makes the Inca Trail a magnet for hikers from all over the world?
Many countries have mountain ranges with beautiful scenery and Peru
itself is richly blessed in this respect with many other areas for
hiking. However the scenery is only one of the elements responsible
for the magic of the Inca Trail. Can there be any walk anywhere in
the world with such a combination of natural beauty, history and
sheer mystery and with such an awe-inspiring destination? The
various ruins along the way serve to heighten the hiker's sense of
anticipation as he or she approaches what would surely find a place
in any new list of archaeological wonders of the world - Machu
October 19th, 2003
roads once led from Cusco's main square to the four corners of the
Inca empire that extended from what is today Ecuador and part of
Colombia to northern Chile and Argentina, including all of Peru and
Bolivia. An empire almost as vast as the Roman empire, the Inca
nation was connected by a road network stretching over 14,300 miles.
Due to its position as the capital of the Inca dynasty, contemporary
Cusco, a city 10,500 feet above sea level is a showcase of several
different cultures: Pre-Inca, Inca, Colonial and Republican. But
Cusco was more than just a capital city. It was an administrative,
military and holy city, similar to Mecca, and is now the oldest
inhabited city of the Americas. Many kinds of architecture are found
here and one's eyes can feast on their splendid variety and
combinations. A city with a splendid legacy, Cusco's winding cobbled
streets transport visitors through its rich and beautiful past.
After arriving in Lima, LuAnn and I had
a short four-hour "rest" at our hotel before heading back to the
airport for our flight to Cusco in central Peru, gateway to the Inca
Trail. Our stay in Cusco would also be brief - one night - having to
be ready to leave for the trailhead early the next morning. Condor
which handled all of the arrangements for our tours in Peru, turned
out to be an excellent travel agency to work with and we were
extremely pleased with their service. We took hundreds of pictures
and these are only a very small sampling of them.
Clicking on a picture will open a larger
version in a new window.
landed in Cusco at about 8:00 AM. A representative from Condor
Travel met us at the airport and transported us to our hotel to
check in. On tap for the day: an afternoon tour of the city visiting
the Inca's most sacred building in Cusco, the Koricancha (Temple of
the Sun, which today forms part of the Spanish church of Santo
Domingo), the Cathedral at Plaza de Armas (main square), and the
fortress ruins of Sacsayhuaman overlooking the city. Although we
were encouraged to rest to adjust to the altitude before our tour
(tea brewed from coca leaves supposedly helped with that
adjustment), LuAnn and I couldn't wait to hit the streets. Our first
stop was the main square, where a parade was being assembled. We
learned later that this is held every Sunday before church. All
civic groups were represented, including the military and national
police. It was quite impressive and amazing that they did this every
We returned to our hotel and were met by another Condor
representative to discuss our trek and fill us in on the itinerary.
Since we had hired a porter, he also provided a duffle bag to fill
with the extra stuff we wanted to transport (sleeping bags, pads,
extra clothing, etc.). Condor would be by the hotel to pick us up
the next morning at 7:30.
tour of Cusco was very nice, albeit a bit too long and structured
for our liking, but otherwise informative and enjoyable. The
surrounding countryside is stunning, much of it sculpted by
agricultural terraces once watered by complex irrigation systems. We
returned to the hotel after dark and went in search of a restaurant
for dinner. Back to the hotel after that and to sleep so we'd be
ready for next day's adventure.
A couple of thoughts regarding Cusco
and altitude acclimation. We were totally surprised at the number
and frequency of young children "accosting" us to purchase souvenirs
or get our shoes shined. It got to be tiresome after awhile and we
were forced to be blunt. They came from everywhere. As for the
altitude, we really should've spent a few more days acclimating
before setting out to hike the Inca Trail but time constraints
precluded that possibility. More about altitude at the end of this
Monday, October 20th, 2003
Kilometer 82 (9,000 ft) to Wayllabamba (9,840 ft) - 7 miles
and I were the first members of our group to be picked up.
Transportation was a small tourist minibus that seated about 20
people. We went to various locations throughout Cusco to get all of
the people who would be taking the hike with us. Our group consisted
of ten people including us, a guide and roughly a dozen others
(cooks and porters to carry the equipment). As I already mentioned,
we had hired our own porter to carry some of our incidentals. That
way, we would only have to carry our day packs, which with water,
rain gear, and jackets was heavy enough. It was around 10:00 AM
before we were on our way, leaving the city behind. We headed North
over the plateau of Chinchero, with views of the snow-capped peaks
of Pitusiray, Sawasiray and Chicon descending into the Urubamba
Valley. The trip to the trailhead at KM82 took about two hours, with
a brief stop at Chilca to visit the market and a chance to procure
additional supplies. The final miles were over a pretty rough single
lane two-track road, which kept going by house after house, with
room for just one vehicle and plenty of ruts and washouts.
