its about the journey, not the destination: inca trail

Because I can't pronounce most of the names that I learned nor even begin to retain all the information that I learned on my hike, I'll likely be letting the pictures do the talking for me. The hike to Machu Picchu was amazing, with a capital A! I often found myself thinking that if people don't believe there is a God, then they should come here! And I love our porters, I thought that a lot too!

We opted for the 4-day Classic Inca Trail hike. All hikers are required to be guided by a professional company. We chose to hike with Condor Travel and Paul. Paul gave us the advice of not focusing on the destination, but to instead enjoy the journey. He couldn't have been more right.  I can't give a higher recommendation to both Paul and the company. Paul was friendly, knowledgeable, patient, funny and spoke very good English.


We followed the same itinerary shown in the picture above, even though yours truly didn't make the picture above....that credit goes to  Adventure Life.

Day 1(7.5mi) started out early with a long van ride from Cusco to KM 82, where the Inca Trail begins. At KM 82 the porters packed and weighed our bags that they would be carrying and we all got through the first check station. Only 500 people are allowed on the Inca Trial per day, 200 hikers and 300 porters and guides. We did have a short stop in Ollantaytambo for any last minute things you might need such as a second breakfast, toilets that flush and a 15 soles aluminum walking stick. All of which I highly recommend. After going down in elevation and back up slightly which helps hikers acclimate to the elevation and seeing several Incan ruins sights we stopped for the night in Wayllabamba at 9840 feet. Wayllabamba has a fish hatchery that was built by the government for the locals. Nearly all of the touring companies purchase fish raised in the hatchery for dinner on the first night.
Porters packing at KM 82
Let's get this party started

The official start of the Inca Trail

Day 2(9.5mi) was advertised to be the hardest day of the trek due to the elevation gain going to Dead Woman Pass also known as Abra de Huarmihuañusca, topping out at 13,780 feet. It took us about 5 hours to summit. We hiked through very hot sun to be greeted by cold, windy conditions at the top of the pass.....and a sandwich. I love our porters! Paul led us up the mountain slow and steady and I didn't really struggle with the altitude. I had much more problems coming down the millions of stone steps. Did I mention buy that sissy walking stick in Ollantaytambo? Just do it, your knees will thank you. Trust me. We ended our day at Pacamayo (11,900 feet).

Our group, ready to tackle Dead Woman Pass

Almost to the top with a view of Mt. Veronica in the background



Highest point on the Inca Trail, Dead Woman Pass
Day 3(9.5mi) was the longest day of hiking. We summitted two more passes, saw many Inca ruins. By the end of the day I was so over hiking. I was TIRED! The Second Pass, Abra de Runkuracay (13,035 feet) was absolutely stunning. The Third Pass, Phuyupatamarca, tops out at 11,975 feet. We took a quick break at Intipata with time to explore the ruins. By this time my exploring pretty much consisted of sitting on the edge of the ruins admiring the scenery overlooking the Urubamba River. as we still had about 1/2 hour walk to our camping spot at Wiñay Wayna. HIKU! (Let's go!). Wiñay Wayna Inca ruins is a short 15 minute walk from the campground and despite being exhausted was one of the coolest ruins that we saw. Historians speculate that Wiñay Wayna may have been the main provider of agricultural products to Machu Picchu. They believe that food produced at Machu Picchu may have been offered for sacrifice along with human and animal sacrifice.

Waking up to the Inca Trail

Buy the sissy walking stick....you're welcome.
Second Pass, Runkuracay

Intipata


Winyawayna Inca Ruins, overlooking the Urubamba River
Day 4(3.5mi) brings the destination of the whole journey. We got up super early to a) make it to Machu Picchu early so we could spend the day at the ruins and b) so our porters could pack up our camp and meet the train after breakfast. Around sunrise we arrived at the Sun Gate also known as Intipunku, where we were lucky enough to get the elusive sunny Machu Picchu pictures. Many are greeted with fog, but we were some of the lucky ones. Intipunku served as a guardhouse for one of the main entrances to Machu Picchu. Elevation at the Sun Gate is about 8,924 feet.

Machu Picchu means "old peak" in Quechua. Historians don't know for sure, but believe that Machu Picchu was an estate built for the Inca Emperor, Pachacuti around 1450. It was abandoned around 1572 as a result of smallpox and the Spanish Conquest. The Spanish never found Machu Picchu so it was preserved.

Sun Gate with Machu Picchu in the sunny background

Made it! and we have sunny Machu Picchu pictures, mission accomplished.

My dream picture....remember to take these on your phone for Facebook and your camera so its good enough for everything else. Yep, I'm that girl that has only the low resolution cell phone picture.

8 am celebratory beers before the official Machu Picchu tour

My highest recommendation goes to hiking the Inca Trail. It was the experience of a lifetime and it couldn't have been more perfect. Condor Travel, Paul and our Porters were amazing! The Inca Trail was amazing!

Condor's team of hikers, porters and guides
Since its been a while since I've visited with you, my dear, dear, lovely readers....you might want to check out my packing list and what I would have packed differently because let's face it,  you are ready to pack your bags and head to Peru!

Cheers to our team! Pisco Sours in Aguas Calientes

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