Trekking to Machu Picchu | Lares Trek Days 3 & 4

13 August 2015

With the unexpected snowstorm the day prior causing us to reroute our entire trek, I wasn't sure what to expect for the final two days of our trip. But one thing was for certain: with each step, we found ourselves closer and closer to wondrous Machu Picchu! 

Just like on day two, day three kicked off with our porters' smiling faces and cups of coca tea! Slowly but surely, I got dressed and headed to breakfast. I was regaining my appetite, and I enjoyed a breakfast of omelets and fruit. To our surprise, our meal ended with a giant cake! It was so pretty that we all clapped and hollered, and to think it was cooked on a camp stove. Our chef Raul said the frosting was made from whipped eggs and sugar. He topped it with caramel made from boiled sweetened condensed milk, cherries and peaches. Holy smokes was it delicious! Raul was such a pleasure. You could really tell how much he enjoyed his job.

We packed up and climbed into Alpaca Expedition vans and said goodbye to our awesome horsemen. We drove for a few hours, and we were told we would have the option to hike part of the Inca trail or stay in the car. Along the way, when we spotted local Andean children, we stopped and gave them bread and gifts like colored pencils and notebooks. When we got to the trail head, I still wasn't feeling so hot, so I decided to stay with the crew while everyone else went on a short trek. Later, my friends showed me pictures, and I was creeped out to hear they had come across some raided tombs and even found pieces of skeletons sticking out! 

I crashed in the van while our Green Machine team got set up for lunch. After our final gourmet feast together, it was time to bid our little family goodbye! We were truly sad to see them go. They were such an awesome and kind group!

We boarded the van again and made the two hour drive to Ollantaytambo where we had some free time to roam before dinner. We picked up the train to Aguas Calientes at about 7PM and got into town around 9:30PM. Cesar helped get us set up at Inti Punktu Inn, the little two-star hotel that would be our stay for the night. It felt so great to finally have a hot shower and sleep in a normal bed after tents and hostels!

It was finally here: the day we had all been waiting for, the entire purpose of our trek. We were headed to see Machu Picchu and it would be my favorite day of the trip! Our last day commenced with a final early wake up at 4:30AM to dress and pack. Our hotel Inki Punktu had a nice continental breakfast of scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, potatoes and juices of all kinds. At about 5:20AM, we started off toward the bus to Machu Picchu, and wound up in a sprint because the line was already so long! The bus up was about 25 minutes through what appeared to be the planet in Avatar. We wound our way through crazy tall, skinny mountains until we finally reached the top. When we first walked in, I felt a little bit like I was entering the Animal Kingdom at Disney World, but I was soon swept up by the citadel ruins. It was insane. So many boulders! There is no way that place was built over the course of 80 years. Cesar took us on an interesting and informative two hour tour and explained all about how the boulders were constructed, the history behind how the city was found, and the unfortunate impending future of this natural wonder. I loved hearing him talk about the ancient city. He was so passionate and knowledgeable, and without his stories, I don't think I would have appreciated Machu Picchu nearly as much.

After the tour, one of my friends and I hiked out to the Sun Gate to try to get a look at Machu Picchu from afar. It took us about 1.5 hours to go and come back, at it was surprisingly difficult for me, though likely due to the fact that I was basically running on empty without having eaten much the few days prior. The path was a gradual incline, with occasional sections of tiny steps. When we were about half way, a group of llamas headed down the path! We attempted (read: failed miserably) a llama selfie, but these creatures weren't having any of it. After a short while, we victoriously made it to the Sun Gate, taking a break for a little while to bask in the scene ahead. Machu Picchu looked so tiny from there! It was hard to believe how grand it had seemed just an hour ago. We made our way back and happened upon the most impressive part of our hike -- watching the city get bigger and bigger as we got closer to it. Simply a must-see!

We spent about six hours at Machu Picchu, though I think I easily could have spent more, and then made our way back to Aguas Calientes. After wandering around the city for a bit, our group reunited at a small restaurant for lunch and a sad farewell. After trekking with the same people for four days, you become a little family.

But our trip wasn't quite over yet! We opted to take the Vistadome train back to Cusco city. The ride was a long one at about 4 hours total, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. The staff was really friendly, and the train was quite fancy. The ceiling and walls were made up of glass windows so we could see the stunning terrain around us, winding back through the Sacred Valley. The staff served us a light meal of onion and olive tamales, sweet roasted nuts, tart orange berries that looked like little tomatoes, and a coconut cookie. They put on a fashion show and modeled off some traditional alpaca clothing, and they dressed up in traditional garb and explained one of the festivals to us. We arrived in Cusco around 8:30PM, and Alpaca took us back to Ecopackers Hostel where we crashed for the night.

All in all, it was an awesome trip, and I'm so glad I gave the trek a try. I was certainly sad we had to turn back due to weather, but our team's spirits remained high the whole time, and I was so impressed by their ability to think quickly under unexpected circumstances. I felt that they truly went above and beyond to make sure we still had the best experience possible.

Would I do it again? Sure! But as I mentioned, I would more seriously evaluate my fitness level and train appropriately next time. And if you're brave enough to tackle the Inca Trail or an alternative route, I certainly suggest you go with Alpaca Expeditions. Despite Cesar and I not quite being on the same page on day 2, I was very pleased with his desire to make sure we were all having a great time. Cesar was so passionate about his country and its people that he made me feel confident we had made the right choice with Alpaca Expeditions. And with it being my first trek, their customer service was truly top knotch, and I felt like I was in safe hands throughout the trip. If I ever attempt to do it again, I'll be reaching out to them for sure. 

After we had returned home, I had received a very sweet email from Raul, the owner of the company, apologizing for the unpredictable weather conditions. This was unnecessary, given that they can't control something like this, but it was a very nice personal touch. Even more reasons to have a lot of love for Alpca Expeditions! They gave me all of the feels.

Preparing for your own trip? Check out this post, or read about Holly's first two days on the trek here.

Big thanks to Alpaca Expeditions for kindly covering the cost of my gear. As with all content on The Brave Little Cheesehead, all opinions remain honest and our own. If you have any questions about the tour companies we feature, please send us an email or comment below!

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