Hiking the Inca Trail

A Journey Through Time

The Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, is an Inca Citadel located at 2430 meters in the Andes. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. To think of getting there is one thing. To get there and hike the trail is another thing.

Planning for Peru

Piku, reached out to Peru n U, and we zeroed on their 4 day Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Piku, based in New Jersey in USA, is a long distance runner and had done Everest Base Camp last year. Shubham, aka Akshay, based in Hyderabad, is a long distance runner who did the EBC trek with Piku last year. He is the gadget guru, who is armed with a DSLR, a GoPro and a Pixel phone to not let any moment slip from his hard disks. Ana, based in Melbourne, is relatively new to high altitude treks, although I did drag her to the top of Mt. Fuji a few years ago to see the sunrise over the Land of the Rising Sun. And then there is me – I am not as fit as the rest of the crew and am hopelessly clumsy climbing up and down mountains. But my love for adventure trumps my fitness. So we were on! We confirmed our plan and got our permits in 2023.

Hola, Peru

Peru is probably the farthest point on earth from Hyderabad. While Piku, Ana and I didn’t need a visa to go to Peru, Akshay did and boy, it wasn’t easy! He had to go to New Delhi in person to apply (why?). I decided to fly to Melbourne, which is sort of half way to Peru and India. Akshay had the most exciting flight into Peru. He wasn’t allowed to board a flight that transited in Paris without a Schengen Visa. So he flew to Mumbai (from Delhi) and took a last minute flight to Lima via Amsterdam! Meanwhile, Ana and I boarded a 13 hour Latam flight to Santiago that only fed us two measly meals and made me wonder if the seats are edible. Incredibly, Akshay, Ana and I landed in Lima around the same time and had a happy reunion! Piku joined us 7 hours later and we took the flight to Cusco the next morning.


Cusco, was the capital of the Inca Empire, and is located in the Sacred Valley at a ridiculous 3400 meter altitude. Our flight to Cusco wasn’t uneventful. Akshay forgot his wallet in the lounge and had to run back to try and find it. I was almost certain it’s stolen (Lima is famous for its crime). But he found it where he left it! He was off boarded and loaded into another flight to catch up with us later. Phew! Meanwhile Piku, Ana and I land in Cusco. Piku fell in love with the Quinoa bar they gave us on the Latam flight. We checked into hotel Mirador Los Apus where they served us our first cups of Coca tea. So refreshing! No, the tea doesn’t give you a high. But it does magic. More later.

As the day progressed, Ana got a bit of altitude sickness and we finally ended up getting some emergency assistance from the local medical centre. Ana and I are booked for a Peruvian cooking class the next day and she does a miraculous recovery (thanks to copious cups of Coca tea from the chef!). That’s Coca tea for you. She gets strong enough to hike up to see Saqsayhuaman (which I was pronouncing as “sexy human”). We saw Cristo Blanco nearby who isn’t the said individual the site is named after (oops!)

Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The next day we wake up in the wee hours to start our trek. We have a long drive to 82 Km, the start of our trek, at approximately 2,600 metre elevation. The trail leads to the Inca ruins of Patallaqta before we reach our first camp site, Wayllabamba, at 3000 meters. We are treated to sumptuous food, a hot shower and massage at the camp.

The second day was intense and extreme! We pass the  Warmi Wañusqa, or “Dead Woman’s Pass”, which is at 4215 meter altitude, climbing OMG steps that seem to go upwards on and on. I almost think it’s called Dead Woman’s pass because it’s sure to kill a poor woman (me!), but I survive it. It takes me 13 hours to do the 1200 meter steep ascent and my legs don’t have any sensation anymore. In hind sight, long arduous treks are a bit like meditation or mindfulness. You just focus on putting one foot in front of the other. You can’t think of past or future. Just the present. Just that moment. Just one foot. Or that’s what I told myself anyway. Or is it because our guide Junior made me sniff Aqua de Florida, a Peruvian shaman potion that he claimed would give me super stamina? At that point I was ready to believe anything. So I sniffed and climbed. We reach Paqaymayu at 3500 meter elevation and camp there for the night. It was intensely cold in the night. But Maria’s massage soothes our bodies.

