Last June I went to Peru! This was my first big internal vacation and I got to explore the beautiful city of Cusco and take my first horseback ride to see Rainbow Mountain! Every day of the trip was amazing in its own way, but the main dish, the real reason I came was the 4 day/3 night Inka trail trek to Machu Picchu.
Here is everything I loved about it, and everything you should know about the four day trek.
The trek started the Wednesday night before with a meet-and-greet with the tour guides and the group. We got our duffel bags, our instructions and went home to try to fit just enough stuff in the bag so as not to exceed 7 kilos.
The next morning the bus picked us up from our hostel at 5:30 a.m. we drove for several hours before stopping at our launch point. We had the first of many great breakfasts with the group. We posed for photos and took off. The first day of the trail was hot, not shaded and there were tons of bugs! Mosquitos everywhere! Bring bug spray! We stopped for lunch and I was already sunburnt. The scenery on this day was so beautiful. The river and the mountains were a slightly distraction for the moderately-hard hike that day 1 was. When we got to camp all of our tents were already set up, water and soap was laid out to wash up and dinner was cooking. The night ended with another gourmet meal and an 8pm bed time. I was so tired!
This was the day I had been dreading. This was the hardest day of the hike. The day we had to climb Dead Woman’s Pass and then climb another equally as grueling pass. We started the morning early again (there is no sleeping in on the hike) with the guides waking us up with rooster calls and hot coca tea delivered into our tents. We ate an amazing breakfast and prepped our packs for the 11-mile day. Soon enough we were headed up “Inka flat” which is basically uphill. Most of the trail going up the mountain is made of steps. The trekking poles were amazing! The other 11 people in our group were so amazing! Everyone was cheering each other on, waiting for each other and we all got along so well that the climb wasn’t nearly as bad as I had imagined. It was hard, but not the worst.
Once we made it to the top of the first peak we had amazing views of the giant Andes mountains and Inca ruins below. Our team rewarded us with cheese sandwiches and a nice long break. Cheese in a bun never tasted so good as it did in that moment. After about 30 minutes we started downhill. It’s amazing the microclimates you pass through along the trail. Some parts are filled with trees and brush and are shady and cold, other parts are exposed, sunny and hot. Once we got to the bottom we walked for a little to our next mountain. We had to climb up and down this mountain to reach our lunch spot. Lunch was amazing! After this it was more trekking on mostly flat land until we got to our camp for the night. Happy hour of popcorn, cracker, jam and tea were waiting, as usual.
At dinner one of our guides told ghost stories about how a ranger disappeared one night and was found several days later near death and not knowing what happened. He told us to sleep with ear plugs in because screams were often heard this time of year. Naturally, we’re all freaking out even though we know it (probably) wasn’t true. Nevertheless, feeling accomplished I stayed up with some of the other group members to stargaze. With no light pollution in the middle of the Andes I saw more stars than I had ever seen before! And could make out constellations and catch all kinds of falling stars! It was truly beautiful.
With the toughest day behind us we finally had day 3 – an easy half day of hiking with lots of stops at ruins along the way. Day was my favorite day. You would think it would be day 4 to finally see what we came for, but no. Day 3 was my favorite day because I realized the journey was what made this experience so amazing and all the other amazing Inca ruins we got to see along the way. Day 3 was leisurely for the most part. The group stayed together and talked and by this time we had all grown close and felt like one big family. We stopped at several ruins and explored new things together, listened and watched the tour guides make rope and hunting spears from grass like the Inca’s used to do. Before lunch we spent an hour or two at a huge Inca site. Our guides explained its history, we took photos and explored before making our way to camp for lunch and rest.
We ate lunch and then took a freezing cold 2-minute shower. It was COLD, but it felt so good to wash the stink and sweat off. I went back into the tent and found all the other girls already in there chatting. Our tent turned into a girls talk beauty salon. Brittanie French braided all of our hair while the boys did whatever boys do outside the tents. We finished just in time before our guide could call us to go explore our next ruin. This one was truly astounding. It was the biggest one we had seen so far with farming terraces and connected rooms that felt like mazes. The view from some of these “rooms” would have been amazing.
After we explored for a while our guides pulled us together to explain that this was probably where medicinal herbs were grown and that these “rooms” were too small to live in and probably stored the goods and were used as hospital rooms. They talked for a while about the Inca history and then told us how much it meant to them that we were on this trek with them. They presented us with Alpaca Expedition t-shirts at the end of their chat and on that note we went back to camp for dinner.
Dinner was amazing, of course. But this time they went even farther above and beyond. They made a cake! And decorated it like a professional bakery. It was SO good!
After dinner is when we had a ceremony to wrap up the trip, thanks and tip the porters and chef and say our good-byes to them. This was our last meal and the porters would be leaving us early the next morning. our guides gave a heartfelt speech about how us being there supports their livelihoods and how much they appreciate sharing their history with us. Some of the green machine’s team said a few words. A few people from our group said a few words back. It was sweet and slightly tear-jerking. At the end of it all we brought our hands in a huddle and said “1-2-3-machina verde!”
Soon after we went to sleep because the next morning we had to be up at 3am!
This was the final day, the day we had been waiting for! It rained overnight and was trickling still when we woke up, but it quickly died off. We woke up at 3am and quickly packed our daypacks and breakfast to go so we could be the first is line when the trail opened at 5am. Once it opened we hurried along the up and down trail, even had to scale a nearly vertical rock wall before reaching the Sun Gate where you can ge the first clear views of Machu Picchu.
Once inside our guides toured us around the site, it is huge! And taught us about the different rooms, art, and ways of life here so many years ago. After a couple hours our guides let us explore on our own with the instructions to meet at a restaurant in Augas Calientes at 1:30. We hung out for a while admiring everything before boarding the bus to town. We met up with the rest of our group to enjoy one last meal together before hugged ad said our good-byes to our guides and boarding our train to Ollantaytambo. We boarded the Peru Rail (which is really nice by the way!) and slept for the couple hours it took to get to the next town. One of our guides was waiting there to get us on the Alpaca Expeditions bus, such a surprise to see him again, and so soon! He gave us all blankets and we slept for another couple hours until getting to dropped off at our hotels n Cusco where we said final good-byes o the rest of the group. We all really had grown so close over those few days.
What to know:
Book your trek through a company 5+ months in advance! I booked my June trek in January. We originally had dates for the week before in mind, but a couple days later when we went to book it those dates were sold out.
Book with Alpaca Expeditions! I can’t say enough how this company went above and beyond all expectations
You will be hiking at a high elevation, especially on day two. Give yourself a few days before to acclimate and request altitude sickness medication from you doctor beforehand.
The duffels are supposed to weight 7 kilos or less. But when it came to weigh-ion time our bags had 8 or 9 kilos and they were ok with it. But still try to keep it light, human beings are carrying several of these at once on the same 26 miles trek you are.
The weather goes through every stage. You will need layers when its freezing cold and lighter clothes for when it gets scorching hot.
Things to bring:
You should bring snacks, but you won’t need that many. A protein bar for each day of the hike or 1 big bag of trail mix should do. Alpaca gives you snacks each day – a piece of fruit and some type of cookie/cracker. Sometimes they give extra too and its usually plenty, but just in case I’d bring a little bit extra yourself.
Bring TP or baby wipes in your day pack. The bathroom (aka hole in the ground) doesn’t’ have any. I only had to use Mamapacha once, and in that case you pack out your own TP so bring a plastic bag to stuff it in.
Pepto, Imodium and get a prescription from your doctor for sipro, an antibiotic for severe food poisoning. When you need it, you will be glad you have it. Trust me.