I recently completed a four day trek to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail in Peru. After a brief overnight layover in Lima I arrive in Cusco around seven in the morning. At around 3,400 meters some signs of altitude can be felt. It’s from here that I embarked on the trek.

Cusco, Peru
One of the sights at KM 82, the start point for the trek.

Following an early morning bus ride with a group of fellow trekkers, guides and most importantly porters we arrived at our start point. The next four days and 43km would showcase to us the biodiversity of the Sacred Valley as we hiked our way to Machu Picchu.

Opuntia, commonly know as prickly pears due to the sweet edible fruit that grows on them.
Clouds and mountains on the second day of trekking.
The view from Dead Women’s Pass.

The most difficult part of the Inca trail comes on the second day of the hike. At 4200 meters Dead Women’s pass is the highest point on the trail. Hiking up step after step through the clouds past grazing llamas you can begin to feel the altitude weighting on you. The sweat and sun gives way to a chill wind and shadow as you begin to decent on the far side of the pass.

Hiking along the Inca Trail
A wall, part of a Inca ruin, runs off towards the side of a mountain.

Our reward for the countless steps was an endless supply of mountain vistas full of natural wonders along with ruins. It was easy to get caught up in the act of hiking, keeping pace and competing to lead the pack. Luckily the camera around my neck reminded me to slow down and look around.

A dog enjoys a hikers company at a camp sight on the second day of the hike.
Foliage in the lower amazon jungle.
Descending on the trek towards Machu Picchu.
A llama grazes above Inca ruins.

I’ve never been one for tourist hot spots. Machu Picchu has without a doubt become one, for good reason. Taking the time to hike there gives you a level of appreciation that cannot be achieve through a bus and train ride. As we arrive in Machu Picchu, slightly haggard, I contemplated the journey. Groups of day tourists moved to the side of the trail and clapped us on as we passed. Getting there was the real adventure.

Machu Picchu seen from a neighbouring summit.
A Peruvian Inca Orchid. The hairless dog has a long history dating back to pre-Inca times.

Brendan Montgomery/Captis Media