We did the Bike and Trek to Machu Picchu with Bamba Experience. It was an epic four days with the most incredible views and the most exhausting hikes. Here part one details the first two days biking, rafting and trekking our way to the town of Santa Teresa. Days three and four to Machu Picchu will follow…
We had our briefing Friday night and were introduced to our guide, Fredy, who has done the Inca trail 615 times, and the rest of our group consisting of 3 other fellow Englishmen and a Scot. We had our list to pack and our route for the next four days.
Fredy arrived at our hostel at 630am Saturday and we then picked the rest of the group up. Ryan, Brad and Leon are from England and Ben is from Scotland. We were on our way about 645ish. The drive took about an hour and a half and we arrived in Ollantaytambo which would be our destination for breakfast. On the way Fredy explained some history of Cusco and how tourism has become an integral part of the former capital of the Incan world. 20 years ago Cusco looked very different and nowadays it is catered towards tourists so much that it is incredibly expensive to buy property in the city. Instead, people have started to build up on the hillsides where it is cheaper.
They served fruit salads, American breakfasts, English breakfast and sandwiches at the restaurant as well as any items you may have forgotten to pack. The view from the top of our breakfast restaurant was beautiful. Another Incan site stood before us and Fredy explained some history and then pointed us towards a puma carved in the hills. It was beautiful.
After filling our stomachs we set off for about another hour or so. The scenery was just stunning. Even a snow capped mountain appeared in amongst the dry hillside. The Incas worshipped the snow capped mountain as it produces water, one of mother earths elements. We were winding up and up the hills.
The boys needed a pit stop and then it was only about twenty minutes until we’d reached the Malaga High Pass where we’d begin our bike ride downhill from 4500 metres above sea level. It was bitterly cold when we exited the van. We suited up into our body armour, knee pads, gloves, helmet and high vis then started riding round the make sure our bikes were ok. I swear it’s been forever since I have ridden a bike.
And we were off. Needless to say I happily brought up the rear of the group. You’d think going downhill for 21 miles would be easy. The others would probably tell you it was. For me, I think I’d rather go uphill. Every bend and every switchback saw me braking and practically coming to a stop before then cycling as fast as my legs would allow to get going again. No matter how hard I tried not to brake, it still happened. We stopped after an hour to admire the view and we could see the rest of our route down. It was beautiful. The whole ride was beautiful. That’s my excuse for being slow, I was taking in the scenery! 🤔
After taking photos we were back on our bikes and continued our downhill journey. This part saw us passing over small rivers in the road, which added a nice refreshing element to the ride as by now, it was getting hotter and hotter. We passed through small towns and locals trekking up the hills we were racing down. It was amazing. The downside? The saddle. Oh my god, my backside hurt so much from the saddle that I had to stop standing up to go through the water as I couldn’t sit back down again! I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to get off a bike when we reached the bottom, except we were then set upon by swarms of mosquitos. 21 miles of amazing scenery and we finished up in a small town where the van, who kept me company during the ride down, took us about half an hour further to our hostel in Santa Maria. We had gone from about 4500m above sea level to 1500m above sea level.
The hostel, Inmaculada Hostel was really nice. It even had a pool. The rooms were spacious and the showers hot. We got in, chilled for a minute and then went for lunch. Lunch was served at the hostel and consisted of quinoa soup, followed by chicken with rice and chips, with banana custard to finish. We had gone from eating one meal a day to having three meals of which two consisted of three courses. The food was sooooo good! And was washed down nicely with a cold beer.
The boys had already booked to go rafting and the guide turned up saying they could go at 240 instead of 4pm. We decided to go. It was so bloody worth it!! My legs were aching from the bike ride, now it was time for my arms to have a work out. We also got it cheaper as it was $56 per person and we only paid £47 for us both. Win win! We drove ten minutes from the hostel to where we’d begin our next adventure. Our river was the river Urubamba. As we pulled up to get into our life jackets and helmets the view was already amazing and it only got better.
Next up we’re the instructions which seemed easy enough and then we were split into two rafts. We were with Emily and her husband from Uruguay and they were nice enough to send us some photos and videos they recorded on their GoPro. It was so much fun! We were winding along this beautiful river with the hillside towering above us on either side. We passed under suspension bridges and down a lot of rapids. About half way we stopped and got into the nice cold water for a five minute swim before heading off again. I have no idea how long the route was but it was about an hour and a half. We were so glad we went as it would have been awful when the guys came back describing how great it was!
When we got back to the hostel the boys went on ATVs and we just chilled before having dinner at 630. Everything we ate was all fresh and delicious. Pumpkin soup to start, which was soooo tasty followed again by chicken, rice and chips. Carbs and protein to get us fuelled for the long hike ahead of us Sunday. After dinner we played a few card games before retiring to bed with our alarms set for 530am Sunday.
