty rough. You’re sleeping on a very thin mat which isn’t very comfortable, it was raining and we were visited by a bunch of donkeys in our campsite during the night which made a bunch of noise.
Total Distance: 16km
We were warned that day 2 is the most challenging. It’s the longest distance and involves the most climbing. Depending which group you book the Inca Trail with, depends just how hard Day 2 is. The majority of the groups only do one pass and then set up camp after lunch. However, with Valencia Travel, we did two passes in one day which made for a long and very stair-filled day. The booty was burning!
Because the Andes get heavy rainfall during wet season, the Inca people built stone pathways and stairs to prevent erosion of trails. I’m very used to hiking and climbing steep paths but climbing so many stairs was a unique challenge.
After our first break of the day, it was time to tackle “Dead Womans Pass”. Fredy showed us the pass by pointing up and saying, you see that boob, that’s where we’re going. We weren’t sure if we understood his accent, but boob is exactly what he meant. The mountain looks like a womans profile, which is why it’s called Dead Womans pass.
The climb was challenging but we took lots of little breather breaks along the way. Unfortunately, the summit didn’t provide us with great views due to the clouds. But we were rewarded with hot coca tea and sandwiches from our porters.
Of course, what goes up must go down. We spent the next two hours climbing down many, many stairs to our lunch spot. I have to admit it was disheartening to see many groups have their camp set up and know they were finished while we still had another climb ahead of us. But at the same time I really wanted to complete the hard day so that day 3 would be a cake walk for us.
After lunch, we set off to complete the second pass of the day. It was only about half the climb as the first and we got a chance to see some more Inca sites along the way.
Once again, the second pass left us with less than stellar views but a sense of accomplishment nonetheless.
On the way down, it started to rain but we were all prepared with our rain ponchos so it wasn’t too bad.
When we got to camp, it really started to pour rain. We also had some very close lightning and thunder. The hot tea during happy hour was very welcome. After dinner, we all went right back to our tents and this time I fell asleep almost instantly.
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