Cusco: Conde Travel Adventures Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu
Cost: Between $280-$340USD depending on what activities you want to include
Get There: Calle Plateros 394, Cusco – right near the main square. They also have hook ups with a bunch of hostels, so you may be able to book directly where you’re staying. Otherwise suss out http://condetraveladventures.com/
If you’re headed to Peru, my guess is you’re planning on hitting up Machu Picchu. There’s a few different options on how to see the famous Incan ruins depending on the amount of time you would like to dedicate to hiking compared to partying in Cusco. If you’re completely keen on spending the majority of your time drinking as opposed to experiencing the wonders surrounding the ruins and can’t forgo a few days off the booze (shame on you), or even if you’re just lazy as fuck, you can jump on an expensive train and bus up to the ruins. I’d avoid this unless you’re completely strapped for time. The train itself is probably going to end up costing you close to the price of a four day-trek and you don’t have the bragging rights involved.
On the other hand, if you’re fit as fuck, managed to dedicate room in your pack for hiking boots and have a few extra hundred lying around, the classic Inca Trail is the best way for you. Everyone is going to tell you that you need to book this months in advance; however, I met a bunch of people who booked it on the spot in Cusco. Just make sure you’re not around in February when the trail is closed.
If you’re keen for a bit of walking to subsidise your alcohol intake and help justify the extra 50 snickers you ate on your last long-distance bus ride, but you’re not exactly up for four days of straight hiking, then the jungle trek is going to be right up your alley. Given my penchant for a bit of fun and also wanting to avoid becoming a lazy sloth, I jumped onto the jungle tour with Conde Adventure Travel.
It was a pretty rough start, with a pick up at 6am to start the day mountain biking through what felt like torrential rain. If you’d told me I would be paying to get up early to ride a bike through freezing cold winds and showers, I would have told you to get fucked, but I actually really enjoyed it. I’d expected a pretty serene, relaxing ride, but this was the first time I would realise that these guys don’t mess around. While it was undoubtedly serene, and luckily, at that altitude, mostly downhill, relaxing was not on the cards. There were plenty of stacks across the group, and be prepared to ride through a river that’s gushing more than chicks watching a Ryan Gosling film. Also, not unlike watching a Ryan Gosling film, it’s going to be a good time despite getting pretty wet.
Next up for the day, you have the option of going white water rafting, which unfortunately I decided to ditch having just dried off from the biking. I instantly regretted this when I realised this meant sitting around waiting for the boys to came back. They said it was wicked, so I’d definitely recommend sucking it up and going.
Finally, the day finished up with the first of many steep uphill treks to a pretty amazing homestay. Conde are the only tour company which get to stay there, so it was a really intimate experience and the family I was with could not only cook a solid meal, but also had a bunch of interesting pets to hang out with.
Day two was pretty much solid trekking, which fortunately was pretty achievable compared to our uphill haul the night before. Things were kept pretty interesting with the group having to navigate landslides, jump on a wooden cable car across a valley and watch our guide scaling trees to pick a bunch of tropical fruits for us along the way. We finished up the trek at a seriously picturesque hot spring, which, after a day of walking, was the best thing I could imagine. That night was national Pisco Sour day, and not one to break a tradition, we were obliged to indulge before ziplining the following morning.
Despite a few hangovers through the group, the ziplining was amazing. I definitely recommend getting friendly with the instructors and going “superman style” attached to them across the gully. Not only is it the most fun way to zipline, it’s also likely to be the most action you’re going to get, as you grow stinkier by the day whilst trekking.
Last, but certainly not least, after another early start and the steepest trek yet, we reached Machu Picchu on day four. Despite being fairly persistently uphill, everyone made it with no worries and Machu Picchu itself was certainly worth the effort. I would highly advise hiking up Waynapiccu while you’re there to get a view over the whole valley.
Overall, the jungle tour was a great way to still experience the journey to Machu Picchu whilst still having fun everywhere inbetween to break up the hiking. A high hobo recommendation.