I’m Still Alive, but I’m Barely Breathing

The Road to Machu Picchu Along the Lares Trek

…Was no easy feat. My friend Allison and I were planning our Machu Picchu trip a few months ago and just figured we would do the classic Incan Trail. However, the permits for the trail had been sold out for months. *FYI, if you want to book the Inca Trail you need to book 6-12 months in advance!

We chose the 3 night/ 4 day Lares Trek. Little did we know, this trek has the highest peak out of them all. More to come on that later…

  • Starting Altitude – 2800m / 9186ft.
  • Highest Altitude – 4780m / 15,682ft.

Day 1:

With a 4:30AM wakeup call, we boarded the bus and made our way to our first breakfast stop. Our group consisted of me and Allison, and a family of four – Susan (Mom), Patrick (Dad), and Connor and Meghan (21 year old twins).

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The before picture

After breakfast we set off on our first major hike of the day ~9 miles. Going primarily up hill, slowing climbing up in altitude, climbing about 3,373 feet. We made our first pit stop for lunch and continued on to our camp site for the night. We were told it was going to get cold, and boy that was no lie. Temperatures were as low as 16 degrees, so we had dinner and a 6:30PM bedtime.

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Day 2:

With a 5:00AM wakeup call we started our trek straight up the steepest and hardest part of the trail. This cultivated in us reaching the highest altitude of the trail, a casual 15,850 feet. Needless to say, I took the hike quite slow, stopping every three steps to catch my breath. After taking in the view, it was all downhill from there!

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We hiked down through beautiful lagoons and valleys with snowcapped peaks looming in the distance.

We stopped in a local village for lunch and to rest our aching legs. We were given the decision to stop here and camp for the night, or continue on another 8 miles to reach the Lares hot springs, where we promised it would be a warmer nights sleep. Can you guess what we chose? Hot springs! Duh – at this point, what was another 8 miles anyways?

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The after picture

We arrived exhausted and ready to relax after our 15 mile day. We soaked our feet in the hot springs and gratefully went to bed.

Day 3:

This morning we were able to sleep in until 7:00AM! After a quick breakfast we wasted little time changing into our bathing suits and getting into the hot springs. There were multiple baths all at different temperatures.

After lunch we took a 2.5 hour bus ride to the town of Ollantaytambo where we were supposed to catch our train into the base town of Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes. However, we must have spent a bit too long in the hot springs because our train left without us. Our guide tells us that all the other trains are completely sold out, so we essentially have one option. Another four hour bus ride followed by a three hour walk into Aguas Calientes. Having no other choice, we loaded into a minivan and set out on another adventure.

This.car.ride. Was the absolute death of me. If you watched my video of me biking down Death Road in Bolivia, it was like this but worse for four consecutive hours. I was convinced that our guide was punking us. There was no way we were going to embark on another three hour walk starting at 7PM in the pitch black. This has to be a joke.

It was not a joke. We laced up our hiking boots and set out along the train tracks, where he promised us there were no more trains running for the day. But wait…

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JOKES! That’s a train!

We finally arrived at our hotel in Aguas Calientes at 10PM and crashed hard.

Day 4:

We were ok with another early wakeup call, because today was the day! Machu Picchu here we come! We boarded a bus that took us up to the ruins. The ride was about a half an hour and from there we entered the park and were greeted with this:

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And then there were of course, the obligatory photographs:

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We had a two hour guided tour to learn about the Incas and visit all the important areas of the town. Seriously though, Machu Picchu does not disappoint. Although I’ve seen a million pictures like the ones above, there’s nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.

Allison and I had permits to hike Huayna Picchu, the highest peak pictured above. However, five steps in I was down and out with a fractured or sprained ankle (was never determined). I took this as a sign from the hiking gods that I had done enough trekking and it was time to sit this one out.

We took the train (yes, this time we made sure to be there on time) back to Ollantaytambo and from there a bus back to Cusco. We used Llamapath tour operator in which I highly reccomend. Julian (our guide), the food, and service was impeccable. The food was an absolute highlight. We had traditional Peruvian dishes, baked cakes, rice, quinoa, you name it.

Another check off the bucket list and one absolutely amazing time (even if I may have spent half if it wheezing). ♥♥♥

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