We Well, both I and Snigdha seem to be finishing up on the Modern Wonders of the World and after the Mayan ruins of Mexico, the next must visit are the Inca ruins of Peru. The best way to discover the ruins of the Inca empire is through a hike that takes you through all the spots and then some. Although there is a common 4-day trek that takes you through all the ruins, I preferred the 5-day itinerary as first of all, I am a slow trekker and secondly, it gives you more time to enjoy at Machu Picchu, instead of being hustled back into your destination.
Day 1: Starting the trek to Llactapata
We start off at Cusco where we had been staying for the last few days. A bus takes us through the Peruvian countryside as we are dropped off at our starting point. It’s still morning and the fresh mountain air acts as a balm upon the face. I laced up my shoes and checked up with our porters before starting up the hike. The Inca trail takes us through some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. Along the flats of the river Urubamba, we walked along to the Inca city of Llactapata
One thing that you’ll definitely notice while hiking in Peru is the amount of exertion it causes. A smoker like me was soon out of breath but the mostly flat trail kind of gets you going. It was already time for our tents to come out. After pitching the tents, we ventured around the lost city of Llactapata. The steps cut into the hillside drew me in with their green beauty. We spent the evening discussing the next day’s trail along with a few swigs of the local beer. You can even see the destination Machu Picchu in the distance.
Check out my friend Julianna’s article on visiting Machu Picchu: The City of the Incas
Day 2: Dead Woman’s Pass
Next day, we got up early to begin our trek to Llulluchapampa. We begin our trek along the valley of Kusichaca river before climbing up to the village of Wallyabamba. Along the Inca trail, we got to see the majestic Veronica Peaks. Along the way, I started chewing on some cocoa leaves as suggested by my porter Marcelo. Having a friendly porter is always a good suggestion. Before long, we landed up at the hardest part of the trek, the passage through the Dead woman’s pass.
It is known as the Dead woman’s pass as the mountains create the shape of a woman lying out. These high altitudes get terribly chilly at night so be prepared to roll up in your sleeping bags. The forests go over the cloud cover which gives it a mystical experience. There is a slow but steady change in the vegetation. Far away in the distance, we could also see some llamas grazing.
Day 3: Above the clouds at Sayacmarca
The hardest trek of them all and this is where all the conditioning of the past few months kicks in. We pass through the mountain pass. I almost feel my gang is that of the Fellowship of the ring passing through Caradhras. The pass leads to the Pacayamayo valley where we break for the first meal break for the day.
The Abra Runkurkay is the second mountain pass of the day to climb. My limbs are already tired from climbing up the first pass. We walk into the watch tower before descending towards Yanacocha and entering the forest. The Sayacmarca is one of the most beautiful Incan structures standing. Stone outcropping juts out of the walls depicting a city that existed long ago. But the most delightful of sights is the clouds lumbering along these stones. The serenity of Sayacmarca takes you far away from the hustle-bustle of the city life.
The 3rd climb of the day is probably the most beautiful of them all. The Inca cut the mountain with beautiful steps along the way to the pass of Abra Phuyupatamarca. We climb in through an old tunnel to emerge at the entrance to the Phuyupatamarca ruins. One of the best preserved of the Incan ruins, the sophisticated sacred place is surrounded by water fountains.
Day 4: Last stop at Wiñay Wayna
It’s a majestic sunrise as I sleep over a bit late. Snigdha had already gotten up and started clicking up the Sun as it rose against the Phuyupatamarca ruins. After we packed up our camps post a short breakfast, we trudged our way down the steps cut into the rocky mountainside. The majestic ruin of Wiñay Wayna awaits us. But before I check into these ruins, I need a shower and a proper meal. The Wiñay Wayna lodge is perfect as we start exploring the nearby ruins.
An impressive array of sectors awaits us at the ruins. An agricultural sector, an urban sector and a religious sector. After this, we make our way to the Sun Gate as we prepare for our climb to the magnificent ruins of Machu Picchu the next day. Although there is an existence of a single day trip, but the longer day treks are way better to experience this heritage. The four-day trail might sound like a good option but you get to Machu Picchu pretty late in the day, thus reducing your chances for good photographs.
Day 5: Finally at Machu Picchu
I was filled with trepidation as the Sun rose over the majestic Andes mountains. I had climbed through four days of the trek. My body was battered beyond recognition while my legs refused to lift my weight anymore. But this was the day that I was going to visualize what I had come for so far.
The beautiful ruins atop the Machu Picchu are one of the most thrilling of my life. The ruins of Machu Picchu were built in the 15th century for two of the most dominant Inca rulers, these ruins had never been plundered by the Spanish. The mountain architecture is divided into two sections. The top terraces used to house the religious sector along with the residential areas. The Temple of the Sun and the Torreon, the massive tower are two of the unmissable structures on the top level.
The Intihuatana stone is like a Sundial that provided the correct timings. The epitome of Inca architecture is the Intimachay. The cave was used as an area for dinners of the nobility during the winter solstice. I stood marveled at the architecture which defied so many natural difficulties, the terrain being one of them. The mystical race of the Incas may have survived for a very small time but their legend still stands today.
I couldn’t stop a smile on my lips coming back from the ruins to Cusco on the train. I had accomplished something truly special. Trekking straight for five days of Inca is no mean feat at all. Tell us about your favorite Wonder of the World.