Map of Peru



Flag of Peru

The Cuzco town square.

We can now say we've walked in the foot steps of the Inca.

   Traveling to Peru to hike the Inca trail has always been one of Sheena's dreams. In 2014, she made it a reality.

   Having never hired a company to take us hiking and hiking with other people that we didn't know was a bit intimidating. However, Wilderness Travel made it a wonderful experience and had everything perfectly coordinated. We also had a wonderful experience with the 3 other couples. Steve and Amanda were from California as were Leonard and Elizabeth. Mark and Nancy were from New York city and had never backpacked before and had a great time.


Flag of Cuzco

A Peruvian specialty, roasted guinea pig.

Cuzco - The city of Cuzco (also known as Cusco) is a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco Region as well as the Cusco Province. In 2013, the city had a population of 435,114. Located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cuzco, its elevation is around 3,400 m (11,200 ft). The indigenous name of this city is Qusqu.

 The Cuzco town square. Note the Cusco flag. No, Cuzco is not gay! This has been their flag for many decades and represents the colors of the rainbow.  The city of Cuzco spreads all the way up the hills. Knowing that Cuzco is 11,200' at the airport, these foot hills are 14ers!  Eddie on the Cuzco town square at night on the way to dinner.
 This is the court yard of the hotel Monasterio. As the name implies, it was originally a monastery from the 1800's.  Even though it is no longer a monastery, it still has a working chapel that is used for weddings.    We can now say that we have had a coffee at the highest Starbucks - 11,300 ft.  Out to dinner in town. Eddie went for the guinea pig while Sheena stuck with the pasta.
  This dog really loved hanging out on the roof tops and letting everyone know he was there.        
 Typical shops around town.  A unique security door.  A celebration on the streets of Cuzco with amazing colors.  Eddie and Sheena found a wonderful coffee shop that had only been open about a week. The decorations were awesome, not to mention the decadent coffee.  Eddie writing the postcards with Sheena in the Hotel Monasterio bar. Eddie is drinking the local liquor called pisco while Sheena sticks to the pisco sour. This was a spectacular 5 star hotel.

    In Peru, Machu Pichu is not the only Inca site. Peru is full of thousands of Inca ruins. During the Inca period of rule, Cuzco was the capitol of the empire and as a result the area is loaled with historic Inca ruins. Before travelling to the Inca trail, we had the opportunity to visit several sites around the area.

Saqsaywaman - Located 2km from the city. Together with the city of Cusco, this monumental complex is considered the first of the new seven wonders of the world. This huge construction was planned and built by the Incas. The Incas called it the House of the Sun and the Spaniards called it a fortress because of its zigzag shape and the 1536 revolution. The construction, which is made up of three platforms one on top of the other, was one of the most important religious complexes of its time.   The entrance sign to Saqsaywaman.   The zigzag shape of the stone wall is believed to be designed to withstand the local earth quakes and settling. All the stones are dry fit and still hold strong today.   Sheena in front of the massive stones. Each stone is specifically cut for each position. No 2 stones are the same in this temple.
    One of the door ways that still stands.   Eddie and Sheena in what remains of the large water cisterns that were part of the temple.   Eddie with the city of Cuzco behind.   The Cuzco town square from the ruins above the city.
Q'Enqo and the road to P'Isaq - The name Q'Enqo means labyrinth or zigzag. Located 3km from Cusco, this temple dedicated to Mother Earth is a unique center of worship and for ceremonies. It has numerous ceremonial carvings, holes and canals cut into the rock. One of its features is a semi-natural underground chamber.   A view of the Q'Enqo ceremonial chamber and underground access.   We stopped by some shops on the way to P'Isaq and had the pleasure of feeding he Lamas.   We saw all types of lamas and alpacas. This fella was just waiting for some food.
P'Isaq - This set of ruins is made up of 4 main areas along the ridge. This was the 1st major Inca area we visited after leaving Cuzco.  P'Isaq was known as a major agricultural location. The first area you reach when visiting the ruins is the main living area with several baths. Behind this area is one of the largest groupings of Inca tombs known...all emptied by grave robbers lond ago.   Our first taste of Inca stairs. In a couple days this will be going for miles at a time.   Sheena on the trail over looking some of the terraces.
 The most spectacular site in the ruins is the holy site of Inti Watana.   It is believed the posts of the wall were usd to hang the bodies as they were prepared for burial.   Sheena in the door of the preparation room   Another view of Inti Watana.   Eddie and Sheena
  The boys ready for some more hiking. L to R, Peter our guide, Steve and Eddie   The Qalla Q'asa, meaning the citadel is the group of building above expansive agricultural terraces.   More steps leading back up to the main area.   Looking over the valley and a view of the road our bus came down.   The markets of  P'Isaq are well known for the color and and selections of various items.
Ollantaytambo City - The new city is built on top of and inside many of the original Inca ruins. Ollantaytambo was our final overnight stay before starting the trail. We stayed at the Hotel Pakaritampu which was a wonderful compound with stunning views of the ruins and surrounding hills.   Hotel Pakaritampu   Views of the ruins on the hillside from the hotel.   Locals selling their hand made garments and wearing their traditional dress.
  This little girl could not stay still and continued to get into mistcheif.   This is a 2-way major street. Drivers have to be patient and take turns. Sometimes size matters and will just go...   While wandering the city, we came across kids playing with a barrel ring on the streets. This little girl stopped for a moment to see who we were before taking off again.   A local guinea pig herd. A couple are about dinner sized.   Even though the local religion is Christian, you still see the old human skulls and dried baby lamas next to other symbols.
  Eddie savoring the last mocha he will be enjoying for several days.   The local taxi. They took great pride in making each one unique.      
Ollantaytambo - xxx      

