Inca Trail - travels - peru 2000 - inca trail

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is probably one of the most obvious things to do in Peru and it is very popular. But, despite the growing fame of this trail, its still a fantastic experience and very much recommended.  We were too late to buy tickets for the train to km88, the normal start point of the trail.  We really had to go the next day if we were to be sure of not missing our flight to Lima on Monday morning.  We found one of the many companies who organises guided trips to Machu Picchu and paid 12 Sols each to get a lift in their bus to km82.  Starting from further away from Mach Picchu means an extra 1.5 hours walking over the normal start point. We didn't arrive until midday due to the bus stopping for an hour for breakfast on the way at Urubamba.

At the km82 'bus stop'

The first few metres of the Inca Trail

From what we saw, about 80% of the people on the trail do a 3 or 4 day guided trip with porters carrying all the tents, cooking equipment and food.  We chose to do it properly - i.e. carry all our own gear.   This first part of the trail was dotted with locals selling food and drinks, the remainder of the trail is totally devoid of this - if you don't carry your own food then you've got nothing.  This first part had locals carrying big bundles of supplies to their tiny villages along the Kusicacha Valley.

Horses carrying supplies to the last village before Machu Picchu, another 30kms ahead

Mules on the trail

The trail follows a river valley

The Rio Kusicacha

The first Inca ruins are where km82 and km88 meet

The first ruin, Llaqtapata

Porters carry up to 40kg for US$3 a day

We see our first porter struggling along

We got some Coke and chocolate from here

We stopped here and bought some chocolate

Back in time....

A tiny village

An old woman is under there!

An old woman struggles with a huge bundle of stuff

This guy lived just up the trail....

This guy lived under the middle peak

View back down the valley from the first camp site

Looking back from our first camp site

 We weren't completely sure of our fitness as we had found Colca Canyon hard going but we made good time.  In only 3.5 hours of walking we reached the first camp site on the lower slopes of the largest pass, the 4200m Abra Warmiwañusqa.  We wrongly assumed our camp site was the highest one before the summit, Llulluchapampa, but it was an unmarked one just above Yuncachinpa.  We pitched the tent and started cooking some food after a brief shouting match with some porters who were claiming every bit of grass as their own. A bit of stubbornness and a major height advantage meant we kept our pitch.  After eating we laid on our mats and gazed up at the night sky, watching the stars appear one by one followed by one particular huge shooting star which lit the sky up like lightening. We got up at dawn as we'd decided to walk all the way to the final camp site near Machu Picchu in one go.  This was partly necessary due to the fact that we'd only brought food for 2 days!   We set off and climbed up the slope.  It was cold at first but we soon started to get hot from the effort even though the ground was frosty.  After an hour we came to the camp site we should have been in!  Ah well....we pushed on for the summit, reaching the top at exactly 9am after a few hundred metres of old, uneven Inca stone steps.

Frost on the ground at 3500m


At the top of the highest pass, 4200m

At the top, 4200m above sea level

Still to come....the end nowhere in sight


What lay ahead now was a big descent down hundreds of rough steps into a river valley and then a 3900m pass out of there after passing an Inca ruin.  We guessed that reaching the 3900m pass by 11am would be a good thing and would mean we'd be on schedule to make it to the end well before dark.  As we descended the steps a porter came past, almost running down with a huge pack (up to 40kg) on his back, wearing only sandals.  We walked down more carefully to avoid any ankle twisting.

A porter runs down from the 4200m pass
Pumping water again!

At the bottom of the valley was a clear stream so I pumped some more water into our waterbags.  The MSR water pump and water bags were probably some of the best bits of kit we had.

Looking back up the valley towards the 4200m pass

Looking back to were we'd come from the high pass...

Looking ahead - the 3900m pass still to come

...and looking forward to yet another pass

We continued on towards the ruin of Runkurakay about a third of the way up the next pass.  We had a brief rest here but decided to carry on and have a longer rest at the top.  We slogged up more steps, just putting one foot in front of the other.  Memories of Colca came into our heads but we made it up the 3924m Abra Runkurakay and had a well deserved rest for 20 minutes.

F**king steps!

Nightmare step hell

The green lake ahead

Still miles to go

We could see a small greenish lake below called Yanacocha, more steps and more mountains.   We were making good time though.   On the way down we came across a group of porters who'd passed us earlier.   They were setting up lunch for a big group of French people.  Lucky sods.   We ate our muesli bars and chocolate and carried on.

One ruin on the left, one on the right
Still managing to stand upright!Barry

There were more ruins on the left and right of us, adding a bit of anticipation to seeing Machu Picchu.  On the left was Sayaqmarka, the right was Qochamarka.   We were feeling like we were getting nearer now.  The weather remained perfect for the whole trip; hot sun and no rain whatsoever.

The last ruin before the final camp site.
Almost there, about 2 hours of steps down to go!
The sun starts to go down

Endless, agonizing steps!

Barry descends the last long section of steps


We eventually arrived at the 3749m peak overlooking Phuyupatamarka ruin.  We had caught a glimpse of the distinctive pyramid shaped mountain that towers above Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu.  We knew we were almost there.   We descended down more steps which were become more painful each time and the sun began to go down.  We made it to the final camp site at Wiñaywayna (at 2600m) below the ampitheatre ruin of Initpata before the light was gone, getting the last pitch.  We'd walked for 10 hours solid.  Tomorrow we had to get up at 4.30am to walk the final hour to the Sun Gate (Initpunku)  then to Machu Picchu in time to see the sun rise over the mountains.  Now all we cared about was food.  We cooked and had a couple of beers from the small shop/restaurant which was at the camp site before sleeping like logs.  

Next day at 4.30am...time to go to Machu Picchu.


All pictures copyright 2000 unless otherwise stated.