Ollantaytambo Peru: An Inca Archaeological Marvel

Ollantaytambo Peru: An Inca Archaeological Marvel

Have you ever heard of Ollantaytambo Peru? Ollantaytambo is an Inca archaeological site with massive terraces in the Sacred Valley of Southern Peru about 72 km (45 miles) from Cusco. Here, the residents preserve the traditions of the Inca living in the oldest occupied dwellings in South America.

The History of Ollantaytambo

In Quechua (the Inca Language) they pronounce it Ollan-tay-tambo. The name comes from the combination of two words. Tambo means ‘resting place’ and Ollanta was a famous Inca captain.

Emperor Pachacuti built the town and ceremonial center of Ollantaytambo during the reign of the Inca Empire. Picked strategically because it is a choke point in the valley. It is situated at an altitude of 2,792 m (9,160 ft) above sea level in the Andes Mountains. It also was the stronghold for the leader of the Inca resistance, Manco Inca Yupanqui, during the Spanish Conquest circa 1528. In 1536, Manco defeated the Spanish by flooding the plain from his position on the high terraces.

Why Visit Ollantaytambo

Tourists flock to Ollantaytambo because of the original structures that haven’t changed since the Incas built them in the 13th century. It makes you feel as if you have stepped back in time. 

It is also the main train station to Machu Picchu in the Urubamba region and where porters meet up with hikers to start the famous Inca Trail. For travelers who wish to spend a few days in Ollantaytambo before hiking to Machu Picchu, the town is the ideal location to acclimatize.

My Trip to Ollantaytambo Peru

My daughter and I travelled to Ollantaytambo as part of a day trip (during our 10-day stay) where we toured the Sacred Valley. Our guides from Condor Travel picked us up early at our hotel, the La Casona De Yucay. After spending the morning in Chinchero, we were off to Ollantaytambo for the afternoon.

The Town of Ollantaytambo Peru 

The ancient town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley (a zone named by the Incas because of its fertility). The climate here is relatively hot and dry, with sun for much of the year. The dry season lasts from April to November, while the rainy season begins in December. February is the wettest month in Peru.

The quaint town has narrow cobblestone streets and stone steps that show off the Inca architecture. They built the small town of Ollantaytambo in a grid-like formation with four longitudinal streets that are crossed by seven parallel streets. In the center of the grid is a large four-block plaza. The town also features many accommodations, a range of food, and engaging tours. 

The Terraces of Pumatallis

Standing at the bottom of the structure, you are amazed by the Terraces of Pumatallis and the high-cut stone walls. The sunken terraces start south of Ollantaytambo’s Plaza de Armas and stretch all the way to the Urubamba River. The terraces are about 700 m long, 60 m wide, and up to 15 m high. It isn’t until you are standing on the terraces that you realize how tall the walls really are.

The agricultural terraces allowed farming on the otherwise unusable terrain by allowing the Incas to take advantage of the different ecological zones created by variations in altitude. It is only because of the Inca architecture that the place is still standing. Inca architecture is known for its fine masonry, featuring precisely fitted cut and shaped stones without mortar.

The climb to the top was a struggle for most of the North Americans on the tour. Altitude makes you feel like your feet are encased in cement, every step takes energy.

The Granaries of Pinkuylluna

The Incas built their storehouses out of fieldstone on the hills surrounding the terraces because the higher altitude allows for more wind and lower temperatures to defend against food decay. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to climb all the way to the top.

Image Courtesy of JT Nelms from Pixabay.

The Temple of the Sun

The Inca Religion involved a group of beliefs and rites that were related to an evolving mythological system. The Temple of the Sun has an impressive megalithic stone at the top of the terraces. The stones each weight 50 tons and came from a nearby quarry. I marvelled at what it must have taken to lift these massive stones to the top of the structure.

Image courtesy of Ruben Hanssen at Unsplash.

Final Thoughts

What do you think? Is Ollantaytambo on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments.


Until next time

All photos courtesy of Frankie Cameron except where noted.

Traveling the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (part 4)

Traveling the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (part 4)

Machu Picchu, here we come. This is the last installment in our adventure to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail by foot and by rail. To recap, part one focused on the start of the Inca Trail trek hike, part two concentrated on hiking the trail with altitude sickness and part three discussed leaving the Inca Trail and catching the train to Aguas Calientes. This section will focus on what to see inside Machu Picchu.

