So unless you have been living under a rock, you know that I just went on a trip of a lifetime hiking 5 days/4 nights and 80km to Machu Picchu-just one of the 7 wonders of the world! This is a trip that my friend Betsy and I had been planning for several months and I am slightly depressed that it is now over. There is so much I can say about this trip, but I will try to stick with the important parts so this isn’t 50 pages long.
To start off with, I will tell you about the cute city of Cusco, Peru, which is where all of the treks leave from. I really enjoyed exploring this town and everything was so cheap and the food was incredible! Most Latin Americans can’t handle any type of spice so the food in Ecuador isn’t anything to write home about, but the food in Peru actually has spice and flavor and tasted perfect. Not to mention, it was cheaper than food in Ecuador, so I’m sure that made it taste even better. Someone had told us about how cheap massages are, so of course we had to take advantage of this and we got a full-body hour long massage for $8 each before we even started our trek!! Can you believe it??? And yes it was a legit place. We only had one complete free day before the trek, so we did a little bit of hiking with some people we met at the hostel to acclimate to the altitude and were rewarding with beautiful views of the city.
After a day of exploring and dominating the chocolate museum, it was time to start our trek! The beginning of the hike was in higher altitudes but we were all so excited so it didn’t matter. Our group consisted of 13 Americans ranging from 22-62 years old, and pretty much all of us got along great.
The first day was a “training” day as our guides called it and was only about 5 hours of hiking. Once we got to the campsite, some of us decided to play a game of American football in this semi-grassy area that was on an incline with a nice rock wall in the middle of the “field” but we did the best we could with what we had. Our guide was very surprised that after hiking we decided to exert more energy and play football. After our game, it was tea time. I think tea time was my favorite part of the day because we had coffee, tea, hot chocolate, popcorn, and crackers with any topping you could want. Obviously all of us stuffed our faces, and didn’t realize that dinner was only 1 1/2 hours later-oops. It is absolutely amazing how the cook that was with us was able to prepare such gourmet meals for us. Every meal during the 5 day trek was so yummy and every meal was different-and way better than anything I could do with a full kitchen. Because we would hike for many many hours everyday, our bedtime was somewhere between 8- 8:30 haha. But the sun goes down at 5:30ish, so we were all ready for bed at this time. Thank goodness I’m not a night owl or this could have been tough. This first night was the coldest night by far, and all of us pretty much froze. Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep at all. I was just praying that it could be 5:00 in the morning so I could wake up to coca tea and start moving to warm up.
Day 2 was one of our longer and more difficult days. In the morning we hiked up 3 hours to the Salkantay Pass, and just about hiked up to the glaciers. The last 150-200 meters were incredibly steep and at that elevation it was hard to breathe, but all of us made it to the top. This view was AMAZING!
At the top, one of our guides had more hot coca tea and a snack waiting for us. We really got spoiled with all of the tea and food during this trek. From here, we had to hike down around 2 hours to lunch. After lunch, we continued to hike down and were starting to get closer to the jungle. Usually, we would get to our campsite around 4 in the afternoon, so we played lots and lots and lots of cards while waiting for tea time and dinner. Everyone in the group was different, so I really enjoyed getting to know the people.
With our first long day finished, day 3 was a short day of only hiking 6 hours on relatively flat ground. The term our guides used was “Inca flat” which means not hiking mountains but there are still some hills so it’s not exactly flat. We arrived to our campsite just in time for lunch and went to the thermal springs in the afternoon for some much needed relaxation.
At this point, we were in the jungle along with some of the meanest mosquitos you could ever imagine. These guys aren’t even phased by bug spray and will bite you through your clothes. However, you don’t feel them until you look down and see blood and red marks all over yourself. It looked like all of us had the chicken pox.
Day 4 was another long day and probably the most challenging day of the trek. We had another hike up a STEEP mountain that was supposed to take about 3 hours. Being the over-achievers that we are, we somehow got to the top in just over 2 hours. I would have to say that this was probably the most let down I have ever been after reaching the top- there was absolutely no view.
Yep this is the top. After waiting up here for close to an hour for the rest of the group to arrive, we hiked our way down another 2 hours. This was very challenging because the trail was very steep and muddy with loose rocks. Everyone was slipping and several people almost fell. On our way down, we stopped at some ancient Inca ruins. And we learned that in fact you are NOT allowed to climb on top of the ruins-every group has to have “that guy”-typical Americans.
At the bottom of the mountain there was a river, so we all took our socks and shoes off for a refreshing dip in the cool river. This might have been the best surprise during the entire trip. Just relaxing while sitting on rocks with our feet in the flowing water was the best feeling!
Next it was lunch, then a 3 hour flat walk to Aguas Calientes, where we would finally get a hotel room and a shower. You would think that a flat walk would be the easiest part of the trek, but I think mentally this was the worst part for everyone. By this time, our feet were tired and beat up and we had to walk 3 hours along a railroad track, so no pretty view. Needless to say there wasn’t much conversation and a lot of unhappy faces. And then the mosquitos were eating us alive, so it was a very rough afternoon. We finally arrived to the hotel and got hot showers- some of us in the dark because of the tricky power. Apparently some hotels require a key to be placed in little holder in order for the power to work- this would have been nice to know before we took showers in the dark haha.
Day 5 was THE day- time to finally make it to Machu Picchu. This place is so impressive because it’s an Incan city located at the top of a mountain and completely surrounded by mountains. Everything is built with stone, and they carried the stone up there-WHAT?! The Incan culture is very fascinating and no one knows why Machu Picchu was abandoned- very mysterious.
We were able to explore on our own and see just how big this city is. The Incas must have had amazing glutes and calves because there was no shortage of steps and steep hills to walk up.
This entire trek was spectacular but absolutely exhausting. Thank goodness we took a train and bus back to Cusco because none of us had any energy left. The next few days were spent getting another $8 massage and relaxing around the hostel.
I know this probably sounded like a really difficult and exhausting 5 days but it was 100% worth it. I would suggest anyone do one of the hikes if you want to see Machu Picchu. Some people just take the train there but you miss out on all of the beautiful scenery that Peru has to offer, and you miss out on meeting even more amazing people.