Walking in the footsteps of the Incas and through llama poop at Machu Picchu

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South America » Peru » Cusco
May 23rd 2012
Published: July 3rd 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

[youtube=Kip_ICH_rXc]There we went…onto the bus ride we had heard absolutely NOTHING good about. While many people might tell you to just take Cruz del Sur and be done with it since it’s such a long ride, we weren’t willing to pay the extra 30% or so just for some added comfort. Although, the thought of being in a full cama (bed) bus with waitresses as if you were in a first class seat on a plane was a bit tempting. Actually, the bus we ended up on was pretty nice and even had enough leg room for people over 5’10”. Imagine that! Well, we really weren’t concerned about the comfort of the bus in the first place. It was more about the route there. Jessie had on her trusty Sea Bands as always, but they would be put to the ultimate test. The ride turned out to be literally 17 hours of side-winding back and forth curves while climbing through the mountains all the way to Cuzco. By the time we were within a couple hours of the city, even Nate wasn’t feeling so hot and he NEVER gets motion sickness. Jessie joined about 20 other people on the bus who were feeling like crap, and the evidence was DEFINITELY inside the bathroom by the time we got there. Let’s just say, having a bathroom on the bus for other uses besides the normal wasn’t a bad idea either! Altitude is just one of those things…either you can handle it well, or you might find yourself in the fetal position for a while. It’s not quite like those times when you’ve been so blasted that you’re hugging the toilet on the bathroom floor praying to fall asleep and wake up a bit more sober, but it can really be hard to cope with.When we got to the terminal, we were ready to just hop a cab and get a room where we could collapse for the day.

Pretty much everyone will tell you that it takes a couple days to get adjusted to the altitude in Cuzco, and it’s a fact! There’s nothing like being completely out of breath after climbing up 10 stairs to make you feel more unfit that you ever have in your life. Truth be told, just walking around the block made us wonder how in the hell we would ever be able to hike to Machu Picchu. I mean, when you’re gasping for air like you just had your head held under water for a minute, you start to wonder. After spending a couple nights at the Pirwa hostel, we moved over to Ecopackers and couldn’t have been happier with our decision. Everyone is in the same boat (hiking to Machu Picchu early the next morning or having just returned completely shattered), so even being in a big dorm room with plenty of other people didn’t seem to be much of a problem at all. Plus, we had a nice big TV room with a fireplace, which we took advantage of every night…especially Jessie! When it’s that cold outside she could just about put her hands right into the fire to get warm! Obviously some people acclimate to the altitude faster than others, but it would take Jessie a few days for sure. You can just about tell when someone arrives in Cuzco if they haven’t been in the altitude yet just by the look on their face. You’ll see plenty of people looking like they’re sick to their stomachs or just plain out of it…almost staring blankly into space at times as if they’re psych patients on medication. It’s definitely more than enough to make you take it easy for a couple days, and that’s exactly what we did. And, surprise surprise, Jessie found another friend with 4 legs and lots of fur to kidnap a few times a day. No Jessie, we can’t take him with.

It actually worked out pretty well that we had to wait about 5 days before we could go on the “jungle trek” we had decided on. We wanted to do the extra climb up to Huayna Picchu and there are only so many permits given per day. At least you can find some good, cheap food options in Cuzco. Our favorite spot would be a little, hole-in-the-wall vegetarian place where we would eat just about every day for either lunch or dinner. It was just so damn good we couldn’t stop ourselves! It’s also easy enough to find a local place to get the “menu del dia”, menu of the day, cheap burgers, or cheap chicken places as well. But it was that damn veggie place that hooked us for good! Prasada, we will NOT soon forget you! It was even enough to bring a typical carnivore, our friend Jon, back for more and more. As far as night life goes, you’ll have PLENTY of options no matter what you’re looking for. The hostel had a pretty cool bar and we had some great live music one night, which ended up leading to a night out at a club. But, this wasn’t until after Jon had alcohol induced bravery to take the guitar when the singer was on break and let out a voice that none of us knew he had. We were TRULY impressed when we heard what could have honestly come from a well-known star. It’s funny how when Nate doesn’t want to go out and Jessie convinces him to go how just a couple of drinks can turn him into a dancing machine in a hurry! The whole club experience started with a simple, innocent free drink and entrance pass from one of the security guards who happened to be listening to the live music for a while at the hostel. When we first arrived, it seemed like we had walked into a graveyard, but within about 30 minutes it looked like half the gringos in town had arrived. Before we knew it, it was about 4 in the morning before we were done shaking it on the dance floor. Sometimes it’s just about impossible NOT to go out and have fun in the local bars and clubs.

