Machu Picchu was kind of a no brainer when in Peru. The traditional Inca trail was booked out months in advance, so we had the option of just seeing the ruins on a day trip, or doing the Inca Jungle Trek, which is a 4-day hike + adventure on a different route. We went with that.
The first day, we met up in Cusco with a group. We each brought a backpack we were willing to carry on our backs for four days, and piled in a van to begin the journey. We were dropped off on the side of the road at 13,800ft (4200 m) elevation. Here we put on protective gear, hopped on mountain bikes, and barreled down the mountain for a 6500ft (2000m) descent. The view was green mountains and fog, the entire way down, with some small villages toward the bottom. I really, really wish we were able to take more photos, but we were going downhill so fast, there was no way I could pull a camera out, and we had to keep up with the group, which only stopped once for a break. The temperature was freezing and windy at the top, but at the end of the 3 hour ride, it was sub-tropical weather and foliage, and we all threw our clothes off as fast a possible.
We ended with a nap in our hostel, where our entire group was staying, then dinner at a small restaurant in the town.
The next day, we began our first long day of up-hill hiking. Again, it was freezing in the morning, but as soon as the the sun came out and we were climbing uphill, we were shedding clothes and sweating buckets in the humidity. Zhanna and I changed into summer dresses, which was surprisingly the most comfortable hiking outfit. This was the warmest we had been since arriving in Peru (remember, it's winter there at this time), because we were at a lower elevation in a more tropical environment. Being with a group was often times really frustrating because we had to stop and wait for people to catch up and take breaks when everyone else was taking a break. But being in nature and hiking trails that the Incas hiked was pretty incredible and put things in perspective.
There was a lot of excitement in the air with anticipation to see Machu Picchu, and it kept us going.
Walking through town to get to our accommodation for the night.
A basic but cheerful hostel, where we slept with about ten people and a couple of cockroaches in our room.
Dinner at a local restaurant with our group. We loved these prepared meals because we got to try traditional food what we wouldn't normally order.
Along the trail, there were occasionally huts selling water, snacks, and "toilets" specifically for hikers headed to Machu Picchu. Some huts had pets.
We started hiking in the morning along that river below.