Do you want to hike up to Machu Picchu in the most adventurous way possible? Do you want to include as many activities possible? If you answered with yes, the Inca Jungle Trail it is. It leads 3 days though the Peruvian jungle, where you can do zip lining, water rafting, downhill mountain biking and a lot of hiking on steep cliffs.Where to book?
The government regulates the amount of visitors to Machu Picchu per day. This has the nice effect that it won’t be overly crowded once you get there. I had booked the Camino Inca trail first. This one only includes hiking and costs a fortune (starts at 800$). It is a very challenging hike through the mountain regions in small groups. If you need to prove shit to yourself, this is the way to go.
If you want to have as much fun and adrenaline as possible, the Inca Jungle Trail is meant for you.
After cancelling the Camino Inca Trail I was left with a fee of 230$ I had to pay. Keep in mind that you have to book this one at least 6 months in advance. Those companies earn a ridiculous amount of money with people who cancel. If you get sick, if you miss a plane, no matter what, your money is gone. But it is the original Inca route and will most likely reward you with breath taking views ancient temples and much more. All have their pros and cons I guess.
The jungle trek can be booked on the internet or in Cusco directly. I chose the second option as it was low season and my chanced to get a tour somewhere were really high. If you are not sure, make sure to check this website of the Peruvian government to see how many free spots are still available.
There are lots of tours on the internet ranging between 250 and 450$ per hike. Those prices are INSANE. Do to book it! I booked a trip for 170$, which included all of the activities mentioned above as well as accommodation and food. The website offering those tickets can be found here.
The cheapest I heard someone pay was 140$, but couldn’t find the price anywhere.
What to bring?
Make sure to bring this stuff, it’s essential:
Mosquito spray! —> You’re in the jungle and these bastards will eat you up if you don’t use it! I put some on but forgot the back of my hands, which ended with me getting bitten 5 times on my fingers. I looked like a crack addict and was scratching my fingers like one.
summer clothes you can hike with! It’s hot in the jungle, you will walk a lot and you will sweat. Get some sports leggings on and 2-3 shirts. This should be fine!
A windproof jacket and 1-2 long sports trousers. As it gets colder in higher altitude you want to protect yourself from the cold. Downhill mountain biking starts high up in the Peruvian Andes above the clouds. It’s pretty cold there, but heats up once you ride down in the warmer jungly regions. Long trousers, a shirt and a thin windproof jacket will do here.
a pullover for the mornings when it’s cold.
a LOT of socks. Trust me!
some snacks for the hike. I am not a hungry person, the meals were totally fine for me, but a lot of the dudes were complaining about the small portions. You know how much guys can eat! If you are one, bring some extra food or bring some money to buy some on the way. There are several stores where the hostels are.
a water bottle. Standard
a buff for your hair. You’ll get sweaty and you’ll look like a bum if you don’t wear one.
proper hiking shoes!! It’s definitely possible to trek with regular sneakers, but you will end up with blue toes and several blisters. If you want to experience blisters that go all around your blue toes you choose the Nike shoes.
INKA JUNGLE TREK TO MACHU PICCHU
ALRIGHT. Let’s get started!
I had booked my plane ticket a year in advance and kind of forgotten this trip would be coming up so soon. This resulted in me buying another ticket to a crazy rooftop party in São Paulo Friday evening the night before. I did not want to miss out on either one and figured in order to do both, I would have to bring all my luggage to the party and then head from there directly to the airport at 3am.
I had once been in contact with a sound engineer and DJ on Instagram. He seemed nice and lived in São Paulo, so I asked him if he would do the event and could help me with my luggage.
I was lucky as he replied that I could leave my stuff in his car, once I arrived at the party.
After some pre-drinking with friends we were on our way in a cab, all singing out loud. When we arrived at the party location I was picked up by him and given a wristband that said “staff” on it. We stored my stuff in his car and went up backstage. Through a small window I could see the party from the other side, when we slowly danced our way towards the crowd.
DJ Gabe was playing good electronic music and I had the best time ever.
Unfortunately those good nights tend to end too early as I had to rush towards the airport soon.
I grabbed my bag, got a cab, hugged the sweet DJ goodbye and drove towards the airport.
I was so drunk I figured it would be interesting to find my gate. Had I packed my passport?
I do hoped so.
I somehow made it through the security. Everything was kind of blurry…. I met some of my colleagues … I sat in the plane … I woke up in Lima with a huge hangover.
Next stop Cusco to acclimatize to the altitude (3399m) for two days before I started with the Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu. And yes, those two days were necessary.
DAY 1: Cusco – Abra Malaga Pass – Santa Maria
DOWNHILL MOUNTAIN BIKING
7-8.30am: After I was picked up at my hostel 1,5 hours late (I think they had forgotten me), we drove to a meeting point where we were split up into different vans. Each van now formed one group doing all of the activities together.
