In October 2019 we walked the Inca trail. Upfront we heard some people mentioning it’s too busy on the Inca trail. Even people who had not even walked the Inca trail were stating to us that is was way too busy. It is not true! Daily only 250 hikers can start the Inca trail and not everybody starts at the same moment of the day, so we had a very relaxed experience and every now and then we saw another group or some porters. But most of the time we were with the 6 people of our group and our guide. It was a very relaxed experience. Only on the camping sites you sometimes saw other groups, but even then there were several smaller camping sites, so we didn’t notice too much of the others. So don’t let this influence your decision to walk the Inca trail or not. Here are the Strava gpx files of our 4 days of the Inca trail.
With a mini van we were brought to kilometer 82, better know as the starting point of the Inca Trail. Here we saw for the first time our full trekking crew and the bags they would carry are mixed and prepared to assure that everybody carries an equal weight. What was really nice to see is that the full trekking crew wears the same outfit. Some are pink, yellow, green or purple. Our team of Andean Explorer’s was in orange and it made that you could easily recognise them along the road. This promotes the bond as you can easily greet them when they pass by or when you arrive at the camping site. This is really a nice detail.
At the start you have to go through several checks for your passport, trekking permit, etc… It will take around 30 minutes before you can start to hike. You leave the parking lot in the direction of the train rails and go down to cross the river. Once your crossed the latter you can pose for the famous staring sign of the Inka Trail. The first day we had perfect weather. A mix of blue sky and clouds and and enjoyable temperature, not too hot to go up and down. Our guide named it Peruvian flat, but there are quite a few stepper parts to conquer.
The first day you start with walking in the valley next to the river, and after a steep part, we reached the first Inca ruin called Llactapata. This village has the form of a Snake and was discovered in 1911. It has been partially restored and from the hill we were standing we had a good view over the site.
Shortly after we had our first lunch and we read and heard a lot about the quality of the food during the Inca trail. And yes, we can confirm it, the food is outstanding and delicious. Incredible what the cook made for us in his mobile kitchen. We think we had the best food during our trip on this 4 day Inca trail. In our kitchen tent we had a table, small chairs and food was served at the table. We already did a couple of trekkings, but this was an other level of service.
After lunch it only went up in the direction of the first base camp. There our group got the best camping place of the trip. We were on the side of a hill, overlooking the valley. Impossible to catch this on picture, but incredible nice. When we arrived our trekking crew already had setup our tents and shortly after they brought us small basin with heated water to refresh ourselves. What a service!
As we had about an hour and a half before dinner we decide to play Saboteur (credits to Saartje & Nick to inform us about the game). It is a very fun card games that even people not into games tend to like. After Dinner was served quite early and delicious again, even a dessert was foreseen. It had been a long day and the hike was intensive as well, so we hit our sleeping bag at 20:00!
At 05:30 a porter wakes us gently up with the question if we want coffee or tea, served at our tent. What a service! We don’t have much time, pack things, breakfast and we start hiking at 06:30…
Today we have to climb from 3100 meter to 4200 meter of altitude to cross the Dead Woman’s Pass. We already have talked to many people about the Inca trail and plenty of them are a bit afraid because the Inca trail is considered as a heavy hike. Certainly the second day is seen as very intensive. Our feedback is that every fit person can do this trail, but indeed, day 2 should not be underestimated. According to our guide most people climb to the pass in around 5 hours including breaks. We did it in 3 hours 45 and that was no rushing, but only climbing at our own pace, taking time to look around, enjoy and take pictures.
The way up is alternately a regular path and hundreds of steps. Often quite big steps which at some point might become a bit annoying. Close to the top it starts to get heavy and hard. It is difficult to believe and if I would not have experienced it myself I would have doubts about it. When you see the top and when you think you made it, it will still take 15 to 20 minutes to really reach the top. We had to pause frequently as the air is so thin and makes it tough. But it’s not a race and it’s not a problem to pause for a couple of seconds to continue. However, we were happy when we reached the top and could enjoy impressive views.
Once over the pass we had to go down back to 3600 meter. When you think that climbing is heavy, then think again. Going down is more combersome according to me. It was plenty of stairs to overcome and with bad knees like mine it often goes smoother and easier if you run down. Of course you have to be careful, but next time, when you have to descend, think about it and maybe give it a try. Certainly if you have bad knees.