The eight other people in our group
were all from Europe... a couple from the Netherlands and another
from Germany, and four singles from Italy (two women and two men).
Our guide was a beautiful, bright young Peruvian woman named Marisol.
She knew her stuff and we were lucky to have her as our guide. After
leaving the minibus, we put on our packs then checked in with Trail
officials to sign the entry log and show them our "admission
ticket." Next, we had to show our passports at the entry point of a
small footbridge over the Urumbamba River, which led to the Trail.
Crossing, our trek had begun!
Trail, which here is an unpaved trail of possibly Inca or post-Inca
origin, follows along the left bank of the Urubamba gorge (river on
our right) for several hours, with views across the river of
terraced farmland, snow-capped mountains, a glacial valley with a
beautiful example of a terminal moraine, and a small, inhabited Inca
ruin. For much of the three miles from the trailhead to Llactapata,
the railroad is in sight on the opposite side of the river. It's
interesting to note that the Trail is also a "road" for locals, the
only way in and out for hundreds of Peruvians living in the
backcountry. These people use the Trail with their pack animals to
get in and out. And many of the residents also cater to hikers on
the Trail in addition to their normal agricultural work. They sell
soda, beer, Inca Cola and fruit to the many hikers who come along.
As we continued, there were small
gnats (sometimes called sand flies) which were biting any exposed
skin. I didn't take time out to put on any repellant, and instead I
would swat them when I felt them on my legs. This proved to be a big
mistake, when later I found that I had a multitude of itching bite
marks on each of my legs.
reaching our first ruins at Llactapata we stopped for lunch at a
campsite, with several adobe homes in the vicinity. Shortly after
lunch we arrived at Llactapata (7,550 feet above sea level).
Llactapata ("Town on a Hillside") may be unimportant compared to
Machu Picchu, but it certainly would be considered a major
archeological site anywhere in North America, and would no doubt be
well worth a couple of hours exploring. There are extensive
agricultural terraces, ruined houses, and an unusual round
watchtower-like structure in the lower level. We stayed on the Trail
and did not descend into the ruins themselves.
From Llactapata the Trail turns
south, away from the Urubamba and up the valley of the Río
Cusichacha, a small stream scarcely deserving the name "river,"
about four miles to its junction with the Río Llullucha, where the
Trail turns west and follows the Llullucha. Just above the junction
of the two streams is the small village of Wayllabamba ("Place of
Good Pasture," the only inhabited village on the Inca Trail). This
is where we spent our first night, reaching it at about sunset,
around 6:30 PM. The porters had already set up our tents and we had
tea and dinner under a thatched roof, open sided structure. LuAnn
and I were pretty tired and hit the sack soon after dinner. Temps
outside were in the upper 30s. I was thankful that I had bought a 15
degree mummy sleeping bag!
Tuesday, October 21st, 2003
Wayllabamba (9,840 ft) to Pacaymayu (10,991 ft) - 7 miles
woke up early and had a quick breakfast. Our guide, Marisol,
explained to us that today was going to be very difficult. We were
now at 9,840 feet elevation and we had to climb over the first and
highest of the mountain passes between Llactapata and Machu Picchu.
At Warmihuañusca, or more popularly known as "Dead Woman Pass," the
Trail reaches an elevation of 13,772 feet. That's quite a bit of
elevation gain in a relatively short distance and that meant thin
air and the possibility of altitude sickness.
From the campsites in the Llullucha
valley, the Trail winds steeply along the south side of the river
towards this first pass, cutting through dense vegetation until
reaching Llulluchapampa ("Place of Offerings"), a large pampa just
below the first pass where we are to have lunch. Today's trek WAS
very difficult for LuAnn and I. We were certainly physically in
shape for the journey but the high altitude was taking it's toll and
starting to impact our breathing and the speed at which we could
hike. With the extremely steep grades that we had to travel, we
ended up pacing ourselves by walking about 50 yards and resting for
a minute. Again, we kept passing small villages of six to ten homes
every hour or so. The views started opening up and the area become
much more alpine. By the time we reached the pampa for lunch we were
thankful for the break!
overlooks an open meadow where llama and sheep were grazing. Tall
mountain peaks surrounded us and featured a breathtaking view of Mt.