Day 4

Tierra Viva Breakfast

It was so nice waking up in a hotel instead of a tent on the Inca Trail. Breakfast and a hot shower were only steps away. The Tierra Viva hotel in Aguas Calientes had a lovely complimentary breakfast buffet, and we took full advantage.

Tierra Viva, Aguas Calientes, Peru

Bus Ride to Machu Picchu

After breakfast we sat in the lobby waiting for Eddie to pick us up watching the Urubamba river rush past. Eddie met us just before 8 am then walked us to the bus stop where John and Jane, our trekking friends waited. Condor Travel had VIP status, so we jumped to the front of the line to get on the bus. The buses line up one after another, transporting people back and forth to Machu Picchu. Our bus was full and we ended up sitting at the very back.

The road to Machu Picchu, is narrow and windy with multiple switchbacks. At times there doesn’t seem enough room for the buses to pass each other. More than once, I thought we were about to plummet to our deaths. Sitting at the back of the bus, we experienced every bump.

Entering Machu Picchu

As soon as we got off the bus, we got our passports stamped. Eddie wanted us to do it later, but we didn’t want to forget and there was no line-up. He advised us to use the bathroom since there were none inside. Then he gave us our tickets to enter.  Although disappointed not to be entering through the Sun Gate we were excited to be at Machu Picchu. A UNESCO protected site since 1983, and one of the 7 new wonders of the world. ‘The Lost City of the Incas’ was our primary reason for travelling to Peru.

The first thing that we saw on the other side of the gate were stairs. The same type as on the Inca Trail. Although I felt much better, Jane still had altitude sickness.  Machu Picchu rests at 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level, which was actually much lower than where we had been on the trail.

The Overlook

Eddie took us to the overlook where Machu Picchu sprawled majestically beneath us, snuggled in the Andes Mountains. This is where most people get the famous picture at Machu Picchu. People line up to take photos, although the pictures never really capture its beauty.

Machu Picchu

Eddie didn’t want us to climb up to the viewpoint at Watchman’s Hut since Jane and I had trouble with altitude sickness. You can view the entire city from the hut, but Eddie assured us the view from the overlook was similar. 

Door to the City

Machu Picchu, Peru

This door leads to the central plaza in the principal city. It is a popular photo op. Don’t even think about stepping on the grass.

Central Plaza

Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru

The central plaza is a green grass section separating the residential building from the other work-related buildings. Over 600 terraces stop the city from sliding down the mountain.

The Sacred Stone

Machu Picchu, Peru

The shape of the Sacred Stone (or Rock) mirrors the mountain behind it. It is a massive stone enveloped by a low wall. It is a powerful symbol in Machu Picchu, sometimes used to meditate or absorb positive energies. There are two open-sided shelters on either side of the rock where the Incas may have performed rituals.

The Temple of the Three Windows

Machu Picchu, Peru

The Temple of the Three Windows is part of the Sacred Plaza.  The stones and windows in this section are larger that the other sections. The windows face the sunrise. There is a lot of mystical theory on why there are three windows. Some of these stones weigh over three tons.


Intihuatana is Quechua for ‘hitching post of the sun’. The Incas used it to predict solstices, astronomical purposed, spiritual and religious ceremonies. The protruding tab points to magnetic north. On the solstices, the sun projects through a triangle of light, creating concentric circles on the floor. Historians believed they also used it as a sundial.

The Main Temple

Machu Picchu, Peru

The main temple has three sides with varying block sizes. Earthquakes caused some damage to the rear corner of the building, but it is still in great shape considering its age.


The Incas knew how to build things to last. Machu Picchu is in such great shape because the Spanish never found the city when they conquered the Incas.

Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru

Since earthquakes happen frequently in Peru, the Incas made every building at Machu Picchu earthquake resistant. The stone work is absolutely amazing, and something you really need to experience in person to appreciate.

Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru

I honestly do not remember all the names of the places within Machu Picchu, but here are some of my favorite photos of the architecture. It is unbelievable that these stones have been here since the 15th century, cut to fit together without mortar. The Incas chiseled some stones from the granite bedrock of the mountain while they pulled others up the side of the mountain.

Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru

After four hours of exploring Machu Picchu we said goodbye, marveling at the Inca architecture. The sky had darkened, but we made it to the bus before it poured.

