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Published: November 12th 2015
I booked onto the 4D/3N Inca Jungle Trek with Inka Time Tours which is located up Calle Triunfo off Plaza de Armas to the right of the cathedral, toward the top of the street. I originally went them as my brother Rich had used them when he came to Peru & I took them being in business after 6yrs as a good sign. I did look around a few other agencies, but the only cheaper ones I found offered you less time in Machu Picchu.
The tour cost me $240 for 4D including 3B/L/D, guide, transport, 3N accommodation, Machu Picchu ticket, Train ticket & bus back to Cuzco, biking, rafting & zip-lining. Day 1:
My guide for the trek (Gerson or "Geoff") picked me up at my hostel & then collected the others before we got on the bus. We then drove to the highest point of our trek at 4650m to start our Downhill biking. After getting fully kitted out in shin guards, helmet, gloves & body armour & then being fitted to our bikes we were ready to go.
The 1st part was hairpin bends in the cold but as we reached
the halfway mark the sun came out & we were able to speed up a bit.
Unfortunately the guard on my right leg didn't fit so well & as I got to the point of needing to pedal a bit I found that I couldn't really as it was pushing on my kneecap & too tight around the back of my knee. After a while of being reasonably uncomfortable & having to stand up every time I needed to pedal I stopped to take the thing off & my leg finally felt free so I couldn't pedal into town relatively easily. Unfortunately it also started to poor with rain as I finished the last bit so I was soaked through haha.
After putting all the gear away we were bussed to the town of Santa Maria where we’d spend the night to have a late lunch.
After lunch it was time for Rafting! A quick change into swimming gear & we drove to the river. We got helmets, windbreakers & life jackets & a safety talk before getting into the rafts…. We also got eaten alive by mosquitos/sandflies even after coating ourselves in deet.
Rafting was great fun with the river being at level 3/3+ & going for a swim in the river at the halfway point was pretty nice as there are no mozzies in the water! In our raft there was a Canadian who pointed out all the birds she saw including Macaws & herons so even the quiet parts were interesting.
After rafting we made our way back to the hostel, changed into dry clothes & had dinner before an explanation of the following day. As we had an early start it was also early to bed, in our very basic hostel. I actually stuffed my pillowcase with my spare clothes as it was comfier than the pillow provided! Day 2:
Up at 6am to pack & have breakfast at 6:30 before starting our 1st day of hiking. Breakfast was Pancakes with Banana & chocolate sauce (there was a choice). The day started out easy enough as we walked down by where we'd gone for rafting the night before. Unfortunately Machteld (Matilda) fell over not far in as her laces got tangled!! We started to climb quite steeply after about 1hr of walking as we
made our way up to the 1st monkey house. Here was a chance to buy water/snacks & they had a monkey (like the one in the Hangover 2) who stole your wallet given half a chance!
Continuing to climb up we hiked on to get to the 2nd monkey house. On the way up we saw mangoes & coca leaves growing, got an explanation on a couple of medicinal plants which grow in the upper jungle. Medicinal plants have to be dried in the shade whereas Coca leaves have to be dried in the sun & fresh coca leaves do not have any effect.
The going was steep & I think Geoff thought I was about to collapse as he kept telling me to take it easy, I did try to explain that my breathing always sounded the same way!
At the second monkey house they had a Picuro & a smaller monkey which would sit around your shoulders. You tipped for bananas & could feed them to both animals.. Or eat them yourself - they were incredibly tasty! (& organic). We had a talk on the local produce e.g. corn/potatoes/coffee/yuca & tasted some chocolate,
brownie & fruit juices (passion fruit/ pineapple / Chicha morra *purple corn).
After we had a chance to buy some juice for S/.1! & any chocolate/handcrafts etc we wished to get. We also got our faces painted in traditional Inca "tattoos", mine depicted the circle of life.
Then it was continuing to climb to the highest point (3000m?) of our trek as we hit the Inca trail. Time for some photos looking down the valley standing on a rocky outcrop & of course the compulsory group photo at our high point!
A reasonably short trek along the trail, to a viewpoint & then history lesson on the Incas & Spanish conquest.
A few facts:
- Cuzco was "Qosqo" in the Inca empire meaning centre as it was the capital & in the centre of the Inca empire which stretched from Ecuador down into Chile.
- Cuzco city was built in the shape of the Puma, representing the Earth (Pachamama)
- The language of the Incas was Quechua & is spoken by some still today.
- There is a race along the Inca trail every year & the current record is under 4hrs!
Ran by one of the porters. It takes tourists 4 days to hike!
- There are almost 4000 types of potato in Peru including one that looks like a rock.
- Coca leaves were once used in Coca Cola, hence the legend of it containing cocaine (but not as we know it) unfortunately they took these out & replaced it with caffeine probably.
