The Road to Rio; Inca Jungle Trek (Day 5-8)

Now that we have returned to our hostel and have sufficient internet I want to catch you guys up on our 4 day, 3 night Inca Jungle Trek!!

Day 1 of Trek- Mountain Biking

With our bags packed with just the necessities for the 4 days, we were promptly met by our guide at the hostel and brought to the bus that took us up into the mountains for our first day of the trek.

After a 2 hour bus ride in a very cramped bus full of many nationalities, languages and backpacks, we arrived at Abra De Malaga. Like many of our other bus drivers, it was a hectic ride of climbing the mountain, passing with on coming traffic, and hitting speed bumps wayyy to fast. But the ride was amazing, as we climbed up and up we were above the clouds, looking over the Sacred Valley.


As we stood among the clouds our tour guides handed out some heavy duty mountain biking equipment including shin guards, spine protectors, elbow pads, gloves and a helmet. We were fitted to our bikes and given a short instruction speech. Then we began our 50 km ride to Santa Maria. Mostly down hill, we were reaching high speeds as we traversed across and down the mountain through rivers and over bridges. In total it took us about 3 1/2 hours to cover 50 kilometers to make it to the small town of Santa Maria.

In Santa Maria we were checked into our hostel for the night. Surprisingly it was very nice! I wasn’t expecting such nice accommodation while on this trek, but we were given our own private room with bathroom with a magnificent view of the mountains. Once established, we met the rest of our group – one dutch girl, 3 Brazilians (Dad and 2 sons) and our tour guide and Cusco native Denis.


A short walk from our hostel we ate lunch- creamy potato soup (I soon learned that soup is a staple in the Peruvian diet), sweet tea and the main course of lentils, beef and rice. The meal was somewhat familiar but with a twist. After lunch we explored the small town of Santa Maria and went back to the hostel to get acquainted with our tour group and play some card games and pool. Those that choose to do the river rafting arrived around 6 and we then went to the same small restaurant as lunch and had dinner. We opted to not go white water rafting, it was an extra expense and both John and I have already done it. So we decided to stay warm and out of the freezing cold mountain water.

At dinner we had soup again with hot tea with coco leaves, chicken rice and vegetables, with a coconut chocolate bar for dessert. Our meals were all pretty similar without much variation, but it was good to fill up when we could because our activities really took a lot out of us. Since the sun sets so early here, and we needed to rest up for our big hiking day we all went to bed quite early.


Day 2 of Trek – Hiking and Hot Springs

Day 2 arrived quickly, we woke up before the sun rise and had a very filling breakfast of omelets with tomatoes, mango/orange juice, bread with jam and tea. By far the best and most american breakfast we had up to that day. Once we filled up, we packed our bags and met our bus to bring us to the Inca Jungle Trail. We opted to put all of our unnecessary items in one back pack and have it brought to our next hostel for 5 soles ($1.75) We packed just some snacks, water, bathing suits, bug spray and sun screen in a small back pack and took turns carrying it. I am so glad we did this!!

Along our hike there were small huts selling fruits and snacks every 4-6 kilometers which was great because our hike was mostly uphill and they provided a nice place to sit in the shade and regain some energy. Along with resting at these stops, Denis our tour guide educated us about the culture of the Incas and Peruvians.


Our first stop was at a small coffee and coco farm where they had coffee beans out drying in the sun. Denis taught us about the process of drying, preserving, grinding the beans and how coco leaves are used as a way to give thanks to the land when buried under a rock with 3 small leaves over lapping. Here we met a very feisty cappuccino monkey – Hiro, we were informed not to get too close because he has a reputation for stealing!


After another stretch of hiking we stopped at another hut where we learned about a special fruit used to make cosmetics and dyes. Denis showed us how by painting small designs and pictures on us using the dye from the plants. We also were given traditional clothing of the Inca to try on. At this stop there was also a monkey- one I grew quite fond of named Mona Lisa. She had a large mustache and was so friendly!!


Continuing our hike, we trekked down waterfalls and cliffs with amazing views reaching yet another small hut. Here we had local coffee with raw stevia sugar and some coco leaves as a pick-me-up.


By lunch time we had hiked about 14 kilometers and were ready to rest and have some food! We stopped at a hikers hot spot, filled with fellow hikers doing similar treks. Here we had guacamole, quinoa soup (of course) spaghetti with beef sauce and lemonade. After a short 30 minute rest we were off to finish the rest of our hike and make it to the hot springs.


The final leg of our journey was down on the river bed where we walked along the sand and stones, stopping to put our feet in the cooling water. We crossed a very shaky, long foot bride to reach a cable car that brought us across the river. The cable car was like nothing I’ve ever seen before and definitely would not be used in the states. What it consisted of was a metal “basket” hanging from a cable that was at an angle so gravity would do its work and bring us across- similar to zip lining. One reaching the other side we proceeded through a very dark tunnel and arrived at the hot springs!!


