Trekking Diary of “Classic Inca Trail” to Machu Picchu

For me, Machu Picchu is a dream destination and a place that I must visit in my life time. It is an ancient sacred city completely untouched by the Spaniards colonialization. There are two paths that reaches Machu Picchu. The first way is taking public transportation along the flat route and the second way is to trek the 45 KM along the Andes Mountain on the Classic Inca Trail. The Classic Inca Trail is a path that requires to climb two peaks with one reaching 4200 M over 4 days period. It is an extremely rewarding hike and definitely the path that I chose to reach the sacred city of Machu Picchu.

Winny really wanted to take a perfectly beautiful picture with Machu Picchu but after not showering for 4 days and walked in the rain all morning, she didn’t really care anymore.

Different ways to Reach Machu Picchu

  • Reaching Machu Picchu by public transport: from Cusco you take a two hour bus to a town called Ollantaytambo and from there you take a two hour train to Agas Calientes Village. From there you take a half hour bus to Machu Picchu. You could purchase all these tickets yourself or you could get the local tour company outdoorempire to organize all this from Cusco. This route is perfect for people on a tight schedule or don’t want to hike 4 days in the wild with no showers or proper toilet.
  • Classic Inca Trail (4D3N): The Classic Inca trail is the 45km hike that leads into Machu Picchu. It is a highly popular hike and there were a few thousand people used to be on this trail daily until the Peruvian government limited the numbers in 2003. Now with number limited by permits, only 200 hikers with 300 porters/guide is allowed on the track daily. Now, as soon as the permits are open for purchase, they are all bought out on the day. So it is extremely important to organize your Inca trail at least half a year in advance with a trekking company so they could buy your permit as soon as they are available for purchase. Permit for Classic Inca Trail is also the most expensive out of all the treks at around $80 USD. The trekking company we used in 2016 is The Alpaca Expedition and the total fee for the 4D3N Classic Inca Trail is $645 USD.
  • Salkantay Trek (5D4N): The Salkantay Trek is another famous trail around Machu Picchu but it is not built by the Incas. This trek does not need a permit so you do not need to book The Salkantay Trek so early in advance and it is cheaper around $575 USD. Although this trek does not lead to Machu Picchu, you could see a lot more beautiful scenery. In this trek, you will reach an altitude of 4650 M and walk 59 KM trek, making it more challenging than The Classic Inca trail. It is a trek that I would choose if I didn’t get the Machu Picchu permit.

There are many other trails to choose from around Machu Picchu. Good idea to read up on these if you are interested in trekking.

Classic Inca Trail is not a path to see the beautiful Andes Mountain, it is a trek to walk on the tail laid by the Incas and a pilgrimage to Machu Picchu.

Note: The company we used is the Alpaca Expeditions, they have really useful information about different trails around Machu Picchu (Which Hike Is for Me?). Although this company may seem a little bit more expensive than others, they have exceptional service. Read the rest of this article and you will know the difference!

Preparing for the Inca Trail

  • The closest airport to Machu Picchu is Cusco. This city has an altitude of 3400 M. Typically from an altitude of 3000 M, many people can suffer altitude sickness and can feel quite sick. Personally we felt a little dizzy, headaches and increase heartbeat at around 3800 M. We heard extreme stories of people fainting and losing sight of one eye. So if you do not usually live in high altitude, make sure you stay in cities like Cusco for at least 2 days to climatize before climbing to a higher altitude and bring altitude sickness tablets, Diamox (Acetazolamide).
  • People who lives in the Andes all chew a type of leaf called Coca Leaves. Coca Leaves has been used as medicine for a few hundred years, date back in the era of Incas and has been known to decrease the symptoms of Attitude sickness. We bought a huge bag of Coca Leaves for only $4 Peruvian Sol in Arequipa. Coca leaves can be chewed or made into teas.

This is the Plaza de Armas in Cusco.

  • Before arriving at Cusco we travelled to Arequipa (altitude of 2380m) from Lima and went to the second deepest Canyon in the world, Colca Canyon. This helped us to Climatise and Arequipa is a very beautiful city to visit. For people who has more time to travel, this is a good path to go before reaching Cusco.
  • The night before our Classic Inca Trail hike, our trekking company, Alpaca Expedition, held a small meeting to give us all the crucial information. During our meeting, they gave us a bag for our porters to carry. The total weight of the bag cannot exceed 7 KG because since 2003 the government has set a limit of 20 KG per Porter and they enforce this at many porter stations along the trail. Out of the 7 KG, 3 KG is the weight of the sleeping bag so we have 4 KG for all the gears we use in the 4 day hike. We only used 3 KG each of this luggage limit. For help with packing please read our popular post on how to pack a whole year with 8 KG. (Further reading).
  • Before your hike, don’t eat big rich meals for at least two days as your digestive ability decreases at high altitude.
  • On the Classic Inca Trail, there are no place to charge you electrical equipment. Remember to bring enough back up batteries for your camera, otherwise you will not have enough power to take pictures of Machu Picchu on the last day!
  • You can shower during the hike. We brought along some baby whips to clean our sweaty body every night.

In the next four day, we will be trekking this Classic Inca Trail.

Below is a diary of our ur Classic Inca Trail that we did for 4 days and 3 nights.