You can probably imagine that with the change in altitude, which none of us were having fun with, and the late night drinking that we weren’t exactly looking forward to our trip to the market in Pisac. Although, we have to say that we were really looking forward to it. After a night of partying, we were hoping our usual greasy McD’s breakie would do the trick, but it just didn’t quite work the same. Poor Jessie also forgot her Sea Bands, which meant the ride there was enough to make her even more nauseous. Markets tend to be one of the things we enjoy the most, but we really found the market here to be full of over-priced souvenirs, all of which we’ve seen since the day we arrived in Peru. After about an hour and a half, we were ready to head back and lay down to re-cooperate a little. Somehow before we were able to leave and go get our nap in, we ran into a couple we had met way back at Spanish school in Guatemala. We hadn’t really talked much or seen each other in months by this point and couldn’t really have been more surprised to see one another. Obviously we HAD to go grab a bite to eat the next day and catch up on the last few months’ adventures. It’s funny how that happens. You might not see someone for a few months and then BAM, there they are!

Unfortunately, having a slight hangover was the least of our problems as we went to turn on our laptop only to discover it wouldn’t boot up properly, even in safe mode. After many frustrating hours we would end up taking it in to have it looked at, and after 2 opinions, found out we had no choice but to replace our hard drive. Seriously, if we would’ve known how much money we would have to blow replacing electronics we probably would’ve had a separate category just for that and maybe stayed another 2 months working just to save up for the repairs! It actually worked out well that we couldn’t do our trek for a few days since it literally took that long to get it taken care of. Nate must have made 20 trips to that place, most of the time because they would close randomly for like 3 hours at a time. When we finally though it was ready to go, everything was in Spanish! Sure our Español is getting better, but no way in hell can we have the computer in a different language. Eventually we got it figured out, but it had worn our patience (especially Nate’s) about as thin as possible.

Needless to say, this wasn’t exactly the best time to have any other issues, no matter how small they might be…too bad that wasn’t going to happen. With our trek coming up and our clothes in desperate need of washing so we didn’t have to apologize all day long to the people behind us, we decided to get our laundry done at a place that seemed to be the best price in town. Now, this is always a risk anyways because most of the time you find yourself going back to get something that was missing. But, with nowhere to wash clothes and dry them, we didn’t really have much of a choice. There’s always a reason why some places seem cheaper than others, and this place was no exception. Let’s just say, they had scales that were definitely in THEIR favor. At this point we didn’t even care and just hoped everything would turn out ok. After all, if we LET someone gringo us, the least they could do is not screw up, right?

Unfortunately, when we got it back we were each missing a sock…not just any sock, but our nice trekking socks that we truly needed in a couple days. Mind you, there is a 9 year old kid who does all the recruiting and delivery of the laundry. Jessie went to go talk to him only to have him giving her an attitude and telling her she had to come back later. Nate, out of patience as it was, went to have a little “chat” with him, accompanied by Brandon. Within about 10 seconds, the kid was telling Nate it wasn’t his problem and that he must not have given them to him to wash. Yeah, because who washes BOTH socks…most people just wash one at a time. Too bad for this little shit, Nate was in the perfect mood to put up a fight…towering over the kid and yelling at him in Spanish as Brandon stood by. It must have been pretty intimidating to have Nate looking straight down on him as if he was a giant while having a friend who is completely covered in tattoos standing by his side. Little did he know that Brandon is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet in your life, but he didn’t need to know that. The little kid tried pulling the same thing with Nate, but it wasn’t happening. He told the kid that he was going to wait until he found the socks, no matter how long it took. The kid looked around helplessly after delivering laundry to the hostel just a couple doors down and seeing Jessie as she was coming out on her way to do some grocery shopping, informing him that he had to deal with Nate. After confiding in one of the security guards at the hostel, the kid came walking back nervously and defeated with his eyes looking straight down. Nate ended up making the kid take him to where the laundry was actually done and…what do you know? He found one of them immediately, and Jessie’s would be found the next day! He felt a bit guilty having to get on the kid’s case like that, but sometimes you have to light a fire under someone’s ass to get them moving! It’s kind of sad, but so true at the same time. Sorry little man, you caught this gringo on the WRONG day.

