Machu Picchu is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the World and was one of the priorities for our trip this year. Machu Picchu was built by the Inca’s and dates back to the 15th century.
A permit is necessary to hike the full Classic 4 day Inca Trail but you need to organise this many months in advance. You need your passport in order to purchase the permit and then produce the same passport upon arrival at the start of the Inca Trail. Chris had to renew his passport 3 months ago (July 2016, when we were back in the UK) by which time it was too late to arrange the permit…
However…we were not disappointed as there were other options available. There are 45,000 km’s of Inca trails and several different hiking options. We were recommended to Papi’s Trek’s and selected the ‘2 day 1 night’ Inca trek expedition. This gave us the opportunity to trek for 12 km through the Andes, walk the last hour or so of the classic Inca trail and arrive at the Sun Gate (the Inca’s original main entrance) for the full panoramic view of Machu Picchu.
Our day began with an early start and a short tuk tuk ride from our hotel to Ollantaytambo station. Here we met Mike, our tour guide and the three of us boarded the 6:10 AM train towards Machu Picchu. (You can also start the tour from Cusco)
The scenic train had windows in the roof as well as the sides of the train to allow you to see the panoramic views of the majestic Andes. We were provided with complementary tea or coffee and a snack.
The train stopped along the track at ‘KM 104’ of the Inca trail and a handful of people, including us, disembarked the train while the majority of the passengers continued on.
We crossed the Urubamba River and almost immediately arrived at a designated camp site where we had to produce our passports and papers (organised by Mike) to begin the official trek.
Within a few minutes’ walk we arrived at Chachabamba, our first archaeological site. Mike explained how Inca people worshipped the Sun as it gave them the vital elements necessary for life; the mountains as guardians and ‘Pachamama’ (Mother Earth).
We discussed how today many people are more inclined to worship status, power, material things and money without a second thought to Mother Nature and that all material things and indeed everything we all consume all comes from the Earth. And sadly, following consumption, all gets discarded and tossed back into the Earth…
We continued trekking high up towards the cloud forest where we had magnificent views of the Sacred Valley along the way.
We walked at a comfortable pace which allowed us plenty of time to take in the scenery and enjoy the walk. There were some fairly steep steps up and down in places but all in all we considered the walk to be ‘moderate’ as advertised on Papi’s Treks website!
We had several breaks along the way including a stop at a pretty waterfall.
The open trail became more sheltered as we entered the cloud forest and shortly afterwards we reached Wiñay Wayna an archeological site which means ‘Forever Young’. We had our packed lunch and then Mike gave us more detailed information about the site and the Inca civilisation. He explained the connections between the mountains and Earth, the Sun, Moon and stars and how the Inca’s used this astronomy to plan and grow their crops.
10 minutes after Wiñay Wayna we entered the official classic Inca trail campsite (the last one people often stay at when doing the full Inca trail) where we had to have our tickets checked again before we were permitted onto the ‘actual’ Inca trail.
We trekked up to the Sun Gate (the original Inca entrance) where we were greeted with the incredible and breathtaking view of Machu Picchu sitting high up in the Andean mountains.
It took another 45 minutes of hiking down to reach the site. We were so fortunate to experience Machu Picchu in gorgeous sunny weather!
The Inca civilisation was highly developed and considered to be advanced as other civilisations around the world including the Romans. The civilisation dates concurrently with the Mayans of Central America. While officially considered to date for only 300 years from 1200-1500, there is evidence of pre Inca cultures which would have existed for many hundreds of years before.
The Spanish arrived in 1532 and set about destroying the Inca civilisation. They abused the people and stole their belongings looking for gold and silver. This marked the end of the Inca civilisation and Machu Picchu became a lost city, overgrown and undisturbed for hundreds of years.
We had some time to take in the views and the scenery before boarding the bus to Aguas Calientes, the nearest town to Machu Picchu which is where people exit the train and get the bus if they don’t wish to hike.
As part of our Papi’s Treks tour we stayed for one night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes where we had dinner with Mike.
Machu Picchu is a tourist hot spot and as might be expected the town of Aguas Calientes is colourful and touristy with many shops and market stalls selling colourful souvenirs.
Our alarm went off at 4 am and after a quick breakfast (kindly served at 4:45 am by the hotel staff) we met Mike who was already in the queue for the first buses ready to visit Machu Picchu again. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain but we managed to spot him amidst a bright array of coloured plastic poncho’s!
Mike spent two hours giving us a guided tour of Machu Picchu explaining how the lost city was first ‘rediscovered’ on 24th July 1911 following an expedition led by Professor Bingham from Yale University. Local Peruvians assisted Bingham and it was a young boy who led him to the ruins.
Above is the Cave of the Sun where each of the carved stone features had an important relevance for the Inca’s.
Mike explained how the Inca people had a sharing culture… they had no need for doors as everyone respected each others’ space and had no reason to steal from each other. Helping each other out was key to a peaceful and successful society … No greed and no ‘me, me, me’ for the Inca’s… how wonderful to live in a community with no doors and nobody getting hung up with their possessions… and no need to bolt down and lock your stuff away… very inspiring…
After a coffee we said goodbye to Mike and had another couple of hours to explore Machu Picchu by ourselves.
The rain continued for the rest of the morning but this gave us a different and atmospheric perspective of the area which is after all in the cloud forest!
We left Machu Picchu feeling inspired… slightly damp… and with a huge sense of awe…
After catching the bus back down to Aguas Calientes we collected our bag from the hotel, had a beer and got the scenic train back to Ollantaytambo. A driver was waiting at the station to drive us through the incredibly scenic Andes and back to Cusco.
Mike was a fantastic guide, passionate about the Inca and Andean history and culture. With his extensive knowledge he gave us a wealth of fascinating information. Trekking to Machu Picchu was like a dream come true… it was truly one of the most fascinating, inspiring and spectacular places we have ever been to.