The Inca Trail, a road well traveled

Our Inca Trail team : 12 hikers, 2 guides, 1 chef, 1 sous-chef, and 18 porters

Day One

The sun hadn’t even peaked over the Andes when we rolled out of bed at four in the morning to board the bus and set out on our latest adventure.

Our destination: Piskacucho, located on the 82nd km of railroad between Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Our mission: The Inca Trail.

The infamous trail stretches over mountains, winds up granite steps, passes through thick jungle brush and twists through the Andean cloud forest. Over the 100 year span of the entire empire, the Inca’s focused on construction and agriculture. Spreading across Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and parts of Northern Chile and Argentina, the Incas built amazing trails between their settlements. Today there are still some parts of the trail in excellent condition and are open to trekkers.

Yet the trail is not for the faint of heart – the first day alone we hiked over 16 km and 1000 meters vertically.

As we set off on the first morning to begin our trek, the trail was both scenic and tame. The lady of the hour was Mount Veronica, an impressive 5832 meters above sea level. After stopping for a delicious lunch along the Chaupiwayoq River, we set off for the main event – a brutal four hour jungle trek, which seemed at times close to impossible. Wide steps zigzagged through thick brush, crumbled in some sections and dangerously steep in others. Coupled with the high altitude and impossibly thin feeling air, we huffed and puffed our way to the first camp. Even though the afternoon was a brutal haul the view from our tent first thing the next morning more than made up for our aching muscles and sore legs.

Our stoic guide, Edgard

All set for our 4-day adventure

From the start of the hike, we just kept stumbling upon more and more Inca ruins

The speed and efficiency of our porters was inspiring, if not a little embarrassing

Our first campsite on the Inca Trail

Day Two

We had been warned that day two was the absolute hardest part of the entire experience. Fortunately for our team, our itinerary had been slightly altered; we had pushed through half of the toughest section the first day so the second day would seem a little easier. Unfortunately, it was still an aggressive two hour summit up to the highest peak of our entire trek, Abra Warmiwanusca (4215 meters above sea level). Also known as Dead Woman’s Pass, from certain viewpoints the peak looks like a woman lying on her back – breast exposed and nipple erect.

On day 2, we were told to carry a rock to the top of Dead Woman's Pass and place it on a pile to make a wish. This is Gill's heart-shaped choice.

A family picture at the top of Dead Woman's Pass. It almost looks fake.

Paul at the edge of the very steep cliff of Dead Woman's Pass

Leah and Lex are all smiles after completing a particularly gruesome pass

Once we caught our breath and snapped some pictures of the incredible view, we set off down into the valley where we stopped for lunch before summiting the second highest peak, Abra Runkurakay (3950 meters above sea level). By the time the day was finished, we had hiked a total of 14 km up and down over eight and a half hours. Arriving at our second camp was a treat, especially after the sun set and the sky exploded with bright twinkling stars.

Day Three

The beautiful sunrise we woke up to on the third day

As the easy, breeziest day of the entire trek, the third started off the same way as the second day – with room service or rather tent service. Our kind and smiling guide, the dear Edgar, woke us up at the crack of dawn with hot coffee and tea. After another delicious breakfast, the entire group trekked together through the lush cloud forest absolutely bursting with Peruvian orchids along the twisting Inca Trail, which even today is still in excellent condition. The hike was relaxing and every time we turned our head, we stumbled upon a new Inca site.

The vegetation on the trail changed constantly. On the third day it was very tropical.

Leah at a lookout on day three

The Montgomery-Germain team enjoying a much needed break

There were beautiful views around every corner

Before we reached our final camp site we trekked down over 3000 granite steps to Wiñaywayna, an ancient complex used by the Inca Empire for terrace farming. The view alone from the terraces revealed the absolute beauty of the valley, the Urubamba River and our next campsite.

Leah approaching the Inca ruins among gorgeous landscapes

Gill enjoying the view at the Winay Winay ruin. The name means Forever Young.

Day Four

Early on the final morning of the trek, we crawled out of our warm sleeping bags just before four in the morning. After a quick breakfast, we set off to the checkpoint to line up with our fellow Inca trekkers. At 5:30 am, the gate to the final leg of the trail was opened and we hustled to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) before sunrise, our vantage point for Machu Picchu. The trail was quick and the adrenaline was pumping. We had spent the entire night vibrating with anticipation and to finally walk through the gates to see Machu Picchu Mountain in the distance was absolutely magical.

We hike down into the cloud that is covering Machu Picchu. You can't see the ruin, but we thought it added to the mystery of the experience

The clouds around Machu Picchu were fluffy and added mystique

Machu Picchu begins to reveal itself through the mist

Eventually the clouds cleared and we got a picture-perfect shot