Finally we were ready to go on the big trek, which Nate was nervously anticipating for about a month at this point. There are so many different treks to do it can almost be hard to decide which one you want, but in the end we chose the Jungle Trek because it had a little bit of everything if you wanted. We wouldn’t end up doing any rafting or zip-lining, so basically our itinerary was like this; day 1-biking, day 2-hiking, day-3 hiking, day-4 Machu Picchu. Getting up at the ass crack of dawn is never something we enjoy, but we knew it would be worth it. By the time we got to the top of the mountain we were biking down, we were MORE than thankful we brought our warmest clothes we had. The biking was a lot of fun, winding down the mountains and taking in some incredible scenery. The only downside on this trip is the traffic and having to be extra careful with cars and motorcycles flying around the turns. Playing bumper cars while you’re riding a bike isn’t exactly a great idea, even if you’re decked out in all the protective gear. By the time we reached the bottom, we experienced something we hadn’t felt in a long time…sweat! God was it good to feel it, too! At least it wouldn’t be freezing cold at our first stop. We knew the 1st two hostels would be basic, but honestly…it was the exact kind of place we would stay in anyways. Our dinner even turned out to be decent, which was promising considering what could potentially happen on excursions like this. We were half expecting guinea pig guts and llama balls, but luckily it was nothing like that. (Nah, just kidding…we really weren’t)

The second day was going to be the test on Nate’s foot. At least we started with a good breakfast (although small); a banana pancake with sugar and arequipa (caramel). Yum! The worst part of the trail we took was the obvious part, climbing uphill. We quickly took advantage of buying some coca leave to chew at the first place we stopped, hoping to get some relief from feeling like we just trying to outrun and Olympic sprinter, even though we had hiked up maybe 30 minutes. It got us thinking…we had heard you could to this trek on your own if you really wanted to, but to us it would get a little confusing as it literally goes right through people’s homes and properties. Plus, one of the nice things about having a guide is having something to show you the interesting things you wouldn’t notice along the way. For example, we highly doubt anyone would think to us a seed pod from a specific tree, mix it with water and use it as a dye or paint. Well, we weren’t exactly dying any clothes but we definitely got our faces painted like a bunch of carnies. Truth be told, we all pretty much looked like douchebags but it’s all part of it right? And if we thought THAT was a bit embarrassing, imagine dressing up in traditional Incan dress and trying to dance with our guide. Although it was kind of funny, we truly looked like a bunch of dipshits and debated on if we wanted to put the video we took on this blog just for your enjoyment. Then again, it’s not the first (and definitely not the last) time we’ve made a bit of an ass out of ourselves, except usually it’s only Nate and Jessie is in the background laughing at him. Sorry sweetie, you’re part of it this time!

While on part of the Inca trail, there was a section that just about had us making a backdoor delivery in our pants as we looked at the 2 feet wide trail going right through what looked like a landslide. One false move and you were having a really bad day! Needless to say, we all took our sweet time getting across this section and did our best not to look down at the potential fall. At the end of this little section, we had an amazing view for miles. Just a bit further and we found ourselves leaving an offering to the Gods, especially the mountain God for safe passage to Machu Picchu. We already had our coca leaves, so we were all set with that. Just looking at the edge of the cliff we were on made us think to ourselves, “We’ll offer our entire BAG of coca leaves to not fall off of this part!” Not that Nate blamed her, but Jessie wouldn’t even come close to the edge, mostly because it was probably about a good 10 second free fall all the way down the cliff. Yeah, that would be enough to make you hug the mountain side like you’re makin’ love to it!