Day 1 Classic Inca Trail

  • Hiking distance: 14 Km (6-7 hours)
  • Camping altitude: 3300M

At 4:30 AM, our guide from Alpaca Expedition picked us up from our hostel. We have already packed our 7 KG (only used 6 KG) porter bag and our small day pack the day before so we only woke up at 4 AM. From Cusco, we travel 2 hours to Piskacucho in the Alpaca Expedition Company bus. Since it was so early in the morning and everyone wants to keep sleeping, we were given a blanket each by an Alpaca Expedition staff. The bus was extremely clean and modern and they apparently do pickups for day trips as well.

Finally leaving Cusco and starting our dream Classic Inca Trail hike!

We were all still in dream land when we arrived at Piskacucho. In total we are 15 hikers and have two guides. We meet up with our 20 porters at Piskacucho. Among the 20 porters we have a head porter and a super chef. At Piskacucho, we thought we would have a simple breakfast but the porters set up a huge table, chairs and the kitchen! We were all given luxury breakfast including a plate of fried eggs, bread, fruits and many more. After breakfast we were all each given a bag of snacks and a banana so we could recharge during our day’s hike.

Alpaca Expeditions call these porters “Green Machine” they are truly amazing!

After breakfast, our guides started to check our luggage weight. Before 2003, porters from an age of 14 were carrying up to 40 KG of luggage. To prevent exploitation of the porters, the government limits the weight each porter carry to be only 20 KG and they enforce this with many weighing checkpoints along the Inca trail. If the weight exceeds 20 KG, the company will be fined. At these check points our Inca trail permit will also be check and if the passport number on the permit does not match our passport, we will be denied entry to the trail.

Every company is coded with a different color. Porters and hikers alike all lining up at the first check point waiting to start the hike.

After the first check point, we walked across a bridge and arrive at the start of the Classic Inca Trail. We all took photos here for this memorable moment and to compare how much we will change after hiking and not showering for 4 days. Since the start point at Pikacucho is only 2720 M, a lot lower altitude than Cusco, the initial hike was quite easy.

This is the entrance to the very famous Inca Trail!

It seems that the wet season was finishing quite late this year. Soon after we started walking, we had rain. Although both Winny and I have waterproof pants and Gortex jackets, our little day pack isn’t waterproof. We all put on our Alpaca Expedition bright green company colored ponchos. We could see how thoughtful Alpaca Expedition is from these small things like providing ponchos and dust proof bag covers.

Hiking in the rain.

After two hours of rain hiking, we arrived at a little open plain with many horse. From there we could look down at our first Inca ruin, Llactapata. According to our guide, this ancient village is a resting spot for people heading to Machu Picchu so they have many storage for food. Lactapata used to house many farmers and soldiers to protect these farmers. The Incas had built their empire, not through force but with abundance of food. They teach the surrounding tribes how to build roads, farm lands and never to suffer from hunger. Naturally, these tribes joined the Incas for a better lifestyle.

After two hours of hike, we arrived at the first Inca ruin “Llactapata”

After another two hours of hike, we arrived at our lunch spot. Since we are still close to villages, our chef was cooking in a small room. To our surprise, many porters were all helping the chef to prepare the meal. Just before the meal, the porters provided 15 bowls of water and towel for each of the hikers to clean their hands before eating. It was an amazing service!

we were touched by how good the service we were getting on the Inca Trail!

Our lunch were absolutely amazing and there were such abundance of good food. We were quite shocked how the chef could provide us with so much amazing food with basic camping cooking gear. The porters had to carry all these food and a huge gas tank as well. The chef even carved different bird shapes out of different ingredients for decoration on many plates of food! He also catered for different types of food requirements such as vegetarians by making them separate plate of food for meat dishes.

Amazing lunch on the Classic Inca Trail.

The afternoon’s hiking was a lot more difficult than the morning. We had to climb from an altitude of 2930 M to 3300 M. Many other companies camp at a camping site at around 3000M but Alpaca Expedition has a different tactic. We camp a little further on the first two days so we do not need to squeeze along the trails and can enjoy many ruins without any other company people around.

It was raining heavier and we all just wanted to get to our camp site.

This afternoon was quite a traffic jam going uphill. I could finally understand why many people dislike going on the Classic Inca trail. It was raining quite hard and we had to dodge people, donkeys, horses and poos from different animals all over the ground. I cannot imagine how badly congested this place could be when there were a thousand people trying to hike the same trail in the past. Saying all this, I do not regret doing the Classic Inca Trail!

There were so many horses along the trail, thus a lot of shit on the ground too.

After an altitude of 3000m, hiking gets quite difficult. Luckily we have been hiking quite a bit in Patagonia region, walking around 20km daily during that period, we made it to the first campsite without too many issues.

Camping in between the mountain watching the moon.

When we arrive at our first camp site, Ayapata, the porters have finished setting up all our tents. All the porters except the ones cooking stood there clapping for us celebrating our first climb. However, I was thinking that maybe we should be the ones clapping at the people who were carrying 20kg, arriving early and could finished all their jobs in the rain. Our Tents were huge as well, around twice the size of other company’s tents; almost similar to the ones that I found while I checked through the best 4 person tent reviews. In these tents were our sleeping mat, pillows and our porter bag.