Huayanay. We could see the Trail struggling up the mountainside
towards Warmihuañusca pass and the cloud forest that harbors the
Quechua tree, a rare forest to be found in the Andes. We knew it was
going to be a heart-pounder, as it is for most. After lunch, Marisol
led us down to the meadow and then back up to the Trail. The terrain
changes with altitude, so that a little beyond Llulluchapampa it
gives way to light woodland, then to scrub, then to puna, bleak
grassland and bare slopes. The ascent becomes increasingly steep,
and the terrain increasingly rugged. The going continued to be very
difficult for us and we let the rest of our group go on ahead.
Looking back from above
Llulluchapampa in the general direction of Wayllabamba we could see
the river valley far below. We made it to the top of the pass early
in the afternoon, marked by a green and white sign that shows it to
be 4050m above sea-level (13,772 ft). The pass was very windy and
cold, with sleet and drizzle falling. Because of the poor
visibility, the magnificent views were obscured in clouds. A few
people were hanging around but most continued on the Trail, as did
we. It would be a steep downhill all the way to our campsite for the
evening at Pacaymayu. Going down took less effort and we made better
time, but the downhill is not a piece of cake either... it is very
hard on the knees and you always have to pay close attention to
where you place your feet or face the consequence of falling down on
the rocky path. The Inca Trail is difficult going up or down!
we descended, we could see the first part of the Trail for the next
day in the distance. It was a great view but we knew it would be
another difficult day. We were going to camp at the base of the
valley, along the Pacamayo River. As we got closer, next days trail
became clearer and we could see all the way up to the next set of
ruins, Runcurakay, which was a circular structure high up on the
next mountain. At this point the Trail was composed of thousands of
stones. Darkness was beginning to set in by the time we made it to
our camp at the bottom of the valley, a small, unevenly sloping area
large enough for only a few tents. There was a small Inca ruin
there, and the camp had a working cold shower and an outhouse with
LuAnn was not feeling well and
decided to skip tea time and dinner. Eventually her condition
worsened and she got sick several times during the night. We were
all worried about her. One of the Italian women was a nurse and gave
LuAnn some medicine for nausea. They had little effect. For the rest
of us, after dinner it was another early night to sleep.
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003
Pacaymayu (10,991 ft) to Wiñayhuayna (8,366 ft) - 10 miles
We had another early breakfast and
broke camp. LuAnn was still ill, but got herself ready and actually
started out before the rest of us! We had been told during our
orientation before the trek that the third day would be fairly easy.
This was not entirely true... First, we were going to hike ten miles
today, the most one-day distance of our trek. Second, from the
valley of the Pacamayo, the Trail climbs steeply up the opposite
side of the valley wall, towards the second pass. Though not as high
as Warmihuañusca, Runcurakay Pass tops off at 12,631 feet and there
would be a third pass to traverse as well.
group left the campsite and caught up to LuAnn in about fifteen
minutes. She was struggling and continued to be sick but was
determined to go on. There really was no alternative, but I was
impressed just the same at her courage and fortitude! We returned to
the pace we used the day before and slowly made our way up the steep
About halfway up is a circular,
walled complex with interior niches. This Inca ruin is known as
Runkuracay ("Pile of Ruins") and sits at 12,139 feet elevation. The
building is thought to have been a tambo, a kind of way post for
couriers following the Trail to Machu Picchu. It contained sleeping
areas for the couriers and stabling facilities for their animals.
LuAnn laid down at the site for about 20 minutes to rest.
After Runkuracay ruin, the Trail
continues to climb towards the pass of the same name. Enroute we
traveled by a small alpine lake (really a pond), and just a short
time later reached the pass. The temps were warmer than the day
before and it was clearer allowing us to enjoy the spectacular view
on all sides. LuAnn rested again and Marisol convinced her to take a
different type of altitude sickness medicine. This one did the trick
and she started to feel better.
the other side of the pass, the Trail descends towards a valley
containing another shallow lake, bigger than the one we had passed
earlier. At around this point, the Trail changes from a dirt path to
a narrow stone roadway, assuming the more engineered nature for
which the Trail is justly famed, and which characterizes it from
here to Machu Picchu. This is the beginning of the true Inca Trail,
as the stones of the roadway were laid by the Quechua people of the
period of the Inca Empire. It should be mentioned here that only the
rulers were known as Incas, the people were Quechua, ancestors of
those living in the area today.
