Inca Jungle tour to Machu Picchu
We woke up quite excited in Ollantaytambo: today, the 09th of October, we were about to start our 4 days Inca Jungle tour to Machu Picchu. Here was the plan of the tour:
- Day 1: pick-up in Ollantaytambo around 10:00 am, biking and rafting
- Day 2: hiking from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa
- Day 3: ziplining in the morning, hiking from Hydroelectrica to Aguas Calientes in the afternoon
- Day 4: MACHU PICCHU!!
I am not a professional biker, far from it actually. When I have to drive on the sideboard and there is few space between cars and the wall, I tend to fall xD So when we decided to book the Inca Jungle, I was feeling a little bit anxious about the biking part… The agency told us the road was in a very good condition and we wouldn’t encounter many cars – still, I was a little bit stressed this morning as we waited for the bus to pick us up at the main Plaza in Ollantaytambo. Around 11:00am, that being one hour after the agreed time, our bus arrived and we drove one hour up to the pass at 4300m where we would start biking down.
The weather was a little bit cloudy, but the view on the valley still quite amazing as our guide started to give us some instructions about our way down. His main advice: stay on the right side of the road and use both breaks at the same time, never only one. Wait, one of my breaks was not working at all!! So the guide gave me his bike – whose saddle was not fixed, so I could not properly sat on it. Mmmh, not really reassuring.
But anyway, after equipping ourselves with various protections for the knees, the arms and the head, it was time to start biking. After the first curves, I started to relax and it was just AMAZING: breathing fresh air, with beautiful landscapes surrounding us, we just had to let go, lean in the curves and enjoy the feeling of freedom and the adrenaline. The van was behind the last member of our group and we could go at our own speed, so there was no pressure to go fast. But going fast was actually very fun – especially in the curves! As we made our way down, the nature around us started to change: from the high mountain landscape with almost no trees, we arrived in a semi-jungle environment with many papaya, mango and avocado trees on the side of the road.
After about 2 hours of biking, at approximately 2100m, we got back in our van and drove some 30 minutes to Santa Maria, where we enjoyed a well deserved lunch. As my camera was in the van most of the time, I couldn’t make many pictures – but one group member, Alex, did a very nice video about the whole tour, we posted the link at the end of the article, check it if you want to see how it looked like!
At 04:00pm, we were picked-up for our next activity: rafting. I was really looking forward to this activity as love being in the water. The guide who gave us the explanations was quite fun, asking women not to paddle with their little finger in the air and the rapidity of a sloth – and to be honest, we did see some paddling like this 😉 We went down the river for about 1 hour and a half, until the sky started to get dark, and we could hear some really noisy sounds everywhere around the river: we learned later on that there were many cicadas in this area and that there are particularly loud around sunset time.
Both Kai and me really liked the rafting! Our guide was enthusiastic, funny and nice – a perfect combination, and at the end of the tour, we could even jump from a bridge: bend your knees before hitting the water, the water is not deep! I didn’t hit the bottom, but Kai did – luckily without hurting himself. After a good diner, we head to bed for a good night sleep in a simple but clean hostel.
The second day, we hiked from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa. The hike began around 7 am on a dust road but we were soon able to leave the road and take a small path going up the mountain. We passed several plantations on the way and our guide gave us some explanations about different fruits and plants cultivated in the area such as banana, pineapple and of course the famous coca leave plantations.
While Coca leaves are traditionally chewed on for hours by locals or used to make tea, it is also the basis for cocaine and thus the leaves are forbidden in most countries. Later during the day, we were able to test the local mixture of coca leaves with stevia – a paste made of mint, sugar and other weird ingredients: locals use it to regain some energy during long working days in the mountains. Charlotte did not really enjoy its taste and couldn’t feel her mouth for 30 minutes after tasting it 😉 After the flat area, we went uphill for about one hour. On this part of the way, we did many breaks in small houses, including the stevia adventure and some explanations about coffee and various plants, so it was not difficult to manage this steep part. Charlotte and me would have liked to have less breaks but walk a little bit slower to be able to enjoy more the views on the valley…
When we were approximately at the middle of the mountain height, we crossed an Inca path which we followed from here on. This part was amazing, as it was stone steps constructed on a steep mountain flank and we even found a great spot for a lunch break. Sadly, the lunch was planned later in a restaurant down the valley, so we just ate our snacks and drank some water before continuing on the Inca path. Here is the view we had:
After this part, we walked down to the river where our lunch, Spaghetti Bolognese and DELICIOUS guacamole, was waiting for us. After the lunch, we all took a 1 hour break in hammocks: even though we used our mosquito repellent, we still got ferociously bitten on the small places we forgot to apply the product! The remaining hike was about 1.5 hours from there, following the river and taking a bridge as well as a hanging basket above the river for 10 Soles per person.