We stopped for a hearty lunch of bread & guacamole & spaghetti & got to watch the replay of the Ireland vs Argentina match. Unfortunately at "half-time" the advert came on for the semi-finals so we knew Argentina had won.
After it was hiking along "Peruvian flat" i.e. slightly up & down but no mountains, crossing the river on a wooden bridge which had slats missing & then having to re-cross on a "cable car" further on. The "cable car" was a metal cradle which used gravity to get to one side of the river & then was pulled back across. It cost S/.5 & is run by locals after the bridge was washed away & the government refused to rebuild it.
As we got to the cable car we could see the hot springs up ahead & knew our days hike was almost at an end so it was with renewed energy that we hiked the last part. The pools were a welcome relief after a long day & as long as we stayed under water the mozzies didn't bite. It cost S/.5 entry & they have different temperature pools & cold + warm showers. They were nicely laid out but be warned that its gravel that lines the bottom of the pool & jumping in was a bit painful on the feet!
We had 2 hours at the pool & stayed in them for about an hour, then I wished I'd brought a change of clothes along as putting on what I had been wearing all day was pretty grim. You could buy beer/water/snacks on the side of the pools & then it was S/.5 to catch the bus into Santa Teresa as it was too dark to walk.
After checking in to our hostel & a welcome change into clean clothes, having sent our "extras" by taxi, it was dinner time. Desert was kindly provided as a tequila shot (thanks Geoff!) & it was time to Party with a few beers & dancing. Manuella was a bad influence here as she kept buying beer & insisting I shared it! We also danced till about 4am haha. It was great a mix of "western" music & Salsa… these Peruvian men can dance! So much fun to attempt to learn some salsa moves from them… not sure about the pole dancing though 😉 Day 3:
Up at 7am to pack up & have all our gear ready by breakfast at 7:30… I must admit after so little sleep the night before I was suffering a little & it was Zip-lining 1st thing! Feeling perked up after breakfast & coke we got our harness, helmets & gloves before driving to the 1st zip-line. A bit of a walk up from the road & when I reached the line I definitely felt sick & it was no hangover!
The wire stretched across a whole valley extremely high up! They demonstrated how to sit & how to brake & then the 1 operator zipped to the other side. After watching a few of the others I forced myself to just do it before I chickened out! It was such an adrenaline rush terrifying but once the 1st one was out the way it was all go… luckily I actually listened to our safety talk on how to brake unlike Will who almost took out the guy at the end & smacked into the post as he didn't brake at all!
The last zip-line we did in "superman" style which involved turning our harnesses back to front & strapping us in from the back… this was the most uncomfortable experience, especially when I stopped & the harness jammed into my ribs! I definitely preferred the Ecuador superman style in Banos.
After that we had to cross this wood/wire bridge where the slats were really widely spaced & which twisted & swayed constantly! Bart also decided jumping up & down as he reached the end would be fun until I told him I was going to kill him! At the end you had to abseil down by jumping off the bridge attached to an auto-abseils.
Meeting Geoff back at the reception (taking a snooze) we got on a minibus to take us to Hidroelectrica. Here we had lunch of soup, main & a desert(!) of ice cream before setting off for Agua Calientes the final nights stop on our journey. We had a short steep uphill walk of about 15min to reach the train tracks, which we then followed into the town. After my knees being absolutely fine trekking for 8hrs the day before around halfway down the train tracks the right started getting sore, I borrowed Manuellas poles as she wasn't using them & thought this would help enough after all it was a flat track…. But no gradually both knees started to play up. I could barely walk & couldn't work out why, I just hoped I would be up for Machu Picchu tomorrow as it’s bad enough having one knee playing up but not the both!
When we reached Agua Caliente we had a few hours of free time so I put my legs up for about 15mins, showered & took a 30min nap. Then it was time to pick up some food / water to take up tomorrow as it is ridiculously expensive up at Machu Picchu (e.g. S/.10 for a standard bottle of water). So I headed to the local market & got some bread, banana & apples, tuna & 2L of water.
My knees now seemed fine other than the standard ache in my right so I decided to do the climb not bus up to Machu Picchu in the morning.
At dinner we got a choice, I got Tomato soup followed by Lomo Saltado & we got given our Machu Picchu tickets & our breakfast/snack for the following day. This consisted of a roll with some salty cheese, a banana, some biscuits & a carton of juice. Here we also found out that Geoff wouldn't be coming up with us tomorrow & we met our guide Edgar for up at Machu Picchu. We then said our goodbyes & headed back to the hostel to pack ready for tomorrow & get some sleep before our early start.
Day 4: Up at 4am to start walking to the gate at 4:30 we reached it at about 4:50 & waited for them to open at 5am. We were through by 5:05 (after blagging Paul through as he'd lost his ticket!) & we started climbing the stairs.