We drove up the Abra Malaga Pass 4316 m high up in the Andes mountain range and rode through the clouds. The mountain bikes and the gear was on the van’s roof above us. As we drove up windy ways we could see some alpacas on the fields. Rain clouds were forming and it was windy outside.
We got our gear on (fullface helmet, back, arm and leg protection) and the girls were to choose their bikes first. Not fair, but YES! I checked the brakes, the suspension and found my perfect bike soon.
The bikes were good, the protection gear somewhat okay and the helmets had never been washed before. I wished I had my own gear with me, but was happy to wear a buff above my hair.
And there we went down the road riding through rivers that flowed over the street down the hills looking at the Cordillera Urubamba range of the Peruvian Andes. We were about to decent from 4316m to 1196m – a distance of about 60 kilometres downhill. YES!
At first everyone rode in line. We were told not to overtake anyone, but this got boring soon.
I started speeding up pushing the pedals as fast as I could trying to overtake anyone in front of me, haha. The curves were the best! When you leaned in while going down fast you could almost touch the ground with your knee. Sometimes a truck came up, but they honked solidly you just drove a bit on the right until you could speed up again.
I was racing with two guys who thought they were faster, which ended up in a battle all the way down. Every time a water stream crossed the road you had to put your feet up the handlebars ride through the water. This was when I got speed on. Being used to downhill mountain biking in Germany I knew how to ride and soon overtook the two groups in front of us.
This was so much fun and though the tourist version did not include muddy forest trails, I had a great time going down fast.
There were a few accidents on the way as some people couldn’t handle the curves, but we all got down rather safe and it was over way too quickly.
At lunch we arrived at Santa Maria (1196m) and everyone was hungry. We quickly grabbed some food and headed on to do river rafting.
The rafting was around 100 Sol extra and totally worth it! We were seven people in a boat and quickly learned the commands to steer it.
“Paddle LEFT, RIGHT, INSIDE the boat!” we heard our tour guide shouting whilst we blasted through unsteady water. No-one stayed dry and everyone had so much fun!
Our guide let some of us sit in front of the boat and we tried to hold on. I did not do so well and was soon flushed inside the boat as a huge wave crashed on our boat. We saw some others fall into the water, but our boat made it save through the river. Jungle was to our left and right, snowy hilltops in the far background. Beautiful.
When we arrived at our hotel room at 7pm, we were so tired that we threw a coin whether to attend dinner or not. The coin said “sleep” and we happily followed its orders. We kind of knew breakfast would start at 7am and fell into our beds sleeping like babies.
DAY 2: Santa Maria – Santa Theresa
INKA TRAIL TREKKING & HOT SPRINGS
6.45am An angry tour guide knocked at our door and informed us that the hike started in 15 minutes.
SHIT! They had probably talked about that at last night’s dinner. We quickly packed out backpacks, brushed our teeth and rushed towards breakfast to grab some food before we left.
Of course we did not leave on time and half an hour later the hiking started.
15 kilometers jungle trek were in front of us. The vegetation was lush and green and we walked through small steep paths through the jungle. It was hot and sand flies were buzzing around us. We saw various cocoa, coffee and coca plantations on the way. Sometimes there were fruit stands were locals sold water and fresh fruit.
The hike was exhausing, but we paused a few times to catch our breath. Once we got up the highest elevation we had a view that was so beautiful, I can’t find words for it.
We tasted raw chocolate, saw parrots fly past us and got a jungle face paint that made us look like warriors, hahaha. I loved it. We got some schnapps with a dead snake inside and were taught how to properly chew on coca leaves. (Roll them to a ball, chew a bit on them and leave them in your mouth for 20 minutes until it gets numb. Wake up and start hiking)
I bought 5 packages of 100% raw chocolate, got another bag of coca leaves and we went on hiking.
We were walking the whole day, our feet were getting tired and the first blisters came up. Blood was running down my feet, but I had so much fun I couldn’t care less. After a few more hours of walking we arrived at a small hut in the middle of the jungle. There were hammocks all over the place. We sat down and had some spaghetti.
Yeah you heard right. The moment you sit in the middle of the jungle, freed from your heavy backpack, pulsating swollen feet and this amazing incredible bowl of spaghetti in the jungle. Hahahaha I laughed about the weirdness, took another toke of something that was handed to me and enjoyed my meal.
We passed out on the floor, had the best siesta ever and continued our hike an hour later. A dog followed us, happily waving its tail as he was running back and forth. I loved him.
Small jungle trails followed and sometimes you had to pass tiny ladder bridged that led over water or climb a few rocks to reach the next path. The landscape was beautiful, the waterfalls breathtaking.