Aguas Calientes

Eddie took us with John and Jane to a lovely restaurant where we ate a delicious lunch. We said goodbye to Eddie. He had an earlier train to catch back to Cusco. We would see him the next day for our Rainbow Mountain adventure.

After lunch we explored Aguas Calientes in the rain. Once again everyone wanted to purchase our rain ponchos. Of all the equipment we brought to hike, the ponchos were the most useful.

We spent the afternoon exploring the town and then boarded the train back to Ollantaytambo. On the train, Peru Rail treated us to a fashion show and a bit of Inca culture.

Once off the train we said our goodbyes to John and Jane. We found our driver, who would transport us the rest of the way to Cusco. We had Joshua as a driver frequently over our trip, so we were familiar with him. He only spoke Quechua, but he knew enough English to point out the major attractions. Condor Travel seems to keep the same guides and drivers where possible with travellers to build familiarity. He dropped us in Cusco, close to the Plaza de Armas at the beautiful Hotel Novotel.

Final Thoughts

We loved our four-day adventure to Machu Picchu. Our initial disappointment of not completing the Inca Trail gave way to relief that we visited Machu Picchu showered and clean instead of dirty and smelly from a four-day hike.

I honestly don’t know if we would have appreciated Machu Picchu as much exhausted from hiking. In our mind, we got the best of both worlds. We hiked the Inca Train and took the train.

My advice to anyone wanting to hike the Inca Trail is: do your research. If we had to plan it all over again, we would do the two-day hike, which includes one day on the trail and one at Machu Picchu with the night spent at a hotel.

Would you rather take the train or hike the Inca Trail? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time


All photos in this article are copyright Frankie Cameron Writes.

Traveling the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (Part 3)

Traveling the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (Part 3)

I’m back with the third installment of our trek to Machu Picchu via the world-famous Inca Trail. The first part concentrated on the start of the Inca Trail trek hike. The second part focused on hiking the trail and altitude sickness. 

Day 3


I was still sound asleep when the porter announced coca tea. Completely dehydrated from the day before, my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. The noises of the local Mother’s Day party lasted deep into the night, keeping me awake. Mother’s Day is a multi-day celebration in Peru.

It was cool, although the sun beamed brightly. Breakfast today was pancakes, fresh fruit, toast and juice. Caramel and jam were the toppings offered for the pancakes. As Canadians, it surprised us that there wasn’t any syrup.

I drank a ton of juice trying to prepare for the 12 km (7 mile) we still had to walk. Eddie wanted to take us another route back. A route that the porters use that is slightly shorter. We were fine with that.

Inca Trail, Peru

Walk of Shame

We started on our walk of shame. The porters carried my pack again, but this time at least I had bottled water to drink. Some trekkers we passed told us we were going the wrong way or asked us why we turned back. We did our best not to scare them.

One thing that they don’t advertise is that a quarter of the people that start the Inca Trail do not finish. Eddie, our guide, told us he once had a group of 48 people and a third of them turned around at Yacanchimpa. This made me feel a little better.

As the day wore on, we stripped layers. We started with winter coats and hats, progressing down to t-shirts. The temperature rose to almost 30 C (86 f) and my daughter felt the effects of sunstroke.

Inca Trail

The detour did not have as much up and down except for two occasions where we had to ascend. We took those sections extremely slow. Eddie had gone ahead of us, and we wondered if we lost him on the unmarked trail. Eventually, we caught up to him. We passed by Llaqtapata and Qhanabamba again and took more pictures. We could also admire the Véronica glacier without turning around.

Mile 82 on the Inca Trail… Again

Finally, we could see the bridge over the Urubamba River. My daughter desperately needed to get out of the sun. I urged her to go ahead as it was all I could do to keep walking. At least we were back at 2,800 metres (8,500 ft) and I could breathe comfortably. Altitude is no joke.

We arrived back at the staging area. The porters and our chef who had passed us hours ago were hard at work making lunch or cleaning the gear. We collapsed in a screened-in porch, exhausted. Eddie went to find transportation back to Ollantaytambo.

We made good time back to the starting point. Originally Eddie thought we would have to stop and have lunch on the trail. Maybe knowing that a shower and a bed would be available that night increased our pace.