The third day should be easy, but isn’t. But it is unforgettable. At an elevation of 3,750 metres we pass Runkuraqay ruins which overlook the valley. The trail continues to ascend, passing a small lake named Quchapata. Our guides Ceaser and Junior teach us how to chew Coca leaves and get a burst of energy. Maybe it worked. I also have another sniff of Aqua de Florida at some point. Every bit helps when the only way seems to be hiking upwards. The trail reaches a pass at an elevation of 3950 meters and continues through high cloud forest, with dramatic views of mountains and dropoffs. We strangely encounter a couple of dogs that keep us company for a while. We then shoo them away thinking it’d be hard for them to get back if they followed us to Machu Picchu. Next, we pass Sayaqmarka (“steep-place town”) followed by the Qunchamarka. We pass through a long Inca tunnel and a viewpoint overlooking two valleys: the Urubamba and Aobamba. Another high point at elevation of 3650 m is crossed, followed by a campground, and then after a short descent, a site with extensive ruins. We camp at Phuyupatamarka.

The fourth and final day is full of anticipation. Our collective legs are jelly but we are excited. The trail descends approximately 1000 metres including an irregular staircase of approximately 1500 steps, some of which were carved into solid granite. Ceaser decides to be my personal guide as I seem to be the most challenged at steep steps along deep crevices. Vegetation becomes more dense, lush, and jungle-like with an accompanying increase in butterflies and birds. A second Inca tunnel is along this section of trail. We climb “monkey steps” before opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate the end of our climbs.

By this time our trekking poles feel like natural extensions of our bodies. We start to get mobile network signal and we can hear the trains at a distance. It feels surreal to come back to civilisation after 4 days. We reach Intipata which is a recently uncovered extensive set of agricultural terraces. We cross  Wiñay Wayna and the trail undulates along below the crest of the east slope of the mountain named Machu Picchu. The steep stairs leading to Inti Punku (“sun gate”) are reached after approximately 3 km. Reaching the crest of this ridge reveals the first glimpse of Machu Picchu, which lie below. The two dogs we thought we shooed the day before are at Inti Punku, happily copulating, oblivious to everything.

A downhill walk is the final section of the trail and we reach the magnificent Machu Picchu, ending our pilgrimage. The Temple of Sun, the Intihuatana and huge terraces are breathtaking. It feels like a mystical place. Ten days after we returned the winter solstice sun would’ve cast a beam of sun light from Sun Gate through one of the windows of Temple of Sun perfectly! Inca engineers were amazing!

After the enchanting Machu Picchu, we take the Vistadome train back to Cusco and end our trip on happy memories.

Here is a short summary of our trip. Check out the cute llamas and cloud forest.

It feels slightly odd to walk without the walking poles for the first few hours after the trek. Sneakers feel like walking on clouds compared to our hiking shoes. Our eyes light up seeing an elevator in the hotel, after tens of thousands of steps we hiked. And to think the Incas did this trail several times carrying loads across the terrain!


Coming back to Lima, which is at sea level, makes our lungs happy with oxygen. We visit the historical centre of Lima, Union Street, Miraflores, Cat Park and bid good bye to the wonderful country.


Maldives Animals

Maldives, an Archipelago and collection of 26 Atolls in Indian Ocean. Beautiful islands, coral reefs, fishes and beauty. I was able to snorkel in the house reef and spot some beautiful reef fishes. Spotted hermit crabs, butterfly fishes and blue coral while snorkelling.

Saw some parrot fish and reef sharks in the ocean later at night.

When I climbed aboard a submarine that took me 125 feet deep, to a beautiful coral reef, I saw something interesting. Some of the fishes merrily going about had gashes on their bodies. Some had small nicks. Some had two or three deep gashes. Teeth marks. So these fishes were attacked by something else, probably a bigger fish or a shark and escaped! These were survivors! It was fascinating for me to learn this.  I naively assumed that when a fish gets predated, it just gets swallowed full. Oh silly me!