Arriving at Ayapata Camp Sit realizing that the porters have finished setting up everything!

We were each provided with a bowl of hot water and clean towels to clean our sweaty body (remember that they carry their own gas tank). We also brought some baby wipes to clean our body further. We were quite amazed at how dirty we are, our face were covered in yellow mud.

This is what Glamping looks like.

We arrived at our camp site at around 5 PM and we begin dinner at 7 PM. Before dinner we also have afternoon tea time! During tea we were given freshly made popcorn, hot coffee, tea, Milo and desserts.

Everytime we eat, we will be inside this tent. I think the porters all sleep in this tent as well. The guides have their own tents.

The night finally arrived and we all started wearing our head lamp. The chef also began his magic. We started our meal with a bowl of warm soup each and then followed with so much good food that couldn’t fit our table. They were all super healthy too. We finished off with an unforgettable dessert which was flaming bananas cooked in a Peruvian liquor, Pisco. It was my birthday on that day and Winny told Alpaca Expedition about it hoping that they will do some small celebration which didn’t happen that day. (They did on the last day).

Our super chef preforming flaming bananas!

At each campsite, we are provided with our own toilet which is cleaner than the public toilet. It is cleaned out every time we arrived at a new site so the first few get a very clean toilet. A porter is responsible with cleaning and carrying this portable toilet.

Our portable toilet, provided with a roll of toilet paper daily.

Day 2 Classic Inca Trail

  • Hiking distance: 16km (7-8 hours)
  • Camping altitude: 3600m
  • Most difficult hiking day, walking through two high passes, 4215m and 4000m

At 5 AM, we were woken up by our guide and the chef. Each morning we are provided with a hot cup of Coca tea. Soon after the porter give us a bowl of hot water to clean our hands for breakfast! Also just want to share a little story about my late night walk to the bathroom

drinking our hot coca tea and sharing my story about my walk to the bathroom.

Late at night, on my way to the portable bathroom, I came across a donkey sleeping in the middle of the pathway. The donkey was fast asleep but was woken up by my head lamp. I had a huge fright and so did the donkey with sleepy eyes. After I finished doing my business I thought I would go the other way back to the tent. However on the other side, there was two porters already preparing our breakfast in the dark. I did not see them until they turned their head lamps on so I will not walk into them. That was my second fright of the night.

How did the chef make such an amazing fruit cake in camping conditions!

The breakfast today was even better than the first day. We even had omelets and huge fruit cake filled with strawberries, grapes and bananas. When we were eating, the porters had already packed up all our tents and by the time we finished they were prepared to leave as well. They were super-efficient, fitting for the name, Green Machine.

The guide introduced all the staff and hikers and allow us to greet each other. Team bonding session!

After breakfast, the chef began to give water to fill our water bottles. These water were cooked the previous night, cooled before distributing the previous day. It’s amazing what they do. Without these porters, many hikers wouldn’t have possibly complete their dream on hiking the Inka trail. Only the true decedents of Inka, the Quechua people could do this very difficult task. After breakfast, we shook hands with each of these porters after introducing ourselves.

Today we need to climb 1000m to reach the Dead Woman’s Pass.

Today is our most difficult day on the Inca trail, climbing from an altitude of 3300M to 4215M on the first pass, known as the Dead Women’s Pass. One of the guides even carried an oxygen tank just in case someone struggles with the altitude. After the Dead Women’s Pass, we hike down to Pacaymayu 3580M for lunch. After lunch we need to climb to the second pass known as, Runkuracay which has an altitude of 4000M. We then had to hike down again before reaching our campsite at 3600M.

When you see this post, you know you have climbed to the highest point on the Classic Inca Trail!

We left the morning at 7AM and we arrived first at the Dead Women’s pass at around 10 AM, including half an hour of official break before the steep climb. Everyone on the track including the porter with their 20 Kg backpacks were struggling with the climb. Most hikers were climbing this with their mountain sticks.

The first one on the pass and drinking hot tea!

Our only climbing gear were the hiking boots we were wearing since the beginning of our year long journey. Winny was quite proud to be on top of this hill first with me, although I had drag her up for some part of the track. I was quite amazed watching all the porters carrying so much weight and climbing the same trek. Every time we were tired we get inspired by the porters walking pass us.

Amazing porters walking up with such heavy weight.

Ok enough bragging. Beginning from our camp site we passed through a “Cloud Forest” which is the name for forest area growing on high mountains. There were beautiful streams and lavish trees all around. Since the climb is steep, there are no animal porters around so the trek is free from poos.

看這個河流, 真讓我想到小時候在紐西蘭常常跟爸媽去森林中散步的景色.

At a high altitude, climbing is extremely difficult as our heart is already beating faster. The guide gave us plenty of rest at the start to warm us up for this difficult climb.

Our first official break and we get to go to proper toilet in these small huts.

We had our first official break at a plain before the narrow steep climb. From here we could see The Dead Women’s pass clearly. The Dead Women’s pass has its name from the shape of the mountain looking like a women facing down.

First time Seeing the beauty of the Andes Mountain.

At 9am we left to start the hike up to The Dead Women’s pass. The guide left us to walk up this very difficult pass ourselves as we could do it at our own pace. We realized that our pace was a lot quicker than most people and after less than one hour of struggle, we arrived at pass one hour quicker than anticipated.

