The Machu Picchu Inka Trail (4 day trek to the ancient ruins) is often spoken of as slightly passé. ‘Everyone has already done it, there are too many people on it, there are better treks up to MP’ seem to be the most frequently said phrases when I said I was doing the trek. Having completed it I would disagree.
Yes there are other groups on the trail, but it never felt crowded until we reached MP itself. MP currently has no limit to its daily capacity, so by 10am the ruins are VERY busy! The views on the trek are some of the most stunning I have ever seen and we stayed in basic camps where we would see perhaps another group on the site. All in all I would definitely say it was worth it!
Part of what made our trek so brilliant was that we had a really great group to do it with. Ali and I were the only Brits, and everyone quickly became known as the country we were from rather than trying to remember names! We had a fantastic guide called Juan (virtually everyone in South America is called Juan), who was enthusiastic and motivational. The 4 days trekking varied hugely, day 2 involved 7hrs hiking uphill solidly meaning we climbed 1200m in total. Funnily enough the uphill parts were pretty easy, it was the downhill parts that turned your legs to jelly. Luckily Ali and I both have knees that are in good working order, however if you don’t I would suggest never doing this trek!
We had 20 porter, for 12 of us tourists, and they carried our tents and all cooking equipment. Ali and I were expecting basic camping meals with lots of rice. When we arrived at our first camp and got called in for dinner, into the dining tent with the table laid with napkins, etc, we realised we are onto a good thing. We were given 3 courses every night, on the first night we even had appetisers. The meals were Peruvian food with lots of fresh salads and more carbs than anyone can humanly eat. It was amazing!
The final days trek was by far the hardest. Day 3 had been 10hrs of trekking with lots of downhill, so we all woke up at 3.30am with very sore legs. The gate to MP opens at 5.30am so we hiked to there first thing. We then hiked for an hour to the sun gate where we saw sunrise over MP. This was the first time we all had realised that there were actually quite a lot of us doing the trail! We then hiked down to the ruins. The size and sheer scale of the ruins is incredibly impressive, the Inkas really did know how to make an impressive city. What is most suprising is how much is still fully in tact, as very little has actually been restored.
Our guide, Juan, gave a fantastic tour of the site, explaining how the site was built with these enormous carved stones which seem to fit together perfectly. I can imagine they would be difficult to recreate with todays tools let alone without any tools to speak of! By this time it was around 1om, which for someone who has been up since 3.30am feels pretty late. Ali and I decided that our time would be best spent soaking up the ambience of the site on a grassy spot, in the sunshine, with our eyes closed. Yes, we went to MP and had a nap!
After our well earned rest we took a bus to a local town where we met up with our group once again and all ate an unhealthy amount of pizza. We had a couple of hours left before our train ride home and a few of us managed to find a great cake shop which soon became our home for a few hours. We finally got our train back at 6.45pm, which took us to a nearby town where we got a bus back to Cusco. We arrived into Cusco at 11pm. By this time we were all absolutely exhausted and were only fit for showers and a long awaited nights sleep in a real bed.