PERU and the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu...

I'm so glad to finally check Peru off my Bucket list.  I've made several attempts to visit Peru and finally made it in May 2013.  Greg and I and 10 friends visited Puno, Cuzco, hiked the four day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and ended our trip in Lima before flying home. 

Our flight arrived to Lima late so we spent our first night at the Costa Del Sol Ramada Lima Airport Hotel.  We woke up early the next morning and caught a flight to Juliaca (Puno).  


Our first stop in Peru was Puno.  Some might wait and do Puno after a visit to Cuzco to better acclimate to the altitude but we didn't have any problems.  We stayed at the Tierra Viva Puno Plaza and liked the hotel and location.  I enjoyed Puno and Lake Titicaca but quickly noticed you don't come to Puno for the architecture, it seemed to be the "unfinished city" everywhere we went we saw unfinished buildings.  
Condor Hill- We figured this would be a good Pre-Inca workout.  It was... all 644 steps at 13,180 ft.  We had to stop a few times to catch our breath.  I was feeling the altitude as we walked up the hill which made me a little nervous for our trek.  The views up top were great.

We found this Peruvian women on the walk back into town.  I love the hats the women wear in Puno...

Me, Amy and a Sweet Local Lady

About an hour outside of Puno is Sillustani.  The Colla people buried their elite members in these towers.  At 14,000 feet the walk was breathtaking, literally.  In the distance are beautiful views of Lake Umayo.

This is the rock walled village near Sillustani.  We tried the local food and learned how the village functioned.  Greg enjoyed this playful Alpaca.
Guinea Pig
We had some good grub in Puno!  We even tried guinea pig and alpaca.  I don't recommend the guinea pig but it's an important staple to Peruvians.  So much so that a picture of the last supper in Cuzco shows Jesus and his deciples surrounded by a platter of guinea pig.
The Uros people are famously known for their unique totora reed floating islands.  Besides seeing the islands my favorite part was to see the beautiful children in their traditional and colorful clothes.  The children joined us on a boat ride that was also made from totora reed.  They sang and danced and held their hats out for donations... they have learned how to tug at the heart strings of tourist.


This is just one of 45 islands on Lake Titicaca.  It was a three hour boat ride from Puno but worth the wait.  We took a long walk on Isla Taquile and enjoyed views of the lake and the snow capped Bolivian Andes in the distance.  It reminded us of the views along the Cinque Terre and Mallorca... Absolutely breathtaking!  The locals still wear traditional clothing and follow their ancient cultural traditions.  


Cuzco is a beautiful city with well preserved colonial architecture.  We stayed at Tierra Viva Cusco Saphi Hotel and really liked it... We especially liked our upgraded suite we got at checkin.  

Our group went to the Casa Concha Museum in Cuzco before visiting Machu Picchu, and are glad we did.  The museum is a collection of artifacts that were excavated from Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham.  He sent the artifacts to Yale University in 1912.  They were then returned to Peru in 2011 and are currently housed in this museum.  I could have used a few more days in Cuzco there is a lot to do.

We picked up a few friends during a festival at the Plaza De Armas.  The girl in the front-middle was selling souvenirs and followed us for quite a while.

San Pedro Market
Ladies selling produce from their wheelbarrow.

The night before the trek we met with our guides, Rueben and Reynaldo.  When they arrived to our hotel we were having an oxygen party.  I'm sure they must have thought oh no!    
Here's Greg and our porters.  We left Cuzco EARLY on May 11th  and headed for the starting point of the Inca Trail.  Turns out waking up early is kinda the norm on the Inca Trail.  We used the company Llama Path and thought they did an amazing job.  Our guides Rueben, Reynaldo and the the porters were fantastic!  It's hard to comprehend how they made such delicious meals while camping and carrying it all with them.  

We heard stories on the trek of how porters have carried sick people to camp on their backs.  The porters are your best friend! 
We stopped for breakfast in Ollantaytambo and took a quick walk through town.

The Road Not Taken ...

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost
There are two ways to get to Machu Picchu.  One is easier, but you miss a great adventure.  The one less traveled by was our choice.