In this picture you can see the face facing down. That is why this pass is called the Dead Woman’s Pass.

When we arrived at the Dead Woman’s Pass, all our Green Machine porters were all still there resting. When they saw us, they all got up with an Alpaca Expedition flag and cheered for us. We took many exclusive photos with them by ourselves. We thought that they were going to stay here to cheer for the rest of the group, but after our photo, they all packed up and started downhill.

Our exclusive photo with the Alpaca Expedition Team on the highest point on the Classic Inca Trail

Only one porter was left to give out sandwiches and hot coca tea to the remaining hikers. We stayed here watching the amazing Andes Mountain and waited until all the hikers from our group arrived. We were 45 minutes faster than our slowest hiker. It wasn’t meant to be a race so we shouldn’t be brag so much =P

From the Dead Women’s Pass there was a steep downhill to our lunch location…

We were so high up in the mountain that clouds pass through us occasionally. Although we were conserving energy in our cameras, we thought we would still take a short film of these clouds.

All the hikers soon joined us with the hot coca tea and a delicious sandwich.

We were quite lucky with the weather today as it was sunny during our whole climb up the Dead Woman’s Pass. Walking up this pass in rain and mud would have been a nightmare. Hiking down 700m from The Dead Woman’s pass was not easy either. We did this nice and slow as walking down hill is a great burden on our knees.

The weather changes quickly here and the cloud passes through very quickly.

Dead Woman’s Pass

When we started to walk downhill, wind was extremely chilly. Feel like a completely different place to the other side of the pass. We had to put on all our gear to keep warm. This part of the path is extremely beautiful as the valley is filled with floating cloud. And the scenery is changing constantly. We took many beautiful pictures here until the rain started again.

We felt like we were walking through the cloud.

The path we were walking on is laid by the Incas. This meant that the rock path is over 400 years old and many rocks are badly warn now. We walked down hill extremely carefully and we took our time getting to the lunch location.

There were streams coming down from the high mountains, the scene is beautiful.

Our lunch place is called Pacaymayu (altitude of 3850 meters), many companies choose camp here but we are only half way through our hike today. We will do the hardest bit of hiking today and enjoy an easy hike tomorrow.

When we arrived we saw our signature green tent and mats for us to rest.

When we arrived, there were mats laid out for us to rest. We all sat there enjoying the scenery and waited for our lunch to be cooked. The temporary rest was extremely welcomed after such a long and hard hike.

We all sat there resting our legs on the mat and enjoy the view

Once lunch was cooked, everyone was starving and all ate a huge portion. However we can never seem to finish the amount of food the chef prepares. This amazing lunch includes Quinoa salad and chicken and mango ceviche!

It takes teamwork to cook such amazing food on the Clasic Inka Trail.

Both Winny and I ate so much in that meal since we used up so much energy in the morning on the Classic Inca Trail. We still have to climb another 500 meters to the Runkuracay Pass after lunch but this climb was very scenic as well. The floating clouds made this valley seemed very magical.

Not long after climbing 0n the Classic Inca Trail, the Valley is filled with fog again.

At around 3680 meters of climbing on the Classic Inca Trail we came across an Inca Ruin that shares the same name as the pass, Runkuracay. This pass isn’t big but it is quite a significant site for the Incas. There are many doors in the ruin and the sun passes through each door during a set season. Each season, Shaman from Machu Picchu will come here to preform human sacrifice as tribute to different gods.

We soon climbed further up to take a picture of Runkuracay Inca Ruin on the Classic Inca Trail from the top!

When the sun shines through a set door, the Incas will know which vegetable to plant or harvest. The rain finally cleared when we arrived and we could finally enjoy this sacred place in serenity. Winny on the other hand wasn’t listening to the guide at all and was happily taking picture of the Valley. It is a scene exclusive to people walking the Classic Inca Trail.

Runkuracay has many doors for ritual purpose. Incas build their rooms typically with two doors as well.

We soon walked further up the Inca trail and saw the high mountain lakes that the guides were talking about. Apparently there are wild native deer that could be spotted around these lakes but unfortunately we didn’t see any that day. We could see deer poo all over the trail though.

High mountain lake on a cloudy day. The lake was beautiful but there were no deer.

We then reached our Second highest pass on the Classic Inca Trail, Runkuracay (altitude of 4000 meters). It was quite cloudy at that point and the whole place feels a little gloomy and dark. We didn’t rest long before we started trekking down because it was getting late and there a was a bit of road still to cover. We were told that if we walked too slowly we might need to wear our head lamps. With those words we all quickly and carefully hike down on the Classic Inca Trail from Runkuracay pass with one of the guides walking last to make sure we are all safe.

We conquered the second highest pass on the Classic Inca trail, Runkuracay 4000 meters !.

This decent was even harder than the Dead Woman’s Pass. The rocks were narrower here and our legs were getting quite tired. The path is wet with rain and every step takes a lot of will power. We even passed through some stone caves along the way.

The Inca Trail gets harder to walk in the rain.

We soon saw the Inca site, Sayacmarca from a distance. The Inca site appeared to be quite large. The light at that point was getting quite dim and we were getting quite tired but we soldiered on wards. We only stopped occasionally to take some photos of this beautiful landscape.

