Hiking to Machu Picchu
By: Kach Medina and Jonathan Howe
TRAILS AROUND THE WORLD presents
DIY Trek to Machu Picchu in Peru
Growing up in the Lake District in North West England, surrounded by lakes, rivers, mountains and valleys, I’m always looking for a mountain to climb or a trail that leads somewhere, anywhere or even nowhere. I’m quite happy to point myself in a direction that looks kind of interesting and simply start walking, with no specific aim or goal in mind. This drives Kach mental! She’s very goal oriented and pretty much will not walk anywhere without the promise of some kind of ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the rainbow, or in this case, the ruins of an ancient Incan city high in the Selva Alta, or high jungle, surrounded by snow-capped mountains!
Our favourite trail is still our DIY trek to Machu Picchu, when we had just arrived in Peru with little more than a couple of hundred dollars in our pockets. After speaking to some locals in the hostel we were working in, we realised that $100 USD p/p each way for a train ride, or $600 for the Inca Trail, was both overpriced and completely unnecessary, for our needs at least. We opted for the little-known option that the locals and only a handful of backpackers choose to embark on. The small town of Ollantaytambo, about an hour from Cusco, is an old pre-Incan town and the place we decided to work in for about 6 weeks. From here, we caught a collective (shared minibus) to Km 82, from where we started following the train line in the direction of Machu Picchu! The line follows the Sacred Valley, clinging to the cliff side for much of the journey, giving awe-inspiring views of the raging rivers and towering mountains in all directions.
Starting high up in the Andean mountains and flowing down through the magnificent Scared Valley, in just 30km we experienced every vista you can imagine, from dry, rocky mountain landscapes with fast flowing white water in the valley below, to the luscious vegetation of the highland jungle.
Occasional goat paths spur off from the rail tracks, allowing a safer and even more interesting route over most of the tunnels, passing hidden Inca and Quechua ruins which remain hidden to all but walkers and the occasional horse and cow that passes by. When you do have to walk on the rails, the trains are loud and slow, giving you plenty of time to jump out of the way!
As we made our way down the valley, the harsh and unforgiving rocky landscapes gave way to dense vegetation with avocado and banana trees on both sides, while the lower altitude allowed for easier breathing.
On the final approach towards the tourist hub that is Aguas Calientes, the tracks and trails became busier with local workers, lost tourists and Peruvian porters carrying impossible loads on their backs. When we finally reached the town itself, after around 7 hours of walking, all that was left was to find a place to sleep for the night, to rest our weary bones for the long climb up the winding stone steps to the original City in the Sky – Machu Picchu!
Kach Medina and Jonathan Howe blog at Two Monkeys Travel and are a working-on-the-road couple from the Philippines and UK. Having each decided to quit their jobs and set off around South East Asia to start their new lives, neither imagined they would end up traveling the world with someone they met in a backpackers’ bar in Laos. But that’s what happened! They are both certified Tantra Yoga Teachers, Ayurveda Massage Therapists and TEFL Certified Teachers. Working wherever and whenever they want! Travelling since April 2013 and currently exploring Central America. Their next major travel goal – Antarctica via Argentina.
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