When you begin the Inca Trail you cross the train tracks that take you directly to Machu Picchu.  It's a little bit of a tease knowing in one hour you could be at your final destination.  I just hoped to survive the high altitude and four day's on the Inca Trail!

Day 1 on the Inca Trail...

We checked in at the entrance of the Inca Tail and showed our passports.  They only allow a limited number of hikers on the trail each day.  

We had amazing views right from the start!
This is the Llactapata ruins one of the first set of ruins we passed along the Inca Trail.  We passed 30 Incan ruins before reaching Machu Picchu.
"So far so good!"
Matt, Merris, Esther and Greg

I never tired of seeing these cuties on the trail!

Soaking our feet after a long days hike... 
Happy to survive Day 1!

DAY 2- Dead Women's Pass- 13, 829 feet

There is alot of anticipation on Day 2.  It's the hardest day on the trail ascending up to 13,829 feet.  The path is steep and the higher we went the prettier the Andean forest got.  Most of the trail is original Incan construction.  I found the original trail easier to walk on.  

We left camp before the porters and they passed us before we reached Dead Women's Pass. These guys are amazing!  

 Looking up towards Dead Women's Pass

We hiked Dead Women's Pass on Mothers Day... it seemed so wrong!  But surprisingly Greg and I did fine!  Our breathing and energy level was good.  I think Greg's Crossfit workouts helped prepare him and my past marathons probably didn't hurt.  We also had a little luck on our side since we didn't get altitude sickness!

Below is the whole group on top of Dead Women's Pass.  One of the things that made the trek so special was the people in our group.  We had lots of fun and laughs and fond memories of our time together.

With the porters on top of Dead Women's Pass.  I think the bags are as big as some of the porters!

After reaching the top of Dead Women's Pass the descent down to Pacaymayo Valley was steep with lots of steps.  Greg and Michael literally ran down the steps.  I thought the decline was harder than the trek up so I took my time.

Porter Greg

Ester, Matt, Merris and our guides

Greg, Amy and Gary

Runturacay Ruins
Overlooking Pacaymayo Valley

Towards the end of Day 2 we got rain.  It was a nice treat but the rocks were really slippery and I fell several times.  Glad I didn't slide down the mountain. :) 

Camp- Day 2

I couldn't leave the trail without taking a picture of the worst part of the Inca Trail.  And this is a very clean toilet.  I finally figured out the proper squat after a few days.  If you haven't spent much time with this type of toilet you need to check this site out before hiking the Inca Trail.

Our chef made us moms a Mothers Day Cake.  Seriously who makes a yummy cake from scratch in the middle of nowhere?  It was also really nice to get a video taped message from Charlotte... what a sweet treat after a hard day (good planning on our husbands part)!

Day 3 was my favorite (besides the end of Day 2).  
The scenery was fantastic!
Gary, Greg, Amy, Amber and Chuck

The trail passes through the mountain using a system of tunnels.  I can't even imagine how they engineered that.
Phuyupatamarca Ruins
This was my favorite Incan Ruin besides Machu Picchu.  The rounded walls reminded me of a flower and the clouds made it so mystical.


Taking a break

As we descended 1,500 steps the vegetation got more dense and jungle like.  We passed through an amazing cloud forest and saw orchids, hanging moss, tree fern, flowers, butterflies and this cute guy...
Intipata Ruins

Winay Wayna- 
The last set of ruins on Day 3

After dinner we had a porters ceremony and said goodbye to the chef and porters and presented them with a group tip for their hard work.  I couldn't imagine doing the trek without them! 

DAY 4- Arrivel to Machu Picchu
On Day 4 we woke up at 3:00 am.  We quickly ate breakfast and hurried only to get to the check point that didn't open until 5:30.  When we arrived to the check point there was already a group in front of us.  Lucky for us we had a DJ (Gary) in the group who entertained us with Abba and a few other tunes.  At 5:30 a.m. we were off... hiking or as it seemed running in the dark to hurry to the Sun Gate.  Of course as luck would have it my head lamp stopped working and my extra batteries were with the porters.  It didn't help that our guides pointed to an area where someone had recently fallen off a cliff to their death, I'm sure hurrying like we were.  We hiked for about 2 hours and were on all fours on a steep incline before we reached the Sun Gate.  Looking down and in the distance we could finally see our final destination.