    We were very pleased to have booked our trip with Wilderness Travel for a 5 day trip. Some outfits will push the clients through in 3 days, but we were provided time to visit the multiple ruins along the trail. The hike included extra hiking that provided the group with views the other groups did not get to see. Peter was a wonderful guide and Marco's knowledge of the flora was amazing. Marco was so kind and humble and always by your side when you needed help or the names of the flowers and plants along the trail.

Day 1 - Chilca (8,900') to the Inca Trail head (KM82) (3 miles) - In the afternoon, we took a private bus from Ollantaytambo to Chilca where we crossed the Vilcanota river. This was mostly a warm-up hike to get us used to our packs and the trail. This was a very arid part of the trail with views of 20,000' peaks with their hanging glaciers. We ended the days hike at a private campground. A kitchen, dinning area, toilets, showers and even a sauna!  Sheena hanging at the Chilca bus/train stop.   Sheena and Eddie - ready to go! This is the bridge crossing that start the 5 day hike.   Along the trail. An arid dry section with magnificent yucca and cactus.
 Sheena standing next to yucca with a huge stem. Even though the slopes are arid, the valley floor is very fertile.   One of the high peaks along the valley. Possibly Veronica (18,641')   Walking into camp 1 with a 20,000' peak as a backdrop. The kitchen/dinning room. The Machu Pichu trail can be seen just across the river.   Sheena next to our tent for the night and the insulating yurt cover.   The dinning hall with our guide, Peter just in the door talking about the fun to come. Eddie can be seen on the right.
Day 2 - Inca Trail head (KM82) (8,900') to a private site above Huayllabamba (10,400,) (7 miles) - Our first full day hike. Not a very long day but a good acclimatization day. The trail wandered by several named ruins and some that don't have readily available names. Camp 2 has nestled below a large relatively unknown ruin. This private camp didn't have a dinning hall so we had our first use of the dinner tent. Bathrooms were still available with a shower that didn't always provide warm water.   The porters loading up for the 1st full day on the trail. Each porter will carry up to 70 pounds.  Sheena and our secondary guide, Marco on trail between a large cliff and a large drop to the river. Marco was amazing with his botanical knowledge of all the plants along the trail.   Eddie on the bridge at the trail head located at the KM82 train stop where a majority of trekkers start the hike.
  The bridge at the KM82 train stop where locals can be seen starting their day carrying lumber up the trail for construction projects.   Farming in the back country is still done with oxen and a hand plow. There is no access with motorized vehicles due to the steep trails.   A stop in a local village. Note the porters carrying boards for some type of construction somewhere up the trail.   Eddie and Sheena at the top of the first mini hill starting to climb above the Vilcanota river.   The 1st (of many) real uphill stretch on the trail.
  From the top of the 1st hill, the porters from other groups can be seen starting up the hill.   The Patallacta ruins from the Llactapata ruins. You can still see the terraces for the crops and the storerooms.   As the trail starts up the valley the hill sides are covered with bromeliads.   The bromeliads hanging on the cliffs.   Eddie and Sheena at some unnamed ruins near camp 2.
Day 3 - Private site above Huayllabamba (10,400,) to Pacamayo (12,000') (6 miles) - This was the most challenging day with the long uphill climb to Warmiwanusqa Pass (Pass of the Dead Woman) at 13,800. While not overly difficult from a Colorado standpoint, the Inca did NOT believe in switch backs. Everything was straight up and down!   Getting ready to leave Camp 2. Steve is outside of his tent getting ready for the day.   After descending down 400' to Huayllamba, Eddie was already breaking a sweat in the morning heat. Eddie is pointing out the starting point and the days hike ahead.   Sheena and Amanda coming up the trail.
  It was amazing how the hike moved from the lower arid climate to the rain forest at the 11,000' level. This is due to the moist air coming over the Andes and dropping the rain before moving west.   These were about the only switch backs heading up to the pass. Not much, but it helped. Sheena and Amanda are coming up the trail.   Typical Inca steps that Sheena and Eddie quickly got used to. All part of the adventure.   This is lunch. All the meals were amazing with flavors and all natural ingredients. We were soooo happy with our chef from a local village. He made outstanding breakfast, lunch and dinners.   Sheena and Eddie resting after lunch before starting up the trail again.