Alarms went off and up we got. Today was going to be a tough day. Breakfast was at 6 and consisted of eggs, bread and papaya. Then it rained. That’s not the start we wanted for our first day hiking. So, Fredy’s idea was to cram the 7 of us plus a driver into a car and we’d get dropped off ten minutes away, near to where we started rafting Saturday. Just as we got out the car, it stopped raining and didn’t rain again all day. In fact, the weather was beautiful.
Our hike started off along a trail that passed through plantations of bananas, cotton, coffee, and coca leaves. Coca leaves get harvested daily. The farmers will pick up each individual leaf and they’re supposed to give it to a government run company, for which they get nothing in return. That is obviously harsh so what other option do they have except to sell it into the narcotic industry when it can then be turned into cocaine. Coca leaves are also an important part of Andean people’s diet. They chew the leaves, make it into tea, use it for weight loss and energy. It is also great for altitude sickness.
We passed a little stall which was selling fruits and water. Cherimoya, masasamba, grenadine, golden corn and yucca were just some of what they had. We continued walking and it started to get really tough. It was all uphill with the toughest of turns still going uphill. Throw in some stairs every now and then and it was a killer. The paths were dry, some were rocky others smooth. We stopped a few times, once at The First Monkey House, for Fredy to talk to us about what was around us and the fact that there are spotted bears and pumas in the area. It got even steeper and even harder. My legs were killing me. My thighs were burning, my calves felt like they were going to snap in half and my back was aching due to carrying my pack. My head was pounding and my chest was getting tighter and tighter until I had to stop to try and catch my breath.
The view were totally worth it. Eventually I got going again and we had time to sit and rest at The Second Monkey House. Here, you could get hot and cold drinks, chocolate, coca leaves and even handmade souvenirs. We sat here for a couple of hours to give our legs a rest and regain some energy. They had a parrot, parakeets, a monkey with a moustache and a coati all running round the area. As time passed other groups started to arrive. I got some chocolate and it was yummy. Fredy also had us try Peruvian tequila, which mostly tasted of coffee and then the boys all tried the tequila which had a baby snake in the bottle. Apparently it’s an aphrodisiac!
We even got our faces painted warrior-style.
After having one of Brads coca candy, I felt a bit more energy and seemed to find a second wind as we set off again. Still it was all uphill. We had only walked about four miles but it seemed so much further. This time we were on the original Inca trail climbing up and up. The path was much narrower than we had been used to but the views were sensational. From high up at 2500m above sea level we could see for miles along the river Urubamba. We were at Mirador Touristica. A round building that used to stand here in the Inca times. The steps were steep and we were literally walking round a mountain. It was incredible. After a rest and taking some photos, we set off again, our destination was an orange hut for lunch.
This part saw us going downhill which was also quite tough going as some parts were steep steps others were steep hills. We reached the orange hut and sat to have lunch. Spaghetti Bolognese was on the menu this time. Because it was the hottest part of the day, Fredy gave us longer here to relax so that we wouldn’t be hiking in the blistering sunshine. Most of us took the opportunity to have a nap in the hammocks. When we woke, we realised we probably shouldn’t have fallen asleep as it took us a while to get going again!
From lunch, our destination was the hot springs. By now we’d walked about eight miles or so and the sun was still hot. This part was less strenuous and featured some suspension bridge and then we ended up walking along the river climbing over rocks until we reached a chair sort of zip line which was powered purely by man. We sat in the chair and they pulled us along over the river to the other side, where we got out and walked through a cave.
When we exited, we could see the hot springs. They were so close. The closer we got the more flies and mosquitos appeared. It was 10 soles each to get in then we got changed, put our stuff down and got into the warm water. It was so nice. The springs are natural volcanic hot springs and the pools are all different temperatures. The hot water was so nice on my muscles. We were in the pool for about an hour before getting out at which point, most of us ended up getting eaten alive by sand flies. My legs are now completely covered in horrible red and white welts that are insanely itchy.
By now it was dark and we each paid 6 soles to get a minibus to our hostel in Santa Teresa. There, we had a shower and went out for dinner. This time we had steak.
Again, the food really has been delicious. We each had a beer then Fredy took us to ‘The Bonfire,’ which was literally a bonfire with people dancing round it. We stood as the awkward brits in the corner for a while before venturing to the tables where we sat and drank and chatted playing drinking games.
Then it was on to the discotheque for a quick dance before hitting the sack in the early hours of the morning. It was a great way to finish off our 13 mile hike, which according to the health app said we had climbed 200 flights of stairs.
It was a great end to the first two days of our trek to Machu Picchu. Needless to say there were some sore heads the following day…
Part two to follow…