After reaching Machu Picchu I noticed how refreshed and clean everyone else (the train-riders, or those who took the road more frequently traveled :)) looked.  I laughed thinking after all these years of wanting to visit I look and feel like I've been camping for 4 days.  I quickly got over my vanity and jealousy of those who had their morning showers and was grateful for the amazing experience... Hiking the Inca Trail and finally seeing Machu Picchu!
The scenery surrounding Machu Picchu is just as amazing as Machu Picchu!  The way the river winds through the mountains is incredible.  The shape of the mountains are so unique and the landscape from every view point looked different and changed throughout the day from the morning rays to the mist and clouds that would quickly move in and out.

Ute alumnus.  I can't believe Gary lugged this flag the whole way.  That's a dedicated Ute!  Gary organized our Peru trip... Thanks Gary!!

Yea we made it!  
I almost got a smile out of Greg.

 Huayna Picchu

Conquering Huayna Picchu after 4 days on the Inca Trail seemed overwhelming.  After hearing about the girl falling to her death I was thinking twice about hiking it, and it looked pretty steep.  As we got to the entrance they make you sign in and out so they don't leave anyone unaccounted for (incase you fall off the mountain). YIKES!  So I set my fear aside and decided I would attempt it.  The first part of the hike was easy but as you get closer to the top it gets very steep.  And the steps were at a 90 degree angle with only a rope to hold onto (in some areas).  The steps got smaller and narrower the higher we went.  OH MY!
Greg and Michael on the way up.  You can check out Michael's blog here.  He has great photo's going up Huayna Picchu (they show how steep it really is) ;).

On top of Huayna Picchu
Notice there are no guard rails!

Greg going down a steep section that had no rope.  I tried not to look down and that seemed to help.  The pictures don't do justice to how steep this was.  In the end I'm glad I hiked Huayna Picchu.  The views from the top were amazing and we could see all of the mountain ranges in the distance.  The hardest part of the hike was going down!

As we walked towards the exit I kept looking back at Machu Picchu reflecting on the amazing journey leading up to that day.  We left the park by bus to Aguas Calientes and did some last minute shopping.  We met our guides and group for one more meal together before heading back to Cuzco by train.
As amazing as Peru was I think my favorite part of our trip was hiking the Inca Trail.

Click here for my packing list and tips for the 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Plaza De Armas
We had limited time in Lima so we hired Lima Cabs to show us around.  They picked up up from the airport and gave us a private tour of the main attractions in Lima.  Our guide was great!  I'm glad we didn't attempt to drive ourselves because I was sure we weren't going to make it through the day without getting into an accident.  Driving in Lima is total chaos and it should be considered an extreme sport!  
My favorite part of the day was visiting the San Francisco Convent and Catacombs.  I also loved the Miraflores area and Love Park.

Government Palace

Parque de la Muralla
San Cristobal


Michael 's Blog said...

I love how much you remembered. I should have written in a journal with all the details of each night. Where is our next adventure?

Michael 's Blog said...

I love looking at all these pictures! This was such an awesome trip. I love all the details you remembered even after 5 months. I hope we all do another adventure soon!

Sherri said...

Will anything else compare? :)
Have you done the Grand Canyon?

Dutchbaby said...

Fantastically rich post, Sherri! Now I wish we walked the Inca Trail. We took the Orient Express up and the local train back. I'm so glad you included photos of the steep cliffs of Huayna Picchu. My 13-year-old son and I climbed it together. He was completely fearless and I died a thousand deaths as I scrambled over those slippery steps and peered over the edge with one eye.

Sherri said...

Hi Dutchbaby... thanks! Hope your doing well. You have a brave child. :)

Sherryl said...

Thanks for sharing the great tips. Did you hire a full porter for each of you?

Sherryl said...

Thanks for sharing the great tips. Out of curiosity, did you hire a full porter for each of you? I didn't know if a full porter for two people would be enough if me and husband plan on carrying a day pack.

Sherri said...

Hi Sherryl,

My husband and I shared a porter. We were able to stay within the weight limit and brought everything we needed. We also both carried a day pack.

Your going to love the Inca Trail… Good Luck!