Starting pretty well I kept up with most the guys for a while but then fell behind. At about 3/4 the way up (not that I knew at the time) my knees were feeling it & I was getting to the point of narrow focus left leg, right leg, 1 step, 2 step, when I heard a buses airbrakes! Perking up I climbed another bend & I heard the definite release of brakes & the opening of a bus door so I knew I was close! With renewed energy I climbed the last few stairs & reached the top an hour after starting up.
I must admit I was absolutely dripping in sweat even though I was in just in a vest top & it was only 6am! Myles was lucky & got a high 5 but Juan Carlos pulled the short straw & got a hug when I saw him at the entrance haha. Luckily we had been pre-warned to bring a spare t-shirt & so after a quick rub down with my vest I put on my spare which was still slightly damp from being washed the night before but felt amazing as it was cool!
We had a short wait for our guide to join us at 6:20 & then we were able to enter Machu Picchu. Turns out Edgar had lost his voice overnight & so we had a different guide who explained the history of Machu Picchu, how it was built & the uses they think the rooms were used for (I say think as this is based on artefacts & the building works but all records were destroyed by the Spanish so for some they cannot be entirely certain.
Although I have seen quite a few photos of Machu Picchu nothing can quite explain how it feels to be up there & it is truly a wonder of the world. The mystery may have benefited from the glowing sun breaking through the clouds as the evaporated in the early morning but this is definitely a bucket list - travel must see!
After our tour we went to get coffee outside (you can enter Machu Picchu 3 times on your ticket in 1 day) not forgetting our passport stamps on the way out! Located on the right before you exit these are free & you do it yourself after 9am.
We re-entered & made our way up to the guard house to get the obligatory selfie looking out over the ruins, also a few group shots & Myles got told off for jumping on the terraces! All too soon it was time for most of the guys to leave in order to walk back to their bus at Hydroelectrica & just me & Matilda were left. We were sunbathing in the sun when a group of school children appeared we thought we were being asked by one parent to take a photo but it turned out they wanted a picture with us! We then got asked by another so a couple of Peruvians have our picture somewhere, although I think Matilda being so tall was more the attraction than me haha.
After our relaxation was interrupted we decided to walk to the Inca Bridge which is about 20mins from the guard house & 20mins back. You have to sign in before going down the narrow path as only a certain number of people are allowed down at a time & sign out on your return. This bridge once joined another Inca trail which led to the town of Choquequirao.
We had planned to walk up to the sun gate but as we got back to the guard house Matilda's knee was hurting a lot from her fall & my knees were starting to get sore & we still had the walk back down the steps to complete so we decided it was best to start down the steps sit in the shade & then make our way slowly down into town although we did feel bad that we'd got the whole day but didn't "use" it as such… we were around for about 1.5hrs after the others though. The walk took almost as long as going up! Crossing the bridge after 50mins, I had definite shaky leg syndrome so after a rest on the bench we headed back up to agua caliente.
Luckily we had been able to leave everything we didn't need up on Machu Picchu at the hostel so we collected this before going across the road for a pizza & well deserved cold coca cola!
We had a train to catch at 6.20pm & Geoff had told me to go to reception at 5pm to collect my ticket, I got mistaken here & thought he meant the train station reception where he meant the hostel but it wouldn't have mattered as they actually gave Bart MY ticket earlier on as they couldn't find his in the system! This meant some stress as Peru Rail couldn't find my reserved ticket & a kind lady from Inca Rail helping by phoning Inka time for me to find out which train company I was with & then getting my booking reference so Peru rail printed out my ticket. It wasn't helped as it got closer & closer to 6 (I was there for 45mins before I got my ticket) & finding out there was a strike the next day so if I didn’t get a train today I wasn't getting one tomorrow! Finally I got my print out but then of course me & Bart had the same ticket -_- & so we had to go & explain our issue to the lady who had printed my ticket but thankfully she managed to find him on the system. Stress Over.
So at around 18:10 we boarded the train & then it was off to Ollantaytambo! 2hrs & a nap later we disembarked the train & walked out to try & find someone with our name on a board. Once found we headed to our bus to find there wasn't enough seats! & Matilda & 3 Russians had to get back off & try & find another to get on :/ - I felt guilty as we pulled away waving from the front seat. This was in itself quite stressful apparently but they did eventually get back!
We arrived in Cuzco just under 2 hours later, where I got dropped at San Francisco Plaza just a couple of minutes from my hostel. Checking in & getting in to that bed never felt so good but I had an absolutely amazing time on my trek meeting some fantastic people & I wouldn't change it even getting eaten alive by the sandflies & mosquitos!
Wear long sleeves / trousers if possible whilst trekking it’s the best bite repellent
Don’t lose your repellent although the trick of rubbing soap on your skin & not washing it off des work!
Pack flip-flops because after a whole day in boots I wished I had something to change into
Don't be a loser like Bart & be part of the group - get involved & have group mentality
Respect your guide (& the rest of the group) by turning up on time!
But mostly - HAVE FUN!! The guides are always up for a joke around along with everyone else.
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