After a delicious lunch, we had to wait about an hour for the ride. We got in a Volkswagen van with 4 rows of seating. We paid the drivers a few soles. I am not sure of the setup for this taxi or combi as they call it. At every group of houses we passed the driver would honk his horn and if people were waiting, he would stop. Sometimes a passenger would ask to get off at a location. This continued all the way to Ollantaytambo.

Ollantaytambo Train Station

Once back at Ollantaytambo we headed for the train station. The area wasn’t too busy. Eddie helped us buy the train tickets. Condor Travel had already purchased our return train ticket, but since we had turned back on the Inca Trail, we had to pay for the train ticket to Aguas Calientes and accommodations.

Ollantaytambo Train Station

The fee for the vista dome train for tourists was more than I expected, $74 US dollars each, but if we wanted to see Machu Picchu, the next day we had no choice but to pay the price.

We had a few hours to kill while waiting for the train, so Eddie found us a shady spot to rest. As two women travelling alone, it impressed us how Condor Travel never left us to navigate by ourselves. Eddie walked us to the gate after explaining that Peruvians travelled on another train that was much cheaper.

Mile 82 by Train

Peru Rail

Students from Jacksonville Florida filled our train car. We sat across the table from two of the professors/chaperones. They had been on a volunteer mission for two weeks and were visiting Machu Picchu before they left Peru.

It only took ten to fifteen minutes to pass by the start of the Inca Trail again. We pointed it out to the professors. We exchanged stories of our time in Peru during the two-hour train trip. They fed us on the train while we watched the scenery and were thankful not to be hiking anymore.

Closer to Machu Picchu

A Condor Travel guide met us at the train station in Aguas Calientes. He didn’t speak much English, but we figured out that he wanted us to buy our tickets for the bus to Machu Picchu for the morning. Again, Condor had paid for the return ticket but not the ticket to get there.

Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo is a tourist town. There are tons of souvenirs to purchase.

Since it was beginning to get dark, our guide walked us to our hotel for the evening Tierra Viva facing the Urubamba River. He left us with a map and instructions to be in the hotel lobby at 8 a.m. to meet Eddy.

The Terra Viva hotel had a North American feel to it. We showered, ate in the hotel restaurant and called it a night.

Final Thoughts

Today we experienced the Inca Trail and Peru Rail. Next week in the last installment of this adventure I will discuss more about Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.

Which sounds more appealing, the train or hiking? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time


All images in the article are copyright Frankie Cameron Writes.

Traveling the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (Part 2)

Traveling the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (Part 2)

I really can’t emphasize enough the beauty of Peru. The stunning scenery is literally breathtakingly beautiful. As promised last week in part 1, I am back with Part 2 of our adventure on the world-famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. 

Day 2

Coca Tea

Day two began with the soft voice of a porter announcing “coca tea”. It was just before daybreak. Besides the tea, the porters brought us warm water to wash up. Not a tea drinker, I still drank it for the warmth. The tea had a mildly bitter taste, but it helped with the altitude.

Although I had slept in a tent on a thin mattress with a sleeping bag almost fully dressed, I froze most of the night. My daughter and I slept back to back, trying to generate heat.

The porters prepared a good hardy breakfast of fruit, hot oatmeal, and toast.


Inca Trail, Peru

Over breakfast, John and Jane decided they would return to Ollantaytambo. Jane was still suffering the effects of altitude sickness, and the only way to feel better is to descend. A porter would walk them back to the starting point at mile 82 and get them transportation. Eddie, our guide, called to Condor Travel headquarters to arrange their accommodations for the night.

Onward and Upward

We packed our day packs, then said goodbye to John and Jane. We planned to meet them in Machu Picchu in two days. My daughter and I ventured forward with Eddie. The porters would pack everything and follow us. They gave us oranges, chips ahoy cookies and some candies to fill our clip-on bags. The sun was out. We left camp wearing layers of clothing, knowing we would strip and add layers all day.

Inca Trail, Peru

I felt eager to get started knowing that today we would climb for Warmiwanusca better known as Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest altitude on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu at 4200m (14,200ft). This is the day I had prepared and trained for. The hardest day of the hike.

The trail was a sharp, steep uphill. We passed a weigh station for the porters. The Peruvian government has strict laws on how much weight they can carry, and they must weigh in at certain points.

