Machu Picchu had to be up there at the top of our bucket list. An incredible city built by the Incas high up in the Andes that has lasted hundreds of years – we’re not surprised it’s one of the Modern 7 Wonders of the World!
There are a few different ways people go and see this amazing place, from the classic Inca Trail trek which ends at the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu, to people going just for a day trip. We tried to book on to the famous 5-day Inca Trail back in May, although even then it was already full! Only 500 permits are allocated daily by the Peruvian government allowing people to be on the classic Inca Trail. It also costs around $500 USD which is pretty steep.
Instead, we decided to do a 4-day alternative, called the Inca Jungle Trek. We’d heard good things about it from various people, and liked that the trek would involve biking, rafting and zip-lining as well as hiking. Also it’s a snip of the price of the Inca Trail, at only $150 USD per person.
What was new for us is that we didn’t book the Inca Jungle Trek in advance, we just turned up in Cusco, looked up a reliable agency (we went through Marvellous Peru) and booked it.
Armed with our day rucksacks (20 – 30 litres), the strongest mosquito repellent we could lay our hands on, and our best banter (we do try), we were ready for our Inca adventure!
After a not-too-early pick up at 7am, we headed with our small group to our starting point – Abras Malagas for 2 hours of downhill mountain biking.
Although it was pretty wet up in the Andes, our spirits couldn’t be dampened and we were excited to cycle in such beautiful scenery. We were given plenty of safety gear, including a full-face helmet, knee pads and elbow pads, and the bikes were ok, not top of the range but then again we didn’t pay top of the range prices! We still felt pretty safe.
The cycling was good fun! Yes we got completely soaked, from the rain as well as having to cycle through patches of flooding on the road, but once the clouds cleared and the sun came out, it was lush!
After reaching our end point, it was another 30 minute drive to get to our hostel in Santa Maria. We had such a good lunch – soup, chicken with quinoa risotto, and pancake for pudding – a big plus point of the trek was that we were really well fed!
Our next challenge was trying to dry off our wet clothes after the cycling. Top tip if you’re going to do this trek, make sure you bring enough spare clothes because we really struggled to get ours to dry properly, especially when our trainers were wet!
This didn’t matter for our next activity though – white water rafting. I had actually been pretty nervous for this, I’d never done it before and I was worried about the raft capsizing or me falling out!
Smug face – I didn’t fall out! I was so chuffed (and relieved) and better still, I really enjoyed it. I did feel like a bit of a pleb when the raft guide decided I should perch on the front of the raft for a bit, and me being me, I managed to fall back on to Joe and another guy, legs all a-kimbo. Not my most graceful moment.
Still, our raft team bossed it. Pisco Sours to celebrate!
Hiking in the beautiful Andes and then relaxing in hot springs in Santa Teresa – what could go wrong?!
Remember before when I said we brought a strong mosquito repellent? Turns out these Andean mossies are MONSTERS!
While Joe got bitten to pieces, I felt safe in the knowledge that I never get bitten by mosquitos. They just mustn’t like me. Lucky me!
What I hadn’t counted on was that these mossies must just laugh in the face of repellent and sting people anyway. After a lovely (but sometimes tough) day of hiking and then soaking in the hot springs, I managed to get covered in bites in the 5 minutes after leaving the pool and getting changed. Karma got me good.
Ok rant over. To give you more useful information, the hike was around 8 hours of jungle trails as well as a stretch of an old Inca trail, which we were pretty excited about. I mean, those Incas made good trails but did they have to make so many steep steps?!? Some parts were definitely not for the faint hearted or those scared of heights.
Also I had to include this photo of Joe dressed as an Inca. When we stopped mid-morning, the local rest point had traditional outfits we could try on. Of course, we both gave it a go! Strangely, I think he really suits it (in a hilarious way)!
Our last day before Machu Picchu!
Zip-lining was our activity in the morning, which again neither of us had done before but we loved it!
We even went across the third zip upside down (nailed it) although you’re just going to have to believe that we’re proper daredevils, because all photographic evidence has been lost with our GoPro (sob).
Shout out to the hilarious Israeli guys who kept everyone entertained and all said “Maseltov” when we told them we were on our honeymoon. Good banter.
In the afternoon was our hike from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes (newly named as Machu Picchu Pueblo). It followed the railway tracks so was nice and flat and we got some hola’s from the guards when the Peru Rail trains went past. We also got our first peek at Machu Picchu! It just got us even more psyched for the next day.
THE BIG DAY ARRIVED! Ok so when we got up at 3:30am we weren’t so excited. It felt like we sprinted the 30 minute walk to the bridge crossing ready for the hour’s hike up the hill to the entrance of Machu Picchu.
Everybody else was as desperate as we were to beat the busses so we could see the ruins before the other hoards of tourists arrived.
Our early start paid off and we were at the top by 5:50am. I have to add here though that we were proper sweaty messes – the 1 hour hike to the top is basically 1 hour of steep steps. Killer!
After we’d met our guide, we got through the entrance and saw Machu Picchu in all its glory. A few low-lying clouds made it look even more dramatic and we managed to get the classic postcard photo (still sporting sweat patches) before it got too busy.
I’m struggling to think of words to describe Machu Picchu. It’s just so breathtaking. Our inner engineer geeks came out when we were told about how the Incas had designed the buildings and foundations to withstand earthquakes. Amazing! The whole city took about 50 years to build and at its busiest, around 1000 people lived there. Now its only permanent residents are the llamas and alpacas.
After our guided tour (Marvellous Peru booked us a great local guide, Miguel) we wandered on our own towards the Sun Gate and also saw the Inca Bridge. By this point it was getting very hot, very busy, and we also wary about having to get back to Hidroelectrica for our bus to Cusco.
Once we’d been pushed by about the 100th time by a lairy tourist, we called it a day. Top tip – take your passport with you because you can get it stamped on the way out! We love a passport stamp.
It felt like we pretty much skipped down the same steps we’d slogged up at sunrise and then did the 2 and a half hour hike to Hidroelectrica. We were both pretty jealous of the people getting the train from Aguas Calientes – we had a 6-7 hour bus ride to look forward too! Still, we managed to snooze on the bus, although this wasn’t a surprise considering my iPhone said we’d clocked up 35000 steps that day!! Loco!
It was worth it though. Machu Picchu was just incredible and were so glad we saw it as part of the Inca Jungle Trek. We had a really fun 4 days and definitely recommend it to anybody who’s thinking about a trek to Machu Picchu. Bucket list item, ticked off!
“Where are the Andes? At the end of your arm-ies” – Joe Pitkin, 2017.
What’s on your bucket list? What are your tips for Machu Picchu? Please leave your comments below! Follow us on Instagram @pitkinswithpassports for more of our travel photos.