Inca Jungle Trail

Trip Start Oct 05, 2012
Trip End Apr 01, 2013

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Flag of Peru  , Cusco,
Monday, December 24, 2012

Inca Jungle Trail or Inca Trail? Inca Jungle Trail or Inca Trail? Inca Jungle Trail or Inca Trail? Just one of the many dilemmas I have debated on this trip. Whilst the experience of actually walking the Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu would have been truly special, I eventually decided to do the Inca Jungle Trail as it is a 4 day combination of trekking with cycling, but requires no camping as the accommodation is provided in family lodges and hostels along the way. December is the wet season, and the thought of camping in the rain and having to do this for 5 days filled me with horror!! Call me a wimp or whatever, but with the benefit of hindsight I can easily say I made the right choice... :-)

So, Day 1 started around 5am when I woke up to the sound of heavy rain outside...just exactly what I had hoped NOT for!! Maybe it will stop, I thought, still 3 hours until pick up after all... Sadly it didn't, and even though we had a delayed start due to picking up the bikes and other equipment the rain was even heavier as we started the long ascent to apx 4100m and the starting point for the first days activity - the cycling!!

Having got all 10 of us out of the van, fully kitted in cycling gear and as many layers of clothing as was feasible, our guide - Jimmy - then proceeded with his guide introduction and safety explanation. Although in Spanish, most of it was easy enough to understand. Perhaps the key word was 'opcíon'. There was a nice, dry vehicle sitting there ready to follow us down, and which of course we could get back into at any point because it was optional and no one was forcing us to do this...but no, stubbornness prevailed and off we set. I was able to see for apx. 10m - all that was needed to see the person in front, but not much else!! I would have to admit to being a little bit nervous about cycling beforehand because of the way that trucks and buses seem to drive here. However, the road wasn't too busy and as I was safely tucked in the middle of the group the vehicles had generally slowed down by the time they passed me.

By the time we reached the first mirador - apparently stunning scenery, but by this time the visibility was down to 5m or so - I was completely soaked. I had lost the feeling in my legs and bottom after the first 5 mins due to the cold water spray from the back wheel, and my arms were slowing following suit due to my poncho flapping in the wind as we sped down. Water was also trickling down my neck and back as it managed to find whatever gaps there were through the layers... But not willing to give up, off I set again with the group. This part was actually much more fun as we couldn't really get any wetter and we also had to cross many streams which were flowing over the road. Much fun, although not so much fun when crossing at the same time as a car coming in the opposite direction - bike spray vs car spray is in no way a fair competition!!

Unfortunately it was one of these streams which eventually stopped us as it was too strong for us to attempt on the bikes. It was only 10mins or so to the end of the cycle so we didn't miss too much of the proper route. So, very wet and freezing off we went in the van, leaving a motorbike sitting weighing up whether or not to try and cross the stream or not...

Next stop was the town of Santa Maria, our sleeping point for the night and after a much needed lunch (thankfully hot soup and a stir fry) we were taken to our rooms, able to peel off all the soaking layers and collapse under our bed covers for a small siesta. Normally, rafting would have been an optional activity for the afternoon, but unfortunately there was an accident last week on one of the trips and it has been forbidden for the foreseeable future. Having seen the river, I can easily see why it's not possible at this time of year - the rapids were ferocious looking!!

Buoyed by the lazy afternoon, and following our dinner we all made our way to the hottest nightspot in Santa Maria - although, possibly the only one as well!! There then followed a night of many games, much laughter and probably too much booze. Some of the highlights included playing alternative jenga with a pack of cards balancing on a beer bottle, a rather well endowed inca god who held the forfeit shots for those who toppled the jenga, a local shot called Tacama which can only be described as toxic, and finally a whole mix of cocktails all with names relating to the Incas or Machu Picchu.

It was a very sorry group of people who had to be scraped out of their beds the following morning at 6am... This was the first day of trekking, and the longest by far in terms of time and steepness of trail. And, of course, as would be the case the sun was blazing - unfortunately the only day when rain and cooler weather would definitely have been my preference to ease the head...

