After a quick stay at a hostel near the Lima airport we made it to Cuzco City, which is the gateway to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. Beth and Rob, our Boulder friends, met us with big hugs and familiar faces at the airport! This trip has been on their bucket list since they met and were fortunate enough for Beth’s mom to stay with their 2 young boys to make this trip come true. Thanks Joy!
Niño’s Hotel, www.ninoshotel.com, is where we stayed based on recommendation as it has an amazing mission statement and restaurant. All of their profits go to supporting 600 local children’s education, clothing and food. It has a beautiful colonial courtyard where we sipped coca tea or got glimpses of stars in the evening. Their restaurant had all homemade food and was hands down the best food we have had in South America!
Unfortunately, Katie was still fighting off her head cold so the first few days she stayed behind to rest and plan their Italy portion of the trip with her parents. Zane, Beth and Rob explored the city and hiked up the main mountainside to the large ‘Blanco Christo’ statute and visited some nearby Incan ruins. One evening we enjoyed Pisco Sours, alpaca skewers, stuffed potatoes and roasted Guinea Pig, all which are Peruvian must tries. The presentation of the pig is what it is all about as there was little meat but Zane and Rob were brave enough to consume it and try the brain as well!
Since it is required to use a company, we were set up with a professional trekking company called Peru Treks for 4 days/3 nights on the Inca Trail. This was definitely a different experience for us, as we have never used a guided company for a trek nor spent this type of money for such a service on our budget travels. Each company has about 16 trekkers, 2 guides, and 20 porters who are local farmers working on the side by each carrying 25kg/50lb of food and/or gear. This makes for a lot of people on the trail! Each day the porters raced ahead of us to set up a dining tent to provide hot drinks with 4-coursed meals and to set up our tents. It turned into an abundant amount of varied food each day, which blew our expectations away but was also a bit overboard.
The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu included us crossing 3 mountain passes with the first one being “Dead Woman’s” Pass at 4,200m/13,800ft. Located in the Andes mountain range, the trail passes through several types of Andean environments including a cloud forest while passing through settlements, tunnels, and many Incan ruins before arriving at the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu Mountain. Machu Picchu itself is situated on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley and is commonly referred to the “Lost City of the Incas”, which was build in the 14th century, abandoned in the 15th century and then not discovered again until 1911.
After a scenic drive from Cuzco to Ollaytantambo, the first day was an easy, gradual day of trekking. The first pass on the second day was a tough one as it was constant stairs broken into 3 sections and then down a similar distance in stairs, which is draining on the knees. Our 2nd night campsite was blessed with a clear night and we witnessed the moon set behind the mountains with a magnificent view of the Milky Way and Southern Cross with virtually no light pollution. The next day was unbelievable as we walked the beautiful stone paths on the original Incan Trial winding through 2 more passes in sun showers accompanied by rainbows. The final morning we were woken up with kind greetings and Coca tea at our tents from our guides like all other mornings but this time it was at 3:30am! After climbing the monkey stairs we reached the Sun Gate by sunrise where we got our first glimpse of the city. We had blue skies for the next 5 hours to hangout and take lots of pictures at the amazing ruins of Machu Picchu. It is hard to comprehend how they made this community in the Andes Mountains and is truly a mystical place to visit.
The four of us chose to stay an extra night in the small town of Agua Calientes instead of heading directly back to Cuzco, where we visited the local hot springs, got a spa treatment and simply enjoyed our last day in the Andes. The Peru Rail train then took us back to Ollantaytambo where we caught a cheap yet dangerous taxi back to Cuzco. Our driver was aggressive to say the least and we thought the drive might have given Beth a heart attack in the process! Our final night was celebrated with Peruvian music, cheersing beers and hot chocolate at the Chocolate Museum!