Hiking the Inca Trail – Day 3 & 4

I hiked the Inca Trail at the end of July 2015. Want to find out how Day 1 & 2 went? Click here…otherwise read on for part two of the epic trek.

Day 3 – Pacamayo (3600masl) to Winay Wayna (2700masl)

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

Apparently Day 2 was the hardest (and boy were we thankful to have that out of the way), and Day 3 was meant to be the longest day – we had 15km distance to cover, but were descending at what I assumed would be a gradual rate.

HA! How wrong was I?!

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

After our lovely sweet coca tea wakeup call and a hearty breakfast we launched into 1.5hours of steep uphill. My calves felt painfully tight, but we chugged away on our tired legs, making it to the second pass for a quick morning tea break.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

On the way we had passed a small lake which was in the shape of Australia, it even had a tiny Tasmania! We rested at the top of the pass for 10 minutes, but decided to quickly push on – we had a long day ahead of us and resting now would mean a much longer day at the other end!

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

Over the other side of the pass we started to head down hill, and for me this is when the hard stuff really set in – it was steep steep downhill steps for the next 2 hours, until we reached the ruins of Phuyupatamarka.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

We spent an hour exploring these ruins, learning more about Inca construction and rituals that were held in these places. Never used for defence or for warfare, they were structures used for travellers as well as medicinal, astronomical, and philosophical explorations.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

As groups marched on past us to the lunch break, it was really peaceful and quiet and a nice spot to enjoy the tranquility of the ruins.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

Ahead of us we could see the trail dip down in to the jungle and back up to where the lunch stop was, and were surprised it only took us 20minutes to reach it.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

Unfortunately it wasn’t long after lunch that both Jason and I started suffering our earlier symptoms again… and the next section of the trail  we split up and both took mad runs to reach the next “pit stop”.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

We’d heard horror stories about the toilets along the trail, but actually found them to be clean (enough), and usually with a strong and powerful flush (occasionally there was the bucket/ trough of water style) – but be warned they are of the squat variety rather than a throne!

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

Another 1.5hours after lunch we hit the Inca Steps, a gruelling 2hour downhill grind of the steepest steps ever – approx 1500 steps with a 1000m descent. I’ve since heard it’s nickname is the gringo killer – my knees certainly thought it lived up to that name! It really was one large uneven step at a time, and we picked our way down. Jase literally flew down this section…emergencies call for fast feet!

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

We had a choice to split on this part of the trail – to the left was slower but a flatter route to the campsite, whereas to the right was a steeper short cut. I’d spent a lot of today hiking on my own – I was aware of others in my group ahead or behind me, but with the challenging terrain I was much better taking it at my own pace.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

My body was aching from the downhill, so I opted to head left at the split – apparently there was better scenery this way too, although I am not sure I was really taking a lot of it in. A few minutes along the trail I came across a pack of llamas and spent a few minutes trying to get a selfie with them – not sure they quite understood though!

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

I caught up to Jase at the ruins of Intipata, where his earlier exertion (he’d even passed our guide in his rush to find a suitable, erm, bush…) had left him with a blood nose. We think the Diamox (altitude pills) had lowered Jase’s blood pressure too much (he already has low BP) and so he had been getting bleeding noses a few times a day. He decided he better stop the medication as he wasn’t really THAT bad at altitude – his headaches were treatable with regular ibuprofen.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

We had to sit for 40minutes while we waited for the bleed to stop, and as most of the hikers had already passed through this area it was lovely and peaceful. It wasn’t long before my friends the llamas just quietly made their way past us, checking out the views of the valley below. We could see the twinkling lights of Aguas Calientes town, and hear the toots of the trains running – we were getting close to civilisation again.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

As darkness neared we hobbled in to our campground (our poor guide Santi was just about to send out a search party for us – we had gone from the front of the pack to not showing up at the campground!) and I deposited Jase in the tent before joining a few others to visit the Winay Wayna ruins, or “mini macchu picchu” which was 10mins from the campground.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

I’m glad I didn’t have a chance to sit down – I’m not sure I would have gotten back up again! It was really cool to see ancient water channels that had been built by the Incas still running with water from the mountains today, flowing the water in to the ceremonial fountains. Just incredible.

