This trek was fantastic! 4 days of hiking + 1 day for the Machu Picchu guided tour. It was really a human, physical and cultural adventure! Booked nearly 1 year ago with the WAYKI TREK agency, it was the final highlight of our visit in Peru.
We were a small group of 6 persons but we were lead by a wonderful guide and taken care of every day by 10 porters and a chef with his assistant. Seeing the hard work of the team was heart breaking. They wake you up every morning with a hot cup of coca tea and a basin of hot water for a quick cleaning. In the meantime, breakfast is prepared and served for the group to be ready to face the new day. They always leave after us, clean the campground, and then, carrying 25 kg on their back (tents, food, cooking equipment, additional personal belongings of the group and even a chemical toilet) they had to follow the trail quickly to pass us and prepare the next stop. Every day was the same ritual, lunch spot was ready when we reached it, meaning that a tent was installed and a delicious menu of traditional Peruvian food was served. After lunch, we head back on the trail while they clean everything, pack again their 25 kg and hit the trail to pass us and prepare the campsite for the night. At the end of the day, we arrived in a campsite ready with our individual tents, the dinner tent and the chemical toilet pitched. Again a fantastic dinner based on different Peruvian specialities was served and we could go rest while the team was cleaning and preparing the next day. This is really a hard work and they were all so kind and professional.
The trail was not easy. 45 km spreaded over 4 days don’t sound that hard, but the altitude and the steepness of the trail make it a challenge. The known hardest day is the second one as you have to climb from 3000m to 4200m in order to reach the famous pass of the Dead Woman (Warmiwañuscca) and then go drastically down to 3600m where the campsite is located. As we had a great sunny day the views at the pass were stunning and we could see the high white peaks surrounding the trail!
We also faced a lot of Inca stairs which were not always easy to climb up or down and were nicknamed the “Gringo killer” or the “Monkey steps”. I will let your imagination goes on these ones!
The third and forth days are wonderful as you are now walking on the original Inca route to Machu Picchu. The trail is properly constructed with stones and is sometime a really well preserved path. You can really picture the Inca king and his suite walking on it to reach the secret city. We also leave the Andean grass and reach the rain forest which is beautiful.
During these 2 days we have crossed several Inca sites and they were all so impressive! Lost in the mountains, some sites were used for surveillance of the path which was to be used only by the most important people of the Inca time (Machu Picchu was reserved to the king and very important people), others were used for a part of the king’s suite to leave in (fantastic Wiñaywayna) and one, really impressive Intipata, was used for agriculture experiences and improvement. The Incas were doing plant breeding to adapt vegetables to different climates and altitudes so they could harvest corn, quinoa, potatoes, herbs in their different cities all over the Inca Empire!
On the forth day, we finally reached Machu Picchu by the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) and could grasp the size of the whole site hidden in the rain forest on a very steep mountain! But it was not time for the visit, it was the time to reach the new city of Aguas Calientes for a well deserved shower and a short rest in the hot springs.
On the fifth day, our guide lead us through the secrets of the Machu Picchu. His passion for the Inca Empire in general and for the Machu Picchu in particular was infectious! We learned that the Inca civilisation was keen on astronomy and expert in agriculture. Their main belief on religion side was in the rainbow, hence the rainbow flag everywhere in Cusco, capital of the Inca Empire. The most important temples on inca sites always have seven windows which represent the seven colours of the rainbow. As Saints are celebrated in Catholic religion, Incas respected the natural elements like the sun and the moon, and they respected the symbols of the Upper world (the Condor being the messenger between Earth and God), the Men’s World (depicted by the Puma) and the Underworld (represented by the Snake). All these symbols are found in the construction of the Inca sites and cities (Cusco has been built with the shape of a Puma, temples of the Sun, the Moon and the Condor are present in Machu Picchu).
Apparently during the Inca’s time nobody was homeless or starving as there was work for everyone. The 3 rules of the Empire were: 1. Don’t steal, 2. Don’t lie, 3. Don’t be lazy. If you won’t respect one of them, you would be simply exiled from the Empire.
The most exciting is that Incas have been able to hide their most important sites from the Spanish when they conquered Cusco and its region in 1533. Incas were not using writing so until today historians have a lot of theories but there is still a lot to learn and probably still a lot of confusion. Last year, a new hidden path has been found in the site of Sayacmarca. It would lead to another important site, maybe as important as Machu Picchu or maybe even bigger! The Incas have still a lot to reveal!
To close this long post, I would like to thank our guide, José, who was really kind and thoughtful and who gave us a little bit of his huge passion for this incredible part of South America history!