Sumatran Adventure

Sumatra, a large Indonesian island west of Java and south of the Malay Peninsula, is known for its rugged tropical terrain, wildlife and smouldering volcanoes. You will find Gunung Leuser National Park and volcanoes Mount Sibayak and Mount Sinabung. It’s not easy to get to. And definitely not touristy. Home to Orangutans, Thomas Leaf Monkeys, Gibbons, 300 odd bird species and a rain forest that takes your breath away. Paradise!

Our trip stars with us chancing upon an Eagle Owl near the Gundaling Lookout.

Mount Sibayak

The next day we hike up Mount Sibayak in the wee hours. Hike is 310 Meters high. Took 1.5 hours from the entrance. Magical Volcano with sulphur plumes and boiling geysers. We didn’t see the sunrise, but we were greeted with magical mist.

Gunung Leuser National Park Jungle Trek

We were off on our overnight trek through the Jungle. Met the beautiful Orangutans, Thomas Leaf Monkeys, Gibbons, Macaque monkeys and a peacock that looks nothing like the Indian peacock. The trek was challenging as it was steep in places. The weather was hot and humid. A few leeches on the way as well. The hike is about 200 Metres in 2 hours of ascent and 1 hour of descent to the camp site where we stayed overnight.

Bat Cave!

We heard of a bat cave near Bukit Lawang. Heard it might be a bit of challenge to climb but little did I under estimate it. I barely made it to the first chamber. Karthik braved further to the second chamber. The cave, the animals, the experience is thrilling and terrifying! Check this out.


Out of Africa!

My first trip to Africa. To Maasai Mara in Kenya. I had no idea what to expect. I thought I’d see a lion or two if I’m lucky. A few wildebeest maybe. The Great Migration? I didn’t think I’d be lucky.

But I was surprised and delighted beyond my imagination in my first trip. Here is a compilation of short videos that capture the best moments of my trip:

  1. The Lions! From cute little cubs to large majestic lions, watch the amazing action here. Don’t miss the roar, the big cat walk and the king having his meal of wildebeest.

2. For some unexpected moments with animals in Africa. It starts with a Giraffe and Croc encounter that had me terrified!

3. Now for some herds of animals and the great crossing of wildebeest across’d see one of them taken by a couple of crocs, sadly

4. Now for some Cheetah action.

5. And some Leopards.. don’t miss the leopard in the rain..

6. Finally Mongoose, Hyenas, Servel cat (yes more cats!) and beautiful Superb Starling bird


Spy Cat

Watch the latest episode of Sir Cyrus The Cat’s investigative abilities as he sniffs out wilderness and out jumps a leopard to check out the hidden treasures up in the sky!

James Bond, move over.


My name is on Mars!

Nasa’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars carrying names of 10 Million Earthlings on a chip! It is now on Mars as of March 2021!

Check my boarding pass!


Adventure 2020

Ask me what’s the boldest thing I did in 2020. I saw a movie in a theater. Yes, you heard me right. I saw the movie Tenet at Inox in Dec 2020.

My own dare felt thrilling than the movie itself. That’s 2020 for you.

Cheap thrills.


Visit to Vizag in 2020

I travelled to Vizag in November 2020, to see my sis and to hang out in the lovely city. Since 2020 is an odd year, every little thing I do is an act of risk assessment and courage. But I gained greater appreciation for nature – the sea, the mountains, the trees, and the innocent animals around us. Here is a compilation of my trip.


Day Trip in 2020

After 9 months of pandemic and lack of any form of socializing, my cousins and I were in a pandemic fatigue. We planned an impromptu day trip to Kondapochamma Reservoir, about 50 km from Hyderabad.

It was beautiful!

It was my cousin Raja’s birthday, and we celebrated the day outdoors. Enjoy the video. Courtesy Surender.


Travel in 2020

Covid changed everything. Travelling to Bangalore, something I’ve done without thinking previously, is now considered a risky adventure. Here is a record of my trip to Bangalore in August 2020, to move my stuff.