Emily and Ewan are a Canadian couple who share a love for food, music and cats. Their passion for travel led them to take a break from the rat race. They quit their jobs and sold their stuff to fulfil their wanderlust desires by traveling for a year. Here’s a week-in-the-life of Emily and Ewan in a place near to my heart where I’ve recently been; The Inca Trail.
This post was originally published in 2014. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Day 1: Sunday
8:00 AM – We wake up and realize there is no turning back now…tomorrow we are embarking on the four day commitment to the Inca Trail. We take advantage of the breakfast included at our hostel and plot out all the last minute stuff we need to do.
11:00 AM – We’re at the grocery store buying both our dinner for tonight and snacks to bring along on the trek. For 10 Canadian dollars we get 2 rolls of toilet paper, 2.5 litres of water, a box of granola bars, a bag of trail mix, 3 buns, deli meat, 2 pepperoni sticks and some cheese.
11:30 AM – We head to a Mediterranean place and split kebabs, falafel and curried rice for lunch.
2:00 PM – Back at the hostel, we stall over our bags contemplating what to bring on the trek and what to leave behind.
6:00 PM – We eat our deli meat and cheese sandwiches in bed while trying to Skype Ewan’s family. With no luck, we watch some episodes of Bored to Death and The Marvellous Misadventures of Flapjack on the laptop before we hand it and our large packs to the hostel for storage and head to bed.
Day 2: Monday
4:45 AM – We wake up and madly get ready with what few belongings we will take with us.
5:30 AM – The bus comes and picks us up and we’re on our way out of Cusco, driving the two hours to Ollantaytambo.
7:30 AM – We have a quick breakfast before negotiating with the locals on the price of walking poles. They win the battle but we know it’s a worthy investment that we won’t regret later on.
9:30 AM – We are at kilometre 82 – the start of the Inca Trail. We get our passports stamped at the checkpoint, take the obligatory photos and then commence the life changing trek. We see our first ruins of the Trail: Llactapata and pinch ourselves…we can’t believe we are doing this!
2:00 PM – We arrive at the lunch camp where the porters have seemingly been for hours despite starting the trek at the same time as us. They have set up a tent for us to dine in, and already have lunch prepared. We sit down and get to know our fellow trekkers (we are the sole Canucks, there are two Brits and the rest are Aussies) while enjoying soup and trout.
4:30 PM – The trekking thus far wasn’t so bad, but it now starts to rain. On go our ponchos which help to make us sweat more. Luckily it’s only one more hour until we reach camp.
5:30 PM – We arrive to camp where the porters, (again already there with the food tent and all the individual camping tents set up) applaud our arrival. It is dusk, so we unpack our bed rolls and sleeping bags in our tents so that they are ready for when we are done dinner. We sit on stools under the stars with our new friends, until dinner.
Day 3 – Tuesday
5:20 AM – Emily wakes up to hear the Assistant guide and some porters starting to rouse our fellow trekkers with tent service coffee or tea. She makes a beeline for the squat toilet and returns to the tent to enjoy coffee, get ready and pack up our stuff.
6:30 AM – Our bellies are full of fruit salad and pancakes and we are battling digestion coupled with dread as we know Day 2 of the Inca Trail is a steep up followed by a knee jarring down.
10:00 AM – We make it to camp for our second breakfast. This is necessary as the first stretch of uphill was intense. We needed plenty of stops to catch our breath and drink water. We inhale the popcorn, cheese buns and hot chocolate.
10:30 AM – We both take out our iPods and plug in to let our music calm, motivate, or distract us (whatever we need) as we sluggishly push through the next steep incline.
12:30 PM – Panting, we revel in the glory that is reaching the highest pass of the Inca Trail: Dead Woman’s Pass at 4,215 metres above sea level. We look down the valley we just ascended with pride, and look down the valley we are about to descend with trepidation. Emily has pins in her right ankle making climbs down challenging and slow. We take the time to rest, have some snacks and drink fluids. As Ewan sits his knee somehow rips through his khaki shorts. Just 99 days into our travels and the shorts have bit the dust! It starts to rain, so we suit up in our ponchos and begin the slow descent to camp.
3:00 PM – We make it into camp which is shared by many other companies. Our site is at the top of the hill: a plus as we aren’t wedged between groups, a minus as we are a steep climb away from the (not so pleasant) toilets. Luckily our guide has given us the go ahead to use the ‘Inca Toilet’ if nature calls in the middle of the night. We dump our stuff and congregate in the food tent for lunch before a siesta calls everyone’s name.
5:30 PM – The camp is a lot chillier than the night before, so hot drinks pull Emily from the tent to join a few others for hot chocolate before dinner. Dinner is served just a couple hours after lunch, and so appetites are low as people are tired, achy and ready to crash for the night. The steady croak of toads lulls us into sleep.
Day 4 – Wednesday
2:00 AM – The crisp Andean night air penetrates our tent. We wake up at various points to load on extra layers: a toque, hoodie, coat and second pair of pants for Emily, a sweater and those long johns Ewan was skeptical about bringing.
5:20 AM – We get a knock at our tent and enjoy hot coffee as we awkwardly prepare for the day in the small tent space.
