Posted by: Jay & Christina | June 17, 2010

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Our adventure began as a four-day hike through parts of the original Inca trail, an ancient pilgrimage path, to reach the sacred city of Machu Picchu. Now, it is a pilgrimage route of a different sort. Due to its popularity with tourists, and its subsequent overuse, the Peruvian government set regulations to only allow guided tours with a total of 500 people on the trail per day. This includes trekkers, guides, and porters. Because of this, the Inca Trail is expensive and a spot in a tour group needs to be booked months in advance.

Originally, we had planned on taking an alternative trek which would be much more economical, more flexible, and less touristy. But, we decided we really wanted to see the Inca Trail. And, we are really happy we did. We spent four days trekking through the incredible Inca Trail and we saw Machu Picchu for the first time as we crested a mountain and entered through the Sun Gate.

Also, we really enjoyed our trekking company, and had a great time with everyone in our group.

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We went with a company called Peru Treks. There were 15 trekkers, 1 guide, 1 assistant guide, 2 cooks, and 20 porters. We had the option to hire an extra porter to carry our personal stuff (sleeping bag, clothes, etc.), but Jay and I opted to carry our things. After our trek in Torres Del Paine, we were feeling pretty (over)confident that the Inca Trail would be a “piece of cookie” (as our guide, Victor, liked to say).  But, the trek was more challenging than we expected. And, there were times when my pack felt really heavy, and I’d silently whine to myself. But, then I’d see a porter with 10x more weight on his back running past me, in sandals…uphill… It was good reminder that I had nothing to complain about.


This porter was carrying a make-shift backpack, made from potato sacks tied around his waist and shoulders.

We were truly amazed and humbled by the porters. They were hired to carry our tents, food, cooking supplies, etc. There’s been a history of  the mistreatment of porters. They usually come from small indigenous villages in the Andean region, coming into the larger cities for work.  And, unfortunately,  there are some trekking companies that exploit these men for their strength and endurance, paying them very little, no shelter, or enough food for their back-breaking work. The fair treatment of porters was an important issue for us when choosing who to go with.  I was drawn to Peru Treks, a locally-owned company, because they really emphasized their fair treatment of porters and giving back to the community.  From what we saw on our trek, and the stories that we heard, I believe we made a good choice. I’m not an expert and don’t mean to start a human rights discussion, but it’s something we’ve been trying to be conscientious of during our travels.

Anyway…

In the mornings, we were woken up in our tents and served hot-tea in bed. Then, we were served a hot breakfast in the dining tent. Afterward, as we were getting ready to hit the trail for the day, the porters were busy breaking down our tents, washing the dishes, and packing up our things. We’d be about 10-15 minutes out on the trail when these same porters would be charging past us as they made their way up to our next meeting point. A few hours later, the rest of the group would make it to our meeting point where nice lunch awaited. Then, they’d do that for dinner, and start all over again the next day. Astounding.

And the meals weren’t two pieces of white-bread containing some unidentifiable meat product or measly little granola bars. The food was really delicious.

The Inca Trail itself was breathtaking, sometimes literally from the high-altitude.

Along the way, we saw:

Ancient Inca ruins

Enjoyed the views

Climbed up and up and up

Climbed down and down and down

Hiked over Dead Woman’s Pass at an altitude of 4215 meters (~13,800ft)

I won’t lie, it was super tough. My legs were ready to buckle. We didn’t carry any walking sticks and were the only few of our group that were strapped down with large packs. But, Jay on the other hand… I don’t know what he’s got under his now ever-present keffiyeh, maybe a pair of wings or a mini-porter carrying him up the mountain. At one point of the trail, he decided to try to keep up with a porter. And he did. Just for kicks.


Porter-in-training and his sluggish wife

Saw an array of flowers and plants in the cloud forests

And slept under a sea of stars in our campsites

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Responses

  1. AMAZING!!!!

  2. What an experience! I will now call you Superman and Wonderwoman…. The views are amazing.

  3. The journal, conscientiousness, the pictures, the scenery and the imagination that leads are all very beautiful. I am sooooo proud of my kids!!!

  4. looking at those incredible trails reminds me of my hike up the hills of Convar, area 3 in VAFB, during the hunting season. My legs are tired now just looking at the hts. of those mountains, Vandenberg doesn’t even comes close.

  5. i like the plant shots!

  6. …seriously UH-MAY-ZING!!! you two are amazing and so are the pictures and your wonderful story-telling…it’s all so breath-taking!

  7. […] The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru Another phenomenal trek through incredible scenery, and at the end of the 4-day hike, we were in the hauntingly beautiful city of Machu Picchu. […]


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