The short Inca trail is the way to get a taste of the trail and all it’s majesty of viewpoints, flora, fauna and effort yet save time to get to Machu Picchu. You’ll see the Chachabamba and Winay Huayna stepped ruins, and pass through Inti Punku, aka the Sun Gate, on the way to that final magificant viewpoint of the ancient Incan Machu Picchu city.
Being that I’m traveling for months I should have all the time needed to schedule excursions. However I’m on a budget and seasonal limitation as the months go by. Apparently the 4-day Inca Trail permit cost $720 USD alone. I definitely wanted to see the Inca trail, particularly to pass through the Sun Gate, Inti Punku, and see Machu Picchu from this point. After much research I found this short Inca Trail version by Kenko Adventures. They had very good reviews. The total cost was $500 USD with all transportation, one night hotal accommodation, personal guide for 2-days, lunch, dinner and breakfast.
I receive a briefing of the tour plan by Elvis visiting me at my hostel the night before. That was truly convenient. He tells me to be ready by 7am for pick-up and drop-off by one driver to Ollantaytambo to get on the train. This driver has my tickets for the train and provides me with my lunch plus the lunch for the guide who will meet me when I get off the train. I’m to listen to the announcements for the stop at km104 and meet my guide Grover when I get off. However one of the attendents on the train seems to know everyone who’s getting off and tells each of us personally. The train continues on to Aguas Calientes.
It’s strange to get off the train seemingly nowhere to look for someone who will guide me to Machu Picchu but I’m not alone. Sure enough I find him easily and we have introductions and hand him his lunch. So far the logistics are working quite smoothly.
This bridge across the river is the entry point to the trail from km104.
The first stop just a few yards past the bridge is Chachabamba ruins. Apparently this trail was an Inca messenger trail and this was an Incan station.
We get a start on the trail about 10am after Chachabamba and Grover telling me about it’s history. Plus a bathroom stop with a real bathroom.
Even though the altitude is a couple thousand feet lower than Cusco I need to pause every so often to catch my breath from the steep steps and enjoy the flora and views.
It started out pretty sunny but the clouds are slowly rolling in.
Pausing for a photo op of Winay Huayna stepped ruins in the background. They look so close but I know they’re still far away with many steps to go. Winay Huayna means ‘forever young’ but it was named after the orchid flowers that grow around this place.
There are no switchbacks on this trail only steps for gain. This is the most difficult part of the trail just before reaching Winay Huayna.
We stopped to enjoy this waterfall
I spotted this millipede along the way!
Looking back on the trail, you can see the resting hut I just came from. There are a couple of these along the portion of trail to Winay Huayna The day is still beautiful.
Another rest on the grass overlooking Winay Huayna as my guide Grover tells me the history. This was an agricultural zone for the Inca city at Machu Picchu. Corn being one of the crops here.
To continue the trail you climb up these steps. It’s a short hike to the lunch spot where people on the longer Inca trail camp for the night.
I didn’t actually take any pictures of this spot but simply enjoyed my lunch and rest. There’s a couple from France and their guide sitting next to us. I could hear cheering and clapping. Grover says it’s people from the long Inca trail arriving.
It’s fairly flat from a total gain perspective from Winay Huayna onward but there are still many short ups and downs with steps. My legs are cramping up from all the high steps with my leg calf to thigh at 90deg straining these muscles. I drank more than enough water and Gatorade. I’m using one walking pole and even my arm is cramping from putting weight on the pole to offset leg weight. Each arm and leg taking turns for cramping as I switch my weight and effort around to each. Finally taking some ibuprofen to alleve the cramps. For this hike I highly recommend doing a lot of high step training prior.
It rains on us just prior to reaching the Sun Gate or Inti Punku in Quechua language. I have a rain poncho in my backpack but decide to go without it, the rain wasn’t that much and I was already wet.
There’s a point with very steep high steps for reach the Sun Gate that I’m on all fours to climb. I also saw the other couple doing the same thing. The gate was considered as a control gate for people coming and going to the holy Incan city.
I’m concerned that I won’t get the revealing view of Machu Picchu that I wanted. It was clouded over as I watched the clouds rolling fast over the city. However walking further down the sky cleared up enough to pose for a photo. The photo is a bit blurry cause my phone lens has moisture.
It’s about 5 o’clock ad we need to make our way further down with many more steps to catch the bus to Aguas Calientes where we’ll stay for the night. It’s a 25min twisting bus ride further down the mountain.
Grover walks me to my room where I get settled, shower, then we meet for the included dinner which is on the opposite side of town. No worries, it’s a small charming town. My legs have stopped cramping and there is no pain or stiffness.
At the restaurant I ask for WiFi and the waitress hands us this cute little alpaca doll with the password arounds it’s neck.
I have grilled alpaca again with rice and chimichurri fries, yum.
I look down and see a dog lying comfortably at my feet. Awww.
After that satisfying dinner we walk back to the hotel. In the morning about 7am we’ll get the bus back to Machu Picchu to spend a good several fresh hours to explore.