Cusco, Inca trail and Machu Picchu

We survived the 17h night bus to Cusco, ancient capital of the Inca empire, located at 3400m above sea level. Unfortunately, Minna had also gotten sick along the way. This combination doesn’t give you much energy to begin with. So, our mission was to recover as best as possible for the highlight of this tour: 4 days hike on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu! Rock hard beds, cold room, loud neighbourhood and fireworks(!) from 6am is perhaps not optimal conditions. Cusco has beautiful architecture and wonderful Peruvian food, so we managed pretty well after all. First world problems as the saying goes. We opted out for the more strenuous activities and instead tried chocolate making, jewellery factory and, of course, alpaca clothing store, among other things.

As we missed out a part of our itinerary due to the strike in Arequipa, our tour company arranged a day tour in the Sacred Valley as compensation, where we visited a local supported textile project as well as pottery making. The Sacred Valley is the name of the region stretching 60km from Cusco to Machu Picchu in which the holy Urubamba river flows. This area with fertile farmlands was undoubtedly a key area in the Inca period, and also our first step towards Machu Picchu.

The textile community, all women. Two lamas getting to know each other. That grass is just so delicious though. A man at the pottery community showing how to make bricks out of clay and hay.

DAY 1, Appetiser

After spending a night in the close town of Ollantaytambo (with surprisingly comforting beds!), we drove off in a mini van on a bumpy dirt road to the Inca trail’s starting point. Once arrived, our duffle bags weighted 2kg too much plus we got snacks for 4 days that we didn’t expect to carry. 3kg extra in the daypack, yay! A grumpy start for the both of us, especially Viktor. Luckily, this was our shortest day, and before we knew it, we reached our camp for the night in the afternoon.

Mandatory picture at the starting sign. The bridge to cross in order to start the Inca trail on the other side. Inca warrior. Paint coming from squashed cactus beetle which our guide sacrificed to have good weather on the hike. This beetle is used for colouring in many industries, and if you own a red lipstick its likely coloured with these insects/parasites.First Inca site in the Sacred Valley. Camp site numero uno, writing diary (which we have done every single day since we left Sweden).

DAY 2, Soup

Buenos dias, coca tea? Yes, please! We woke up 5 am to a clear morning. Hopefully, it won’t rain on our toughest day. Our mission today was to climb Dead Woman’s Pass, where the mountain silhouette looks like a woman lying down. 1200m climbing uphill in roughly 6hrs (with breaks) and then 600m down to camp for lunch. Vamonos chicos and chicas! With Himalaya as our anchoring point, the climb proved not so tough, but still quite strenuous. The weather kept clear until we reached our camp site around lunch time, then it started to rain. Lucky us! A power nap was well deserved. We camped at around 3800m above sea level, and Minna, unfortunately, struggled with the altitude once again with bad headache and fatigue.

Let the uphill climb begin!Wild lamas casually eating, surrounded by the stunning mountains of the Andeans. They are surprisingly big animals, some the size of a horse. The small village at the bottom of the valley was our starting point of the day. We made it!Andean princess. Mandatory pose at the Dead Women’s Pass sign, 4215 m above sea level.

DAY 3, Main Course

If yesterday was the toughest day, today was the longest day. The plan was to cover 16 km in the mountains, passing four Inca sites and decent about 1000 m. Even though hiking uphill is more challenging for the lungs (especially on this altitude), downhill is very tough for the knees. The Inca trail is known for its amount of stairs, not making it easier for the joints.

As we hiked down, the climate changed and we found ourselves in the Andean cloud forest. There were plenty of different orchid species as well as bird song and natural cave formations. Instead of walking through valleys, the path lead us along the mountain sides and offered views so beautiful you couldn’t keep your eyes on the trail.

Ancient Inca painting of a warrior. Do you see it? Viktor walking through the changing vegetation. Lunch break with the team! Soup, main course and hot drinks every meal.

The Inca site Intipata.

Macchu Picchu mountain. In the valley behind lies The Macchu Picchu Inca site. Guinea pig rock formationOne happy lama and her mountain friend.

DAY 4, Dessert

Early morning wake up as our porters needed to catch a 5:30 train back to their homes. Fair enough, they have carried 25kg each while we share a daypack of 7-8kg… The last checkpoint control opened around 5:30, so we set off in a high tempo to reach Intipunku (The Sun Gate), once a guardhouse for the main entrance to Macchu Picchu, for the sunrise. Mysterious clouds blocked the view with the occasional sneak peak during our sandwich breakfast. A small path along the mountain lead us eventually to our main destination, which I think most of you have figured our by now, Macchu Picchu! Our camera work full time for an half hour before it was time for our guided tour through Macchu Picchu to learn more about the Inca culture and enjoy the view from this amazing place. We are thankful for experiencing four wonderful days with beautiful weather, helpful guide and strong porters.

Our good weather prayers had been answered. Team Condor Conquers. We made it! Eyes on camera Minna! Stunning mountains in the background.Two doors in one. This was an entrance to a highly respectable house such as shaman.Final picture!