From a distance we saw the Inca Ruin, Sayacmarca and the very narrow path that leads to it.

When we were at the site, there was a road that leads up to the Inca ruin and one that leads down to the campsite. Visiting this Inca site is an optional choice and many people from our group are too tired to climb up any further that day. Winny and I on the other hand, decided to climb up to see this beautiful site, considering that it is exclusive to the Classic Inca trail. However to get there we had to climb some very narrow, slippery and steep stone steps along the cliff side.

Our guide at Sayacmarca entrance explaining that visiting the Inca site is optional. It was a difficult choice.

After passing the very narrow entrance, there was a huge fortress and it was beautiful. This Inca ruin is a lot larger than what we originally imagined. There were layers and layers of walls like a maze and there were no one but us to enjoy. We ducked into many of these stone rooms and took pictures of this amazing place. We were quite happy with the choice to visit this optional Inca ruin.

Sayacmarca was like a maze inside, we had to work out how to arrive at different areas of this fortress.

Sayacmarca is located at an altitude of 3650m. It is built on a small hill and it was the largest Inca ruin we have seen during our whole hike so far. One part of this ruin is used as the Temple of the Sun to observe the sun and other part is for inhibiting purpose and storage of food. Inca engineers also worked out a way to supply this fortress with water.

Hard to imagine such a huge fortress built on the hill side of the mountain.

Sayacmarca originally belonged to the Inca’s biggest enemy, Colla Tribe. After the Inca’s occupied the area, they improved Sayacmarca with more food storage areas. There were even more food storage ruins around the Sayacmarca area. The Incas truly believe that they could rule with food. In the food storage, the Inca kept air dried potatoes which could be stored up to 200 years!

hard to show how grand this place is without using panoramic.

Sayacmarca is built at a location that is close to impenetrable. The entrance is only large enough for one person to pass and people could live in this fortress in peace. If we had more time, Winny and I would have chose to stay at this fortress for longer, but the sun was setting and we didn’t want to find our way to our campsite on the Classic Inca Trail in the dark.

Vertical steps on this fortress. A very beautiful place on the Classic Inca Trail!

On our last bit of hike to the camp site we saw another Inca Ruin built for the messengers/runners during the Inca times. It was getting dark so we kept walking and only took pictures from the outside.

Sayacmarca has windows facing the wind so the stored potatoes can be constantly kept air dried.

Tonight’s campsite is quite large and each company have an allocated area for their camp site. After our huge dinner we were all extremely tired so we all went to rest early. Half way through brushing out teeth, rain started bucketing down . It was a night that we could sleep in till 6am though. We have to wake up at 3am in the morning on the day after to see Machu Picchu.

Dinner was awesome once again and the table almost couldn’t fit the food >.<

Day 3 Classic Inca Trail

  • Hiking distance: 10 Km (5 hours)
  • Camping altitude: 2600 Meters

Yesterday night, the weather was quite stormy and cold. One of the girls in our hiking group said that when she was on her way to the portable toilet, she saw the toilet tent being blown over. She had to pitch the tent up by herself in the stormy night because she really wanted to go.

Our beautiful scenic view in front of our portable toilet!

Today we have pancakes for breakfast! They were very soft pancakes filled with butter. Of course we got all the usuals, such as fruit platters and bread. We were beginning to wonder if we could ever go back to our back packing lifestyle after finishing the Classic Inca trail.

Breakfast is my motivation to wake up each morning. Our waiter then helped us fill our water bottles.

Today will be super easy compared to yesterday because we are only hiking a total of 10km on the Classic Inca Trail and it’s mostly downhill. However 1000 meters descend is still quite strenuous on the knees.

Secretly taking a photo with the porters who were packing up our tent!

We first had to climb up 80 meters before our windy decent down the Classic Inca Trail. The trek today was like a walk in the park compared to yesterday and we had perfect weather that morning. At a distance we could also see the Salkantay and Vilcabamba mountain ranges. Luckily it was raining yesterday night and not this morning, otherwise we will not be able to see such a beautiful scenery.

We could see the Salkantay snowy peak during our hike down the Classic Inca Trail.

During our hike we passed through two very narrow stone caves. We were all very passionately taking photos of the first stone cave but by the second cave we were keen to cross it quickly because it was dripping water from yesterday’s rain.

Stone caves on the Classic Inca Trail. It was dripping water from yesterday’s rain.

We soon approached another cloud forest on the Classic Inca Trail. Our guide told us that this forest is actually quite close to the amazon jungle, but because the forest being quite high up in altitude, it is classified as a cloud forest. The cloud forest here is lusher than the previous one we crossed on the Classic Inca Trail the previous day.

The first bit of hike today was really comfortable, we were glad that we got such a beautiful day to hike this part of the Classic Inca Trail.

After around one and a half hour hike we arrived at the third highest point of the Classic Inca trail Phuyupatamarka 3680 meters. Few hiking companies were camping for the night at this location. These people were probably the ones camping at our lunch site the day before. I must admit that Phuyupatamarka camp site is extremely beautiful with a view of the valley and the Urubama river. We took a group photo with all the hikers and porters that shared this memorable hike on the  Classic Inca Trail with us.