Pushing myself not to lag, we made good time to the first rest point. Yacanchimpa sits at 3152 meters (10,341 ft), some trekkers camp here, there are picnic tables and washrooms. Entering the bathroom, I discovered only a hole in the floor and a handle you can pull to have a cold shower.

Inca Trail, Peru

Here Come the Stairs

There were no ruins on this part of the Inca Trail, but this is the section where the endless stairs begin. It is just stairs, stairs and more stairs. My walking sticks were a godsend since the stones were uneven and unlevel. I took a moment to feel thankful to be walking on stairs built in the 15th century that were still 85% intact. It felt like walking through history.

Can you image climbing these stairs for 4 hours straight?

Inca Trail Peru

Our sunny skies turned to rain. Luckily, we brought ponchos, which we could have sold for ten times the price that day. The packs had rain covers to keep everything dry inside, including my Canon camera. Our porters rushed by in a hurry to set up camp for lunch.

Altitude Sickness on the Inca Trail

The next section of the trail is where things went bad. The effects of altitude sickness began. It became harder for me to breathe. Every step felt like slow motion, as if I were wading in water. My head throbbed, and my stomach became nauseous.

I made deals with myself. Ten stairs, then I could stop and rest. Five stairs, then a pause. Eventually, I almost had to halt on every stair, stopping several times to empty my stomach. At this speed I wondered how I would ever get to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail.

Eddie called ahead to have a porter run back to grab my pack to make it easier for me. The porters and guide do their best to help you accomplish the trek. I would highly recommend Condor Travel. I plan to use them for all my South American Vacations.

Somewhere along this point the scenery changed. The constant moisture from the clouds caused this section of the trail to become lush with vegetation, like the heart of a jungle.

Inca Trail, Peru

I Can’t Breathe

Losing my pack helped, but I realized that I also lost my water source inserted into the backpack. My daughter asked if I wanted to descend. Eddie said we had less than an hour until the lunch break. I determined to keep going until then, hoping that a rest would help. My mouth was so dry my tongue threatened to stick to the roof.

Several of the other groups passed us by. Looking at me with pity and praying the same thing wouldn’t happen to them.

I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. The last ten steps were the longest. Eddie and my daughter helped me the best they could. We arrived at the lunch location Llulluchapampa 3840m (12,598 ft). The porters clapped as we came into camp. I wanted to lie down and sleep, but I sat in the meal tent, thankful to be still.

I tried to eat lunch, but my stomach wouldn’t settle. My head was ready to explode from the pressure. We explored our options with Eddie. Llulluchapampa was 360m (1182 ft) from the summit. We could push through, hoping that my altitude sickness would improve, or turn back and camp again at a lower altitude.

Descending the Inca Trail

Over lunch my lips turned blue, a sign that I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. We decided we would descend. I felt horrible for wrecking my daughter’s dream of trekking the Inca Trail, but she assured me my health was more important. As if the sky knew I was sad, it rained again.


Inca Trail, Peru

Two of the porters wanted to get a head start on making camp, so they skipped lunch and went ahead to the next campsite. The remaining porters got a big laugh out of the fact that they were now behind. The chef asked if he could cook anything for dinner to help with the sickness, and Eddie suggested chicken soup.

Eddie adjusted our walking sticks for the descent. We passed many hikers and porters still ascending. (If you are going to Peru walking sticks are a must.)

By the time we returned to Yacanchimpa, (the first rest point) my stomach wasn’t the only part of me that was unwell. I raced for the washroom using the hole in the floor.

Inca Trail, Peru

Back at Camp

As we descended, my lips returned to their natural colour. The throbbing in my head lingered, as did the nausea. Our porters passed us once again. Since we didn’t have a campsite booked for a return, the porters had to scramble to find a location. Eddie was in constant communication with the porters. I couldn’t believe his phone got a signal on the Inca Trail.

Finally, we reached our campsite for the evening. Another Condor Travel group let us use part of their site. Another reason to trek with Condor. It was all I could do to take off my boots and crawl in the tent. I fell asleep immediately while my daughter organized the tent. Eddie woke me a bit before dinner. The porters gave us more warm water to wash with. To say I felt disgusting would be an understatement.

The chicken soup the chef made was yummy and felt good in my hollow stomach. I drank a bunch of juice, trying to rehydrate. After dinner with Eddie, darkness fell, and we crawled into our tent to sleep.

