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12 October 2013 / leggypeggy

Exploring a secret trail at Machu Picchu

Inca Bridge, Machu Picchu

Approaching the Inca Bridge. See what looks like a little gap in the lower centre? It’s actually 6 metres across

Once you get near Machu Picchu, you hear about all sorts of Inca trails.

The biggie, of course, is the Classic Trail that so many people walk (actually they mostly climb steps) for several days to arrive, before sunrise, at the Sun Gate entrance to these ancient ruins. Trust me folks, the Sun Gate is overrated. It just sounds impressive, and you can’t really see the sun rise from there.

Then there are the 4-to-5-day Lares and Salkantay Treks. Poor John and I did the Lares Trek (tough but highly recommended) the first time we visited Machu Picchu. The second time we took the train and found lots of other fascinating ruins to visit during the four days that we weren’t scrambling across rough terrain.

Machu Picchu

Looking down to the river and community below Machu Picchu

Inca Bridge path

In many places, the trail to the Inca Bridge is just a track

But almost everywhere you go in Peru, guides point out bits of Inca trail that crisscross all over the empire.

It’s not surprising because in the 100 years prior to the Spanish Conquest of what is now Peru, the Incas built more than 22,500 kilometres (14,000 miles) of road. The roads were up to 5 metres wide and were often paved. Very steep sections were bounded by stone walls to keep people from tumbling over the edge.

The Incas used these roads to move their army and goods about and to protect the empire. Young men ran messages to and from the capital, Cusco. Llama trains collected food from farms and moved it to cities and to storehouses along the road. It is said that some storehouses could hold enough food and supplies for 25,000 people.

On our second visit to Machu Picchu, Poor John and I took a stroll on one of these roads. This particular one was narrow—more of a track—and probably served as a secret entrance to the ruins.

The path is fairly level, paved with stone and clings to the side of a mountain. Some stretches have been cut into the cliff face and edged with low stone walls. It’s a huge drop for anyone who loses their footing.

It gave us an entirely different view of Machu Picchu. We could see the river and community below, and get a better view of mountains in the distance. There’s plenty of lush cloud-forest vegetation as well as lichens on the cliff face.

And best of all—you come to the Inca Bridge. Well almost to the bridge. There’s a barrier a couple a hundred metres from the bridge—designed to protect us from ourselves and stupidity.

The Incas intentionally left a 6-metre (20-foot) gap in the bridge as a security measure. The drop below the gap is almost 600 metres (1900 feet)—more than enough to make the trail impassable to an outsider. When necessary, the gap could be bridged with tree trunks.

From the barrier and for quite a while before we reached it, we could see the tree-trunk bridge and the trail extending far beyond on the cliff face. In the pics here, take note of the faint line of vegetation that runs to the right along the side of the mountain. That growth marks where the path continues—only the most foolhardy would attempt it now.

Machu Picchu

You have to check-in and out at the little hut here when you visit the Inca Bridge

Some time ago, a tourist crossed the bridge and had a ‘go’ at trekking on. Sadly, they fell to their death. 😦

Officials are careful now to avoid a repeat of such a catastrophe. A rustic timber barrier has been erected to prevent people from going down a very steep stone staircase and approaching close to the actual bridge. Plus there is an attendance system where the trail begins. As we entered, we had to sign a ledger and note the time we arrived. It was the same when we left. From this check point, we could look back at the terraces on Huayna Picchu.

The trail isn’t overrun with traffic, and I highly recommend making the effort to visit this breathtaking spot. It takes no more than an hour to go and come back, unless you dawdle, which of course we did.


Leave a Comment
  1. Andrea / Oct 12 2013 10:54 am

    Hi Peggy, I’ve been reading all about your South American trip and your posts are brilliant! I’ve been investigating all the tour companies as you did and thinking of doing the same or a similar trip with Oasis. Would you recommend it?


    • leggypeggy / Oct 12 2013 3:35 pm

      Hi Andrea,
      I certainly do recommend Oasis. I’ve travelled with them twice now in South America.
      The first trip was from Quito to Rio, going down the west and up the east. The second was going across the continent. Great drivers and tour leaders both times.
      Our first South American trip was supposed to be with Kumuka, but they went broke shortly before our trip was to begin. Oasis was a last-minute option that we have never regretted (and with very little research). Natalie in the UK office was very helpful getting us organised on a Skype chat. Really amazing service. Let me know what you decide to do and feel free to bombard me with questions. If you have a lot, I’d be happy to write a blog entry that answers them.
      Cheers and thanks so much for folloiwng my travels.


      • Andrea / Oct 14 2013 10:43 pm

        Hi Peggy, thanks so much! I’ve booked my spot, so I’ll effectively be doing the same trip as you about 2 months later. So following your posts even more closely now! I will have lots of questions, let me know the best way to ask them. The first one though is, what size rucksack to buy? 70l looks too small for everything I’ll need, but 90l looks way too big for my 5ft 4 frame, so thinking of 80-85l. Any thoughts? Keep enjoying your travels, Andrea


      • leggypeggy / Oct 14 2013 10:50 pm

        Hi Andrea, I’m so glad you’ve booked through Oasis (they really are great). but I hope you don’t fall into the trap of a huge backpack. I know there is a huge tendency to grab a huge one, and fill it up. But I think you’d regret that a lot. Let’s talk more about what you may or may not need. I’ll be home tomorrow and will watch out for your questions.


