Inca Trail Hike: Exhausting, Exhilarating and Intense

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

Hiking the Inca Trail had always been on my to-do list for its spiritual location, beauty and atmosphere as well as its physical challenge.

We finally did it in May 2017, joining a group of 12 hikers and two guides, and a dozen porters and a chef. The epic journey started from Cusco and after four days and 42km ended in Machu Picchu - the Lost City of the Inca.

On the logistics side, we only needed to carry daily essentials in our backpack as each person in the hiking group could leave up to 10kg weight to the porters. The support team also came with a chef, so we were fed three meals a day, which was super luxurious. At the end of each day, we would stay at a designated camp area in a tent with sleeping bags and pillows. Being an eco-friendly tour, our porter team also carried portable toilets so that no waste was left behind.

Camp site on the Inca Trail, Peru

We were living in Colorado at the time and were used to high altitudes, especially as we used to hike around the Rocky Mountains regularly, so we thought we were physically ready for the challenge. But that turned out to be half true. It was very different when you hiked a whole day and then slept in a cold tent without a hot shower at night, then next day repeated the same. We had never done a multi-day hike prior to that and had always had a hot shower and comfortable warm bed to sleep in after a hike. So three long cold night in a tent took a heavy toll on me as I hardly slept due to the cold. Luckily Brad can sleep like a baby anywhere and coped much better.

The hike itself was challenging at times especially on Day Two with steep ascents and descents on slippery and narrow stairs. Brad called those stairs "monkey stairs" as I had to be on all fours at sections looking like a monkey! On Day Two we also covered the greatest distance and had most elevation gain (about 1,200m) when traversing Dead Woman's Pass. With the altitude in play, we found ourselves moving like a sloth, desperately gasping for air. Luckily we took a few breaks and had tasty snacks, hot meals and stimulating coca tea to look forward to and pull us through the day.

The scenery on Inca Trail was pure magic! We went through magnificent mountains, mysterious cloud-hanging valleys, stone ruins, and lush sub-tropical jungles. We saw some beautiful giant hummingbirds with shining blue and turquoise feathers and large flamboyant butterflies. We also came across alpacas and lamas wondering around on the trails (see our main Blog photo).

Stone ruins on Inca Trail, Peru
Mountains on Inca Trail, Peru

The porters were impressive, hard working people and super fit. Every morning after breakfast, they stayed behind to pack up the tents etc and then overtook us to set up for lunch in the next place; they then prepared for lunch and after we left, they packed up and overtook us again to set up for dinner. According to the local laws, the maximum weight a porter can carry is 20kg to protect them from possible injuries from overload.

Porters on Inca Trail, Peru

We were very impressed by the chef's cooking skills that created so many tasty and healthy meals in the camp kitchen. We were treated with local specialties such as chicken ceviche and lomo saltaldo and even a cake baked on the camp stove!

Machu Picchu itself was enchanting charged with powerful energy. It felt incredible to be there. We took our time exploring this lost city, absorbing its magic surroundings. That afternoon we caught the glass-ceilinged train back to Cusco, spending another couple of hours soaking in this splendid world.