Like total zombies we inhaled dinner (I was too tired to cut my chicken, so only ate what I could fit on my fork or immediately put in my mouth!). We had a quick farewell ceremony with the guides and porters, thanking them and giving them tips, before collapsing in to bed. We had a 3am wake up call the next morning, and by the state of our bodies and minds we all agreed that Day 2 had been a piece of cake (HARD cake), but Day 3 was the killer. Longest AND hardest day, for sure.

Day 4 – Winay Wayna (2700masl) to Machu Picchu (2400masl) via Inti Punku (Sun Gate)

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 3

The 3am wakeup call didn’t actually feel too bad – we dressed, slugged back some coffee, threw our packs on our bags, picked up our poles and marched the 200m to the control gate, which didn’t open until 5.30! The reason we had to be up so early was mainly for the porters – they have to take a different route down from the final campsite, and their train departs at 5am – so they need to get our tents down and skeddaddle early. We were the second group in line for the control, so we had a good start to the trail. We sat huddled in the dark, dozing and trying to keep warm as the coldest part of dawn passed and peeks of sunlight started the day.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

After popping a voltaren (my KNEES!) Jase and I broke away from the main group and clattered along the fairly flat trail at quite a fast clip. I was holding on to a small hand torch to light our way – I really wished I had my head torch as it’s a tad difficult with hiking poles in your hand too! However after 10minutes we could put our torches away and enjoy the sunrise coming up over the valley below. The track reminded us a lot more of the type of trail you would find in New Zealand and we really enjoyed it. Flat(ish) path, lots of trees and lovely and cool.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

We came to a steep STEEP set of steps which we climbed almost like monkeys – using our hands as much as our feet. We came to an archway and before we really realised where we were, we had stepped out through the Sun Gate and were looking straight at Machu Picchu, one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

We managed to get a few photos before the rest of the groups caught up with us and flooded the Sun Gate. Up until this point we hadn’t found the track to be that crowded at all – everyone set off at different times and took breaks at different places, so quite often you could be hiking on your own or in a small group.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

However on this last morning the competitive nature comes out in some – and it’s almost a race to the Sun Gate. We had a few bolshy people trying to push each other out of the way for photos…I mean, chill out man, we will all get our pictures!

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

Jase and I took our time descending the last section of trail towards Machu Picchu, watching the sunrise catch the city and spread across the ruins. It was breathtaking and I felt quite emotional, knowing I had hiked for 4 days to be here.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

It wasn’t long before we noticed day trippers coming towards us – in their clean clean clothes, and smelling of delicious shampoo! After 4 days in the same clothes, I wasn’t sure we were looking our best… but I felt quite proud of myself regardless.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

We reached the ruins and Santi immediately took us to the best spot for “the photo”. After plenty of snaps he led us down through the crowds to meet our 4 other tour group members who had come up via train as they were unable to do the hike due to ability and illness.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

I think it was a bit of a shock to us to have hiked for 4 days, and then be surrounded by thousands of tourists, all clambering and pushing each other. 3,500 day tickets are sold to Machu Picchu, and the tourists come up by the busload. I honestly had no idea that this was coming ahead for us (in my ignorance I thought the ONLY way to go to Machu Picchu was to hike the Inca Trail!), and it was hard not to feel a bit underwhelmed and just plain “over it” walking around the city.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

Never the less, Santi took us on a 2 hour tour of the ruins, explaining about the different layouts and structures and how the city was found in the early 1900’s by explorers.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

We were given more free time to explore on our own, but us weary hikers were well and truly past it (a 3am start does not a tolerant hiker make!) and so we all jumped on a bus down to Aguas Calientes, where we ordered huge pizzas and beers to celebrate. Jase and I also visited a pharmacy and bought a stock of antibiotics – after trying to let our bodies reset naturally, holding off our symptoms as best we could with various pills while on the hike (and failing miserable) – it was time for some (more) intervention.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

Our long trek back to Cusco started at 2pm, with a beautiful train ride through the valley to Ollantaytambo, then a bus back to the hotel – finally arriving at 7pm. Weary, dirty, smelly – but super proud of ourselves, the Inca Trail was a trek we will never forget.