From here, the Trail leads to a
second, larger Inca ruin, Sayacmarca ("Town in a Steep Place"). This
complex lies at 11,811 feet above sea level and was about three
miles from the Runcurakay ruins. Sayacmarca effectively controls the
Trail - which passes beneath it - at this point. It is built on a
promontory of rock overlooking the Trail and is accessible only via
a single narrow stone staircase of 98 steps. Sayacmarca is roofless
and overgrown but the walls still stand and the shape of the
fortress can easily be seen. Nearby is a stone aqueduct which once
carried water to the site. Our group had already climbed the narrow
stairway and were exploring the ruins by the time we arrived. LuAnn
and I had had enough of stair climbing and we decided to wait for
them outside the ruin.
Sayacmarca, the Trail descends to the valley floor through a very
dense cloud forest, eventually taking the form of a long causeway
leading across what may once have been the bed of a shallow lake.
Nearby is where our lunch was served, about a half hour past
Sayacmarca, at a place called Ponchamarca. LuAnn, feeling much
better now, opted to limit her lunch to a piece of bread and some
fruit juice. In the distance we could see that the Trail begins to
climb again. Marisol gathered everyone together and we set off on
the last leg of today's journey.
here, much of the Trail shows superb engineering, built into the
steep hillside on top of Inca stonework. Often there was a shear
drop to the left of about 30 to 50 feet. Soon we came upon the first
Inca tunnel, where the Inca engineers widened a natural fissure in
the rock into a tunnel large enough to allow the passage of men and
animals along this steep hillside. It actually got VERY dark in the
middle section of this tunnel! At another point stones were set in
notches cut in a cliff face to build up a surface wide enough to
walk along where none existed naturally. This section of the Trail
also features some of the most interesting exotic vegetation seen
along the trek and an awesome view back down to the Río Urubamba in
its winding gorge.
passing through some of the wildest rugged scenery imaginable and
over the third pass (11,975 ft), we looked directly down on to the
ruins of Phuyupatamarca ("Cloud-level Town"). The ruins are reached
by descending - what else - a long flight of stairs. The site
appears to have had some ritual function; the rectangular structures
along one side are baths, which were apparently fed from a spring
higher up. The highest bath was reserved for the nobles, while the
lower classes performed their ritual ablutions in water that had
already been used by the aristocracy. The ruins are set in a
concave, semicircle pattern. The buildings were divided up into four
sectors which are: the agricultural sector with many terraces, the
religious sector, the fountain sector and the residential sector.
Phuyupatamarca the Inca Trail descends an unbelievably long series
of winding steps, literally thousands and thousands, with many cut
into the living rock. Amazingly enough, this section of the Trail
was only discovered several decades ago, and opened to trekkers in
1985. Formerly, hikers followed a section of non-Inca Trail between
Phuyupatamarca and Wiñayhuayna. One has to wonder what unknown
archeological treasures remain hidden in the underbrush. The change
in vegetation from alpine bunchgrass to relatively densely forested
mountainsides is dramatic and we eventually reached Intipata,
another ruin. It was starting to get dark and we were a bit
irritated by that fact. We continued on the Trail, reaching the
Hostel Machu Piccu (also know as the Wisayhuayna Visitors Center -
accessible only on foot) at around 7:30 PM, just at the point where
we couldn't see squat! There to greet us was Marisol! How could she
have gotten there before we did? She explained that she took a
different trail - shortcut - to the Hostel, along the high-voltage
power lines. Somehow we had not been told about that route. Marisol
wanted to take us to our campsite but LuAnn and I had a different
idea. There was a restaurant here and we wanted a burger and fries!
We told Marisol that we would meet up with the rest of our group
after we ate. We enjoyed our meal at the restaurants outside patio,
including a couple of beers. Those were delicious!
Evidently there's a side trail to
another ruin nearby called Wiñya Wayna ("Forever Young," named after
an orchid species). It was not in the cards for us as we had all
arrived too late to make the trip. As I mentioned, we were to sleep
in our tents - yet again - but beds, floor space for sleeping bags,
hot showers, and of course meals and drinks are available at the
Center. We finished dinner and made our way to the campsite, which
was perched alongside a steep drop-off. A trip to the bathroom at
night could be dangerous. The rest of our group was having tea when
we got there and had yet to have dinner. We hung out with them until
their dinner was served, then set up the inside of our tents for the
last time. After a bit more conversation with the group, we all
headed off to bed. Tomorrow we would be up at 4:00 AM for the short
two hour hike to Machu Picchu.
