general travel trip reports

inka trail – day three

Another 6am wakeup, with Alex feeling slightly better than last night. We attempt to transfer more of the load to my bag, which is difficult given that it’s filled to the point of explosion with the sleeping bags. We then start the slog up towards the second pass, stopping to look at the Runkurakay ruins along the way.



We stop at the second pass and take silly photos, momentarily excited with the fact we have clear views, and are surrounded by snow-capped mountains – the highest, Mount Veronica, sitting at 5682m. Wandering onwards we stop at the Sayaqmarka site, and then off along some of the more beautiful sections of trail – unfortunately it’s becoming cloudy though. Or atmospheric. Yes, it was becoming increasingly atmospheric.


I stare majestically off into the distance at the second pass

After crossing another pass things start to get even more atmospheric though. So atmospheric that small drops of water start to fall from the sky – in a casual way at first, then with increasingly more committment. Starting downhill, we reach Phuyupatamarca ‘the town above the clouds’ and wish it really was above the clouds, as then this rain would have no way to get to us – as promised, its the most impressive ruins we’ve seen so far along the trail, but as the rain gets heavier we don’t stop to admire them for too long, and keep heading down.



We then hit the ‘gringo killer’, a section of staircase even steeper than the descent from Dead Woman’s Pass yesterday, as we descend from Phuyupatamarca at 3650m to Wiñay Wayna at 2700m. We’re all getting soaked through, and just want to get down and dry, as the stairs seem to last forever, and the clouds only occasionally part to give us tanalising glimpses of a view. Down down down, down down down, drip drip drip.


Happy wet trekkers

Finally we reach Wiñay Wayna (Quechua for ‘forever young’, named after a pink orchid which grows in the area). It isn’t as bad as it had sounded in the description we were given (hot showers, and a … discotheque?), as everything is spread out over terraces on a very steep hillside. Although there are hundreds of us crammed into this campground, you really wouldn’t know it – especially as everyone just wants to dive into their tents and get warm. After afternoon tea we wander out to the bar/discotheque, and are amused at the dodginess, before returning to the food tent at 7pm. After dinner there is cake (cake!) and speeches, and songs (a rousing rendition of Beatles – Help! from us is countered by a Quechua song from the Chaskis).


Wall close-up

Then we go to huddle in our tents. The rain has stopped, but we still feel damp, everything drips, and we lie in our sleeping bags hoping the rain and clouds stay away tomorrow – as tomorrow is our push to Inti Punku (the Sun Gate), and Macchu Pichu.

general travel trip reports

inka trail – day two

For our 6am wake-up call we were greeted with the question of what sort of tea we would like, which was then left at the door of the tent for us to sip at our leisure before breakfast at 6.30am. Breakfast involved toast, scrambled eggs, porridge-type-substance in a drinking cup, fruit platter, potatoes and more tea.

The ubiquitous trekking pole

We got going at around 7.20am, and were let loose to make our way up towards Dead Woman’s Pass out our own pace, stopping to regroup at Three Stones, and then a morning tea stop at Llulluchapampa. Here we all pick up a stone to carry to the pass, to add to the pile there. It is supposed to bring good luck. Being unable to stop myself from following such superstitions I’d been carrying my rock since breakfast, but I pick up another one just in case. We then straggle up to Dead Woman’s Pass, at 4220 metres.


Alex walking up through the jungle path towards Dead Woman’s Pass

Clouds hang around the mountains as we stand in the wind at the pass, but they occasionally pull aside to give us a clear view of exactly how far down we have to go to get to the campsite for the night – and we don’t get lunch until we get there. Despite the wind and the clouds, the views from the pass are amazing, so we hang around for a while, watching the view come and go.


The view down from Dead Woman’s Pass towards Paqaymayu

Finally we face the inevitable though, and start stepping down and down and down and down on the well-stoned trail. The vast variety of flowers growing by the trail are a good excuse for frequent stops. We pass a group who discuss the fact that this walk transcends physical boundaries. I consider transcending moral boundaries and throwing a few of them off the cliff, but think better of it and instead overtake them and maintain a safe distance between us.


Trail-side flowers

We finally hit Paqaymayu (site of our camp for the night) just before 2pm, and sit around admiring the view, being thankful we’re not still going down, and waiting for the others to arrive so we can have lunch. It’s about this time that Alex starts feeling sick, and spends the rest of the afternoon/evening throwing up at regular intervals, and not eating anything (suspected to be a combination of an unhappy stomach and the altitude). Meanwhile I gorge myself at the 3pm lunch and 7pm dinner, and sit and watch the sunset and swirling clouds from the door of the tent.


Looking out from the second camp towards our path on Day Three

general travel trip reports

inka trail – day one

The classic Inka Trail is 45km long, and usually covered in four days. Following major overuse and abuse of the trail, the number of people starting the Inka Trail (the classical Inka trail to Macchu Pichu) was limited a few years ago, with guidelines instated regarding porter (or chaski “fleet-foot messenger”) welfare, and limiting how much they can carry. It is not allowed to trek the Inka Trail independently, as you must have a trek permit and guide. So we signed ourselves up for a group trek a few months back, and ended up with a group of 14 trekkers (6 English girls, an English couple, and American couple, a solo American girl, and a solo Dutch girl), 21 chaskis, and our guide (David) and assistant guide (Gustavo).

After travelling in a bus from Cusco, with a breakfast stop at Ollantaytambo, we reached KM82 – the point along the railway line where the trekking begins.



Burros carrying a load wander along the train line by the start of the Inca Trail.

More than half the group elected to hire a personal porter to carry their sleeping gear and extra things, so they just had to carry a daypack. We were feeling sheepish enough at having someone else carrying our tent, food, and cooking supplies, so couldn’t bring ourselves to pay for a personal porter. This was all good until we saw the size of the sleeping bags we’d hired from the company. They were warm, but just a single one of them nearly filled up one of our 30L daypacks. Prolonged puzzling led to an attack forcing two sleeping bags into a single daypack, jumping on them repeatedly to make them fit, then quickly camming the straps on the bag to trap them in place before they could spring back into shape.



Walking by the Urabamba River on Day One.

We started off wandering along by the train tracks, cursing the lazy tourists who were taking the easy way in on the noisy trains, then swung up into the hills, following along the river.




We reached our first sizeable Incan site with Llactapata, an old village at the fork of the Urabamba River and Kusichaca Stream. At some point we stopped for lunch, and had our first experience of the lunch tent, and the three course meals that were to await us every day. I can remember that the entree on our first day involved avacado, and then there was soup, and the main course involved trout from the ponds nearby… I really miss the cook.

And now because I have far too many photos to post, click more for camp on the first evening…