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

The saying “it’s not about the destination, but the journey to get there” really rings true for this experience – while Machu Picchu was huge and amazing and awe inspiring, its the 4 days of hiking that will stick with me for ever more. Nothing beats the satisfaction of seeing the sun rise over that village, knowing you have worked your body hard to be there and experience that. I loved the Inca Trail and I’d highly recommend for any one to add it to your travel bucket list – it’s a must!

Hiking the Inca Trail Day 4

Have you hiked the Inca Trail? What part was your favourite? What part was your worst?

Read Hiking the Inca Trail Day 1 & 2 here. 

We are currently travelling from Lima, Peru to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with Tucan Travel on their 49 day adventure tour Coast to Coast itinerary – which included hiking the Inca Trail. 

Hiking the Inca Trail – Day 1 & 2

It’s been on my travel bucket list since FOREVER, but I’ll freely admit I knew barely anything about the actualities of the Inca Trail before I arrived in South America. I knew it was hugely popular and almost a travellers right of passage, and I knew you had to book well in advance due to the limits on the track (500 people per day – that INCLUDES the guides and porters, so breaks down to about 250 hikers per day). We booked our trek through Tucan Travel and secured our permits in July 2014 – over a year before we arrived in Peru to do the trek.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Vomiting, diahhorea, fever, faintness, altitude sickness and feeling like we were ready to DIE is not exactly the way I envisaged spending the day before the trek. And yet, both Jason and I were struck down with an extreme gastro bug. We had both been suffering smaller symptoms since we had arrived in Peru, despite being super careful with water, food and hygiene. The reality is, our bodies just aren’t used to the bacteria!

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

I’d also succumbed to the altitude – we had plenty of days in high ground to try and acclimatise to it before hand, but with my history of migraines I was experiencing excruciating headaches. I started on Diamox and found it helped a lot. Anyway, we flew in to Cusco (the nearest large city to the start of the Inca trail) from Arequipa sick as dogs, and collapsed in our hotel room – we had until 4pm to make a call as to whether we thought we could go ahead with the Inca Trail or not.

We both knew we would be devastated if we couldn’t go through with the trek. After a day of sleep, trying to keep down some powerade and pringles (for salt as we both found we had twitchy leg muscles), and taking a small cocktail of Peruvian pills, we made the decision that we would soldier on. We would be weak and not starting the trek in the peak condition we had hoped for – but we believed a lot of it was mind over matter. We were determined to do everything we could to pull ourselves together and just get it done.

DAY 1 – Cusco to Wayllapampa (3000masl)

We were collected from our hotel in Cusco by our guide Santi, who loaded our 5kg duffel bags and day packs on to a bus which would take us to the start of the trail. We stopped in the village of Ollantaytambo for breakfast, before the last 40min bumpy ride along a dirt road to the carpark. We were all very silent along the way, the 13 hikers in our group full of a mix of excitement, anticipation and nerves.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

After final toilet stops, checks of our day packs, purchases of water, sunscreen and hats – we took our “hooray we are here” group picture, picked up our hiking poles and headed out. It took 10 minutes to process through the control area, where our track permits were checked against our passports and stamped (meanwhile our group of 16 porters were having their luggage weighed to ensure they weren’t carrying more than 25kg each). Once all the formalities were done, we were off.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

We had been told the first day was an easy 10kilometres, mainly flat. I think our guides definition of flat and OUR definition of flat are completely different things – because we certainly had some uphill which challenged the legs and got the heart racing.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Hiking at altitude was a new sensation for us – it doesn’t seem to matter how young or how fit and healthy you are, breathing in less oxygen than you are used to affects everyone in different ways. I was glad that all of our group wheezed and huffed along together – chatting and laughing kept our spirits up.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Throughout the morning we wandered along through small villages, past locals with donkeys and llamas, and shacks selling cold drinks and coca leaves. We stopped for our morning tea which had been packed and given to us by the porters – fruit, chocolate biscuits and lollies – while Santi told us about some of the traditional Inca rituals.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Our pace was comfortable and achievable for all, and our rest stops were regular (but short) so that the group stayed together and no one was left behind. On this first day it was important to stick closer together as there were smaller trails which branched off the main track, and it could have been easy to take a wrong turn.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

