A popular way to visit tourist magnet Machu Picchu is via a multi-day trek with the primary treks being:
- Inca Trail: the most expensive and prestigious route, often requires booking several months in advance
- Salkantay Trek: an alternative route that can be hiked independently
- Inca (or Inka) Jungle Trek: a hybrid, activity based trek staying in hostels instead of tents
I chose the Inca Jungle Trek and in August 2016 enjoyed a fantastic four days with a wonderful group of people including Dale, Wian, Johann, Damian, Magali and Nicola along with super guide Jhimmy. The good food, reasonable accommodation and great value topped off the trip.
The tour began with a drive from Cusco up to 4,350 metre high Malaga Pass. From the high Andes mountains with glaciers visible we mountain biked downhill to hot and humid Huamanmar.
The Inka Jungle Trek driver removing mountain bikes from the van roof with a glacier in the background
After a drive to Santa Maria, we negotiated the Vilcanota River, my first ever white water rafting experience.
Negotiating a Vilcanota River rapid in the inflatable raft (photo courtesy of the rafting company)
Day two began early and involved a long hike and stunning scenery between Santa Maria and Santa Teresa.
The original Santa Maria town was destroyed by floods, causing the town to be relocated. The floods also destroyed the railway line, a previously efficient distributor of the area’s mango crop. Now, mangoes rot on the ground during the November/December season. In August the mango trees were flowering.
A railway bridge early morning of day two at Santa Maria
During day two we made several stops in fields and huts where our guide Jhimmy explained the local crops including coca, cacao, coffee and pineapple. Peru is developing its coffee industry with many organic, small-scale producers.
Guide Jhimmy holding three coca leaves together in the shape of the Inca “kintu” symbol. Coca, the source ingredient of cocaine, is a legal crop in both Bolivia and Peru and commonly chewed by locals
The tour group crossing a creek on the second day hike from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa
Colourful birds eating bananas at a day two rest stop
The Inka Jungle Trek is an opportunity for people to eliminate any fear of heights
Members of another tour group following us along an ancient Inca jungle trail
Guide Jhimmy holding half a cacao pod, exposing the flesh-covered beans; cacao flesh is eaten fresh or fermented while the beans provide the key ingredient of chocolate
Late afternoon on day two we crossed over the Vilcanota River on a rickety, manual cable chair
The stunning scenery and experience on day two left me completely satisfied, even if the tour abruptly stopped then and there.
The group appreciated Cocalmayo Hot Springs after a long day two hike
A beautiful early morning cloudy sky at Santa Teresa on day three of the trek
Day three began with an early informal yoga class, then zip-lining along the river valley and a challenging walk along a suspension bridge.
Walking along a suspension bridge high above the ground near Santa Teresa
Hiking from Santa Teresa to Aguas Calientes via Hydroelectrica, we followed the railway line and passed Machu Picchu in the distance.
Shops and stalls alongside the railway line near Hydroelectrica
Thousands of bromeliads (plants) grow on this sheer mountain cliff near Machu Picchu
Aguas Calientes is an ultra touristy town which almost solely serves to support Machu Picchu.
A passenger train entering Aguas Calientes, the main town servicing Machu Picchu
On day four of the Inca Jungle Trek we visited Machu Picchu, a site worthy of a separate blog post.