Snowy mountain in Peru

The Machu Picchu Diaries – Part II: Creature Comforts and Coffee!

In August 2022, Earth’s Edge content creator Arianna took part in our Machu Picchu expedition. In her Machu Picchu Diaries series, she recounts her time in Peru in amazing detail, telling you everything you could possibly want to know about journeying to the ancient Inca city.

You can read Part I here.

This week on the Machu Picchu Diaries, the group experience creature comforts and coffee farms en route to Aguas Calientes, the final stop before they reach Machu Picchu … 

Descending into the Cloud Forest

Day 7: The day commenced with a steep descent into the cloud forest, an enchanting realm of diverse plants. We were blessed with incredible weather during our expedition, as the sun shone bright every day. This meant more frequent water breaks and snacking on the trail – which was very welcomed! Ascending to Maizal village, we spent a relaxing afternoon being entertained by local pigs and chickens. We enjoyed some tea and music as we looked out at the imposing views. We even got to wash some of our clothes using a small basin and fountain. Warm grass and yoga provided relaxation, as we relished the opportunity to stretch out sore muscles, while absorbing the tranquillity. The evening brought dinner, and the serene atmosphere lingered.

Ascending to Victoria Pass

Day 8: Following breakfast, we ascended a steep path to Victoria Pass (4,150m), our highest point thus far. The altitude began to affect us, but it was worthwhile as we explored an old Inca silver mine, where unusual rocks and minerals abounded. En route to Yanama village, we passed local farms, grazing animals, and picturesque scenery. The camp at Yanama offered creature comforts such as hot showers (the best ten dollars I’ve ever spent!), charging spots, and Wi-Fi. The welcoming community atmosphere enveloped us, making it feel like home.

A montage of images from Peru

Ascent of Yanama Pass

Day 9: The day commenced with an early rise, as we began our ascent of Yanama Pass (4,668m), the high point of our trek. A touch of rain couldn’t dampen our spirits as we journeyed through misty landscapes, crossing streams and passing fields of grazing cattle. It was flat for the first while before we began to ascend a steep slope up to the high pass. It was a tough, slow climb due to the thinness of the air. It was my first time trekking at high altitude, so it was an interesting experience to feel out of breath even though we were moving at such a slow pace! Reaching the pass was a triumph, celebrated with photographs. The descent revealed interlocking paths that wound through the landscape, offering intriguing vistas.

We arrived at our camp in Totora that evening, where we gained access to Wi-FiI and a little shop to buy some soft drinks. Before dinner, we said goodbye to our amazing horsemen as our gear would be carried by bus to our next camping location. We were so lucky to have these amazing people looking after our gear every day on the trail, and we sincerely thanked every one of them for their hard work and wished them well.

A montage of images from Peru

A day at freddy’s coffee farm

Day 10: The following day we set off to visit a coffee farm. The trek was very pleasant, and saw us pass through a smallholding selling fresh papaya and mango. We stopped to enjoy some of the fresh fruit before setting off again to reach the pickup point where we’d catch a bus the rest of the way. The bus ride was definitely the most interesting I’ve ever had – driving slowly on narrow paths and over rickety wooden bridges with steep drops below us, which had us all firmly on the edge of our seats!

We arrived at the coffee farm, where we were greeted by the owner, Freddy. We entered a large forest of big coffee cherry trees. Freddy told us about the different produce they grew on the farm, which included the smallest bananas I’d ever seen. We picked coffee cherries from the trees, ensuring they were red and ripe, and brought them to be de-pulped to remove the outer layer from the beans.This was such an interesting process to watch, as before coming here I had no idea that coffee came from coffee cherries grown on trees! As the coffee beans we had just picked had to undergo some more processing, we helped roast some other pre-prepared coffee beans, ground them, and then had our very own fresh Peruvian coffee – which was very strong! We also had the opportunity to support Freddy and his farm by purchasing some of the ground coffee produced on-site. 

Montage of images from a coffee farm in Peru

At the coffee farm, we also witnessed how to cook using a Pachamanca, meaning ‘earth oven’ in Quechua, a very old Peruvian culinary tradition. This involved digging a hole in the ground and lining it with stones that had been heated over a fire. A variety of different potatoes were placed inside first, as well as chicken, pork, plantain, pineapples, and corn. Damp banana leaves were placed over the top to trap heat and cover the food, which was then covered in soil. It was such an interesting cooking experience, and the method was reminiscent of an Irish fulacht fiadh. It was a delicious meal – the food was rich with flavour and had a beautiful smoky taste. Afterwards, we caught the bus back to camp in Santa Teresa before preparing to head to the hot springs.

We arrived by bus at the hot springs as it got dark. It was bustling with locals and other travellers who had come to witness this amazing geological phenomenon. There were three pools varying in depth whose heat ranged from 38 to 44 degrees Celsius. The forested surroundings, along with the warm water, worked wonders on our sore muscles. We followed the soaking with wine, music, and dancing to cap off the day.

Montage of images from a coffee farm in Peru

trekking to aguas calientes

Day 11: The next morning we drove to the trailhead where we would begin trekking alongside train tracks on the way to Aguas Calientes. The tracks were enveloped by huge trees, unique bird calls, and beautiful plants and flowers. We even got to see the train pass by, bringing travelers to the city from Cusco. The eventual sight of Huayna Picchu in the distance stirred excitement. We checked into our hotel before having some delicious food at a nearby restaurant and doing some souvenir shopping in the many markets located in the town. These markets sold a wide variety of items from scarves, hats, and jumpers made from alpaca fur, to trinkets, Incan art and wall tapestry.

In Part III of the Machu Picchu Diaries, the group finally reach Machu Picchu, and Arianna reflects on her time and experiences in Peru.

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