We reached our lunch break around 2pm, and were stunned to that our porters had pitched a full kitchen and dining tent, complete with tables, chairs and tablecloth for us. We were greeted with a refreshing drink made of barley, and a small bucket of water and soap to wash our grimy and sweaty hands.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Lunch was nothing short of gourmet – soup followed by a full lunch of meats, rice and salad; sweet dessert and hot drinks. It was high energy and dense food, designed to fill us up and keep us going until the next stop. I couldn’t believe the porters had carried all of this amazing food, AND had the time to race ahead of us and prepare it all.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Luckily by this point Jase and I were starting to perk up. Getting some good food in to our bellies and fresh air in our lungs was helping, but we were also glad to have two hiking poles each to help support us with the hiking. Our tummies still weren’t right (and wouldn’t be for the remainder of the trek – enough said!) but toilets were frequent enough along the track for it not to be a major issue for us.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

After lunch we had a bit of a rest, and continued on the final 3 hours to our campsite, arriving at Wayllapampa (3000masl) around 5pm.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Again, totally amazed to walk in to our campsite and see our little row of tents set up, our mats rolled out inside them (and our extra thermorest mattresses that we had hired (best $10USD EVER spent) blown up) – all ready and waiting for us. The porters had our little buckets of water, soap and paper towels ready for us to clean off our dirty hands and feet, and after a bit of a baby wipe wash and a change of clothes – we felt next to new again!

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Snacks – popcorn, biscuits and hot drinks – were served in the dining tent, and we had an hour to relax before dinner. We used this time to set up our beds, pack our day packs for the next day and stretch our weary muscles.

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

Another 3 course dinner satisfied us weary hikers, and Santi gave us a short brief on what to expect the following day, what time we needed to be awake etc. With nothing left to do except for gaze in awe at the stars, we were tucked up in bed by 8.30pm – such tired little bunnies!

Inca Trail Day 1 Day 2

The first day had been a solid day of hiking – nothing too strenuous, but still a few challenging ups and downs to get the heart racing. We’d been warned Day 2 was the “hard day” and were again anxious about what was to come!

DAY 2 – Wayllapampa (3000masl) to Pacamayo (3600masl)

Inca Trail Day 2

“Buenos Dias Amigo’s, wake up tea time!” was the call at 6am, as a porter stuck his head in the door of our tent. I felt like I had only just put my head down on my pillow, and was amazed at how deep I had slept! Sweet mugs of coca tea were passed in to us to enjoy in bed, and once again small buckets of warm water were waiting outside the door for us to use to freshen up. We dressed quickly, packed our day packs and duffel bags and headed to the dining tent to enjoy a filling and hearty breakfast. These guys sure know how to cook high energy food to keep the hikers going.

Inca Trail Day 2

Our guide Santi led an introduction session after breakfast, where the porters each told us their name, age, how many children they had and how many years they had been working on the trail. They spoke in the local language Quechua, which Santi translated for us. Of our 14 porters, 1 chef and 1 chef’s assistant that were accompanying us on the trek – the youngest was 18, the oldest was 67! One of the guys was 56, and had 8 children…and then proceeded to tell us he was still hoping for 2 more, and “everything is working fine, no problems” while pointing one finger upwards! Wink wink.

Inca Trail Day 2

We then introduced ourselves to the porters – our name, age, where we came from and what we did for a job. Jason asked Santi to whisper what he wanted to say in Quechua, which he then attempted to say to the porters – they all fell about laughing at his attempts, but seemed very encouraging that he had tried! They also couldn’t seem to understand what the job “retired” meant, and laughed a lot when one of the hikers said “well, it means I don’t do any thing”. The truck driver in our group got the biggest look of admiration from them all…the accountants, not so much. Try explaining you are a blogger to these guys… I went for “marketing” as my job, which Santi translated using very airy fairy type finger movements. Maybe I should have said writer?

Inca Trail Day 2

Inca Trail Day 2

After intros, it was time to hit the track. We had 9.5km (6.5km UP, and 3km down) to cover, and we were ascending over 1000m in altitude to the highest point on the track – Dead Woman’s Pass. It’s called that because the mountain tops look like a woman lying down – the shape of her chest , neck and head. We were nervous but itching to just get it done!

Inca Trail Day 2

Inca Trail Day 2

After a quick stop at another control to get our track permits checked again, we started on the climb. The morning passed quite easily (1.5hours), Jason and I found ourselves in a group of 5 with Aoife and Nial from Ireland, and Denise from NZ – and we motivated each other up the steep climbs.

