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Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
May 15th, 2018
We began our trek when we departed our Cuzco hotel at 4:30 am for our 1-hour, 43-minute drive to Ollantaytambo. There we had a fabulous breakfast of eggs, sausage and bread at a Local restaurant before heading out to the 82km marker where we began our trek along the Urubamba river. We arrived at the gathering point and met our porters, arranged our gear, and set off on the trail! We crossed the river on a suspension bridge with other hikers. Our guide and porter stayed behind to get all the gear in order (they passed us later in the morning).
The morning trek was mostly along the river, and we saw a lot of farmland, flowers, and even a local graveyard. We passed a pack of burros heading back to the trailhead. We were told that is how the tour company gets gear back down off the mountain (by burro train).
Our first view of the snow-capped Andes mountains was spectacular with blue skies behind, and a small patch of clouds gathered around the high peaks! Along the way we passed a small set of Inca ruins consisting of some dwellings where people would rest, and storage where food would be stashed. We also passed sets of what appeared to be high benches made from tree branches, but soon discovered this is where porters would rest by putting their packs on the high bench without having to take off their back packs! We passed through a few small villages, most of which had small signs proclaiming "Toilets 1.00" Nuevo Sol (the currency of Peru). That equated to about 20 cents. All of the villages had an assortment of goods available for sale including water and gatorade (our favorites), snacks and essentials. We had to pack our own water in for the first day-and-a-half so we did buy some along the way!
We also encountered waterfalls, cactus, streams to cross and eventually climbed our first of MANY staircases along the Inca Trail. From time to time we would spot other small Inca ruins, which we were always told were "for rest and storage". We passed the ruins at Qoriwayrachina, before arriving at the first set of significant Inca ruins at Llactapata (which means ‘high town’,) and is perched high above the city of Patallacta down below, which has over 100 housing structures dating to the 16th century. We spent some time exploring Llactapata and taking a lot of pictures of it and Patallacta.
We then continued along the trail through a steep stone canyon, following the river towards Machu Picchu. Our porters had passed us, and at some point we met up with them and they had the lunch tent ready! We had an excellent meal of soup, garlic bread, salad, hominy, rice and yams - it was amazing food! Onward we trekked, more staircases, until we arrived at Hatunchaca base camp. Here we discovered that towns had small red bandanas tied to branches that signified to porters that there was a "Bar"! At the bar they served a concoction of fermented corn that they brewed up in a vat in the corner of a dark, dank room. We joined our porters for a drink - its an acquired taste! Our porters setup camp at Hatunchaca, we had dinner, and went to bed for the evening. This was the COLDEST night of the trek at altitude! If you do this trek, ask your porters for warm water bottles to keep your feet warm in your sleeping bags (they didn't offer us until the next night, when it wasn't nearly as cold)!
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Ascent to Dead Woman's Pass!
May 16th, 2018
After an early breakfast we continued our trek towards the highest point in the sky - Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,828 feet! Today would be the hardest and longest section of the Inca Trail.
One of our first stops was the Fish Hatchery near the little town of Huayllabamba. We did a quick tour and then continued into the town where we found the MOST AMAZING AND MODERN BATHROOMS that we had seein in two days! It would be the last nice bathroom until we arrived at Machu Picchu and landed at our hotel in Aguas Caliente! Huayllabamba was also one of the last places we would be able to buy bottled water (the rest of the way it was stream water and iodine tablets).
We then continued on and passed through Huayapata Llulluchapampa campgrounds where we had a pasta, sausage and vegetable lunch and took a nap in the sun! We continued on over some streams, across a boardwalk, and up ancient staircases built by the Inca. We even met a friendly pig along the way! The high mountains were breathtaking!
Once we reached the pass, we snapped some photos and then continued on into Pacaymayu Valley and the Hidden River then began ascending again to the second pass of the trek. We arrived at our campsite, and our porters already had our tents setup and dinner waiting.