In 2009 the original hot springs were destroyed from the rainy season, washing them away. After that they rebuilt them as a cascade of pools with the top being directly filled via the hot spring and the water trickling down getting progressively cooler. It looked like a resort! We decided to try the hottest one, which was a comfortable heat not too hot. After soaking for about an hour we rejoined the group and packed up to head to our hostel. Unfortunately the hot springs are a breeding ground for mosquitos, here everyone got hundreds of bites. We especially got them on our legs. Luckily I began taking my malaria medication before the trek and zika is not a thing in this region so besides the itchy-ness I should be ok!


A short bus ride up to Santa Teresa we were welcomed at our hostel where once again I was surprised at how nice the place was and we were given our own private room with a bathroom. Unfortunately, we had cold water again and had to take another cold shower. For dinner we went to a small restaurant in the center city where we had soup, again!! With our soup we had local trout, vegetables and rice. For dessert was cheese cake. After returning to the hostel, we shortly went to bed after our exhausting day of hiking 22 km up and down the Inca jungle for over 7 hours!

Day 3 of Trek- Zip Line and Hike to Aguas Calientes

We woke up very early to a pancake breakfast with toast and tea. A very filling meal before our busy morning zip lining! We took a bus up to the zip line park and proceeded to get fitted with equipment and instructions. With our harnesses and helmets on we started on our first line of 5. This one being the smallest; 500m and the largest one being 1000m! Between the lines we hiked up the mountain side and over a very rickety root bridge ended with the last line of 900m- “The Condor” Here we were harnessed in on our stomachs like a condor and flew over the valley! Unfortunately I didn’t make it all the way across and had to be rescued half way… very embarrassing!!


We then began our trek to Aguas Calientes – the city below Machu Picchu. We walked along the train tracks, the train is the only way to get in and out of the rural city. After about an hour of walking we stopped at another hikers hot spot and had lunch which yet again soup, rice, vegetables and chicken. We also tried the Pisco Sour – a local favorite. After lunch we all napped in hammocks provided by the rest stop and then continued on our walk by the train tracks.

After a total of about 10 km we made it to Aguas Calientes! A very touristy town used as a place to sleep for those visiting Machu Picchu. Our hostel was located right in the center of the town over looking the bus and train station. We picked up our bus, train and Machu Picchu tickets and gathered for dinner. Of course we had soup and chicken and rice!! After dinner we met with our Machu Picchu tour guide who explained how the natural world wonder worked. After exploring the bustling city we turned in for the night as we had to get up very early to get in line for the bus up the Machu Picchu.
Day 4 of Trek – Machu Picchu and Return to Cusco

Getting up at 4am was tough!! But it was necessary to catch a bus up to the park in time for our tour at 6:30am. At 4:30am the line was already a hundred people long and growing! There are two options to get up to Machu Picchu- bus or hike. Our guide recommended the bus, since it is only $12 and the hike is straight up for about an hour without any real perks to walking we decided to take the bus. The buses begin filling up and heading up to Machu Picchu at 5:30 am and the gates open at 6am. We got on the 5th bus and proceeded up the winding road to the Machu Picchu gates where the place was already packed! We met our guide and entered through the gates. I bet you’re wondering why we went so early, well it was all worth it when we got to see the sun rise over the mountains and cast the most beautiful light onto Machu Picchu!


After a 2 hour guided tour of the city we explored more, visited the Inca Bridge and hung out with some cool llamas.


At 2pm we were exhausted and ready to get some food. Since we didn’t hike up the mountain to the gates and the bus line was so long to return to Aguas Calientes we decided to hike down and walk to the city.


It took us about an hour to get back to the city, where we promptly found a restaurant and got some pizza! We had plenty of time to kill since our train back didn’t leave until 9:30pm. For the next few hours we explored the city, drank some coffee, snoozed in the park and finally caught our train. The train was about 2 hours to Ollantaytamo where we caught a 2 hour bus to Cusco. Arriving at our hostel at 2am and promptly passing out!!

 

Recommendations

I would fully recommend the trek we took – Inca Jungle Tour by Reserve Cusco   http://www.reserv-cusco-peru.com/

For only $225 we stayed in very nice hostels, all buses and transportation included, entrance fees covered and large meals. It was totally worth it, one of the coolest things I have ever done. Our guide was really knowledgeable of Inca culture and took his time on the hikes so we wouldn’t kill ourselves keeping up. It was an overall great experience!

There is an option to take a bus back rather than the train- this trip will cost $175 although it is cheaper, the trip back will take almost 3 hours longer. And at the end of a 4 day trek, all you really want to do is get back and go to bed.

The additional activities were great- and cheap! We only paid $32 for the zip line which in the states would have been triple that!

Today I will not be posting about our day, as we just recovered from our trek. I am dealing with a slight fever which I believe to be from the food. About 7 out of 10 travelers to Cusco get a fever with stomach ache due to diet. I am beginning to feel much better than I did this morning. Hopefully it will continue to get better because tomorrow we fly to Lima, Peru!

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