Day 3; 18km, 9,000ft – 7,000ft
We all woke up on the third day of the trek feeling incredibly grateful that the longest day of hiking (and climbing) was behind us. Again we were one of the first groups to leave but today would be mostly flat – actually finishing 2,000ft lower than where we started! Also we would be finishing up around lunchtime, which was an absolute treat!
Most of the morning was spent powering along a jungle valley, following a river all the way down. In the case of today we actually maintained our lead on the rest of the groups, shows what we can do when flat ground is on our side! This also helped us keep high spirits along the way, and it felt like 6 hours of trekking passed in something more like 2! About 30 mins before camp we stopped for a coffee tour. In a celebratory mood we all decided to get a beer but were sternly told by our guide to wait to drink it until we’d tried the coffee – we’d become the naughty group it would appear!
We were shown the coffee beans, and also the roasting process. After that we all got to try our hand at roasting the coffee, and then to grind it. Finally we got to try some however they gave us the super concentrated version which wasn’t the best sales technique, as it was so bitter! We all decided against buying it and rather stuck to sipping our beer. We also saw a lot of groups pass us in minibuses at this stage, as they would be doing the 4 day trek and driving the rest of the way – no half measures for us!
The last hour to camp felt like a slight drag but we were still in high spirits so passed quickly enough. We were served lunch upon our arrival and then had the option to go to some thermal hot springs. Whilst this sounded lovely for our muscles we unanimously opted against the 1 hour drive there and 1 hour drive back, being crammed into hot pools with swathes of other tourists! So we spent the afternoon napping (Jamie), showering and drinking beer in the campsite which was such a welcome break compared to the previous day! We also could have showers for just over £1, had an early dinner and just as we were heading to bed the tour groups from the baths came back so we were so glad not to be part of that! For this night we had Jungle Dome accommodations – by far the best accommodation of the trip (except the hotel). They were incredibly roomey, had good mosquito nets and we could open windows (flaps) on the roof to let the heat out so the climate was perfect for sleeping!
Day 4; 18km, 8,000ft – 11,000ft – 9,000ft
The fourth day is largely underestimated by a lot of groups, including us, as seeming easy because it’s the last day. Realistically this isn’t the case, as although the distance is the same as the previous day this day involved a climb over a mountain pass. 3 hours up first thing in the morning and a further 2hr30 back down made us feel frustrated no one had thought to build a tunnel! Still we started off the first group in the morning again, however at this point there were only 2 or 3 more groups as the vast majority had taken the 4 day tour.
There’s no way around the fact that the morning climb was strenuous – however it didn’t feel nearly as bad as day 2. This was definitely helped by not only the lower altitude, but also the myriad of incredible views we had every time we stopped! When we made it to the top of the mountain we also had a very special view, of Machu Picchu itself! It was possible to see all the of the step level farming which was used centuries ago. Counterintuitively the hike back down was actually more difficult than up, as it was hard on the knees and felt like it lasted forever with steep steps down. Right by the bottom we stopped for our well deserved lunch and were safe in the knowledge we’d finished all the hills we would need to do on the trek!
After lunch was a good 11km, 3 hour walk along the train track to Aguas Calientes, which was completely flat. Still, the soles of all of our feet were worn and we were so so ready for the trek to be over! At this point we were marching with some pace just to get to the finish line. Along the way Mikey lost the handle on his pole, which caused a bit of frustration as the company declared these were ‘new’ walking poles… but we didn’t end up paying extra for it anyway.
And then, finally, we had arrived! We were shown to our hotel, which as Jamie jokingly predicted, was in fact the furthest end of town up an incredibly steep hill! We had to wait another 90 minutes to get our duffel bags to shower but we were thoroughly impressed with the hotels rooms and a private, hot, indoor shower was like something from heaven at this stage. We all met at 6 for our last dinner as a group, and enjoyed some Lomo Saltado and a few beers and Pisco Sours then it was off for an early bed. We had to be up at 4:30am to see the main event the next day – no lie-ins for us!