Thursday, October 23rd, 2003
Wiñayhuayna (8,366 ft) to Machu Picchu (7,874 ft) - 4 miles
at 4:30 AM (ugh!), and ready for the Trail at 5:00 AM. All of us
were given a "box" lunch and then started out for the final
destination of our trek. From our campsite at Wiñayhuayna, our hike
took us through shifting panoramas: to the left of the Trail the
shear bromeliad-studded cliffs, to the right what looked like toy
trains and tracks far below in the sinuous gorge of the Urubamba,
and ahead of us the drama of Huayna Picchu peak rising like a stone
juggernaut out of Pachamama's breast. It was fantastic,
incomparable! After no more than two hours, we reached a narrow
flight of stone steps leading upwards into a small stone structure
with a grass floor. This is Intipunku, Gateway of the Sun or Sun
Gate, and through the rectangular doorway just moments after
sunrise, we had our first, unforgettable view of Machu Picchu... the
mysterious gray stone city mounted like a gem in a setting of cliffs
and canyons. Intipunku is called the Gateway to the Sun, because it
is located in a notch on a ridgeline, which allows the first morning
light to stream into Machu Picchu.
a distance of about 75 miles from Cusco, in the valley of the
Urubamba river, Machu Picchu rises to an altitude of 7,874 feet
above sea level, between the Huayna Picchu (young peak) and Machu
Picchu (old peak). It lies within a spectacular framework of the
nearby forest vegetation and the rugged landscape. The ruins are
situated on the eastern slope of Machu Picchu in two different
areas: the agricultural and the urban. The latter includes the civil
sector (dwellings and canals), and the sacred sector (temples,
mausoleums, squares, and royal houses).
We spent about twenty minutes looking
down at Machu Picchu and taking scores of pictures. It was
breathtaking! Finally, Marisol called us together and we started
down a broad, flagstone paved trail - the view improving at every
turn - a trip of about 30 minutes to reach the Watchman's Hut in the
upper part of the Machu Picchu Agricultural Sector. Soon after, we
made our way to the main entrance where we submitted our admittance
passes and signed in. We also had Machu Picchu stamped in our
provided the tour of the site, which lasted about an hour and a
half. She told us that Machu Picchu was 80% original and 20%
reconstructed. All structures were built using the white granite
rock found on the mountain, and we even visited one of the quarries.
Although constructions show different levels of architecture,
religious buildings exhibit a high degree of perfection. In general
the construction was of stone, while the roofs were built of tree
trunk and thatched with Ichu straw. The walls were made with an
inward inclination for protection against earthquakes. After the
tour, we were free to wander, ponder and explore the ruins on our
own for the rest of the day. But we had seen enough and were ready
to get back to Cusco... for a much needed shower and a good meal!
boarding a minibus at Machu Picchu, we headed down the mountain on a
narrow winding road with 17 switchbacks, finally arriving at the
small town of Aguas Calientes, our departure point. Our Perurail
train was scheduled to leave at 4:20 in the afternoon and since it
was only 11:40 AM, we tried to get an earlier seating but that train
didn't go all the way to Cusco. So we hung out at a little pizza
restaurant until it was time to leave. The five hour trip to Cusco
was sweet indeed... we had done the Inca Trail!
Some additional musings...
How hard is it?
That will depend on you and what
you're used to. It's generally reckoned to be a strenuous hike but
there's no rock-climbing or glacier-walking involved, so no
technical expertise is required. The difficulty comes largely from
the repeated steep ascents and descents, and from the high altitude.
The climb to the first pass takes you up from around 9,800 feet to
more than 13000 feet in a relatively short space, followed by a
descent of around 3000 feet. After the second pass at 12,631 feet,
things generally become easier. You should remember also that unless
you go with an organized tour or hire porters you will need to carry
camping and cooking equipment, clothing and food for three or four
days, all of which makes for a fairly heavy pack.
How fit do I need to be?
