An Alternative Inca Trail

So i'd decided to walk to Machu Pichu....

The map I had was simple to say the least, it looked like it had been drawn by a child. The verbal directions were a little easier to follow. How hard could it be.... I was going to walk from Ollantaytampo to Machu Pichu; you can see the Inca Trail in red below.

I arrived in Ollantaytambo, grabbed a drink from a cafe and then asked for directions to the rail way line. Obviously, not really thinking about it, everyone directed me to the station. Lots of guards and big fences told me that this was probably not the best place to start the journey. I walked about 2km outside of town along a dusty road and found myself conveniently near the railway lines, this time with no fence! woo!

I started following the rail way lines, which was a bit awkward to say the least, I kept tripping over the sleepers for starters and the gravel was pretty hard going as well. I trudged along for a few hours in some of the most breath taking scenery that Peru had to offer in this area, the best thing of all was there wasn’t a tourist in sight. In fact there was hardly anyone in sight at all! The odd farmer or the odd water buffalo ambling along in the distance and rice paddys in every direction. The blissful silence was idyllic, I drifted off into an almost trance like state whilst listening to the sound of my walking poles clink on the rails. Just as I’d got a nice rhythm going there was a god awful noise. It pierced my soul it was so loud and I dived off the track into a ditch behind some bushes with barely centimetres to spare as the train shot past me. My heart was racing like crazy. That reminded me that what I was doing wasn’t particularly high on the health and safety list and I concentrated for the rest of the trip, ESPECIALLY on blind bends.

The sun was fierce due to the altitude and I regularly had to stop and reapply sun cream to diffuse some of the lobster colour. I had food with me for the journey but when I came across a town I decided to pop into a shop (they always have a plastic bag on a gigantic stick so people know where they are) and see what they had. I stuffed myself with bread and Inca Cola (Iron Bru equivalent) and chatted to the somewhat surprised locals. We exchanged some words in Quechua and English which made everyone laugh due to poor pronunciation by both parties (you try and pronounce Imaynalla kashanki?/How are you?) After a good laugh I set off again as it was mid-afternoon and I wanted to try and get as far as possible.

Tasty rucksack burn!

As it started to draw towards dusk, I decided to look for somewhere to pitch my tent. The only flat ground seemed to be near the train track which would have been stupid so I kept on looking. Every time I saw somewhere that might have been just passable, I would go on looking for something better but remember where the last place was just in case. This happened for about an hour or so until I started to get a little worried.

I saw a man and a woman in a field so called out to them. The man came over and once again looked surprised to see a westerner in the middle of nowhere. He asked what I was doing and where I was going etc. I told him I needed somewhere to put my tent up and could he suggest somewhere. He said he'd ask his wife if she knew anywhere and went to talk to her. Then they came back with a suggestion that surprised me. "Why don't you come and stay with us?" I was a little taken aback by this offer but also tired and wary of the time so agreed.

They told me I could sleep outside but underneath a roof which sat between the door buildings. I dumped all my stuff down and they beckoned me inside. Dinner was served and consisted of my two least favourite foods on the planet, sweet corn and fish. Not wanting to be rude I ate it all as fast as possible, desperately trying to hide the taste with more Inca Cola! Seconds were offered but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. After a few hours of entertainment I decided to hit the hay. I collapsed onto my roll mat and fell promptly asleep.

I woke up early morning to the sound of people stirring in the house and realised to my great surprise that I was covered in Guinea Pigs (a South American delicacy) I was obviously somewhat warmer than the ground. I really do wish I could have freed my hands to take a photo but the second I sat up they all ran for cover squeaking.

I offered a bit of money to my hosts but they wouldn’t accept it, so we agreed on me giving them some luxury food instead; tinned peaches!!! I slyly slipped some money under the tin as I stood it on the table and said my thanks.

The second day was a little more exciting if that is possible. Not only did I come running out of a tunnel screaming my head off as a train gained on me with the driver frantically waving for me to get out the way but I also arrived at Piscacucho, the start of the famous Inca Trail.

This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Dream accomplished

There was a fence... a BIG fence... from the top of the valley, to the bottom and up the other side. There were also lots of guards at the train station itself. I did a little visual reconnaissance and thought I saw a possible route further up to the right of the town. I caught a child watching me, he came up to me and demanded chocolate in exchange for showing me where there was a hole in the fence. Peru never ceased to amaze me by this point so I parted with valuable resources and accepted the help of “Le Resistance”. We walked a fair bit up the valley and came across a ravine that ran alongside the fence. It was probably 8 meters deep but he climbed down into it and I followed on after. The other side was shockingly steep and he told me to take my bag off. He boosted me onto a ledge, handed me my bag and told me to climb up and out where id find a gap. True to his word, at the top, I was free.

I start to hurry the pace as it was getting late again. I crossed some very precarious wild west style train bridges whilst trying not to look down and having to leap between the supports and then was once again back in dense jungle. It got dark very quickly and my mind started to play tricks on me. Fire flies kept appearing across the path ahead of me. This looks exactly like someone carrying a torch. For good reason I’d shoot off into the undergrowth like a rocket and this eventually led to me dropping and breaking my only source of light. I now always carry two....

I passed a false finish in a hydro electric dam complex which was more heavily guarded than the whole rest of the route but easy enough to bypass. After several hours of walking in pitch black, more or less feeling my way by keeping one foot on the rail, I heard music. I kept on walking for a bit longer and the music became steadily louder. I was suddenly mobbed by a gang of dogs which was terrifying in the dark! I fought them off with my walking poles and the owner came to my rescue. He apologised and assured me that Aguas Calientes was only a km down the road. I walked as fast as I could given the conditions and finally arrived, collapsed on a large flat rock outside the train station and went to sleep.

Although it had been a much harder way of getting there, I was helped by the local people and gained a unique insight into their way of life, their traditional culture and their language. They didn't seem to mind that I was cheating the system by not paying guide fees and trail passes. They were just happy someone had taken the time to pop by. I was happy to have met them.