“Let’s go on a vacation together!” my friend Olga said to me. We were waiting for a ferry to go to Angel Island on Saturday, February 11, 2017.
“Where to?!” I asked. “I really want to go to Iceland, or New Zealand, or Peru.”
“Let’s do Peru.”
And there it was. A gorgeous day in San Francisco. One of my best friends and I had decided to do various SF adventures together from walking up Twin Peaks, to hiking Mount Diablo, to visiting restaurants…we’d known each other since college – geez time has flown – and had just decided on an international trip. In March, Olga sent a calendar invite set for mid-May as a reminder for us to “Book Peru trip!” We heard you had to book 6 months in advance and planned for November over Thanksgiving so we didn’t have to take that much time off.
Doing research I found out hiking Machu Picchu in November would be during the rainy season. So later on decided in July, to book for next July. I didn’t realize till just now we had booked this vacation a year in advance! And after doing more research – aka Facebook post of what tour group we should go with – I decided on Peru Treks. And if I were to do it again, I would definitely go with them. They were a fantastic tour company – highly recommend!
Overtime, our original group of who was going dwindled to just two of us. And Olga got into a snowboarding accident (she’s hardcore like that) so couldn’t make it – we’ll have to do another international trip together. But Sora and I packed our bags and we were ready to go!
We arrived in Cusco and got to our hostel. But they didn’t take our dollar bills so we had to give them our best $20s. “Oh no,” we thought to ourselves. We really hoped our tour company would take the rest of our cash. Those first 2 days we walked around Cusco, drank a lot of coca tea, ate ceviche, ate empanadas, walked to Cristo Blanco and got acclimated to the altitude.
Day 3 we decided to do a day tour of the Sacred Valley. We saw so much! Chinchero, Moray, Salineras de Maras, Ollantaytambo and Pisac. We bought chocolate – oh so good and the famous salt. Plus the banana chips were pretty divine. And then of course, more $1.50 empanadas for dinner…yum.
4th day of our trip – aka Wednesday – the start of the Inca Trail! (And they took our money at the briefing yay…it was only our hostel that made a big deal out of nothing). Noami our tour guide picked us up and we walked onto the bus. We were soooo excited and talked the entire way to Ollantaytambo (plus I took a quick nap since it was a long drive). We all grabbed breakfast at a place and met our fellow hikers (we had a great group): Bianca, Kyle, Collin, Brandon, Brett, Dalton, and Spencer were the TCU crew, Denise, and Tricia.
Day 1 of the hike we took it pretty slow. I hadn’t realized until that week we got to Peru that there’s actually lots of Inca sites to see along the trail. I honestly thought it was just us hiking on a trail for 4 days, camping, and then landing at our ultimate site: Machu Picchu. But no! The Inca Trail is incredible. Some people say it’s like going on a pilgrimage. And if you’d like to see Machu Picchu, I definitely suggest hiking and not taking the train and bus there.
Patallacta is the first site you see – it was an agricultural settlement which fed people at Machu Picchu.
Dead Woman’s Pass is on day 2 and it’s the highest point of the trail at 13,828 feet.
Day 3 was the day I liked the most. And it’s also the favorite day for Noami and Marco (our tour guides) as well. We visited Phuyupatamarca, Sayacmarca, and Intipata was amazing! We had the Intipata site all to ourselves.
Day 4 we woke up super early at 3:30 am to walk to the check in point where we then waited for them to let us in. After hiking a bit more, we arrived at the Sun Gate and down to Machu Picchu. It was a bit overloaded with tourists (I wish they allowed the hikers in first but they don’t) and interesting to see people with high heels on at the site while us hikers hadn’t even showered for days haha.
Overall, it was an absolutely amazing trip – we had a great group enjoying all the hiking together talking about life, having meals with each other in the tent, camping in beautiful places and seeing the stars and sun sets, playing cards, making a Machu Machu rum drink and more.