The fitter you are, the more you will
enjoy it. Conversely, the less fit you are, the less you'll enjoy
it. If you're extremely unfit, you may even fail to enjoy it to the
point of collapsing in a lifeless heap somewhere along the way and
having to be buried on the spot by your fitter companions. In the
absence of any agreed universal measure of fitness, consider that
for a relative fit fifty-one year old (me) it was difficult but
manageable. I found the second day and the first part of the third
very tough indeed, but thereafter things became easier. However,
don't be deceived. It is very hard work in places and you are likely
to be carrying a heavier pack than you are normally used to. A
better than average standard of fitness is probably highly
desirable, if not absolutely required. If you want to prepare
yourself, hiking is the most obviously appropriate activity but
anything that builds stamina such as running or swimming is also
useful. Stamina is more important than strength or speed; being able
to bench-press five hundred pounds will probably not help unless you
intend to walk the Trail on your hands.
What about altitude?
The Inca Trail is high enough that
some people do have problems with the altitude, LuAnn and me
included. Being short of breath is relatively common and is not, by
itself, cause for concern. On the other hand, severe dizziness, loss
of coordination and concentration, severely irregular (Cheyne-Stokes)
breathing, and death from pulmonary or cerebral edema are generally
regarded as more serious symptoms of mountain sickness. The chances
are that you won't experience any ill-effects from the altitude, but
it is definitely worth spending some time acclimatizing before you
set out, with Cusco being the obvious place to do this. If you go
straight from sea-level to the Inca Trail you are much more likely
to have problems, as we did. It's been suggested that 3-4 days
acclimatization, including day-hikes in the Cusco region, should be
considered a minimum. Again, getting fit beforehand will also make
What's the best time of year to
The 'dry' season from April to
October seems to be generally considered preferable, at least as far
as weather is concerned. The driest months are from May to
September, winter months in the Southern hemisphere. Temperatures
can fall to below freezing above 10,000 feet, and it may be windy
from August onwards. During the spring, September to December, there
are likely to be early afternoon showers (sometimes accompanied by
thunderstorms) of short duration, and it may be cloudy and overcast.
Nights during this season are clear (which means cold at high
altitude). The rainy season is from December to May. There is likely
to be heavy rain for two to three hours every afternoon, as well as
the possibility of light showers that continue over a longer period.
Walking conditions are difficult and streams may become impassable.
Note that just as anywhere else in the world, these are general
tendencies. You could have a dry day in December and you could get
rained on in July. Note also that there's a wide variation in
temperature, dependent on altitude and time of day. Some guidebooks
report that it can vary by up to 40 degrees, so it can be quite warm
during the day at low altitudes and below freezing higher up during
Is it dangerous?
Not especially. It's a three or four
day walk in a fairly remote area. There are places where you could
fall and hurt yourself, or even kill yourself if you really work at
it, but unless you're very careless or clumsy it's not very likely.
On the other hand, it's not a good place to have a medical
emergency. If you have a tendency towards cardiac arrest, passing
suddenly into a diabetic coma, epileptic fits or whatever, try to
arrange for it to happen somewhere else.
I'm scared of heights - will I be
able to walk the Trail?
If the words 'Inca Trail' call up
images of swaying rope bridges over deep ravines and narrow paths
carved into the faces of sheer precipices, relax. There's nothing
like that. And it's a walking trail, so you don't need to do any
mountaineering. There are a few steep descents, and there are some
places where there is a drop-off on one side of the roadway.
However, even people who don't like heights should be able to walk
these stretches quite comfortably.
What about wild animals?
One section of the Trail is
optimistically marked "Zona de Osos" ("Bear Zone"), but your chances
of stumbling across a bear are probably very slight. Predatory
wildlife on the Inca Trail consists mainly of the local pigs and
dogs around Wayllabamba (who will eat anything that you leave
outside, including boots, rucksacks and plastic garbage bags) and
biting flies, which will eat you up. The insects, particularly
around the Pacamayo, are extremely fierce. There have also been
reports of chiggers and other pests near Wayllabamba. A good insect
repellent is a necessity.
Is the Trail crowded?
You're likely to meet about 200 other
people per day on the Trail, including large groups with guides and
porters. The crowding is evidently particularly bad during the
popular summer months. This has an inevitable impact, both on the
facilities and the environment. Whatever the conditions on the
Trail, Machu Picchu is usually Tourist Central.
They're scarce. There are pit toilets
at the campsites, but the rest of the time you're on your own. What
this means above all else is that you need to be a good citizen of
the wilderness and obey the rules. Since it's impractical to
backpack your crap out of the region along with the rest of your
rubbish, this means that when you have to go, you should go a long
way away from the Trail, and bury your excrement properly after
you're done. This is not an especially pleasant task, but it must be
done. And when you're at the campsites, use the facilities