The main reason we were in Peru was to visit Machu Picchu. It’s an incredible site and was built by the Inkas. To this day, the number of sites are still unknown and last year a new site had been discovered deep in the rainforest.
We decided to do the Classic 4D/3N trek instead of a day visit. We booked with a local company; Alpaca Expeditions. We cannot recommend this company enough. They were excellent. Our group consisted of 14 trekkers, 2 tour guides, 20 porters, and 2 chefs.
Our guides; Jaime and Manolo were very good. One would lead the group whilst the other would stay at the back to make sure everyone would get to the top safely. They both were very knowledgeable and fun to be around. They clearly enjoyed their job and would point out interesting information about the flora and fauna as well as telling us about the Inca People.
As well as the guides, we were supported by porters. We wouldn’t have been able to make it up if it weren’t for the porters. The porters would carry 7kg of personal stuff (per trekker) as well as all the supplies for the campsites (tents, food, equipment etc). Not only did they carry everything, but they would always do it with a smile on their face. When we eventually got to camp, they would always applaud you as you arrive. Despite the fact that they do the exact same route whilst carrying huge bags and doing it in a fraction of the time. We should have been applauding them.
The chefs were also an important part of the team and the meals they cooked were amazing considering it was all done in a small tent on a mountain. A few of us did get a poorly tummy, but I don’t think it was due to the food being bad but more of a getting used to something different. In the evenings, there was also ‘happy hour’ where we were given hot drinks and snacks such as biscuits/freshly made popcorn to graze on before our dinner. We were very spoilt. On top of the three meals, we were also given snacks to eat during the trek each day!
Day 1 Cusco –KM 82 – Ayapata
The trek for day 1 was advertised as an ‘average’ trek consisting of 6-7 hours of walking, covering 8.7 miles (14km). We were picked up super early from our hotel in Cusco and then driven to KM 82, where the trek starts. Before our hike, we were treated to a delicious breakfast of eggs, bread, and fruit.
The first couple of hours were nice and easy, we were enjoying a gentle stroll and we reached our first Inca site; Patallacta. After this brief stop, it was a further 2 hours until lunch. There were a few steep areas here, but overall it wasn’t too strenuous.
After a lovely lunch and toilet break, we had another 2.5 hours of hiking until our first campsite at Ayapata. The stretch after lunch was pretty exhausting and it was a preview of what to expect on day 2. There was one point where you looked across at the other mountain and could see little green dots moving up (our porters) and the realisation on both Mike and Wendy’s face was priceless. They eventually got to camp around 5 pm.
Day 2: Dead Woman’s Pass – Runcurraccay Pass – Chaquiccocha
The dreaded day 2 was upon us. We were woken up around 4:30 am with a hot cup of coca tea and greeted to another lovely breakfast. At around 6am, we were ready to embark on the longest day of our lives! Jaime told us that the trek would be around 2 hours of moderate hiking followed by 2 hours of ‘hard’ hiking to reach the highest point of Dead Woman’s Pass. He lied! It was 4 hours of horrendous hiking from start to finish. Zigzagging and taking lots of short breaks frequently was our only hope. Around 100m from the peak, the air was pretty thin and Wendy started to sway a little. Tiredness and lack of oxygen is not a great combination. Nevertheless, these two persevered and finally made it to the Dead Woman’s Pass! Yey!
The view from the top wasn’t great, especially since the weather was similar to Manchester as it was cloudy and drizzly. But it didn’t matter, as we had finally reached the top. After a few photos and reenergising on snickers, we were ready to toddle back down.
Going down was much easier, but it was rather slippery so you have to be careful with your footing. A few people took some tumbles. The porters just fly down and as if they aren’t carrying anything. We finally made it to lunch after around 1.5 hours.
We were told that after lunch it would be another moderate trek, so we assumed it was going to be similar to day 1. How wrong were we! It was essentially a repeat of the morning, another hike of 2 hours reaching a peak of 4000m. Along the way, we stopped at a few more Inca sites. Towards the end of the hike, we had the option to carry on until camp (20 mins or so) or to visit the Sayamarka site. We took one look at the steep stairs and both said camp! Our guide, Manolo, was trying to convince us that we should go up and see it and how amazing it was. There were 2 other trekkers who had just come from there so they showed us their photos, so need to hike up!
On the way to camp, we stumbled across some alpacas. I wanted a photo but Wendy thought I might get eaten!
After 9 hours of hiking and covering 16km (9.94 miles) we were ready for bed!
Day 3: Chaquiccocha – Wiñaywayna:
This day is described as the easy day as the majority of the trail is downhill! (wahey!) Although this is true, our legs were pretty sore from all the hiking, therefore going down hurt but it definitely wasn’t as tiring.
Today was a short day as we only hiked around 10km (6.3 miles) and arrived at camp at lunchtime. On the way, we entered the ‘cloud forest’ and here you have a great view of the sacred valley. Along the way, we visited 2 more Inca sites; Phuyupatamarka (Town in the Clouds) and Intipata (Terraces of the Sun). During both sites, our guides told us more about the history of the Inca People and how they used to live. Very insightful stuff!
After lunch, we went to our final site before Machu Picchu; Wiñaywayna. This was only 5 minutes from camp and it was magnificent.
Day 4: Sun Gate – Machu Picchu – The Lost City Of The Incas
We finally made it! There were parts of the journey where we felt this day was never going to come! After a super early get up (3 am) we waited in line at the gates until 5 am, when they officially open. The early get up is so the porters can pack up and catch their train home.
Before we get to Machu Picchu, we trek onto Sun Gate (Inti Punku). From here, we have the first glimpse of Machu Picchu in its entirety. The views are amazing and it’s nice to be rewarded for our hard work. After an hour or so trek down, we finally reach Machu Picchu! (Yey) After taking some initial photos, our guide sat us down to explain the significance of Machu Picchu and why they believe it was created. We were then taken around the sites on a guided tour.
When booking the trip, we were given the option of doing an extra trek to Huayna Picchu, which is the mountain next to Machu Picchu and gives a bird’s eye view of the Inca Site. At the time, we thought it was a great idea but on the day, not so much. After 4 days of trekking, we were so tired and our legs just didn’t want to work. Nevertheless, we managed to do the 2 hour hike (round trip). As we had done the full trek, it honestly wasn’t worth it. We had already seen the view from above at Sun Gate so this wasn’t that special. For those who are just doing the 1 day visit, then it would be a great choice.
After our extra trek, we took the bus down to the nearest town of Aguas Calientes to have lunch and to wait for the train back to Cusco. We only had a few hours here, but it’s a cute, quaint town and it would have been nice to stay here for a night. It’s also home to some hot springs (although online reviews seem to be quite negative).
Seeing Machu Picchu, it made the trek really worthwhile. Although you can do Machu Picchu as a day visit, doing the trek and the hard work that was involved made it much more rewarding.
When we were deciding to do the trek to see whether we wanted to do the 4 days or just a day visit, many reviews suggest the trek isn’t that difficult. They lied! As people of average fitness, we struggled. Other members of our group had a hard time too (despite being physically fit). Adjusting to the altitude can be difficult, but the steepness of the hikes can be quite intense too. If you are planning on doing the trek, it’s best to try and physically prepare yourself beforehand.
Now I think it’s time for a well-deserved rest. We are popping back home to Manchester for a bit, before setting off again. See you back home!