Come back next week to find out what happens on Day 3 of our Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Adventure.

Final Thoughts

Interested in the story? Check out part 3. If you had altitude sickness, would you keep hiking or turn back? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time


Note: All photos are copyright Frankie Cameron Writes

Traveling the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (Part 1)

Traveling the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (Part 1)

Have you ever dreamed about hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? Is taking the train to Machu Picchu on your bucket list? If you are having trouble deciding what to do, my story may provide you with some insight…


Machu Picchu, a wonder of the world, is a bucket list item for many people, including my daughter and myself. There are no roads to Machu Picchu, you either take the train or hike.

Machu Picchu

If you are not familiar with the Inca Trail, it is a world-famous trek through the high Andes on the original Incan highway of dirt and stone concluding at Machu Picchu. In use for over 400 years, the trail is spectacularly beautiful with stunning ruins, gorgeous mountain views, and extraordinarily different climatic zones offering a rich variety of flora and fauna.

There are different hikes to Machu Picchu taking two, four, or five days. My daughter and I chose the classic 4-day trail starting at Mile 82. We wanted to have the satisfaction of arriving at Machu Picchu on foot. At least that is how it should have happened. We never dreamed when we booked the famous trek that we wouldn’t complete it and would have to turn back.

Day One

Starting Off Easy

In May 2019, after spending three days in the Sacred Valley acclimatizing and sightseeing, we were all set to start the hike. Our guide, Eddie from Condor Travel picked us up at our hotel, La Casona De Yucay, a beautiful spot in the modest town of Yucay, inside the Sacred Valley, bright and early.

Eddie had already picked up the couple we would trek with, John and Jane, in Cusco. John was a retired Marine pilot who now flew for a major U.S. airline. Both were in their early 60s.

Before the trip, I agonized if I would be the only older person in a group with a bunch of 20-year-olds, slowing everyone down. I had a similar experience while white-water rafting and didn’t want to repeat it.

Our first stop was the Condor Travel Headquarters in Urubamba, where the porters loaded up our van and we picked up our chef. En route to the Inca Trail, we passed by the famous fort town of Ollantaytambo, traversing the cobblestone streets. We drove the constricted rough unpaved roads alongside the Urubamba River until we crossed the river at a bridge travelling back in the same direction we had just covered but on the other side.

Ollantaytambo, Peru

Most of the tourist vehicles in Peru are Volkswagen vans, which shake and shutter over every bump. The dirt roads are narrow, and drivers typically honk as they go around bends to alert other drivers of their approach.

Staging Area

We arrived at the village of Piskacucho; (known as the 4-corners) the village where the Inca Trail starts at mile 82 (82 kilometres along the railway from Cusco to Aguas Calientes). The altitude at the starting point is 2,800 metres (8,500ft).

The porters who arrived before us had set up a staging area, repacking, and rearranging the equipment. They carry all the gear for camping, cooking plus 5 kilos per person of our gear. We had to carry our daypacks with any of the things we needed during the day. This makes the trek sound easy, but spoiler alert it is not.

The porters gave us some snack items to take with us in handy bags we could clip on our backpacks for easy access. My daughter and I used Osprey backpacks with hydration packs. The packs made it so much easier to access water and the special bladders kept the natural flat shape. I was thankful for the walking sticks because of the uneven ground.

I put some coca candies in my bag. Coca candies and coca tea are used to help fight altitude sickness. We had already been taking Diamox since we landed to help us adjust to the altitude.

Ollantaytambo, Peru

The staging area was our last chance to use a bathroom. Bathrooms in Peru, outside of hotel rooms and restaurants, are notoriously filthy, have no seat, no toilet paper and cost 1 sol to use. This bathroom fulfilled those categories.

Leaving the staging area, we adjusted the packs on our backs, walking the scant distance to the check-in. Eddie our guide, presented our trail permits while we showed our passports. You can’t enter the Inca Trail without a passport. The Peruvian Government only sells 500 permits per day, 200 for tourists, and 300 for guides, cooks, and porters. Posing to take the famous picture at the start of the trail. Then we were off.

Mile 82

Here We Go…

Crossing the bridge over the Urubamba River, in Qorihuayrachina, we were officially on the Inca Trail. The weather was beautiful, sunny, but not too hot. Our guide Eddy set the pace, and we tried to keep up.