To cross the river on the last part of the road we had to climb into a small cable car that was attached to a rope and pulled us across the water. This was so much fun I did not want it to end.
I guess that’s where we “lost” the happy dog that was following us.
On the other side of the river there was a huge black tunnel. We walked through it and soon saw the Hot Springs in Cocamayo. It was around 4-5pm.
I quickly went to the dressing rooms, got my bikini on and jumped into the hot water of the Hot Springs. Yeah this was good! Everything hurt and I pictures heaps of people bathing in that water with open blisters, but I couldn’t care less. I was exhausted but happy.
By the way: there are more dressing rooms on the back of the ones you see straight up. You do to have to stand in line and will get into the water way faster!
After the hot springs I got some beers and happily chilled in a chair until we drove to Santa Theresa to spend the night there. Here you can find a lot of pubs and bars to party the night away or just fall into bed and sleep as I did.
Day 3: Santa Teresa – Aguas Calientes town
ZIP LINE & TREKKING
7am: After a good breakfast we made our way to the Zip Lines. Hell yes! I love those! Once we got our gear on, we walked up a hill and slided down across a river with the mountain ranges in the background. Zip lining was fun and it the view was even better once we could do it upside down, hahaha.
One of us threw up after. It wasn’t me! hahaha
The way back led over a rope ladder bridge. This one was definitely not made for small people. It wobbled like crazy and mad me walk over it slower than I had pictured.
At the end of the zip line you could jump down! That was so much fun!
We had some time to relax after the zip lining. Unfortunately there were some British bitches with us in our group (pardon), who had been complaining about everything.
“The cliff is too steep”, “I can’t do this … eeeew I can’t do that”, “the food is too slow”, “I’m gonna come back and kill you if I lose my glasses on the zip line…”, “It’s so dirty” ….
I went to the bathroom and heard them complain even more when they waited in front of the door. I did not flush.
We left the jungle and continued our hike along the train rails. The ground was covered in sharp stones and you started to feel your blisters. There were crowds of people hiking towards Aguas Clients, a tiny city close to Machu Picchu. The hike takes around 3 hours. On the way there are several small huts where you can buy water and fruit.
On this way you can fly your drone up to Machu Picchu. The magnetic interference is too high up in the city and it’s almost impossible to steer it. Because it is illegal to do so I am not saying that I did it, but this is how it would probably have looked like.
Once we reached Aquas Calientes (2040m) the tour operator showed us our rooms and hell yeah: we got the room with a pool on the roof! Hahahaha I am pretty sure they made up for the fact that they had forgotten us on Day 1 and I loved it! Hot water, comfortable beds and not much sleep coming up to enjoy it.
DAY 4: Aguas Clients – Machu Picchu
The alarm rings at 3.30am. Nope not a human time to get up. Not a human time to walk up to Machu Picchu.
I got up and showered. It was cold. Why did I shower? No idea. Brain does not work at that time.
I stuffed my backpack, squeezed in a banana and realised I only had 100ml of water left. I look outside and it was raining. Nice.
We walked towards the gate at the bottom of Machu Picchu, where they checked your passports and entry tickets. It was 4.40am and there was a huge line already. People were waiting in pouring rain.
The gate opened at 5 and everyone moved towards the mountain. The stairs of death were waiting for us. There were 3000 of them.
Alright. We can do this.
It was exhausting. You take one step after another until your heart starts racing. You take a break, and wait till it calms down. Take more steps. Sloth mode. Sloooow and steeeady. You pass people standing there breathing. You get up further. Rain is filling your shoes with water. It is dark, you do not have a torch. Puddle. Shoe full. More rain. Thin air. Another step. Why am I doing this again? Why had I taken a shower? Questions you had no answer to. You go on walking until you reach the top.
It took us 55 minutes (banana break included). I guess that’s pretty good, but it hurt.
When I reached the top of Machu Picchu I tried to dry up and realised that I was soaked in water. I tried to change some clothes and lost my GoPro or someone stole it. I don’t know. It was gone and I couldn’t find it anymore. I passed two French guys, but they hadn’t seen it either.
They were nice and they made me laugh. I decided to sit right next to them and eat the sandwich I had left. I couldn’t really dry my shoes and I hadn’t found my GoPro. I had given up. It was raining and accepted the fact that there won’t be any valid video material of the highlight of my trip.
Well, but once that I was here, I could take a quick look at Machu Picchu and then soak myself in self-pity after, I thought.
It was so cold my shoes were still soaking wet. I had exchanged my wet shirt for a heavy sweater that was yet dry, but anything else was just soaked in water. The wind blew strong and there were heavy clouds above Machu Picchu. People with umbrellas were passing me.