It started to rain shortly before we arrived at the hanging basket, but we luckily arrived at our last stop of the day, the hot springs, some 15 minutes later. We spent 2 hours in the hot springs for 15 Soles per person before taking a bus for the remaining couple kilometers to Santa Teresa.
After spending the night enduring horrible live singing taking place close to our hostel, we were eager to head out for our next activity after the breakfast – seriously, I think we had never heard someone singing so badly in front of a crowd! It took us around 30 minutes to reach the the ziplining place, where we received safety instructions and followed a guide to start of the tour. It consisted of 4 lines above the river and the crossing of a whacky hanging bridge. The whole time, we were safely connected to the safety line and the guides made sure that we would survive this experience. Charlotte even did one line with her head facing downwards!
It was a nice activity and the 1.5 hours passed easily – however it was in our opinion the least memorable activities of the Inca Jungle tour: the bike and the rafting tours were just too amazing! After the ziplining, we continued by bus to Hydroelectrica, where we were dropped of 45 minutes later and had lunch at a restaurant next to the rails. From here, on it was a 2.5 hour walk following the rails until we arrived at Aguas Calientes, the place for our last night. The walk is not particularly nice as the small stones on the floor makes it quite difficult to walk without bending your ankles. We were nonetheless quite excited as we were nearing our goal, the Machu Picchu. We could even catch a glimpse of the ruins at the top of a mountain on the right side of the rails 😀
Aguas Calientes exists solely for tourism purposes as it is located only 20 minutes by foot from the bridge towards Machu Picchu. We tried some delicious sweets inside of the market and bought some snacks and fruits there for the next day before heading to bed early as we knew we had to wake up at 03:30 on the next morning.
When the alarm rang, we were so happy that today would finally be the day where we would visit the Machu Picchu that we found it easy to get up, though it was still dark outside. We started to walk in the direction of the bridge leading to the Machu Picchu around 04:00 am and arrived there some 20 minutes later. We had to wait there until 05:00 am for the bridge to open. We weren’t the only ones there: there were at least 100 persons waiting to start the final climb to the Machu Picchu! On the picture below, you can see our way – the green one – and the road that the buses take.
Finally, the bridge opened and we took the small way up toward our goal. The way was hard as it mainly consists of HUGH steps, but we were determined to arrive at the top before the first buses wich generally arrive around 05:45. We both made it in under 40 minutes and were among the first ones waiting for the doors to open: therefore, when the site finally opened at 06:00am, we saw the sunrise on the ruins without almost nobody in it!
We first went up to the Watch Tower where we waited for our guide, Vincente, as he said he would meet us there in case we would not be at the entrance gate: he never saw him and we learned from the other group members we met later in the ruins that he did not even go up to the Watch Tower… After looking for our guide in the main part of the ruins – without any success – we decided to go up to the Temple of the Sun where we had this amazing view on Machu Picchu.
We then went once again – but a lot slower – through the main part of the ruins.
And suddenly, it was already 11:00am: if we wanted to be back at Hydroelectrica at 02:30pm, we had to start our way down quickly! Time flew by so quickly in this magical place…
So we said goodbye to Machu Picchu and took the direction of the bridge. Once at the rails, we started to walk toward Hydroelectrica and stopped on the way at Jardines de Mandor where we had a good lunch before walking the remaining 1.5 hour to the place where our collectivo was leaving to Cusco. We left at 03:00pm and arrived in Cusco around 08:30pm, amazingly happy and really tired!
We booked our tour with the agency Peru Culture Travel. The tour was great, the activities really nice, the food good – though the portions could have been bigger sometimes – BUT our guide was far from the best we had in Peru… We did complain at the agency at the end of the tour, particularly because we missed the guided tour in Machu Picchu as the guide did not show up at the place where we were supposed to meet. The contact person at the agency was understanding and made us write every problems we encountered in order to discuss them with the guide. They even offered us a discount on the bus ride from Arequipa to Cusco. So in the end, we were quite satisfied with this agency.
One advice though: check you bike! Make sure both breaks are working well and that your saddle is properly fixed. One girl in our group was enjoying the ride as her saddle got loose and she felt badly on her knee. Luckily, she did not get serious injuries, but she still couldn’t finished the tour and had to be driven back to Cusco.
The price: we paid 145$/person + an additional 15$/person because we wanted to have a private double room – it’s our honeymoon after all 😉 the price includes the entry to the Machu Picchu as well as all activities, accommodations, meals… You only need to bring money for drinks and the hanging basket on day 2.
What you should bring
Here are some items you will probably need during the tour:
- If you are a big eater, bring some snacks because some meals are on the “light” side…
- You will need both warm clothes for the first part of the bike tour and light clothes for the rest of the trip, as well as a rain jacket. Bring some long sleeves t-shirt if you don’t want to be eaten alive by mosquitos 😉
- Toilet paper is not available in any of the accommodation, so don’t forget to bring yours
- Sun cream and insect repellent!!