Mile 82

The brochures describe day one as a simple day over Andean Flat terrain. For those of you not familiar with Andean Flat, it means ‘uphill’. If you look at the altitude map below, the incline does not look very steep. I thought day one would be easy, but I was wrong.

Average Distance Per Day

  • Day One: Total Distance: 12km (7 miles)
  • Day Two: Total Distance: 11km (6 miles)
  • Day Three: Total Distance: 16km (9 miles)
  • Day Four: Total Distance: 4km (2 miles)

Peruvians live on the first part of the Inca Trail; using the trail along with their donkeys and horses. Be prepared to see piles of poop and give them the right-of-way moving to the inside when they pass.

There are places to buy drinks and snacks. Bathrooms are available for 1 sol. I didn’t experience the bathroom first-hand, but Jane didn’t recommend it. Shaded rest areas provided much-needed relief from the sun.

Huffing and Puffing

I found the trail challenging since we live at 67 meters (220 ft) above sea level. Hiking in Peru is so much harder than in Canada because of the altitude.

Going down was easy, but going up required much more energy and oxygen. My legs did not want to obey my brain. I had to stop more often than I expected; huffing and puffing, trying to catch my breath. I am not an athlete, but neither am I a couch potato spending time, swimming, zip-lining, with no problems. I trained for months. At 53-years of age, I was in the best shape of my life.


Inca Trail, Peru

Before booking the trip, I consumed volumes of information that spoke of the Inca Trail as a hard challenge but well worth every step. The blogs said you only had to be in average shape with determination and persistence. Let me tell you, average shape is not good enough you, need to be in athlete shape.

Jane also struggled with the altitude. John eventually carried both of their packs. My 25-year-old daughter felt no effects from the altitude.

Somewhere around this time, our porters passed us carrying their heavy load. Everyone is friendly on the trail, greeting you with ‘Hola’ and a smile.

The trail is beautiful, but there wasn’t as much time to stop and take photos as I would have liked. Clouds in the photo below cover the Véronica glacier.

Inca Trail, Peru

The Ruins

The first ruin is Qhanabamba. The Incas used this area as a resting place for people on their way to Machu Picchu.

Inca Trail, Peru

The trail ascended as we climbed high above the river to the viewpoint at Patallaqta where the agricultural settlement, Llaqtapata, sprawled below at the 88-kilometre mark. The name Llaqtapata means “elevated settlement”. This elevated settlement contained over 80 structures.

Inca Trail, Peru

The Incas used the terraces for agriculture and erosion control. The porters set up a light lunch so we could spend some time admiring the ruins and take photos.

The next stop was the ruins of Willkaraqay, an Inca hillfort. Briefly going downhill before going up again.

As the day went on, I struggled to keep pace with our guide as did Jane, stopping to breathe whenever we felt the need. My slow pace concerned me, but I tried to push myself to keep going. I was so excited when I saw the sign for ‘Hatunchaca’ thinking it was our camp ‘Huayllambamba’ but then found out we still had more walking to do.

The next hour was a blur, I remember little about it. I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. The porters clapped as we entered the campsite, praising us for completing the first day. All I wanted to do was stop walking. Huayllambamba sits at 2950m (9576 ft.)

The Camp

Inca Trail Peru

The porters set up our tent and provided us with warm water to wash the day’s grime away. It was nice to take off our hiking boots and rest while the meal was being prepared. They even set up a washroom, which was cleaner and smelled so much better than the online trails.

We feasted that night in the dining tent, consuming chicken and rice. They provided a vegetarian meal for my daughter. Freddy, our guide, joined our group of four for dinner. There was even a dessert.

Jane was under the weather because of the altitude and could not eat her meal. John and Jane discussed turning around and going back in the morning, depending on Jane’s health.

Night falls early in Peru because they are so close to the equator. The length of each day is 12 hours and six minutes. The sun rising around 6:18 and sets around 6:24 pm.

I had never seen so many stars in the sky. With the mountain background, a starry sky and the sounds of nature, it was a perfect place to fall asleep.

Final Thoughts

Sounds like everything is going well, doesn’t it? Check out day two of our Inca trail adventure. Is Machu Picchu on your bucket list. Let me know in the comments.

Until next time


All photos in this blog copyright Frankie Cameron Writes.