Peru, South America, Travel

Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu: Day 1 & 2

January 19, 2015

Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu: Day 1 & 2

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is on the top of the bucket list for many travellers, and is one of the most popular hiking routes in the world. I was absolutely thrilled that I had the chance to hike the trail and successfully complete it – and without too many difficulties. It took 4 days and 42km to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The hike was one of the most challenging experiences of my life, and it was definitely the highlight of my trip to South America.

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INCA TRAIL DAY 1: THE BEGINNING

Km 82 to Wayllabamba • Distance: 11km

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After spending a few days in the cobblestone town of Cusco to acclimatise and gather our hiking gear, we travelled to Ollantaytambo the day before our hike along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu began. The next morning, we started our hike very excited and enthusiastic. After meeting with the group we would be spending the hike with, we made our way to the beginning of the Inca Trail by bus. Our G Adventures group had around 15 people – ranging in ages from 13-40+ and from various countries around the world (including Australia, UK, Germany, USA and Canada). Joining our group for the hike were three instructors, many porters and two chefs. We named our team the sexy alpacas – which was definitely a fitting name.

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Starting the hike at Km 82, we scaled the Vilcanota River throughout the day. This day would be a walk in the park compared to the ones that followed. We treated this day as a warmup; the perfect time to find out everyone’s hiking pace and get used to the altitude before the higher points we would climb to over the next few days. Our group found our walking pace quite easily and separated into slow, medium and fast-paced groups.

This part of the trail was pretty flat and was made up of dirt, rocks and rough steps. As we were there in late August, we were bordering on the wet season so occasionally we would be walking through sections that were incredible dusty, and others that were muddy. We were lucky to be blessed with almost perfect weather for the majority of our hike.

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Along the way, our instructors shared stories and information with us about the origins of the Inca Trail. We learnt that the Inca trail was created to connect the Inca cities to Cusco in the 15th century. The legends and history of the Incas had been passed down through generations in the form of songs and music, and that is how we know what we do about them today.

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We saw our first Inca site Llactapata – a phenomenal site carved into a mountain valley. The urban section of the site sat towards the top of the ruins near the mountain sides, and was cleverly designed so there were strategic lookout points around the town. It is estimated to have had a population between 100-200 people in its prime.

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We occasionally stopped for breaks – snacking on the food provided to us by the porters and drinking plenty of tea to help with our digestion in the high altitude. Along the trail we passed stalls selling food and drinks, as well as plenty of animals – roosters, horses, donkeys and llamas. We were greeted by the porters in our lunch tent for our first proper meal, which would be the first of many delicious meals throughout the hike.

Overall, the first day was not too difficult, with the most challenging section all uphill in the last 30 minutes. We had walked to one of the furthest campsites, which was in fact past the Day 2 checkpoint. This gave us a little preview of the day ahead.

We arrived at the campsite to the applause of the porters, who knows how long they had been waiting there for us. But to give you an idea, everything had already been set up for us – our tents, fresh hot water for cleaning and our dinner was already being prepared. These porters were incredible, the fact that they can so easily run ahead of you with huge packs on and have everything ready for you completely blows my mind.

We ended the day with a quick rinse, rest and dinner. Most of the group stayed up in the main tent playing card and mystery games, before we took our exhausted selves to bed by 9pm to get a good nights sleep and prepare for the following day – the toughest day on the Inca Trail.

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INCA TRAIL DAY 2: THE CHALLENGE

Wayllabamba to Pacaymay Ÿ• Distance: 11km

Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu: Day 1 & 2

The next day began with an early morning wake up call at 5:30am. As we slowly opened our eyes to the whispers of “buenos días”, a porter appeared at the entrance of our tent with coca tea and another bucket of hot water for washing. We were spoilt at breakfast by the cooks with bread and jam, porridge and crepes with caramel sauce. This was sure to keep us full for the challenging day ahead. While we were finishing our meals, the porters once again worked their magic by packing up our duffels, sleeping bags and tents. After finally working out how to fill our camel baks, we were ready to begin our day of hiking.

Although we were hiking a shorter distance than the other days, we knew this day would be the most difficult due to the high altitude we would be reaching. The first few stops along the hike weren’t overly hard – and we whizzed through each section faster than the approximate time estimate.

We then arrived at the most feared section of the hike – the steep walk up to Warmiwañusca, also known as Dead Woman’s Pass. The section is named after the shape of the mountain top which resembles a woman lying down. Although I’m not sure if I believe that, because this section really was a killer (pun intended).

The rock stairs up to the top were steep and uneven. The further we hiked, the more the altitude started to take effect on most people within our group. It affected everyone differently, although most people began to feel out of breath and get pain in the chest with every step they took. Sooner or later, we were stopping almost every 10 metres to catch our breath and regain our energy. The best thing we could do was to stay positive and chew on some candy and coca leaves. We were almost there, when one of our guides jokingly offered us some oxygen – instead we opted for a sniff of Timolina (a stronger version of Agua de Florida).

Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu: Day 1 & 2Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu: Day 1 & 2

The hike up was definitely a test of patience and endurance; it took a lot of effort to keep continuing onwards. Despite the struggle, the view walking up was fascinating! It’s no surprise that we kept using the excuse of stopping to take a photo and admire the scenery, while secretly catching back our breath.

Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu: Day 1 & 2Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu: Day 1 & 2

It was such an accomplishment when we made it to the top of Dead Woman’s Pass. We had reached the highest point of the trail at 4215m! We were so exhausted that I have no idea how we managed to take a jumping shot, but it was necessary. We didn’t stay at the top for long due to the cold wind, and we were meant to be having our proper lunch break down the bottom of the trail, not in the high altitude.

The way down was a whole different kind of challenge. The way up was terribly hard work on the chest, whereas the way down was all about the knees and ankles. With many steps and loose rocks down the descent to Pacaymayo Valley, one wrong step could have ended in disaster – thank god for that walking stick!

We reached our campsite between 1-2pm, in perfect time for a short rest before lunch time. We finished off the day with an introduction to all of our porters, we learnt of their lives back at home and their ages – the youngest being 18 and the oldest 50+. We had the rest of the afternoon to relax and take in the lovely view from the campsite, before having dinner and playing more card games with the group.

Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu: Day 1 & 2Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu: Day 1 & 2

To be continued…

Is the Inca Trail on your bucket list?


Note: I will do a post on my tips & advice for hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, as well as a packing list for what to bring on the four day hike. Stay tuned! 

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19 Comments

  • Reply A Life Passport January 19, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    The scenery is truly breathtaking – I would love to do this, hiking the Inca Trail is definitely on my bucket list!

    • Reply Kelly Ross January 23, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      It really was very impressive! I had not expected it to be so incredible. Hopefully you get to tick it off the bucket list soon 🙂

  • Reply Marie @ Marie Away January 20, 2015 at 3:05 am

    This is so exciting! I will be trekking to Machu Picchu later in 2015, but I’ve been thinking of taking the Salkantay route.

    I’m looking forward to the next part of this story!

    • Reply Kelly Ross January 23, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      Yay, that’s so exciting! I haven’t done the Salkantay route myself but I have heard that it is very beautiful! I hope you have an incredible time 🙂

  • Reply Jessica @Triple T Travels January 20, 2015 at 4:52 am

    Yay so glad you are doing the Inca Trail! I’m going to be moving to South America this year and the Inca trail is definitely on my list. Can’t wait to read more posts 🙂
    xx,
    Jessica

    • Reply Kelly Ross January 23, 2015 at 4:01 pm

      Wow, that’s awesome that you’re moving to South America! Is there a particular country/city that you will be based? I will have to follow your travels on your blog! 🙂

  • Reply Stephen Jones - A Thousand Miles January 20, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Wonderful pictures, and account, of the first two days, Kelly! Yes, the Inca Trail is definitely on my list! How can I not do it? 🙂 I so look forward to doing it, some day. Can’t wait for part II!

    • Reply Kelly Ross January 23, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      Thank you Stephen! Of course, it has to be! 😉 Part 2 will be up in the next couple of days! x

  • Reply De'Jav January 20, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Great and challenging time I see. Inca trail is definitely on my list did Machu Picchu but wasn’t the right time of year for the Inca.

    • Reply Kelly Ross January 23, 2015 at 4:05 pm

      Oh, that’s a bummer! It’s great that you still got to explore Machu Picchu though! I guess it just gives you another excuse to head back to Peru 😉

  • Reply Bec January 22, 2015 at 12:39 am

    Wow! Breathtaking scenery, but a very long and challenging hike! Those porters are awesome! Love your writing, I am left wanting to read more about your inca trail adventure! Looking forward to when you write about your tips!

    • Reply Kelly Ross January 23, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      It was pretty intense and challenging on that second day, but it was absolutely worth it for the amazing views and scenery! My recount of the final two days should be up soon Bec 🙂

  • Reply ~ Carmen ~ January 22, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Goodness gracious. What an incredible journey. I’ve never hiked that much in my entire life — like altogether. Looks like a gorgeous adventure to last a lifetime.

    :] // ▲ itsCarmen.com ▲

    • Reply Kelly Ross January 23, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      It was such a fantastic hike! I definitely recommend it, even if you’re just a beginner hiker! 🙂

  • Reply Erik Wilhelmsson January 27, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Great post Kelly!
    It really was amazing and what an amazing bunch of people!
    That second day was a bitch, but so worth it!

    Can’t wait for the second part!

    • Reply Kelly Ross February 1, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      Thanks Erik! It was pretty tough. But yes, definitely worth it!
      Hope you had a great time on your visit to Australia last month! 🙂 x

  • Reply Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu: Day 3 & 4 • Endlessly Exploring January 27, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    […] that we were actually there in South America, finally ticking this adventure off the bucket list. Click here to read about my experience on the first two days hiking the Inca Trail to Machu […]

  • Reply Bucket List: Exploring the Wonders of the World • Endlessly Exploring March 15, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    […] 4 days of hiking the Inca Trail, we finally made it to our final destination Machu Picchu. I had always dreamed of hiking to this […]

  • Reply A Guide To Hiking The Inca Trail: Tips & Packing List • Endlessly Exploring February 22, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    […] definitely recommend it to anyone. You can read about my experiences hiking the Inca Trail on Day 1 & 2 and Day 3 & 4. I thought I would provide a resource for other travellers with information […]

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