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.