Jungle trekking to Machu Picchu; the big finale ⛰

I awoke before our alarms went at 3:15 due to the noise outside our window. I lay there thinking it was absolutely bucketing down and dreading the thoughts of walking in the rain, only to discover it was actually the river outside! We had quick showers then made our way downstairs to offload our luggage and start on our way.

We walked in the dark with our flashlights to guide us. Some people more eager than others to be the first in the queue at the bridge. We passed the bus line queue which was already forming even though it did not start until 6am. It was now 4am.


We waited at the bridge, eating rolls and sharing them with the stray dogs that loitered around. Eventually the gates opened and we were allowed cross. We had been told that it should take us an hour, though for locals it takes 40 minutes.

It took us 1 hr 30 minutes!! It was so so tough. 2000 steps! Don’t get me wrong, some people over took us. Others we over took. We were catching our breaths for the billionth time when a girl had to get sick from exertion. We stayed together and pushed each other up, the only way we knew we were near is when we heard voices above us. It was a killer! But my ass felt amazing 😂.

We made it up just before 6.30 am to be told by our Dutch friends that our tour guide wanted to leave without us. This annoyed us because we were told to meet at 6.30 plus the fact we were then left waiting for him once we got through the gates. We felt a bit like cattle as we shuffled towards the entrance.


I have to say I did feel a bit emotional as I got my first glimpse at the historical site. Sun was coming up & it was covered in cloud. Though I didn’t do the Classic Inca Trail the trek I chose took a lot out of me. Obviously this was partly due to sickness but even in good health I reckon I still would have struggled at parts. However despite all my grumbles I did make it. I didn’t appreciate it until a few months later but I finally gave myself a bit of credit. I met a few people who gave in & got the bus or the train because the same sickness knocked it out of them, however I persevered. It has to count for something!


Our tour guide had gathered a lot of people & talked us through the different parts of the site. Honestly though I didn’t take anything in about what he was saying. Apart from the fact that he wasn’t the best guide, it was easy to be distracted by the sure awe of the place & how it was built.

You are looking around at the architecture & seriously overwhelmed by how it was constructed. There’s a wall built into the mountain that I still don’t understand how it was made. Just when you are getting your head around it all you then spot Huayna Picchu mountain & spot building up there at a higher point. It is unbelievable.

We spent time wandering through the different parts. It seriously is crowded, full of people trying to get the perfect photo for their Instagram/Tinder profile. We overhear other tourists complain at their guide as they have been up since 7 am & they are tired of walking! We think ‘try walking up 2000 steps at 5 am missus!!’


What I did love about it was we seemed to meet a lot of people we had interacted with over the previous week. It was great catching up especially at the place which was probably our main reason of visiting Peru in the first place.

Due to the different weather conditions in Peru I had brought a onesie as I read Cusco gets very cold at night (which is very true). My friend dared me to wear it at the top of Machu Picchu. So I did, at lunch time when the sun was scalding us! She left shortly after to wait in the coffee shop as the tiredness suddenly hit her. I wandered about talking to different friends I had made. I also made it my mission to get the obligatory Lama photo.

We decided to make our way back for the bus. I have a problem with my knee & I knew descending those steps would cause me issues. I’m happy I did after recent problems I have had with it.

We had some food in Agues Calientes then went back to grab our stuff. We were all lethargic & couldn’t wait to rest our heads on the train back. About 5.20 pm we made our way to the train station for our 6 pm departure. Walking through the train station we thought it strange for it to be so busy, bodies lying about everywhere. We soon found out that there were delays. Communication in the station was a nightmare. No updates at all.

We eventually discovered there had been a train crash and that was what was causing delays. We only found out through talking to people, staff were unhelpful. For a few hours we lay on the concrete inside the station. We met up with Mary and her boyfriend who ended up joining our group when we eventually got seats outside. Some of the lads got alcohol and in spite of being exhausted we had a laugh for the most part. Our train company eventually gave us snacks to appease us, though we were annoyed it was mainly at the lack of information being given & the fact we were tired. Sitting outside was also cold so I put my onesie on over my clothes, I didn’t care at this stage. A group of Asian tourist had gotten drunk and were dancing around a smart phone to Barbie Girl, that amused us for a while.

