BY ALEX SAIFITI
Machu Picchu was always on my bucket list. The power of social media, along with a collection of National Geographic documentaries on Machu Picchu’s history and engineering feats, had ingrained the idea into the back of my brain.
Located in the highlands of Peru, almost a million people flock to Machu Picchu every year to experience and photograph what is one of the modern seven wonders of the world. Like for many others, I found the destination fascinating, but the journey to Machu Picchu is what really left me in awe.
My journey started along the Inca Quarry Trail which had a range of landscapes, challenging physical conditions set amongst beautiful surroundings, and a bunch of great people.
If this hasn’t sparked anything inside of you yet, here are another seven reasons why you should seriously consider the Quarry Trail.
1. Taking a dip in an epic waterfall
On day one of the Quarry Trail, before reaching the Perolniyoc, there is an opportunity to visit a waterfall. It’s set below the Q’orimarca archaeological site where you can snap that Insta-worthy photo and have a chance to cool off after a strenuous uphill climb.
2. Having fewer people on the trail
Unlike the classic Inca Trail, the Quarry Trail has far fewer people on it at any given time. During the three-day trail, I only encountered two other groups. By being one of the very few groups on the entire trail, it feels like you have the place to yourself. With fewer distractions, there’s also a greater opportunity to be “at one with nature” and bond with your group.
3. It’s higher than the Inca Trail
Day two of the Quarry Trail involved a significant climb up two summits before descending back down to camp. Kuychicassa (4,450m), the second summit, is the highest pass of the trek, while the highest point of the Inca Trail sits at 4,200m. You’ll be sure to feel that sense of accomplishment and relief after climbing to the top and being breathless for a couple of hours.
4. Being able to have a yarn with the locals
During the first two days of the trail, there are plenty of opportunities to stop and chat with the locals since the Quarry Trail passes alongside and through two villages – Rafq’a and Socma. Our tour guide felt like a well-known local himself, stopping to speak to farmers and families and letting us know what they were talking about. The opportunity to meet the locals was a pure highlight of the trail. It was an eye-opening experience to see how people live and how starkly different it was to my life back in Auckland.
5. Marvelling at the horses
Unlike the Inca Trail where porters carry most of your luggage, horses carry your gear and camping equipment on the Quarry Trail. It’s pretty awesome seeing how these animals are able to walk up steep inclines and arrive at the campsites well before anybody else in the group.
6. Indulging in hotel comforts
Day three of the Quarry Trail sees you descend past Kachiqata quarry and down to Ollantaytambo, before taking the train to Aguas Calientes (the town closest to Machu Pichuu). Although you don’t walk in through the Intipunku (Sun Gate), you walk into Machu Pichuu feeling fresh after a hot shower, a good night’s rest and perhaps a visit to the local hot springs. The Quarry Trail also has its own Sun Gate, which can be visited on day two of the trail.
7. Beating the crowds
Depending on what time you leave your hotel and the line for the buses, you can arrive at Machu Pichuu when it opens at 6am, usually well before the Inca Trail walkers. You can choose to walk up to the Sun Gate or wander around Machu Pichuu and just marvel at its magnificence. Once you’re done exploring, hop on the bus that’s available and head back into town.
The Inca Quarry trail was a chance to physically challenge myself, while also connecting with nature. It provided just the right number of of archaeological sites, without overshining Machu Pichuu, had the exact amount of camping, and a good night’s sleep in a hotel bed. Next time you’re considering Machu Pichuu and your journey there, seriously consider your Inca Trail alternatives. You might just be surprised by how good (or even better) they are.