We love the scenery here! I am also surprised that people are camping here so early today on the Classic Inca Trail.

After resting for half an hour we headed towards another Inca ruin which share the same name as the third pass, Phuyupatamarka. This Inca ruin has a large terrace and the Incas use these terraces for farming on one side and food storage on the other.

From a distance we could see the Phuyupatamarka terraces.

The Incas weren’t just great engineers and builders, they were great with agriculture and were brilliant farmers. Many nobles of Incas discovered better ways of farming and improving their crops in experimental sites like this one on the Classic Inca Trail. They also found natural pesticides and insecticides after doing their experiments. Corns and potatoes were made eatable by the Incas with these experimental farming before it was spread to the rest of the world. In Peru there are more than a few thousand different variety of potatoes.

The structures of the Inca sites are always very complicated.

On this very beautiful terrace, our guide explained to us about the history for this place. It was a great place to sit back, relax and enjoy. Winny tried very hard not to fall asleep during the history session because the weather was so comfortable whilst I was listen in passionately.

Phuyupatamarka still has a waterway system that is still functional after 400 years. There was even a stone bridge that is still functioning since the Inca times.

Phuyupatamarka still has a workable water channel system. We couldn’t believe that after 400 years, this system still functions perfectly. The Incas really aim to build structures that lasts forever. These farming terraces are even larger than they appear when we walk down a flight of stairs next to them.

Phuyupatamarka terraces are built on a mountain side.

Following the Inca Ruin was two and a half hour of downhill on the Classic Inca Trail on small and narrow steps. There were no shades here and sun was relentless at that point, it was a huge contrast to the freezing morning.

The path on the Classic Inca Trail is laid very well, considering these paths were laid 400 years ago.

After the decent we could see the second ruin, Intipata-Port of the Sun, from a distance. It appears to another set of terraces but they were huge when we approach them. Little do people know about these Inca ruins but they were quite impressive and exclusive to people walking on the Classic Inca Trail.

The shades are hiding the huge stones used to build these terraces.

Many other hiking companies chooses to skip this ruin to arrive earlier at the camp site for lunch. Since we were slightly ahead of most groups, we could enjoy these beautiful terraces privately. It’s amazing how we could have such a beautiful and huge site all to ourselves. What an amazing place exclusive to the Classic Inca trail.

Intipata was a very impressive too. We could see the marvel of Inca engineering in these constructions.

From a distance, these terraces appears to be normal stone steps but when we were up close, each layer were taller than a person. We could see that building these terraces on these hill side takes a lot of clever engineering. After walking and admiring the work for a while, we were beginning to feel hungry and started our walk down to the camp site for lunch.

Each Terrace were taller than a person!

Today’s lunch spot was where we will camp for tonight. Our guide told us that this place was the last location for camping on the Classic Inca Trail before we reach Machu Picchu. All the Hiking Companies will find a spot in this campsite and fight to be the first one at the check point on the next morning.

After the impressive Intipata Inca Ruin, we arrived at our camp site.

Other hiking companies will choose to wake up at around 2:30 AM and try to be the first one at the last check point. The check point opens at 5 AM. Our company chose to be the last one at the check point, waking up at 3:30AM and leave to line up at the check point after 4AM. This way we didn’t have to wait in the cold for longer than 1 hour. Personally that’s what I would prefer anyway.

Our porters will prepare warm water, towels and soap before each meal without fail.

When we arrive back to the camp site, all the porters were standing there clapping at us and cheering that we have finished our walk for the day. It was our last lunch on the Classic Inca Trail and the chef prepared a huge feast for us! We ate until we could not fit any more food in our belly!

Finally have the correct lighting to take a picture of the whole table to show how well we eat every day.

Since we have no more hiking to do, we were given two hours of free time to nap after our meal. After yesterday’s intensive hiking, we all welcomed this rest time. In our tents, we could open up just one layer to let the air in and keep the bugs out. We could also enjoy the fabulous scenery just outside our tent.

Super relaxing afternoon on the second to last day on the Classic Inca trail.

At 4pm today we head to our last attraction for today. Located at an altitude of 2680 meters, there was the Inca ruin Wiñay wayna. The importance of this location is on par with Machu Picchu and we personally enjoyed this place the most out of all the Inca ruins on the Classic Inca trail.

Wiñay Wayna ruin is exclusive to the people walking the Classic Inca Trail.

At Wiñay Wayna, there are two types of building in two different zones. The top section is reserved for nobles and the bottom section is reserved for commoners. The rocks on the noble houses were built with beautiful rectangular shapes and the commoner’s buildings were built with more irregular stones. Inca nobles are people with knowledge and give great contribution to the empire, like the engineers and agricultural specialist. At Wiñay Wayna, the place was used as a place for great agriculture experiments. Plants from different altitudes were brought here to see if they become more eatable and could be improved on. Many natural insecticides and pesticides were made here as well. Many types of potatoes and corns were made eatable in places like here.

The water systems at Wiñay wayna are built extremely well.

From here, we could also see the Urubamba River which we crossed the first day. Next to each terraces there were water flowing systems carrying water from a nearby waterfall. These water systems are still functioning perfectly after 400 years. The whole place seem like a lost world which only exists in our imagination. This place was beautiful and was enough to justify our walk on the Classic Inca trail.