Around 12.30 am we boarded the train. I think we all conked out as soon as we lay our heads down. The train doesn’t go all the way to Cusco so we had to get out at the final stop where we were to be brought back to Cusco by bus. It was near 3am and we were exhausted so what we disembarked to was absolute madness. Lots of people screaming at us for taxi’s & buses. After pushing our way through the crowd we finally found our group on a placard. We thought we could rest easy, instead we kept getting moved from bus to bus being told each one couldn’t take us. One of our companions got irate & snapped at the person in charge. A man came up and guided us towards a taxi, telling us he would take us. The lady in charge told us to go with him but we were on edge. We didn’t need to be as he brought us to our destination safely, we just were unnerved that early hour of the morning. Near 5 am we eventually crawled into bed in our hostel room, desperate to get heat in our bones and some rest after a very long day!!

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Jungle trekking to Machu Picchu; Day 3 a short hike

After breakfast we got transported to the zip lines which I chose not to do. Two reasons; Firstly I was still unwell (great excuse). Secondly I unfortunately had read reviews before I left & a lot of them had mentioned about how unsafe they could be, tourists dying as a result of not being shown how to strap themselves properly. I had already zip-lined at home a few times so I didn’t feel it was an experience I was missing out on.

Instead I got to chill in the sun watching eagles soar in the sky & listen to the squeals in the background. It also gave me time to let my stomach settle a bit more & force feed myself. The scenery was pretty too. It turns out that there are quite a few of these zip-lining places & by talking to others later on, the one we were taken to was quite a good one.

After this place we shared a bus with another group to Hidrolectica station where we split up. Our group made our way to a large restaurant where hammocks awaited us! We were early so we got to lie in the sun before our lunch was served & for a short period after. Amazingly enough I found myself able to try lunch. I managed a couple of spoons of soup then a few bites of the beef & rice dish. Both were lovely I would have liked to eat more than what my stomach allowed!

We then began our trek. Our bag-packs were heavy but as we were only to trek for a few hours it was manageable. We offloaded some of our goodies to local children once their parents approved. We walked along gravel & railway tracks, passing people with a lot heavier loads on their backs. Whilst it wasn’t as taxing as the previous day it was still a long journey. We avoided a few trains along the way too, giving us time to rest.

As we neared our destination of Agues Calientes we stopped for a short break. Another group came along & I was delighted to find that Mary, who I spoke to on the bus after white water rafting, was part of it. We had quick chat, comparing insect bites (some of her group were destroyed!) and giving advice about where to eat when back in Cusco.


As we walked towards the town, our guide pointed out the bridge where we would begin our final trek to Machu Picchu. He told us we would have to be up at 4am to make the opening at 5am. It should take an hour to make it to the top or that we could get a bus. We scoffed at this, stating that we would be cheating if we did that (in hindsight we should have!). 

Agues Calientes is a very pretty town. It reminds me of ski resorts that I’ve seen in movies. We passed the five star hotel and made it to our lodgings above a Chinese restaurant. Out of our three nights this was the nicest stay that was offered. The wifi was great, beds were comfortable and the bathroom was the nicest we had seen since our arrival to Peru. I managed to eat dinner which was also a bonus as I needed my energy for the next day, the final day of the trek ….Machu Picchu 

 

Jungle trekking to Machu Picchu; Day 2 a long hike

Day two started with me in good enough form, though I was still unable to eat breakfast. I managed a banana & some water to give myself energy. My friend had organized for our bag-pack to be sent on so we only had to share the weight of one. We were transported to the foot of the mountain so we skipped a long enough walk at the start.

I personally had spent the summer hill walking constantly to prepare myself for inclines on this trip but nothing could have prepared me for how much I struggled on this day. It was constant inclines & the heat even in the morning was zapping any energy I had. I held the group back as I had to stop a lot & to be honest the very first hour I was so close to tears. I felt guilt over slowing the others on their journey & I had hit a mental block of where I just wanted to give up.


