The Jungle Inca Trail

Machuuu Picchuuu !!

Machuuu Picchuuu !!

The Inca Trail… A legendary hike that captures the incredible landscapes of the ancient route of the inca’s & the majestic power of the world-famous Machu Picchu! As expected, the Inca Trail didn’t lose popularity and was fully booked for the next 2 months! So Golnaz & I had to chose for one of the many alternatives… After hearing the experiences of many travellers and after long hours of analyzing all posibilities, we chose for the ‘Jungle Inca Trail’. As always it’s best to book such trips in the city where the tour starts to avoid huge commissions and so we booked the ‘Jungle Inca Trail‘ in Cusco with a local agent for a friendly price of 190$ US for 4 days/3 nights, starting the next morning. The Jungle Inca Trail fused majestic Machu Picchu with a variety of extreme sports and unbelievable trails. Downhill mountain biking, zip lines, raging rivers, sleeping deep in the jungle, walking along lost Inca trails, up sheer cliffs shrouded in clouds before reaching the mysterious and stunning ruins of Machu Picchu!

Ready for a 2h ride down the hill

Ready for a 2h ride down the hill

Day 1 – A minivan picked us up at 6.30am and drove us outside Cusco where we had breakfast and where we were introduced to our guide Carlos and the group. Our group counted 14 souls… Hernan & Solidad, a lovely couple from Argentina – Anita, David, James & James Bond from Australia – Gemma from UK – Patricio & his cousin Maria ‘Cote’ Jose from Chile – Tomas, Liliana & Vanessa from Lima, Peru – Golnaz from Germany and myself! We hit the road and enjoyed the scenery as we drove to the top of Abra Malaga at an alititude of 4350m. After strapping on protective gear taking in the majestic mountain of Veronica with it’s snowy tops, we cruised down the windy mountain roads for about an hour along small waterfalls, mountain villages and local people waving when passing by.

Sheltering for the heavy rain

Sheltering for the heavy rain

Unfortunately we weren’t lucky and the few raindrops we encountered at the start became heavy rain showers and we had to stop halfway in one of the small villages. We all drank some tea, coffee or soup to warm our bodies hoping it would stop raining but it only got worse… Our guide Carlos asked me if I wanted to continue. Despite the heavy rainfall, I definitely wanted to continue because it was really fun and the scenery was spectacular. A few minutes past when I realized i was the only one who wanted to continue. All the others brought their gear to the minivan…

The end of a great bike ride !

The end of a great bike ride !

When David, a guy from Australia saw that I was the only one left, he decided to come along and so we were only 3 to continue. We were lucky to see the sun come out after 15 minutes giving us a fantastic 45-minute downhill ride with beautiful colors and a breathtaking scenery… Almost three hours and a 2133 meter decent of white knuckled excitement brought us to the pre-jungle climate of Santa Maria at 1217m where we had a late lunch and where we would stay the night. Patricio & Cote carried on with the adventure by doing some rafting on the Urubamba river while the rest of us strolled into the village & chilled out. Six of us, who did the 3 days/2 nights trek left us by cab to join another group in Santa Teresa. That left us with 8… Hernan & Solidad from Argentina – Anita, David, James & James Bond from Australia, Golnaz & I.

The 'Sexy Lama's' - Hernan, Soledad, me, Anita, James, David, James & Golnaz

The ‘Sexy Lama’s’ – Hernan, Soledad, me, Anita, James, David, James & Golnaz

Day 2 – A 7 am wake up found us shrouded in the mists of the jungle. After a hearty breakfast our day started with a walk along the Urubamba river followed by a short but intense climb to start the section of the authentic Inca Trail. Along the way, we met a sneaky monkey who stole Hernan’s sunglasses and who snatched everything he could lay his paws on. As we winded up and down precipitous cliffs over a stunning valley, Carlos transported us to the time of the Incas, revealing some of the mysteries of this ancient and amazing culture. He also baptised us to “Sexy Lama’s” by painting our faces with the local fruit ‘Chiote’. We continued our hike, going up & down and as all ancients Inca trails, it was stoned with rocks and small stones.

Our guide Carlos

Our guide Carlos

The trail descended to Quellomayo, where we stopped for lunch and had some time to relax in hammocks. Exhausted, we all fell into a deep sleep but Carlos was so kind to wake us up to continue the trek along the surging Urubamba river, crossing hanging bridges and at one point in ‘Oroyas’, a sort of thrilling cable car pulled manually by some locals. That was a fun ride and to conclude our long 10-hour hiking day, we were spoiled by a visit to the immaculate Santa Theresa hot springs. We sank into the warm natural waters and let the aches of the trail melt away. A minivan brought us later that evening to Santa Teresa where we met Camille & Fabrice, a couple from France who did the 3 days/2 nights version and who left their group in Santa Maria to join us here in Santa Teresa as 6 of our group did on day 2.

Anita & Golnaz ready for zip-lining !

Anita & Golnaz ready for zip-lining !

Day 3 – A choice awaited us at the outset of the third day… either continue trekking or choose to fly through the air 150 meters above the ground over rivers and jungle! Anita, David, James, James Bond, Golnaz & I chose for the thrilling zip-line experience. Camille, Fabrice, Hernan & Soledad chose for the hike. We flew as birds over the jungle valleys, crossing the Urubamba river enjoying spectacular views while the others hiked along the Urubamba river to the Hydrolectrica station where we met them for lunch before continuing the trek. Another three hours trekking along the train tracks and the raging river brought us to the small, touristic town of Aguas Calientes, getaway to the legendary Machu Picchu!

Machuuu Picchuuu !!

Machuuu Picchuuu !!

Day 4 – Another choice awaited us at the outset of the fourth day… Wake up at 4am and start the ascend of 2800 steps to enjoy the sunrise at the jewel of the tour or take the bus and enjoy a 20-minute ride to the worldwonder. Everyone chose for the early wake-up and the 1h30 ascend of the Inca staircase to Machu Picchu. Shrouded in the mist of the jungle, we didn’t see much of a sunrise but laying eyes on the lost city of the Inca’s for the first time gave me an undescribable feeling as it revealed itself from under the mist.

Isabel, Ronoel, Carla & myself @ Ukukus hostel

Isabel, Ronoel, Carla & myself @ Ukukus hostel

Mysteries of how the Incas lived and how they were able to achieve such marvelous feats of engineering were described by a local guide who gave us a 2h-tour. Afterwards that I strolled around and absorbed the incredible views of the ruins and the surrounding sheer cliffs of the Andes. Golnaz & I took an earlier train back from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo followed by a minivan who drove us all the way back to Cusco. Golnaz would stay here 2 weeks for Spanish classes while i would continue my journey towards Bolivia. Carla, our host from Arequipa happened to be in Cusco when we arrived. She introduced me to her friend Ronoel & his German girlfriend Isabel. They just opened the beautiful Ukukus hostel, one of Cusco’s better hostels a few footsteps away from the Plaza De Armas. Carla cooked us all the delicious local dish ‘Causa Rellena’ and showed me around town before I took the nightbus to Puno & the floating islands of Urros.

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