  Dead woman pass is finally in sight with a lot of uphill to go!   Sheena reaching the top of the pass! Everyone celebrated as they reached the top.   Eddie and Sheena at the top of Dead Woman pass.   The group posing for a photo at the top of the pass after ascending 3,800' The photo shows (L to R) Mark and Nancy, Eddie and Sheena, Peter (Guide), Elizabeth and Len, and Amanda and Steve.   After a lot of up there was a lot of down.
  A beautiful trail down to camp 3.   ...and more down...   ... and more down. The next days hike will go up over the next ridge.  Sheena coming down more trail.   Nearing camp 3, tomorrow's trail comes into view going up the next ridge.
Day 4 - Pacamayo (12,000') to Phuyupatamarca (12,000') (6 miles) - Outside of walking into Machu Pichu on day 5, this was the most spectacular day of the trip. The morning was a lot of up and down with wonderful views from the 13,000' pass, but after lunch from the Sayacmarca ruins to camp 4, the trail was unforgettable. This is perhaps the most beautiful section of trail we have hiked in our lives.  The trail for the day heading up to the next pass. It's hard to believe that it is only 1,000' feet to the top of the next pass. Less than half the trail is visible.   More steps heading up to the Runkuracay ruins and the pass further above.  Amanda coming up the steps that seem to never end.
  The trail has been repaired along the cliffs at times with wood that is a bit rotted!   A view of the day 3 decent trail from the Runkuracay ruins.   Looking down on the Runkuracay ruins   One of the 2 alpine lakes along the trail just below the pass.   Sheena on the Abra de Runkuracay pass ruins at 13,000'. Mark is just reaching the pass, Steve is helping Amanda with her pack, and the 2 girls sitting were from Leads, UK, not far from where we lived in Harrogate, UK a few years earlier.
  And after the pass... there's always the down hill part.   On day 4 way had the pleasure of working through some steep and wet caves that are part of the trail.   Eddie in front of the Sayacmarca ruins.   For those who have hiked the peaks in Colorado, this is at 12,000'.   Hiking through the rain forest with vines and orchids at 12,000' was one of the most incredible experiences of our life.
  We will never forget the beauty of this part of the 4th days hike.   And more caves to hike through.   Peter, our guide had told us to walk slow or this day would end to soon... he was right.   The views from hiking along the cliffs left us speechless. Any bad step off the edge and no one would ever see where you slipped and dropped through the jungle.   Sheena stopping for a moment to take in the view. This was the only day that we were sad to see camp. It came to soon. We wanted to hike back to Sayacmarca and rehike this section all over again.
 Arriving at camp the views were spectacular. Camp was situated on the high point of the ridge with a 360 degree view of the mountains around us.   The small mountain in the center is Machu Pichu mountain. The ruins of Machu Pichu are below the summit on the far side.   A short break in the clouds gave us a view of some of the 20,000' foot peaks not far away.   Sheena at camp (12,000') not far above the Phuyupatamarca ruins   We will never forget this day of our life!
Day 5 - Phuyupatamarca (12,000') to Machu Pichu (9,600') (7 miles) - The last day on the trail and the steepest down hill of the trip. The downhill stretch from camp 4 to the Winay Wayna ruins drops 3,000' and is affectionately known as the gringo killer. After that, the trail leveled out until the last steep section up the hill to the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Pichu.   In the morning, the porters were paid before they headed down to Machu Pichu to catch the train back home.   Here are the our guide (Marco - far left), the chef, assistants and porters that made this trip so wonderful.   The Phuyupatamarca ruins
  After the ruins, the steepest down hill day begins.   At times the trail was so steep it was easier to step sideways.   And just because there was a cave did not mean that it leveled out.   The Winay Wayna ruins. This was a spectacular ruins with about 16 baths. Ten of the baths are lined up along a long row of steps leading to store rooms for the crops harvested on the steep terraces. Seven of the baths can be seen on the right side of the photo.   One last uphill stretch before the sun gate called Inca's revenge. It was so steep that hands were used at times to keep balance.
The Toilet - In case you are wondering what the toilet was like in the outdoors, it wasn't too bad. The first 2 camps had toilet facilities since we were in private camps. At lunch breaks and camps 3 and 4 we had a portable toilet with a little tent. The porter that had to clean and carry it got paid extra   All is good...   Eddie demonstrating the toilet.   The view from the toilet at camp 4 looking at the Machu Pichu valley. After the day 4 rains, a river ran through it!