I was getting cold and thought if I don’t want to get sick I have to move constantly from now on. I ignored the pain in my feet, the open blisters and the water that was still moving in my shoes with every step I took.
The place was beautiful and with a “I have noting to lose” attitude I started strolling around until I found a sign that said Inca bridge. It was a nice walk along a cliff.
Coming back from that trail I spotted some llamas hanging out on the lawn up there. The weather had cleared up in the meantime. I was taking some pictures with my phone when I realised a queue forming right next to me.
“What’s up here?” I asked the dude right next to me.
“Machu Picchu Mountain! The gate opens in 10 minutes – are you going up?“
The word “up” made me feel uncomfortable, but I had nothing else to do, so I thought why not.
“Yes sure!” I said realising I did not have a ticket.
The guy told me I might be able to just sneak in and that it would work out somehow. I remembered those tickets being sold out months before, but thought I could try at least.
“Blend in NOW!” I heard him whisper to me in a bit of a louder voice.
I started to walk past the guards in my bright green raincoat and none stopped me.
No-one even seemed to see me walk past in that bright green thing.
Alright. This is meant to happen I thought while working my way up. The hike was even steeper than the one up to Machu Picchu and was supposed to take 1,5 hours.
The air was thin, the sun was shining and I was sweating. Sloth mode. Slow and steady I kept telling me. Your feet are fine. You can do it.
I had not eaten anything but half a small sandwich and a banana some hours before. There was no water left in my bottle and I started to feel dizzy. I took break – my heart was racing.
“What do you think is better”, I asked a guy passing me. “Hike up in a dry sweater that is way too warm or wear a shirt that is soaking wet?”
“Shirt.” he said saying while working his way up.
I went into the jungle, changed my clothes and continued the hike. The shirt was a great idea I thought whilst I was trying to breathe.
People were coming down. “How much longer?”
I kept asking people how much longer it would take, and always seemed to get 30 as an answer, so I did not ask anymore and told myself it was there, just around the corner.
“It never is,” I heard someone say. I had apparently talked out loud, but people were so busy with themselves, that no one seemed to care about a crazy girl in a wet shirt.
The last steps up that mountain were so steep I had to crawl them up. I probably looked like the tiny gnome dude in Lord of The Rings who tries to grab the ring.
And then I made it!! Hahahahaha. Aaaaaawesome I loved it SO SO much. It was worth the struggle! 1000 meters in hight I had been walking up with a banana. I made it and looked down to the road. I walked up there! I was happy.
I sat down and looked down at the clouds above Machu Picchu below me. How fast they were moving. I could have stared at those for hours.
When I turned around I spotted some familiar faces. The French guys were arriving on top. Oh this was nice, I thought. We sat down at a cliff, let our feet tangle and enjoyed the view. Isn’t it weird that sometimes you meet people and you just feel like you’ve known them for ages?
We walked back down together. There was a happy dude from Colorado who was singing love songs in the background. I loved it.
“Remember you have to sign out in a book when you leave the mountain!” I remembered the dude telling me after I had sneaked in the entry door illegally.
Shit! How do I get out?
I told one of the French guys and he said I shouldn’t worry. We reached the gate and there were two guards waiting. He opened his umbrella in front of the hut, but because there were two guards I couldn’t sneak out. He opened the page and found his name on number 200 somewhat. I stood right next to him and saw him sign on a female name.
“You’re a girl?” they asked.
I started to laugh, looked at him saying “Hahaha so you sign at my name now?”
Looking the guard in the eyes I asked him if I had to sign over this signature now.
“Yes please.” he answered with a serious face.
And then we walked out.
BACK TO CUSCO
I took the train back to Cusco in the evening.
It leaves several times a day and costs either 55$ or 70$ depending on when you want to leave. It’s faster, but expensive. Busses are around 30$ but leave at 3pm already. Latest train runs at 9.30pm.
Arriving in a city I can barely pronounce (Ollantaytambo) me and an American guy I met on the train were hassled towards a van, by a guy who said would bring us to Cusco. It was only 10 Sol and was supposed to take 30 minutes.
Something seemed wrong here, but we were too tired to worry about that.
Once we got in the van the doors were closed from the outside and our driver disappeared.
A batman car was arriving and though I am still laughing while writing this: a batman car arrived and once we took pictures of it a door opened and (I am still laughing) police men were walking out of it. Hahahahaha.
Alright Ollantaytambo. This is awesome, but it even got better.
Around 35 minutes later we heard our driver speaking and a lot of footsteps approaching the van. The door opened and around 15 Peruvians loaded with heavy bags (they were probably porters) squeezed inside the van. No space to breathe left. This is why it was that cheap.
Our happy clown car arrived 2,5 hours later in Cusco.Great trip!