Maria, Jesus, and their teenage daughters, Itzia and Maria, are about to start a new adventure in Cusco: a trek along the 2-day Inca trail. With their guide, José, this family from Spain is all geared up to experience the amazing natural beauty and explore the ancient Inca ruins along this route.
As we descend from Cusco to Km 104, passing through the towns of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo, the scenery changes dramatically. Jesus and Maria mention that it feels as if they are in the jungle. Actually, as we get off the train at Km 104 and cross the suspension bridge above the Urubamba River, we find ourselves hiking in the middle of the dense cloud forest with its many different hues of green.
My skin senses the warm air and the humidity. With every breath I take, comes the fresh smell of dew. That fragrance and the roar of the river accompany us for most of the day as we hike the opposite hill. Our guide emphasizes that the scenery here is green all year round.
In addition to the green color of the forest, we admire yellow, red, and pink orchids as well as white, brown, yellow, and black butterflies.
We hike past Chachabamba, an administrative post located near the starting point very close to the river. We can also see, at a distance, the sites of Choquesuysuy, also by the river, and Intipata, perched upon a hill, as we approach Wiñay Wayna.
After passing through a few streams and a couple of waterfalls, we reach one of the most impressive Inca archaeological sites known as Wiñay Wayna, (Forever Young), named for the orchid of the same name that can be found in this area. Wiñay Wayna features a ceremonial section with a double door and a room with 7 windows, as well as several finely carved water fountains.
José says that he was lucky enough to see a spectacled bear as well as a puma and a wolf during his previous treks towards Machu Picchu.
Suddenly, the family and the guide spot a bright greenish blue object on the branch of a tree. It’s a type of jungle bird known as a quetzal. As a matter of fact, there are a couple of quetzals playing cheerfully in the tree.
A few minutes later, a hummingbird flies above us. We are excited about these encounters, but we are still anxious to find the most famous endemic bird of this area, the Gallito de las Rocas, or Cock of the Rock, Peru’s national bird. It is sometimes spotted in this excellent bird watching region.
We pass Wiñay Wayna, and after a couple of hours we reach a steep section of stairs: the last stretch before reaching the Sun Gate or Inti Punku, from which we attain our first spectacular view of Machu Picchu, the most important and magnificent archaeological site of the Americas.
We walk down the ancient Inca trail listening to José’s explanations about the two huacas or temples we pass on the way down to the archaeological site itself. We are tired but very happy because we have completed this challenge and we are excited to explore Machu Picchu more thoroughly first thing tomorrow morning.
Maria and her daughters admit they were a little bit concerned about the hike at first, but now realize that it was not as difficult as they had feared. They add that the experience surpassed all of their expectations.
Maria exults, “I will definitely recommend this trek.”
For more information about this trek, see: Apus Peru Two-Day Inca Trail Trek