Over 100 years ago, Hiram Bingham brought world attention to the majestic wonder that is Machu Picchu.  Since then millions of people have visited the ancient ruins to learn more about the Incas. I was fascinated from the moment I learned about Machu Picchu.  Then in September 2011, my husband and I made the four day trek along the ancient Inca Trail to the famous ruins.
Cusco, Peru was the starting point of our trip.  The city sits at over 11,000 feet above sea level. We visited a couple days to help us acclimatize and prepare for our trek.  We saw the famous Twelve-Angle Stone which demonstrates the Inca’s near-perfect architectural design without the use of modern technology.There is so much to see and do in Cusco.  I wish we had planned more time to explore but our sites were set on hiking the Inca Trail.

Our first day on the Inca Trail started before dawn with a three hour bus ride to Ollantaytambo.  We were in a group of 15 trekkers, 2 guides and 18 porters.  The trekkers in our group were from all around the world; Australia, India, Great Britain and the U.S.  We followed our guide, Fredd along the Urubamba River and took a break at the Willkarakay ruins on our way to our first campsite.  Down below, we saw the Q’Entimarka ruins by the river.

We were warned that our second day would be the toughest and longest.  We had an early start and slowly made our way up through Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,828 feet above sea level, the highest point in our trek.  Fredd cautioned us to hike slowly and drink plenty of water to prevent altitude sickness.  Our entire group successfully made to the top and we celebrated with tea and cookies.
Our journey down into the valley felt a lot easier, however we knew there was another pass in our way to the next campsite.  We stopped for lunch and the clouds rolled in with a vengeance.  A storm poured buckets of water on us and we waited as long as we could for it to pass.  After a while we covered up with our ponchos and got back on the trail.  The sun broke free from the clouds near the top of the next pass just after the Runquracay ruins.  The heat forced us to peel off our ponchos and rain jackets.  Another quick break and we were back on the trail. The steep steps were at times tricky to walk down.  I worried about tumbling and took extra caution with each step.
At the Sayacmarca ruins, we took a quick break. There were so many bugs here that it was uncomfortable to stop for too long, so we cut our time short.

By the time we got to our next campsite, we were exhausted.  I collapsed in our tent and rested a little before dinner.  We had an amazing feast and everyone exchanged stories of their experiences from the long day.

Our third day took us up through the Inca Tunnel on our way to the Puyupatamarca ruins.  We stopped here for a bit and watched the fog drift in and out to reveal the valley below.

We then continued on the trail towards camp and saw the Intipata ruins getting closer and closer.  It’s interesting to see the ruins from a distance first and then exploring it up close.  Fredd pointed out our camp and told us to take our time at these ruins.  It was as if we had it all to ourselves.  I imagined what it must have been like to live here 500 years ago among the Incas.

A huge three-course lunch was waiting for us a camp.  With full bellies, we took naps and relaxed the afternoon away.  Before dinner, Fredd led us to the Winyawayna ruins directly next to camp.  We explored past dusk and I began to feel emotional that our trek was coming to an end.  Tomorrow we would get up well before sunrise and hike to Machu Picchu.  Was I ready for what was to come?  The ruins thus far have been amazing and it’s hard to believe a more beautiful place.

We woke early and got into line to enter the park.  An hour later, the gates opened and our turn was up to pass through.  Five of us in the group bolted ahead of the rest.  We were eager to be the first ones to arrive at Inti Punku, the Sun Gate.  My legs felt fast and I had tons of energy.  By descending, our lungs took in deeper breaths and more oxygen.  The trail wound along-side the mountain and I carefully passed other hikers.  The last bit up was a “monkey-crawl” of steep stairs to the top.  I was the third one to arrive at the Sun Gate for the day.  This was my first view down into Machu Picchu and it was absolutely breathtaking.

As I stood there amazed at the quiet beauty below, more trekkers arrived and gathered in the area around the Sun Gate.  Fredd then led the group down into the ruins at about 8,000 feet above sea level.  We all snapped photos from the famous postcard setting, anxious to get a good picture empty of other tourists.  Hundreds of visitors took the easy way by bus from Aguas Calientes.  By mid-morning Machu Picchu was crowded.

Fredd gave us a tour through the Temple of the Sun, the many terraces, Temple of the Three Windows and much more.   It’s incredible to see how in-sync the Incas were with the constellations and how their advanced skills helped them build such amazing structures.  The stones they used were massive and it’s hard to believe it was all done by human power alone.

After hours of exploring the ruins, I left Machu Picchu filled with amazement and wonder.  Down in Aguas Calientes, our group celebrated with a few drinks and a dip in the hot springs.  It was a well deserved treat after an incredibly journey along the Inca Trail.

Since being home I have been asked what was my favorite part of Machu Picchu.  It’s hard to choose just one specific place or setting.  I tell everyone that it was the entire journey along the Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu that will be my favorite memory.

About jingerventures

Travelling is one of my many passions. I love to get out and explore everywhere I live and visit.

5 responses »

  1. Dawn says:

    That first photo rocked my socks. Amazing!

  2. Amazing photos! I can’t wait to be there…thank you.

  3. […] . September:  Machu Picchu, Peru.  Simply majestic.  Need I say more?  Why yes I can, click here. […]

  4. GaiL says:

    This is part of my top 10 dream travel destinations. Thanks for sharing! =)

  5. […] Many visitors to Machu Picchu travel through Cusco and use the high elevation (over 11,000 ft above sea level) to acclimate before hiking the Inca Trail.  We took advantage of those days to explore the city as much as we could before our trek. […]

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