Anyway, I was glad to arrive in base camp and be able to rest a bit. After freshing up the lunch at 15:00 (!) was more than welcome! We could then enjoy a bit of sun and wandered a bit around in the area and when we came back to the camping site, it started to rain gently…
It started to rain yesterday evening and it did not stop during the night. We kept everything dry in our quality tent of Andean Explorer’s and were ready for another day. We did not let the rain get hold of our mood. It also helped that we had waterproof shoes, rain pants and a quality poncho. In the end it rain a little more than a half a day but we kept it dry! That is a relief! We were also happy that we decided to hire an extra porter to carry our sleeping bag and matress or it would have been a challenge to keep that gear try as well…
I think that day 3 was the most beautiful day of the Inca trail. We saw again some Inca ruins but mainly the nature and the cloud forest was very nice. Off course, the cloud forest got his name for a reason. Our guide told that 80% of the time it’s cloudy and rainy in this area.
The path meandered through the forest and we really enjoyed this day. Once again very difficult to capture it on picture and also the clouds were not helping. We looked around and tried to memorise the views as much as we good. I’m sure I will remember this walk for quite a while.
Today we also played leapfrog with our porters. As it was already day 3 we started to know them a bit and it became fun when we saw them. We are sportive and quite fast, but you should see what these guys do! They carry huge bags on their shoulders and go way faster than us. One could say they are used to it, but still, plenty of respect for these people that make trekking more enjoyable for us. Their jobs are lately more and more subject of stronger regulations and that is a good thing. Their bags are controlled so they don’t have to carry to heavy bags.
I also want to mention once again our chef. During the entire trekking he prepared very tasteful meals in his portable kitchen. You can’t nearly imagine what was served on our table.
The last day the crew even prepared a present for us. The chef served us with a cake. It was nicely decorated an Marie-Claire got the honour to cut it into pieces. Together we the other hikers we ate the delicious cake in no time.
Just before dinner we also took the time to tip our porters and other crew members and pose together on the picture. For 6 hikers there was a crew of 14 people!
Get up at 03:30! Yes, you read it correctly, 03:30 AM. We had breakfast at 04:00 and started to hike at 04:15 for about 10 minutes to reach the entrance gate. There we learned that the gate only opens at 05:30… So we had to wait for about 1 hour, but hey, at least we were early in the queue…
Once the gate opened we had to hike for another hour I think and about 10 minutes before reaching the Sun Gate you have to conquer the Gringo Killer which is a nearly vertical set of 50 huge stairs. This was heavy! After that it goes gently up to the entrance of the Sun Gate. We arrived and it was… cloudy. We did see a thing!
We decided to eat a bit and to wait a bit. Plenty of people started to go down but we were not in a hurry. After 15 minutes when we wanted to move on suddenly the weather cleared. We heard it can change in 1 minute and it’s really true. We were able to see some glimps of Machu Picchu but still not like we wanted. What followed was clouds going and coming. Every now and then we could see Machu Picchu but it was not clear enough to take pictures. In the end it’s not that important, as the best pictures are taken closer to Machu Picchu, at the “postal card picture spot”.
We started to descent to the city and after a while we started to see peopel coming up? It was not yet clear to us, but then our guide explained by the sentence, don’t you smell soap? People who had a shower in the morning? And then we realised, it are the first people that arrived in the morning and that were rushing to go up. We didn’t pay much attention to them as our only goal was to go down and explore Machu Picchu. For this we hiked the last 3 days.
We had great expectations of Machu Picchu and they are all fulfilled; From the place where all people take their pictures, you have a nice view over the city. The weather became better and better and the sky even colored partially blue. We spend about 30 minutes taking plenty of pictures 🙂
What was nice is that we as Inca trail hikers are allowed to go early inside the city before the crowd enters at 09:00. We got some explanations of our guide while wandering around and I think one hour later the place was fully crowded.
Recently Machu Picchu has changed the rules and now you have to walk in 1 single direction. Like this at least it is a bit more structured and you suffer less of the crowd. For the Inca trail the number of hikers is limited to 250 per day, but for visiting Machu Picchu the daily limit is around 3000 people.
If you are in the early group, make sure that you pass the check in the back bore 10 AM as then the close that section down. We passed at 09:57 AM, so we were lucky. Around 10:45 we moved out Machu Picchu. We went to the bus to go back to Agua Calientes and to have a drink.