Wiñay Wayna had llamas free roaming everywhere. It took a few tries to get this classic shot of the llama with the Inca ruins.

Everyone in the group, including Winny were all too tired to walk down the stairs to see the marvel of Inca engineering. It was a huge maze down the bottom of the stairs and each stone room was beautiful.

Wiñay Wayna inca ruin and I. Winny took this picture from the stone steps at the top. She clearly didn’t wanted to move more than she needed to that day. =P

What was more amazing is that the far room of the stone houses is built on a cliff. From that room you could see extremely beautiful sceneries of the mountain ranges . It was an amazing place to enjoy all by myself. Although Winny was a bit pissed at me for ditching her.

Wiñay Wayna from the top. It’s extremely beautiful.

There were quite a few llamas at Wiñay Wayna. We were told that they weren’t wild llamas but ones introduced for the entertainment for tourists. Shamefully we did find the llamas very amusing and took plenty of pictures with them. However there were also many llama poos in the area.

llamas everywhere!

Wiñay Wayna on Classic Inca Trail (影片)

When we returned back to our camp, we realized that there was a surprise for me at the main tent. There were streamers decorated across the tent and there was two huge baked cake. It was my belated birthday celebration! Apparently the cakes were baked from two huge pots and a gas stove. It was baked and carefully looked after for more than two hours by the chef. The chef had no cream to decorate the cake so he made icing out of egg white. What a brilliant chef!

My belated Birthday Party on the Classic Inca Trail!

The cake tasted really good and was probably the best cake I have tasted since I left Australia to live our poor back packer’s lifestyle. Winny had organized this little celebration for me. Luckily they did do a celebration on the last day because no one would have known me on the first day!

Such an awesome cake on the Classic Inca Trail!

Dinner today was our last proper meal on the Classic Inca trail. The chef and the porters will leave us in the morning. Dinner was impressive as usual and the chef even carved a condor out of eggplant today. Since tomorrow morning will be a rushed, we did our official goodbye to the chef and porters.

Not sure how it happened but I ended up representing the hiking team to give the tips bag to say thank you to the chef and porters. I first gave the chef my thanks to the cake and all the amazing meals in my most basic Spanish. I then shook hands with the head porter for all the hard work and yelled “Green Machine” in Spanish. It was a very happy and emotional moment. Thanks to them we had such a great time on the Classic Inca Trail.

All the great bird carving decors that came with our last dinner on the Classic Inca trail

The weather seemed to be fine until midnight tonight and the rain started pouring heavily. Winny and I were both woken up by the rain and prayed that it will stop for our big day at Machu Picchu. But it didn’t!

Thank you super chef for making all those amazing food in the last few days!

Day 4 Classic Inca Trail

  • Hiking distance: 5km (2 hours)
  • Destination: Machu Picchu (altitude:2400m)

It was 3:30am and the rain doesn’t seem to be stopping. Breakfast is optional today because many people probably didn’t have enough appetite to eat. Winny and I didn’t have that issue though and stuffed our face with as much food as possible. Considering that we probably have lunch 10 hours later, food is very important. The porters have to pack up everything at 4am exactly to catch their train. If they leave any later, they may not make it home. It was impressive to see them all being so efficient so early in the morning and in the rain!

Dark and rainy morning. In that condition we headed towards Muchu Picchu.

It’s hard to imagine that the porters have to run down the mountain in full 20kg gear, in the dark with no light and in the rain. Us hikers on the other hand, followed our guides closely with our head lights and ponchos. We had to walk extremely slowly because the visibility was low and the ground was slippery, despite having good hiking boots.

Everyone wearing the same Poncho color and head lights. Looks like we are preforming some sort of cult ritual .

When we got to the check point, most other company’s hikers were already there waiting. The only down side is that the front groups get to be under cover from the rain. By that time we were quite used to our ponchos which were keeping us perfectly dry and we were just glad that we weren’t waiting under the rain and cold for as long as they were.

We all stood there waiting for this check point to open at 5am!

Finally at 5am we started to all go through the check point. Our check point tickets have been stamped for the last time on the Classic Inca Trail. From here, it will take 2 hours before we reach Machu Picchu. Before then we will pass through a few more Inca Ruins, including the Sun Gate which allow us to see the whole view of Machu Picchu.

When the sky lightens up we could start seeing the amazing views around us.

Everyone was feeling a little annoyed today because on such an important day we have so much rain. We all comfort ourselves that by the time we reach Machu Picchu, the weather may improve. However the mountain ranges in the foggy setting is extremely beautiful as well!

There were a few hard places to climb on the way to sun gate.

After climbing we were getting very hot but we still needed to keep our rain gear on, it was hard to decide what to wear in the rain. Some of the path were extremely hard to walk as well because the stair were very steep and the rain was making it extremely hard to climb.

Extremely beautiful morning in the mountain ranges.

After we reached the legendary Sun Gate, we were slightly disappointed because it looked like a normal stone gate. Compared to the other Inca Ruins it wasn’t something overly special.

The very famous Sun Gate Intipunku. Entrance to Machu Picchu.

