Inca Trail

The Inca Trail in Peru is perhaps the world's most famous trek. This four-day camping trip follows a 500-year old stone path that ends in Machu Picchu, an ancient city reclaimed from the jungle. I hiked the Inca Trail with my Dad, my sister Kate and her girlfriend Kim. Mom joined us at the beginning and end of the trip. 

In Cusco before the trip with Kim, Dad, Mom, Joe and Kate. Cuy Al Horno, on the menu, is guinea pig. 

Smoke from hundreds of barbecues rises from Inti Raymi celebrations in Cusco. Inti Raymi is the biggest festival of the season. 

Cusco marketplace.  

Like climbing Kilimanjaro, all groups must be guided on the Inca Trail. It brings money to the region and controls use. Llama Path was our outfitter.  

Porters resting at the high point of the trip at Dead Woman Pass at 13,829 feet. Porters carry 20 kilos of group gear plus their personal gear. We carried our sleeping bag, pad and hiking stuff in 35-liter packs. 

The Inca Trail is lined with ruins. Here's Kate exploring the Phuyupatamarka ruins. 

Dad eleven hours into the second day. What is a comparable trek in the US? Rim-to-rim on the Grand Canyon? The Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier? 

Despite being the dry season, we saw five types of orchids in the cloud forest. 

Kate in a carved out tunnel on the Inca Trail. 

Dad ready for a trail-side lunch. Peru has stepped up it's food in the past few years: quinoa, chicken, rice, veggies, guinea pigs.... All I remember from my last trip to Peru 20 years ago was pollo and papas fritas.  

Wiñaywayna ruins, our favorite of the whole trip. The fascinating thing about all these Inca ruins is that nobody really knows what happened. There was no written language before the Spanish arrived. And all of the written accounts have a Spanish Conquistador twist. This results in each Inca history buff having their own theory of what happened. Historical spiels by tour guide's often start with "I believe...."

Joe, Kate, Kim and Dad at the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu. We visited the ruins and took the bus down to the tourist town of Aguas Calientes to meet Mom. 

Kate and Dad at out hotel in Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu. This is one of those towns that most guide books say "Heinous place. Get out ASAP." We've learned this is code for "Great place to hang for a few days." Aguas sits among towering rock walls, next to roaring river.