We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end that second day than spending time in some hot springs, soaking our tired muscles in the hot water. It truly felt like a little slice of heaven. Honestly, we probably could’ve soaked in there for a couple hours, or at least until our skin looked like it was 50 years older. Dinner was pretty much the same as the night before, and we were passed OUT by about 9:30pm. It was possible to cut out some of the walking on the 3rd day, but we didn’t feel like paying for the zip-lining. In all reality, the only enjoyable part of our last day on the trek was walking along the railroad where the scenery was bright green and very lush. The worst part however was where we stopped for lunch. It wasn’t that the food was bad, it was just that the area we had to walk through was used as a dump. That meant it was a bit hard to escape the smell of last weeks’ diapers mixed with moldy cheese. You know how sometimes you can taste what you smell? Imagine THAT shit in your taste buds! Having a poopie flavored lollipop might be welcome compared to it. At last, we could finally see the much anticipated Machu Picchu from the bottom of the mountain while looking up and thinking…damnit, we have to climb THAT, too? By the time we actually made it into Aguas Calientes, our legs were pretty shot and Nate had developed a pretty significant limp. But, the hostel we stayed at this night was exactly what we needed…including a nice bed, HOT water shower, and cable TV even though we were way too tired to enjoy it for more than about an hour. Besides, we had another long day ahead of us and didn’t want to be too wiped out for it since we had to get up at about 4 o’clock in the morning.

The thought of walking up the mountain at about 4 am was enough to make us want to take the bus in a hurry, especially trying to save Nate’s foot some pain. Luckily we had already bought our tickets and gotten to the buses early because it turned out to be rainy and misty that morning, prompting plenty of people who planned on hiking up the mountain to take the bus instead. I mean…yeah, THAT’S why we took the bus…it was the, um, weather…yeah. Just kidding…no excuses. We were some of the first ones into MP and immediately took off to get a decent view before the hordes of people came through the doors, managing to take some beautiful pictures just before the rest of the clouds rolled in and blocked your view of just about everything surrounding you. While our guide was finishing up his explanation with us, we could only hope that the weather wasn’t going to completely screw us as it started to rain and kept up for about an hour or so. But, it finally cleared up and before we knew it, we were about to tackle the hardest part of the day…a part Nate was partially dreading by this point, Huayna Picchu. It seriously looked as if you had to climb straight up the mountain and was plenty intimidating when you looked up at it from MP. There was a part of us that wondered how the hell people even climbed up the mountain, but obviously we knew there was a path.

Be prepared, the hike up is definitely a bit taxing and takes quite a bit of concentration as you climb the narrow stairs and realize that one false move and you’d be making a sacrifice to Pachamama (mother earth) yourself! The bright side is, your ass will probably look incredible when you’re done ladies! Eventually, completely winded from the altitude and feeling your legs tighten from the past few days, you reach the top where you get a great view of MP away from the massive crowd swarming around it. It’s here where you’ll find some peace away from everyone and where you can really take in an incredible view. It’s also a good place to sneak in a lunch with the food that you weren’t supposed to bring into the park. Well, when buying food here is like buying food at the airport, it’s hard NOT to bring your own to save some money. With the rest of the day to spend here, we weren’t in any hurry getting down. Besides we knew the hike down was probably going to be just as intense as the hike up. Truth be told, one of the scariest parts if you have even a slight fear of heights is being up at the top and looking over the edge as you’re climbing down the stairs to make your way back down the mountain…no railings, no ropes at this point, just a free-fall if you screw up. Nevertheless, is HP worth it? Absolutely!

Finally we would find ourselves wobbling through Machu Picchu in need of another rest after struggling down the steep steps. We grabbed ourselves a little spot on the terraces, took off our battered shoes, and laid out in the sun while inspecting how many blisters we had acquired over the past few days. Jessie definitely won that contest hands down! That poor girl must have had a good 10 of ‘em spread out between both feet! All Nate had was…well, a very swollen foot…and smelly at that! But, the best part of the day was yet to come…the part of the day where all of the package tourists and giant tours on a day trip from Cuzco finally start to make their way back to the buses. This is when you can truly enjoy what you came to enjoy admire, taking in just how incredible and magical MP really is. We finally got that “yeah, this was totally worth it” feeling and took our sweet time before having to make our way to the exit. Of course we decided to get the passport stamp you can optionally get at the gate on the way back down, even though by this point we’re really running low on space. The only thing left to do was make our way back down the mountain to Aguas Calientes, but this time without the bus. It honestly seemed as though our legs were going to wobble right out from underneath us as we descended the ridiculous amount of stairs to get to the bottom. Let me tell you…we never knew how welcome that seat on the train would truly be! We did it…we made it…and we were SHOT…beyond exhausted and ready to crash.