Sun Gate is the official entrance to Machu Picchu and is the place where the Incas worship the sun. In the past, Inca soldiers controlled this check point. From here we should be able to see the whole of Machu Picchu but with such bad weather, the clouds were covering Machu Picchu most of the time. We don’t even know where the sun was at that point.

On this cloudy day, it’s very hard to see Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate.

We tried to take some pictures of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate but it appears to be a battle with the clouds. Occasionally, we could see the city for a few seconds when the clouds clear out temporarily.

We finally made it to Machu Picchu!! This was the end to the Classic Inca Trail.

On the Classic Inca Tail after Sun Gate, we passed temple made for sacrificing purpose. Young girls from across the empire will be brought to this temple and be sacrificed to the gods at certain seasons. The altar where these young girls were killed still exists. The bodies of these girls are buried in the temple.

The altar where the girls are sacrificed in the past.

Soon we saw many people walking the opposite way. These are tourists who arrived to Machu Picchu by public transport and are hiking towards the Sun Gate.

It’s hard to take a good picture of Machu Picchu with so much fog.

At 7:30am we finally arrived at Machu Picchu. After 4 days of continuing hiking we finally finished the 45km Classic Inca Trail and it’s official time for our legs to rest. We couldn’t stop taking pictures of Machu Picchu at this point but with so much fog it proves to be harder than we thought.

Playing hide and seek with Machu Picchu.

My first thoughts of Machu Picchu is that there were so many tourists! In the picture there were so many people with colorful rain jackets walking through the ruins. We probably haven’t seen so many people for 4 days so we weren’t very used to people at that point.

Haven’t seen so many people in 4 days!

After seeing so many people we were glad that we did the Classic Inca Trail. Enjoying the other ruins exclusively by ourselves was a much better experience than seeing Machu Picchu amongst so many other tourists. However we were still very excited to arrive at Machu Picchu, one of the seventh wonders of the world!

Panoramic view of Machu Picchu behind the fog.

After enjoying the view of Machu Picchu from the top entrance, We were all lead outside of Machu Picchu to go to the toilet and relax a little before we were lead back into the grounds for a guided tour around Machu Picchu with our trekking guide.

There were some beautiful flowers in Machu Picchu.

There were so many tourist outside and the public toilet also charges 1 Sol each. They must earn so much money from the toilets as there were thousands of tourists going through this place each day.

There were so many tourists lining up!

The following are pictures of our two our tour of Machu Picchu

Temple of Condor

Temple of Condor

Temple of the Sun

Temple of the Sun.

Temple of Three Windows

Temple of Three Windows

Temple Zone

Temple Zone.

Inti Watana

Inti Watana, place where Incas read the Seasons.

Inka’s House

Inka’s House.

Water Mirrors

These two water mirrors were made for reading the stars but apparently now a place for llamas to drink.

Inca Doors

Inca doors built in a slant to withstand earthquakes.

After following the guide for two hours, we temporary said goodbye to him as we will meet up with him at Aguas Calientes Village later. We are given 2 hours free time to walk around Machu Picchu before we go on our own to Aguas Calientes village later by free transport bus.

Another beautiful picture of Machu Picchu.

Some people followed the guide straight to Aguas Calientes whilst Winny and I found a very nice scenic spot to sit for an hour and rest our legs. It was a great place to view Machu Picchu and people watch.

The oldies always seems to know the best place to sit!

We did ended up walking around for a little bit to take some memorable photos. We are at Machu Picchu after all!

We can’t do many weird poses or the security guards will tell us off. We had to do this one secretly.

Machu Picchu video

We had to line up in a huge line to wait for the bus to take us to Aguas Calientes. Luckily we found a couple hikers in our group to chat so the waiting time didn’t seem so long.

The half hour bus ride was super windy!

The Aguas Calientes Village was a super touristy place and the restaurant meeting place was quite expensive to eat at as well. Winny and I secretly went to a cheap local restaurant to eat before meeting up with the rest of the group and saying goodbye to our guides.

Aguas Calientes appears to be very new and touristy.

Afterwards we walked around Aguas Calientes for an hour and realized that that this village really is built for tourism. Most of the buildings were newly built for tourism accommodation and there were very theme park like decors around the streets. Apparently this village is good for hot springs.

Thank you to our two awesome guides. Inca Trail won’t be so fun without them~

On our way back, we caught a tourist train which is included in the Alpaca Expedition Package.  the short train ride is USD $84 per person. It’s extremely expensive considering local people catch a local train for only 10 sol. Apparently the train industry is monopolized by Peru Rail and that’s why train tickets for tourists can be this expensive.

Two hours of scenic train tour!

The train ride wasn’t anything special besides windows on the roof that allows you to see the views above you. Peru Rail also offered some complimentary small snacks and drink.

Windows on the roof for us to see the beautiful sceneries. But most of us were too tired and have seen too much in the last 4 days on the Classic Inca Trail.

The train goes from Aguas Calientes to a town called Ollantaytambo. From there we spend another 2 hrs on the company bus that took us all the way back to Cusco. Transport between Cusco and Machu Picchu seems to be a lot more difficult and time consuming than I thought.

Overall I am very happy to complete my dream destination of Machu Picchu with such a great company like Alpaca Expedition.

Machu Picchu is finally ticked off the bucket list!

Our Classic Inca Trail 33 seconds short film


Published by
York Chiang