Days 5/6 at Machu Pichu - Our final goal. Words cant describe the feeling of coming through the Sun Gate and looking down onto Machu Pichu for the first time. To see the ruins in person was something that looking at the pictures could never convey. After coming down from the Sun Gate, we continued through the ruins to the Sanctuary Lodge for drinks and a much needed shower. Afterwards we returned to the ruins after the crowds had left the ruins on the last bus to town. The next day our guide, Peter, provided a guided tour through the ruins and explanations of the various sights. Around noon we caught a bus to town and the train back to Ollantaytambo where our private bus was waiting to take us back to Cuzco.  The group at the Sun Gate with Machu Pichu behind (L ti R) Steve and Amanda, Len and Elizabeth, Nancy, Peter, Sheena, Steve and Eddie behind.   The group heading down from the Sun Gate and into the crowds of tourists.   Sheena on the trail down to Machu Pichu.
 A view of Machu Pichu and the bus road between the ruins and the train station. The road was built in the 60's or 70's. With no road up the canyon to the town, the buses were disassembled and brought in on the train.   The money shot of Machu Pichu after the crowds had left. Staying at the Sanctuary Lodge at Machu Pichu provided an incredible opportunity for photos after the last bus left.  Machu Pichu storerooms with Huayna Pichu rising behind.   Another view of the Machu Pichu ruins with Huayna Pichu rising behind.   Machu Pichu ruins with Huayna Pichu rising behind looking through a doorway. This is also the web page background image.
 Sheena in front of Machu Pichu   Sheena and Eddie in front of Machu Pichu   Sheena twirling in front of Machu Pichu   Another view of the extensive Machu Pichu ruins.   A view back at the Sun Gate in the notch in the ridge. The trail can also be seen descending from the gate and the crop terraces on the steep slopes.
  Eddie looking out over the ruins.     Eddie in the ruins  Even in the ruins, you can't escape the Inca steps.   Looking down into the Temple of the Sun
  The sacred rooms below the Temple of the Sun where the dead were prepared for the afterlife.   Another view of the exterior of the Temple of the Sun.  The fine water channeling into a bath. This bath has a curved drain that was drilled by the Inca into the solid stone. It still isn't understood how they did this drain.   More of the intricate water channeling around the temple area.   The sun dial of the temple. One of the most sacred places second only to the sun temple.
  It still is not fully understood what these were for. They were not used for grinding grain. Some believe they were used for astronomical purposes due to the reflection of the sky in the water pools.   Wonderful stairs in the ruins   The typical crowds during the day.   Sheena in the gardens of the Sanctuary Lodge.   The modern town of Machu Pichu where the busses bring the tourists to the train station. There are no motor vehicles here other than the buses. The main street is the train tracks.



Flowers and Butterflies - The Flowers and plants along the entire hike were amazing. From the cactus of the arid section to the orchids of the rain forest. There were moths and butterflies along the trail.      
 Cactus Flower along the day 1 trail       Note the large humming bird hovering above the flowers.  
  A tulip that was nesteled Sayacmarca ruins        
        Flowers coming out of the walls of Winay Wayna  
   Orchids along the trail     Orchids along the trail