The jungle trek to Machu Picchu
The back side of Machu Picchu mountain (Photo: Max Brown)
By Max Brown
September 4, 2012
As we walk, we pass banana trees and pineapples growing out of the ground. I didn't even know how either of these grew before this trek. We've seen so many different fruits and foods growing throughout out trip, and we've gotten to try so many of them: coffee beans, avocados, papayas, cocoa beans, and countless other fascinating plants.
There are so many different ways to reach Machu Picchu— it’s like one of those “choose your own adventure” books— but I decided on the four day, three night jungle trek starting with biking on the first day.
The first day is terrible. When we reach the top of the mountain that we were meant to bike down, it is raining, and there is even a bit of snow. We all put on our gear and start down the mountain roads. Clouds shroud the amazing views we would have seen, rain pelts us and freezes our fingers. After about 30 minutes we are all back in the van, and some are stripping off their wet clothes.
After we exit the cloud cover and get closer to Santa Maria, the rain has stopped and our guide suggests some of us could bike the rest of the way if we want. By the end of the ride, my fellow bikers and I are covered in mud. Honestly, if it hadn't been raining and the clouds hadn't obscured our views, the ride would have been well worth it.
The following days make up for the first day. For the whole trek, we have a professional guide. Willy is very friendly and incredibly knowledgeable about the area. The second day is the longest hiking day. This is when we saw the majority of fruit trees and coca plantations.
We stop at a small cluster of homes known as the Monkey House. Here, Wily shows us many plants from the jungle and explains how the Incas used them in their lives. We also are able to try a bunch of different foods: coffee beans straight off the plant,fresh brewed coffee from the region, dark chocolate, cocoa beans in honey— really tasty. We also are told about coca leaves and the benefits chewing the dried leaves can have.
Later that day— after walking the hardest parts of our journey— we stop for lunch at a small place, between the trees hammocks are strung up for an after-lunch siesta.
Then after walking for awhile longer, mostly down hill, we reach the hot springs. This area is very popular with locals and tour groups passing through. Bring S/. 5 if you hope to enter here, and another S/. 5 for the ride to Santa Teresa after your soak.
The nice thing about the jungle trek is that it's pretty easy. You have your slightly tough day hikes, but during the night you stay in a small hostel. After we reach Santa Teresa, we get set in our hostel and go out to dinner. All your meals are at restaurants. You don't have to carry too much during the daytime, so it makes it a fun and easy adventure.
The third day you are given an option option--for $30 more--to replace half a day of walking with zip-lining. They told us it's one of the longest in South America, but I only care that I'll be hanging above the jungle doing something exhilarating. It turns out to be great fun, and after walking a lot the first day, I would be fine skipping a bit. Make sure to get over whatever fear of heights you have and look around while zipping along, the views are amazing.
After lunch near the hydroelectric station, the group continues trekking along the train tracks. This is very easy hiking, some may get bored with it, but for me it is really relaxing and beautiful. Large, jungle covered mountains surround us as we make our way to Aguas Calientes. Our guide points out Machu Picchu mountain; we are walking around from the backside of the mountain to the front.
Once we reach Aguas Calientes our guide sets us up in our hostels and briefs us on what will happen tomorrow when we go to Machu Picchu. We have dinner, he gives us our entrance tickets and our train tickets back to Cusco.
When you set up a tour for Machu Picchu there are some things you should consider. Many people in my group were not even told of Wayna Picchu and that you had to buy a special ticket to get on the mountain. Only 400 people are allowed there each day, so you need to book this at least five, or more, days in advance. There is also Machu Picchu mountain, which you also need a special ticket to climb.
There are many other treks you can take to Machu Picchu, so make sure you chose one you feel comfortable with. Also, get a receipt with everything you have purchased. Machu Picchu can be expensive, and if you are trying to save money, you can do so by taking busses to Santa Teresa and the hydroelectric station then walking the rest of the way to Aguas Calientes along the train tracks. But, having the guide enhanced my experience greatly, as I could always ask him about plants, animals, or history.
The best thing about the group trek: meeting great people.
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Total coments: 2
Commented By: harry61
On: September 5, 2012. 1:05 am
Great !!! A new of some more new upcoming Inka Trails. Wait some years and you'll have the second Inka Trail with visitor restrictions. It's nice that you share this with us and the world. But Volunteering is out and there is no winner, only one looser called environment and/or nature ....
Commented By: Carlos Rodriguez
On: October 3, 2012. 11:42 am
Max: I'm sure you enjoyed this experience, but you have to know something that guides and some tourism companies don't say: it is forbidden by law to hike alongside the train tracks for your own safety.
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