A group of 10 ATC Power Trekkers retraced Hiram Bingham’s 1911 footsteps on the Andes Mountains of Peru to discover the stone city of Machu Picchu, one of the world’s most important archaeological sites.
Day 1 of our 4 days Inca trail (43km)
KM82 - Ayapata Campsite - 10km / 3300m (7 hours)
The first 2.5 hours was somewhat flat, a dirt path that passed rural houses and farms until we arrived at the Inca site of Llacatapata which was breathtaking. We got to look down from the cliff top to observe the semicircular terraces appearing like a work of art - the Incas were truly masters of architecture. This was where we had our first glimpse of Inca culture and was educated on the history of Peru and the Incas.
It was another 1.5 hours walk until we arrived at our first lunch spot, where the trek crew was waiting to greet us with freshly cooked Peruvian cuisine.
We got some time to rest before continuing for another 2.5 hours until we reached our first campsite at Ayapata. We passed through verdant valleys framing the Cusichaca stream, frequently meeting local ranchers herding their stock. Our tents were already set up upon reaching camp - making us appreciate this comfortable style of trekking. The last section of the trek was a continuous ascend. It was a slow, leisurely trek to acclimatise. Day 1 was truly amazing, educational yet challenging.
Day 2: Machu Picchu Inca Trail Power Trek
Ayapata - Chaquiccocha Campsite - 16km / 3600m - 12 hours
Wake up call was followed by a nice hot cup of coca tea at 4.45am. After a night under the stars, we had the most challenging day on the trail, encompassing about 3000 vertical feet of steps to Warmiwanuscca (Dead Woman's Pass). Once we were within 1000 feet of the pass, the altitude started to take a hold, and the last 500 feet became an immense challenge. But upon reaching the top it was all worth it as a panaromic view of the opposing valley awaited us and the feeling of accomplishment absolutely tremendous.
Throughout the climb to 4215m at the pass, the path was stone in places, passing through semitropical forest. Uphill most of the day, after the summit, we had to keep our energy level high to overcome steep descent on stone steps all the way to our campsite that evening. This is the day we will remember the most of the Inca trail as it was definitely the toughest. We all made it to the top in good time and in great spirit of ATC, to celebrate our achievement together as a team.
Day 3 - Cultural Day
Machu Picchu Inca Trail Power Trek
Chaquiccoha - Phuyupatamarca - Winay Wayna Campsite - 10km / 2600m / 12 hours
Our 3rd day began with a hike to the last pass of Phuyupatamarca which was at 3680 meters. A combination of ascents and descents but with altitude not as high as day 2. With several ruin sites, this section of the trek had a special view of the Vilcabamba mountain range and Salkantay mountain. A wonderful area to explore the flora and fauna of the Inca trail covering almost 5000 vertical feet (mostly downhill). Day 3 was packed with an incredible diversity of terrain ranging from high Andean plateau to high jungle. This part of the trail was special as it initiated the beginning of the original Inca trail stonework that was not destroyed and featured an incredible number of picturesque ruins. Winaywayna (meaning forever young) was our final destination for the day and the site did not disappoint. Before lunch, we visited 2 Inca sites - Phuyupatamarca (Village above Clouds) and Inti Pata (meaning Terraces of the Sun).
Day 4 Inca Trail
Winay Wayna - Machu Picchu - 6km / 2430m
This is the day we had been waiting for - early morning start through Machu Picchu check point - The highlight of our trip. The city of Machu Picchu sits at 2430m on the edge of the Amazon. The positioning of Machu Picchu and the incredible way the Incas reinforced the mountain below the city from possible earthquakes, hand carved each structure, managed to cultivate crops, redirect water and positioned the city out of reach of the invaders is truly remarkable. At the end of the journey we were truly inspired with real admiration for the incredible Incan people who ran these trails over 500 years ago.
We woke up very early at 2.30am so that the crew could pack up our belongings after early breakfast and ready to start hiking heading to the checkpoint at 5.30am to avoid the Long queue. We were in no hurry to get to Intipunku (sun gate) as it didn’t look like there was going to be a magnificent sunrise and ‘unveiling’ of Machu Picchu based on the weather, but definitely excited to walk this section which took us 1 hour and a half along a faily level trail apart from a very steep Inca steps which forced us to use our hands for support. As we followed the Inca trail towards the citadel, the sun began to show up and clouds began to clear allowing the splendid site to emerge and then only to disappear again. We spent time taking pictures, had quick breakfast followed by an hour walk around the famous ruins.
Our guide took us back in time to the advanced civilisation of the Incas. We joined thousands of tourists that arrived by train and busses through the intricacies of Machu Picchu, passing through temples, houses and amphitheatres. We were awestruck, gazing in wonder at the massive mountain top city. Although we toured the ancient city with tourists smelling better than us, we felt an incredible sense of pride as we had taken the hard way to Machu Picchu over 4 days.
We got a Machu Picchu stamp on our passports and soon after had to get ready to climb Huayna Picchu, wondering if it was safe to climb considering the rain, wind and thick clouds covering the ‘new peak’.