Our end destination for the day was a town called Santa Teresa and our route took us from the bottom of the Rio Urubamba up along a winding trail surrounded by overhanging jungle and eventually onto one of the Inca Trails. We had plenty of opportunities to stop along the way - thankfully!! One saw us meet a robber monkey called Hiro who quickly extracted both cigarettes and sunglasses from one of the boys, and then proceeded to amuse us all with his antics over plastic bottles, his teddy bear and his toy car. We then stopped at 'la casa de los monos' where we got our faces painted with Quechuan symbols using a prickly little plant with red seeds, ate cocoa beans soaked in honey and enjoyed the hammocks looking out over the valley. Little did we know, but by this time we'd done the majority of the uphill part of the trail. After only a short walk further we reached the first of the miradors looking out over the whole valley - stunning...

Lunch wasn't too much further - thankfully - and then afterwards only another 2 hours before we reached Santa Teresa. Although actually, we did it in 1.5 hours because all of us were keen just to keep walking and reach our destination. One highlight during this was a hand operated 'cable car' used to transfer people across the river. This one guy who couldn't have been more than 5 feet tall and who looked about 70 was able to pull 3 of us over at a time, and all for the cost of S/1 each (apx. 20p)!! It was then only another 10mins to the Santa Teresa Hot Springs - lowering myself into them after 10 long hours of trekking felt amazing!!

Our night in Santa Teresa was a whole different affair to the previous night. No drinking, no games and an early night. Lessons can be learnt... ;-) Unfortunately, this was slightly ruined by the fact that the room I was in had little more than crinkly tin for a roof. The rain started in the early hours of the morning and was still going when we had to get up at around 6am. I can only describe it as though I was trapped inside a drum with someone ferociously beating it for the better part of 4 hours...

I had been told by various people who had done the same trip previously that the trek on Day 3 was fairly boring and to do the optional activity of zip-lining instead. Unfortunately, the rain put me (and the rest of the group except 2) off doing this so we were on our way back along the river by 7am. It wasn't long before the rain stopped and the sun came out, although a fairly flat walk along the floor of the valley meant it wasn't too strenuous - and a whole lot easier without a hangover!! It wasn't a particularly pretty walk and there were a lot of construction sites due to new bridges and hydro-electric power plants. Still, a couple of waterfalls and the sound of the roaring river beside us made it good enough for me and eventually we reached the first control point for the national park area around Machu Picchu.

From this point on it was a fairly easy walk as we followed the rail tracks, stopping for lunch along the way and eventually reaching our final destination of Aguas Calientes - the town at the bottom of Machu Picchu. I have to say I was happy to see this as we had to walk in the rain for the last 2 hours and my right foot felt like I was walking on glass in my shoe!! Not a pleasant feeling at all...

Aguas Calientes is a very touristy town, fortunately with all the facilities and services you need as a foot weary tourist. My first priority was to buy alternative shoes so I could try and dry my trainers for the following day: a pair of flip flops - S/5 (apx. £1.20) - bargain!! Secondly, snacks for the following day: local market - fruit, chocolate, raisins etc. Thirdly, Internet and phone to call in Christmas wishes to the family and assure them I had survived the previous days: easy, they were on every corner. And finally, newspaper to help dry my shoes: failed miserably...

It was then off to celebrate Christmas Eve with a special dinner where we had been promised a proper dinner with wine and champagne to wash it down with. This was the biggest anticlimax of the trip so far...all we got was a plate of pickled, cold vegetables, 1/4 chicken and 2 baked potatoes. Tomato ketchup and salad cream were the accompaniments, which did little to disguise the dryness of the chicken and potatoes... It wasn't until one of the boys asked for the champagne that we were given 2 x bottles of something similar to Lambrini, and then they refused to give us any water unless we paid additional. Overall, it was a real disappointment and we all left feeling like we'd been well and truly ripped off...

But anyway, it was Christmas Eve after all and we found ourselves a bar to enjoy a cocktail before heading to bed. Yes, at 10pm which still felt late given the fact we had to be up around 4.45am the following morning...

...because, just in case I failed to mention this previously - my Christmas Day was to be spent in Machu Picchu!!
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dishy!! on

Sounds like sum velly juvenile behaviour along the way, pity about the rain but sum sun as well, do u have plastic bags or a waterproof inner 4 ure rucsack?? Looking 4ward 2 the MP report and hope u had a gud jurney 2 LP.

curlsandtales on

Me?!?! Juvenile?!?! I don't know what you mean... ;-). Yes, lots of plastic bags to keep the clothes dry and the very fetching poncho you will see in a few of the snaps. Wet shoes to walk in though are terrible!! Xx

Pigwig on

Thank god you escaped the rafting, surely you wouldn't have?
Is that a giant d**k in the picture, heaven help the Wrinklies!

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