All in all we had hiked about 25 miles, much of which was uphill and downhill which made it that much more challenging for Nate’s foot. No matter which trek you choose, you’re going to need a certain amount of mental strength when you’re flat out of breath and staring up a steep mountain thinking to yourself, well if the Incas were so damn advanced where the HELL is the escalator! (just kidding obviously) One of the great things about the Jungle Trek is that it appeals to plenty of different fitness levels. At any rate, it’s going to be an experience you’ll never forget and every single person we talked to who had done this trek had nothing but good things to say about it. The well timed hot shower and nice room to stay in the night before MP is a nice touch, and really the only complaint, or recommendation, we had was that didn’t seem to get enough food, especially in the mornings. It’s a good idea to do yourself a favor and bring some snacks, even if it’s just cookies or chocolate for some instant sugar energy.

We were off to recuperate back in Cuzco where Nate would hardly leave bed for 2 full days to avoid limping down the sidewalks. Then again, if you’re low on patience or just plain tired it might be better to avoid the streets sometimes unless the constant cat calls from the “promoters” don’t bother you. You find that there are parts of MP where you literally can’t walk more than about 20 feet without being offered a massage by a pack of 10 women, or weed and “Charlie” (coke) from some random guy walking past you. Maybe the funniest part about this was that Nate had no idea what Charlie meant at first. “Whey the f&^* do they keep calling us Charlie? Where did that come from?” He quickly felt like an idiot when being told that it was from the old WWII times where that’s what coke was called. Oh Nate, never a dull moment with you around! He also somehow tends to draw attention from rather “interesting” characters, like the man who came up to him as Jon and Jessie had just walked into the Pizza restaurant we were eating at for the night. The man went on to tell him that he was a marine, making Nate feel his huge ass, rock solid arms and then explaining to him that his “sisters” are his life…meaning all other white girls. It was pretty apparent what he meant as he gawked over every white girl who passed them, then finally let him go…telling his he was his amigo while letting the smell of strong alcohol float up Nate’s nostrils. Yeah…thanks for that buddy!

We had spent plenty of time in Cuzco, and we were MORE than ready for a change. So, off to Arequipa we went! Really, the worst part about leaving Cuzco was knowing that we had to say goodbye to Katie and Brandon. We were officially breaking up the family we had been with for the past 3 weeks or so, knowing we would see them again one day…but still sad to part ways. We know we’ve said this before but sometimes it seems like the best and worst part about traveling is meeting great people from all over the world. It’s awesome having the experience and making the new friends, but it really sucks when you have to leave them, knowing it’s going to be a while before you see them again…

Traveler Tips

Getting There

Cuzco- You have a few options, there is the easy way, a flight from Lima or the much more exciting way…the bus! We took Tepsa for S/. 120, over-priced but we needed to get out of Haucachina/Ica, and we were pretty impressed with the bus, food and service. Upon arrival we hopped a cab to the center for S/.6.


We highly recommend Ecopackers, a dorm will run you S/.27 but it’s definitely worth the price tag. The staff is great, the entire hostel is really clean, good wifi, kitchen, close to everything and it attracts a good group of people.


Our addiction was Prasada about 6 doors down to the left if facing Jack’s. The food is reasonably priced and you get the most veggies you will anywhere in town! It definitely kept us coming back for more to try everything on the menu. You can easily find set menus for S/.3-7 for a filling typical fare, one restaurant we frequented was called El Mordisc’o just down the road from Ecopacker’s.


Cuzco is a very walkable city, even if you are planning to see the Sacred Valley. Pisac is also a short bus ride away for S/. 6 round trip.

Jungle Trek to MP Tips

-Bring flip flops, suit and towel for the hot springs, they feel amazing after some serious trekking

-Extra expense include water, a bus to Santa Teresa S/. 5 from the hot springs (totally worth it), cable car to cross the river S/. 1, food to take with you into MP for lunch (put in a backpack not in a plastic bag or you can’t bring it in)

-The bus to the top of MP in the morning (or night) is S/.24.10 Yikes!!

-Huayna Picchu is totally worth the extra $10 USD if you can get a ticket

Additional photos below
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4th July 2012

Love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cuzco is a lovely place. A city to be explored in silence, enjoying every single view. Peru is a place you can travel now and ever, because there is so much to discover you need at least a couple of trips. I have very good friends over there. Unforgettable. Hugs from Argentina.
4th July 2012

Thanks for sharing your Inca Trail Journey...something you will NEVER forget.
16th January 2013
Postcard perfect shot of MP

This is an amazing shot!

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