My friend Kylee and I arrived in Peru on March 11, 2009. We went from the Puerto Maldonado airport, directly to a boat that took us to our lodge in the jungle for the next 3 nights. We got to see Monkey Island, look for caimans at night, canoe down the river to the Gamitana river to go fishing, and then took a couple hikes through the jungle.
They gave us gum boots (rubber boots) to wear, which were much appreciated - as you can see from all the mud we walked through. Our big hike was the Lost Lake Hike. We hiked about 5km initially, seeing a tarantula, giant snail and a small snake. Then we got to a watch town (25 meters high) that we climbed up and got the most amazing view of the jungle from above the tree canopy. We then walked on planks across the swamp until we reached a lagoon. We canoed down the lagoon and then walked back out of the jungle after 6 1/2 hours.
At our lodge I still remember waking up in the morning (with the most ice cold shower I’ve ever had by the way…) hearing the howler monkeys from deep within the jungle. We were scared of the noise at first, and then once our guide told us what it was, we just had to laugh. Another highlight from the jungle was just enjoying the hammocks along the river and relaxing in the afternoon!
Kylee and I continued our Peru trip by staying a couple days in Cusco to acclimate to the elevation. We stayed at the Piccola Locanda hostel , which was just perfect for us. We explored the Plaza in town, going in and out of the souvenir shops. We visited the La Catedral, and took a self-guided tour through the 3 adjoining churches. We also visited some of the museums - Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporanes, Museo de Arte Popular, Museo de Sitio del Qoricancha, then finally walked through Iglesia de Santa Domingo.
The next day we took a Sacred Valley tour. We went to Pisac, walked around the Pisac market, drove to Urubamba and then Ollantaytambo to tour the Inca ruins. Next we drove to the town of Chinchero and watched a demo of how they wash, dye, spool and weave the Aplaca fur. We made it back to Cusco that evening and then got prepared to embark on the hardest thing we have ever done in our lives…the 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu!
We were picked up at 4:45am by Peru Treks and drove to Ollantaytamba. We had breakfast and then began our hike at km 82 at 10am after getting our bags weighed at the station and our passports stamped. It was really hot the first day, which made it that much harder, but we survived the first 12km of our hike. Our porters were just amazing on the entire journey. They would have breakfast, snacks and dinner prepared for us everyday, and set up and tore down our tents – all while departing camp after we left and arriving at the next camp before we got there.
On day 2 we were woken up at 5:45am and handed hot cocoa tea in our tents. This day was really brutal, basically all up hill! We hiked up 700 meters before our first break, and then went up another 400 meters afterwards. As we reached 14,000 ft I wasn’t sure if I could make it. Slowly but surely though we made it to the top of Dead Woman’s Pass! It was very cold and windy at the top, so we only stayed about 15 minutes and then started our way down - 600 meters down in an hour and a half - to our campsite for the night. Day 2 also totaled 12 km.
Day 3 we started with going uphill 400 meters, then down 300 meters. We came across some large Inca sites and walked around those for a bit. It started raining and pretty much didn't stop for the next 2 days! But we put on our rain gear and continued on.
After lunch we hiked another 200 meters up and then we began the dreaded 1,000 meters downhill! I have to say I really enjoyed the downhill, but man it was brutal on my knees! You would stop to take a picture and your legs were just shaking! It was really neat seeing the changes in scenery as you went downhill. We went from these sparse mountaintops to feeling like we were in the jungle with lots of trees and bugs flying around. The last 40 minutes was neat because we were overlooking the mountains and Urubamba River just as the clouds were lifting and we saw a rainbow over the valley. That evening we saw Winay Wayna Inca ruins near our campsite and finally called it a night after 15km hiked that day.
On Day 4 we woke up at 3:45am and finally made it to Machu Picchu. It was cloudy when we arrived in the morning, as the rain was finally stopping. The neatest thing though was sitting there at the site and minute-by-minute as the clouds lifted we saw another section of the ruins appear. It was like nature was just teasing us so we fully enjoyed each new stone that emerged as the clouds lifted all the way. When we finally took in the entire site - WOW! Definitely worth hiking 26 miles and not showering for 4 days.
After exploring Machu Picchu, we took the bus down to Aguas Caliente - had lunch and enjoyed the hot springs, then took the train back to Ollaytatambo and a bus to Cusco.