Inca Trail Day 2

Inca Trail Day 2

We each would take a turn at leading the group, pushing on as far as we could before we needed to take a collective break. Hiking up steep climbs and uneven steps is one thing, but doing it at altitude is a whole other ball game – our lungs were bursting before our legs were giving up! We made it to the lunch stop and refuelled and rested up, ready to tackle the next two thirds of the day.

Inca Trail Day 2

Inca Trail Day 2

The day 2 lunch break is the last point where you can buy bottled water, drinks and snacks. From here on you are completely reliant on what is carried on the porters backs – so we made sure to stock up at the last “shop”!

Inca Trail Day 2

The second part of the climb (1.5hours) we were out of the tree line and exposed to the sun which made the climb even harder. Once again our team of 5 worked together, this time collectively picking a point ahead and working towards it.

Inca Trail Day 2

Sometimes we might only make it 10metres before we were so short of breath we needed to stop. The good thing was, the stops were only 30 seconds, just enough to get your breath back, before we pushed on.

Inca Trail Day 2

Inca Trail Day 2

Inca Trail Day 2

We made it to the saddle of Dead Woman’s Pass and were ecstatic! 4,250m above sea level – that’s higher than Mt Cook in NZ! We sat and cheered on the rest of our hiking group as one by one they reached the top.

Inca Trail Day 2

Inca Trail Day 2

The final part of the day was 100% the worst. Downhill. Steep downhill. Steep downhill STEPS. After an hour and a half our legs and knees were in agony, give me uphill any day! I felt like my feet were tripping over each other, I was leaning on my hiking poles heavily with each step. I distracted myself by admiring the scenery and watching some hummingbirds.

Inca Trail Day 2

Inca Trail Day 2

We were so thankful to reach the campsite at Pacamayo (3,600masl) and rest our weary bodies. I think I may have nodded off before dinner was even served!

Inca Trail Day 2

Day 2 sure had been challenging, but it had also been hugely rewarding and I thoroughly enjoyed it despite not being 100%. We were all over the moon at having the “worst part” out of the way and done! Hooray!

Stay tuned for Day 3 and Day 4.

Have you hiked the Inca Trail? How did you find Day 2 – getting to Dead Woman’s Pass?

We are currently travelling from Lima, Peru to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with Tucan Travel on their 49 day adventure tour Coast to Coast itinerary – which included hiking the Inca Trail. 

South America Adventures So Far

Hola Amigos, long time no decent wifi!

I thought I would quickly check in and let you know I’m still kicking along on this side of the world – absolutely loving the amazing sights of South America (and not loving the constant CONSTANT sickness both of us have suffered since arriving here).

I’ll hopefully be back to a more frequent blogging schedule soon, but in the meantime, some of our highlights of the last month have been:

Hiking in the Colca Canyon

Watching the condors soar above us as we hiked in the Colca Canyon in Peru (first time at altitude).

Hiking the Inca Trail, Peru

Hiking the 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (especially proud of this due to suffering from altitude sickness and a nasty gastro bug). I’ll have full recaps on this soon!

Jungle Trekking in the Amazon Jungle

Trekking through the jungle in the Amazon to see caimans, monkeys and macaws.

Dancing with the locals Lake Titicaca

A night of dancing with the locals on Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru.

Bolivian Cholitas Wrestling La Paz

Witnessing the hilarious and slightly ridiculous spectacle that is Bolivian Cholitas Wrestling in La Paz, Bolivia.

Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

Sleeping in a hotel made of salt and watching the sun rise over the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia.

Inside Potosi Mine

Witnessing miners at work in the mountains of Potosi. So hard to breathe at such altitude, so deep inside a mountain, and with so much dust everywhere.

We still have another 3 weeks on our tour (can’t fault our tour company one bit, it’s been an excellent way of seeing all the sights AND MORE!) before Jase and I set off on our own to explore Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Colombia. Can’t wait! If you want to keep up with us then feel free to follow along on our Toppadventure facebook page.

Have you been to South America before? Any must-see’s? 

We are travelling from Lima to Rio de Janeiro with Tucan Travel on their 49 day Coast to Coast itinerary. 

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