In the mountains many locals have shops set up for tourists to rest & purchase refreshments. I took this opportunity to rest a lot & drink water. The others dressed up in local garments for fun & took pictures with the monkey that was tied to a post. We spent longer than planned here, probably due to my obvious struggle. In this time I discovered another reason as to why I found it so tough & was so emotional, lets say although it didn’t help matters physically it made me feel more normal!

Peruvian Tequila has a snake instead of a worm

My friend told me she was struggling with the hike too. At first I thought it was just to make me feel better, however as it went on I could see she wasn’t lying. What I found hard was due to altitude & shortness of breath as a result of the climb, I realised that no-one was talking. On my hikes at home with friends its the constant chatter & banter that takes your mind off the journey ahead. This hike however I was constantly in my own head, telling myself I wasn’t good enough, I was holding everyone back, how much I hated the walk etc. When I told my friend this she kindly took my mind off things by asking me trivia about the Kardashians! It was the only topic that came to mind at the time & it actually passed an hour easily enough. This in turn boosted my spirits somewhat so I wasn’t a constant moan-bag for the whole trek.

During this time we reached the part that I was dreading, the narrow part of the trail where you don’t want to look down. When we first arrived here I didn’t think it was as bad as I thought it would be, however I did freak out when I looked at what was in store. To descend from this cliff meant narrow steps, a tiny mistake could mean you plummeting down into the valley below. To help I looked down at my feet & clung to the rocks at the side. I was terrified but we kept conversation flowing to distract both of us from our fears.

You can’t see the drop from here but it’s a big one!!

We continued down hill which really helped my mood. I perked up a good bit & made conversation with the Dutch couple in our group. It was nice getting to know them & for them to get to know me, see that I wasn’t just being a pain for no reason.

The locals are really friendly & we were astounded how they could live so isolated from everything. At one point on our walk we came along a bundle hanging from a tree. We were informed by our tour guide that it was in fact a baby! When the locals need to do errands they leaved the child asleep in a swaddle hanging from the tree.

We stopped for lunch in this nice restaurant where other groups were. We got to rest before & after, in hammocks & on seats in the shade. Lunch was nice however I could only manage a couple of spoonfuls of soup. My main regret about being sick is that I missed out on a lot of good meals in Peru. I am a fussy eater but everything I ate was really nice & the smells of the meals on this trek were amazing.

We continued on our trek, in parts we mixed with the other group. There was a lot more of them but they were always ahead of us. Rain started which cooled us down. We crossed streams until we eventually came to an old Railway bridge. The gaps in the sleepers turned into a blur as I quickly stepped over them to get to the other side.

Not the railway bridge obviously!!

After a rest we moved on to more gravel & rocks that we had to make our way over. Soon enough we reached the cable car. This is pulled by locals on either side to get you over the Urabamba river. I never felt scared on this by the way, it was actually fun. From there we made our way through a tunnel & walked to Santa Theresa Hot Springs.

The trail to Saint Teresa was a gloomy one in this weather

The weather had changed to a drizzle & the sky was covered in grey. The hot springs were a lot nicer than I had imagined. There were numerous changing rooms, shops to buy refreshments & beer, along with sunbeds to chill out by the springs if you would rather that. I chose to get in as I am not sure when I would get the chance again. The temperature depended on which pool you chose, though I never found anything too hot. The smell wasn’t overwhelming either which was good. I enjoyed my time in the baths, talking to my new Dutch friends, taking in the different cultures around me. Thunder & lightening began which was nice for a period until it got closer. I chose to get out of the baths in case any electricity hit the water (which it didn’t but safety first etc).

We got transported to our lodgings for the night, which was like a shed. It wasn’t the most comfortable of surroundings but it beat sleeping in a tent in stormy weather! I went straight to bed without dinner hoping to enjoy the next day more than I did that day. I honestly was fed up of being sick & dragging the group along. I was praying to be better the following day!