2019 Traveling (Part 5) Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

After 4 months of talking about it and slowly planning out our trip it’s time, it’s time to fly to Peru and hike Machu Picchu. How this plan came about was simply because Dylan and I were talking about future travel plans while sitting around a fire. Dylan brought up the fact that he wants to travel to India at some point but he doesn’t want to go there by himself and I told him that I felt the same way (India is probably the only country I don’t want to go to by myself because there are just so many people). Afterwards he brought up that he wants to go hike Machu Picchu within the next year, my first response was: ”when do you want to do it and do you want to do it together”? I had not really thought about hiking Machu Picchu anytime soon, but why miss an opportunity to travel to amazing places with friends? That’s the night we started figuring out this plan of ours, it took about another 2 months for us to actually book everything. We were actually quite lucky that we were planning our trip to start just outside of the high season, otherwise there would have been no chance for us to book the Inca trail this close to the actual starting date. If you’re thinking of doing the Inca trail anywhere between May and October you’re advised to book your tour about 6 months in advance. Right before Dylan and I started booking our tour and finalizing the plans, our friend Gus messaged us and asked if she could join us on the trip. We booked our trip with the company ”inca trail reservations” within the next 2 weeks and everything was set in stone.

2 months later it was finally time to make the journey to Cuzco. My flights from LA to Cuzco were very uneventful to say the least, the most interesting thing that happened was being asked to take out my water bottle by airport security. When I got to Cuzco my friend were already there waiting for me and within 5 minutes we were in a taxi that would bring us to our hostel.

Time to Hike

When we got there we had less than 24 hours to Acclimatize to our altitude before starting our hike on the Inca Trail. That first day we got some pizza and some Peruvian beers (when you get to Cuzco every single restaurant has pizzas on their menu) and later that day we had to go over to the office of the company that was organizing our hike. We were staying at ”sunset house hostel” Luckily for us this was just a 5 minute walk down the road from the office so we didn’t have find our way over there. We went to bed around 9 so we wake up around 4AM and be ready to get in our van at 5AM. We eventually got in our van around 5:30 and drove for about 2 hours to get to the starting point of our hike. Not before stopping for breakfast/ a shop where we could buy some necessary supplies about 30 minutes from the starting point removed.

We hadn’t even started yet and and my sleeping bag felt off my pack, so I felt behind while tying it back on. Alright now it was actually time to start our hike and get it moving. The first day is what they call ”Inca flat” (where it goes up and down constantly) and it would be a warm up for the next 2,5 days that were to come. The sun was out, our spirits were high and some of us were getting sunburned (because we were stupid enough not to put on sunblock). Right of the bat it became clear that we were going to be one of the faster groups on this hike because we had to stop constantly to let our porters pass us again so they could have lunch ready for when we got to our spot. About 3 hours and a lot of amazing views already, we made it to our lunch spot.

Unexpectedly good food

Gus, Dylan and I expected a very basic meal consisting of bread, jam and butter for every meal but we got so much more than we expected. We basically got a 2 course meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast consisted of bread with butter and jam and after finishing that we would get some type of eggs with a bunch of other things to fill us up until lunch. Lunch and dinner started off with a soup and afterwards we would get delicious rice, fish, chicken, potatoes etc.. Every meal would finish with some hot tea to make everything go down easier and a 30 minute rest period for our food to settle. We were definitely not in a position to complain about the food, especially when they made us a special tea with rum mixed in during our the last 2 nights and when they brought out a cake during our last night. We were so confused about the cake but apparently that’s tradition for every single group that does the full Inca trail. Oh I almost forgot, they would also wake us up with tea to make for little bit of warmth in the morning. Yes there was no complaining about food, we almost felt like it was too luxurious.

Back to the hike, Day 2

The rest of the first day went by pretty smoothly, we stayed close together. We got to see and visit our first Inca sites and we made it to our first campsite around 3:30 PM. We had our afternoon tea (I forgot to bring that up earlier), rested for a little bit, had dinner and went to sleep around 8 so we could wake up again around 5AM to start the day again.