      • Andrea / Oct 14 2013 11:21 pm

        Thanks Peggy, shall I just list them out as a comment? What size pack did you use? Andrea


      • leggypeggy / Oct 16 2013 7:49 pm

        I had a 65-litre backpack with an attached 15-litre daypack. Also had a second daypack of about 15 litres. Both we excellent quality. The big pack, with its accompanying daypack, is a Berghaus and the other daypack is a MacPac.


    • Andrea / Oct 15 2013 3:57 am

      Hi Peggy,
      I’ve actually booked on the 35 week Quito to Quito round trip epic! Excited and nervous. Ok, first questions:
      What size and quality of backback?
      What size and quality of daypack? (I’ve got a pretty basic small rucksack)
      Take full size toiletries or mini?
      Worth taking Y/N: travel kettle, travel flask, mini hot water bottle
      I’ve read no food can be taken into Chile. Does that include stuff like teabags? I was going to take a supply of my favourite as my luxury item!
      Any advice for the vegetarian traveler?
      I’m sure there will be more questions, but any help is gratefully received, thanks, Andrea


      • Andrea / Oct 15 2013 4:50 am

        Oh, 2 more:
        Pack light microfiber towel or standard cotton?
        Can you recommend a good Spanish/English phrasebook?


      • leggypeggy / Oct 15 2013 11:07 am

        Hi Andrea! You’re going to love that trip. I’m already jealous. Here’s a blog post I did that relates to some of your questions. And I’ll do more posts that answer the rest. They are great questions and the answers will be of use to many. Give me a few days. 🙂


      • andrea smedley / Oct 15 2013 12:17 pm

        Thanks Peggy, That post is great – chairs hadn’t even occurred to me! I have one of those tripod stools but wouldn’t want to take the weight. I’ve thought of more questions if you’re going to do a blog post though (and I’m rather chuffed to be inspiring a blog post too): Worth taking? In car charger, personal mosquito net, washing powder, sleeping bag liner. Should I take all currency in USD and change into the relevant country as required, or take a mix of currencies? Thanks for the support- it’s nerve wracking planning on my own. I am so impressed by how much travelling you and your hubby have done! Andrea  


      • leggypeggy / Oct 15 2013 2:51 pm

        A blog post addressing your questions is in production with lots of useful tips. In the meantime, you should check out my entries in the category (scroll up to the column on the right) on Tips for Travellers. Lots of helpful stuff there.


      • andrea smedley / Oct 15 2013 7:32 pm

        Great! one more question then I’ll stop, honest! Is it really ok to decant meds like Ibuprofen from their bottle into an unmarked plastic bag for travel? It feels dodgy! Look forward to the next pics from wherever you are. Andrea


      • leggypeggy / Oct 15 2013 10:06 pm

        I always decant our meds, but I also cut one panel off the original box and rubber-band it to the relevant blister pack. I know rubber-band isn’t a verb, but you know what I mean. 🙂 By the way, are you signed on for the 2013 trip or the 2014 one?


      • Andrea / Oct 15 2013 11:27 pm

        I know exactly what you mean! I’m looking to decant from a big plastic bottle though so can’t cut the label. Could take a picture of it I suppose!


  2. Joanne T Ferguson (@mickeydownunder) / Oct 12 2013 12:34 pm

    G’day! Am really enjoying your travels Peggy through your stories of Poor John and through your unique words and view! Cheers! Joanne


    • leggypeggy / Oct 12 2013 3:27 pm

      Thanks Joanne. I’m always pleased when people share our travels.


  3. saucygander / Oct 14 2013 8:42 am

    I remember that timber bridge! I had sprained my ankle coming off Huayna Picchu, so most of the day was a bit hazy, but somehow I managed to walk around for a whole day. We also really liked the less visited Inca sites around Ollantaytambo, partly because we mostly had the places to ourselves.

    Your photos bring back good memories!


    • leggypeggy / Oct 14 2013 9:06 am

      Hi saucygander,
      Thanks so much for dropping in. I visited your blog and discovered your love of South America and Bolivia (and cooking). I’ve written quite a few entries on the ruins around Cusco, so have a look. I will enjoy reading your blog too.


  4. macalder02 / Mar 21 2017 12:49 am

    I am Peruvian and I live in Venezuela. In recent years new roads and other interesting ruins have been discovered. You really have an overview of the Inca culture that is very rich in history. Your photos, as always, are exceptional and leave me a nostalgia for my country. Thanks for this post gift.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 21 2017 4:46 pm

      You are most welcome. We loved our time in Peru. I plan to write more about some of the many places we visited there. What is your hometown?

      Liked by 1 person


  1. The magic of Machu Picchu | Where to next?

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