6:30 AM – The first hour of our hiking is a steady incline. We question those before us who said day 2 of the trek was the hardest. We stop at the Runkuracay Incan ruins and take a rest.
10:30 AM – We reach the second pass of the Trail (3,950 m) and once the whole group has made it there and rested we participate in a traditional Incan coca leaf ceremony. Here we symbolically leave behind 3 coca leaves representing a hardship we wish to leave behind on the trail.
1:00 PM – We finally reach camp for lunch after steep downs, some ups, some rain, lots of mist and more Incan ruins. At this camp three llamas strut around, providing a welcome distraction from fatigue and sore muscles.
1:30 PM – The rain has let up but has left misty clouds in it’s wake. The epic views promised on day 3 of the trek are completely obscured, but we enjoy each other’s company and the abundant flora.
3:00 PM – We hit the third pass (3,670 m), taking the opportunity to relieve ourselves (if we had the guts to even enter the outhouses) and take some group photos. After a short hike we hit the Phuyutamarca ruins, the last Incan ruins we’d reach together as a group before Machu Picchu. The descent after Phuyutamarca is a steep one and takes us 90 minutes to crawl down. At this point, tired, sore and ready to rest for the day, we begin to feel delirious. Jokes and puns are hysterically funny, we sing, play games and rib one another.
5:00 PM – We hit a fork in the road: to our left, a longer path that is winding but promises beautiful views (if the mist clears) and a path through the Intipata ruins; to our right, a steep shortcut directly to our camp. Despite our feverish state of mind, we opt for the longer path knowing that only in a blue moon will we return to the Inca Trail. Our choice pays off. We get some sweeping views of the valleys below, we encounter plenty of orchids and we climb the stunning Intipata ruins. Every ache, pain and ounce of sleepiness is worth it.
6:00 PM – We reach camp, a bustling city of tents and trekkers from various companies. Our porters again applaud us, and while it may have been facetious, we revel in the glory as we hobble towards our tent to drop our stuff off before we head to join our group for hot drinks before dinner.
7:30 PM – After dinner, our group tips our porters and the cook and get a group shot together. Then it’s time for us to head to bed. It’s warmer at this camp, and that along with the extreme exhaustion helps us fall fast asleep.
Day 5 – Thursday
3:30 AM – We wake to a porter knocking at our tent. Today is the day we will reach Machu Picchu! While we’re tired, the excitement puts a fire under us and we rush around, thankful we no longer have to take the bed rolls with us, and only our day pack.
4:30 AM – After breakfast we trundle a short distance as a group to the queue at the checkpoint where we have to wait until it opens at 5:30. We lay a poncho on the wet ground, pop our ear buds in and let our music pass the time.
5:30 AM – The checkpoint opens and our group makes it through. We excitedly walk for 10 minutes when the light mist turns into a full rain. Our guide stops us so we can suit up. It’s a bit deflating, but we continue on the race to the Sun Gate.
7:00 AM – We reach the Sun Gate only to be received by the epic first glimpse of Machu Picchu shrouded in mist. We find a terrace to sit and enjoy some granola bars as we patiently wait and hope to get a postcard worthy photo before we descend down to Machu Picchu. The clouds oblige and we get a stunning peek at the Incan citadel.
8:30 AM – We arrive at Machu Picchu and take some photos. We then exit the park to use the washrooms and have some snacks before our guide tours us through the ruins.
12:30 PM – Our tour ends and we say good-bye to some of our group who are leaving early. We climb around a bit, but feel exhausted so leave the park and take the bus down to Aguas Calientes and head to the restaurant where we’ll meet with our group. We order a self-congratulatory beer and food and exchange contact information with our crew. We tip our guides and receive certificates from the company rewarding us for our accomplishment.
3:00 PM – We check into our hostel and lay wide-eyed on the bed, fighting sleep but questioning if we even have the energy to make our way to the hot springs. Luckily we do force ourselves up and spend a glorious two hours at the hot springs which feel amazing on our tired and sore bodies.
8:30 PM – We find ourselves unable to make it through reviewing all of our photos and fall fast asleep in the immensely comfortable bed.
Day 6 – Friday
9:00 AM – We are up and refreshed. We check out of our hostel and treat ourselves to a satisfying breakfast.
12:30 PM – We arrive at Macchu Picchu and are pleased to see many tour groups in line waiting to leave. The World Wonder is far from crowded and we revel in the 4.5 hours we spend there climbing all over and making friends with the local llamas.
6:45 PM – We board the train to Ollantaytambo where we then catch a collectivo back to Cusco.
Day 7 – Saturday
6:30 AM – We wake up in our hostel, happy to have more than two sets of clothes to choose from. We enjoy our last breakfast in Cusco and then head out towards the bus station.
8:30 AM – We settle into our 160 degree reclining seats on our bus to Puno, ready to start a new adventure, first at Lake Titicaca and then onwards into Bolivia.
After seeing the Salt Flats in Bolivia and rounding out their South American adventure in Argentina and Uruguay, Emily and Ewan are now in Paris and travelling through Europe. They plan to be in India for the fall. Check out their blog WhatAreYouAndEwanDoing.