We got woken up next morning by one of our porters knocking on our tent and offering us some tea. 20 minutes later we would have breakfast and within the hour we would set off again to start day 2 and what’s known as the ”hardest day”. Day 2 starts off at around 3150 meters (about 10.660 feet) and you climbs up to the highest point of the trail which lays at an altitude of 4215 meters (over 13.800 feet) above sea level. We got lucky that day because it started to drizzle down a little bit and that would make for a nice shower while climbing up that day. The first part of our trip was a good warming up for our legs that morning, we stayed together and gained about 150 meters of elevation. From our first resting point at 3300 meters we would continue on to our second resting point which is up at 3800 meters, so we were going to gain 500 meters without stopping. This was the first section we were able to hike at our own pace, so Dylan and I took off and started chasing after all the porters. We hiked or I should say climbed at a pretty decent pace, we stayed on the heels of a lot of porters, passed a lot of other hikers and some porters to. We passed so many people during that section, the next day when we would try and overtake a group we would hear: ”oh the youngs guys are coming through again”. This section of our hike however was going up continuously so there were no flat parts, it was all steps and rocks that would guide us up. I loved it, every time I hike I like to move at a decent pace and see if I can hold it but I had never been at this elevation before so I was happy to see that I could. Dylan and I stayed close together and would push each other to the second resting point, we got there 20/30 minutes before anyone else of our group showed up.

About 45 minutes later we were given the okay to keep on moving, this time we would climb the final 400+ meters to get to the highest point of the hike at 4215 meters. Dylan and I took off again and pushed each other to the top. I just want to say right here that I don’t think the elevation is that high that you have to acclimatize to it. None of the people in our group had been in Cuzco for more than a day so nobody had time to get used to the elevation and everybody said they were fine while hiking. You’re going to breath heavy just like everybody else is (including the porters and people who take time to acclimatize), especially on this part of the hike. This final part of the hike got us breathing and sweating a little bit more, but we made it and we got to enjoy the amazing view of the valley and the place we started the hike 4 hours earlier.

We stayed at the top for about an hour waiting for our group, taking in the views and enjoying the fact that we were in this amazing location. after an hour it was time to decent back down to about 3850 meters to what would be our lunch/ dinner and camping spot for the rest of the day. This part of the hike was definitely the sketchiest part so far, it was pretty steep at some point and the rain had made the group slippery and wet. I hiked by myself for the next hour or so and the last 15 minutes it started to down pour harder so I sped up my hiking to try and find our camp site. I made it to our campsite around 12:30 in the afternoon, about 15 minutes after Dylan and Gus had got there. We slept for the next hour and a half until we were woken up to eat lunch. The rest of the day was spend sleeping, eating, reading and hanging out with the other people in our group. After having some of the rum tea we headed off to sleep at around 8PM and got woken up again before 5AM.

The last full day of hiking, day 3

It had rained all of day 2 and luckily for us it had stopped at some point during the night. After our wake up tea and breakfast we set off again, this day would be spend hiking up a couple 100 meters just to decent that same distance afterwards. We had hiked a couple hours and rested a couple times before we got to our first Inca site of the day, this site gave us an amazing view of a huge valley. Afterwards we descended for about 20 minutes to get to our lunch spot. After our lunch and hanging out in the sun for a little bit it was time to climb up a couple 100 meters again before making our final descent. During our climb up we had a constant view of that huge valley, this was Dylan and my favorite portion of the entire hike, it wasn’t too strenuous and the views were amazing. After hiking for about another hour or so we got to the spot that some groups use as their final camping site but we had to hike about 2 hours more to get to ours. This spot however provided us with some insane views of all the surrounding mountains.

Now it was time to make our final big descent of the entire hike, I hiked this portion all by myself and it was amazing to be with my own thoughts for a little bit while enjoying this beautiful place. The decent definitely had some sketchy parts to it but everybody made it down to our meet up point and the next Inca site. From here it was only a 30 minute descent to get to our final campsite. After visiting another Inca site that was right around the corner from out camping spot it was time for our final afternoon tea and dinner. After enjoying our tea, sweets, dinner, the cake and our rum tea it was time to go over the next and final day.

We already knew that we had to wake up early so we could get in line to get through the check point relatively easy. Our guide told us that people can be very difficult about passing them on this section for whatever reason, we had to be careful and smart about it because the paths are pretty narrow. This section of the hike would lead us to ” the Sungate”, a very popular and famous spot on the Inca trail and it was one of the main reasons that Dylan and I wanted to do the Original Inca trail. If you don’t do this Inca trail you won’t pass this iconic spot.

” The Sungate”

The final day, Machu Picchu

Next morning we got woken up at 3AM and we got in line around 3:30AM. The check point wouldn’t open until around 5AM so we had to stand in line with everybody else for about 90 minutes. Dylan and I wanted to see the sun rise at the Sungate and wanted to get there before a lot of people started showing up. As soon as we got through the gate we started passing people and we started hiking/ running as fast as we could to get to the Sungate. This was good 30 minute section and finished with a very steep climb where we had to use our arms and legs to get up. We made it and there were only 5 people besides us who had had the same intentions. The view was a little bit foggy but amazing nonetheless and it was absolutely worth it. We got there at the right time when we could spot Machu Picchu through the fog in the distance. Eventually everybody started coming in and it got crowded, it was obvious that we had made the right choice of getting there early. now that it was getting crowded it was time for us to move on down to our final destination: Machu Picchu.

After descending gradually for about 45 minutes we made it to what is called ”the classic view of Machu Picchu”. If you look up Machu Picchu on google a lot of them will have been taken from this spot. We got here around 7AM and luckily it wasn’t that crowded yet, Machu Picchu attracts thousands of people on a daily basis. We hung out here for about half an hour until it started getting busier and after we had enjoyed all the views and pictures. It was really weird being with the same 6 people for 4 days and all of a sudden being surrounded by a thousand people. Afterwards we made our way down to the city and we got to stamp our passport (as you do). We were in Machu Picchu, the placed we had traveled/ hiked 26 miles for and talked about for the last 4 months.

We got a 2 hour long guided tour through Machu Picchu by our guide, learning about all the buildings, there use back in the days and some the history of the city. It wasn’t necessarily the city that made it worth it to me, but rather the amazing experiences, views, conversations and adventures that we got experience alongside visiting the city/ one of the world wonders.

After the tour was over it was time to leave the city and take the bus over to the nearest town where everybody hangs out until it’s time to take the train back ( the town is called ”Aguas Calientes”. It was Gus, Dylan, our German friend Paul ( who was part of our group) and I who made our way over to the town. We settled down at a restaurant and ordered pizza and beer at 11 AM in the morning because we very hungry after all the hiking and not eating alot that entire day.

This final day would get really interesting while we were trying to find the best deal on beers. People would approach us every 10 steps of so to ask us if we wanted to come into their bar and have some beers. At one point someone offered us such a good deal that we committed to it and went in, obviously the lady in outside of the bar was trying to scam us. We were all joking about how this was going to bite us in the ass in the end, so after finishing our drinks nobody knew of any kind of deal that the lady outside had offered us. After some arguing the manager showed up and he offered us two liter bottles of beer as compensation and we eventually settled for drinking these 2 bottles while sitting on the side of the road in the sun. We ended going to 4 different bars until it was time to get some food and get on our train back in the direction of Cuzco.

Time to say goodbye, for now,

The train took about an hour and a half to get to the station and when we got there we got lucky to get back on our van. The group of people that were there to drive us back almost walked passed us and would have left without us but we were able to get on. Our driver was either really mad about something, impatient or he needed to be somewhere, whatever it was made everybody in the van being scared for their lives because of his driving. We safely returned to Cuzco about 2 hours later so there was no real complaining there.

The next day and our last morning in Cuzco was spend by us roaming the streets and markets of Cuzco to find guinea pig meat. For some reason we were unsuccessful but we did end up at a place that sold a pretty good alpaca burger so we settled for that. Afterwards I hugged Gus and Dylan goodbye because I needed to get to the airport for my flight that was leaving in 3 hours.


This kind of wraps up my travel stories for the year 2019. On my back to The Netherlands I stopped in the U.K for a couple days to see drink some beers with friends from camp. Towards the end of December I made my way back over to Dublin to celebrate an epic start to the New Year with my best friend and some of my other camp friends. We climbed, drank some more beers and had a good time. After Dublin it was time for me to settle down for a couple months, right now I am living in the U.K while I am awaiting my next adventure. When and where I am going next is undetermined but I will be sure to let you know.

Let me know what kind of travel stories you want to read about next. Any tips, advice or recommendations are welcome.

Categories: Fitness, healthy, hiking, outdoors, roadtrip,, training, travelingTags: , , , , , ,

1 comment

  1. sounds like a great time! You may have inspired me to add that to my bucket list 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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