UPDATE: LivingInPeru.com, which knows this area way better than I do, DOES NOT recommend trying to walk out. Just sayin’. (Plus I guess the airlifts are almost over.)
Seriously — this is a repost of the instructions given by Cole Gainer to a friend on Facebook. Pass it on to anybody in there who might benefit:
If you decide to walk:
Leave early, bring water.
Walk down the rails until they disappear. Then just look left and follow the path up that’s been created. It goes by the hotel and is pretty easy to follow. (Look for my awesome Uruguay hat, I may have dropped it there.)
Take the low path and then head back on the rails. Some tricky parts come up where there are waves and stones to jump around but this bit is relatively easy and exciting.
Walk for about 20/30 minutes and then you will hit another area of washed out rail. WHEREVER THERE IS RAIL WITH NO GROUND UNDERNEATH – DO NOT CROSS IT!! Already made that mistake and it was no fun. By now the Peruvians should have established signs where to head into the jungle. We tried to leave stones and paper but they may be gone from new rains. Anyway, always look at least 100-200 feet before a washed out rail and you will see the path into the jungle that gets around it.
After this second crossing you walk for awhile with the regular astounding scenery and a couple land bridge crossings you need to run past one at a time so that they don’t slide beneath you. Who knows what differences there are now two days later but I’m sure the locals have found a new way around – and if they haven’t, then it’s your time to shine!
Keep walking, cross a rockslide on the rail, keep going. About 3 hours in you will get to a big long blue/white house. An old woman there will feed you all for a couple soles. At the end of her house the road is completely gone. Rest there then head into the jungle at the end of her house right before where the road drops off.
Follow the path, twist around some rock. Cross a creek, be wary of an angry dog, pass some houses, and get back on the rail. From here you can manage for awhile or at least make it up as you go. The first two jungle entrances I mentioned are the biggest pointers so far. Later, there are two more ones. One is marked by a log and some paper on it. If you tried to keep going you would cross rail with no land and just river underneath it. I did this. DON’T DO THIS! Go around in the jungle. Any time you think you can’t go any farther, just pull out the Boy Scout smarts and look for the path that I/we/someone has made around.
The last key jungle turn comes around marker 87. You’ll see sticks and rocks showing you where to head up into the cliffs. I made an arrow in the dirt but I bet it’s gone now. Go up in the cliffs and don’t come back down. Even when you see the rail somewhere around where marker 85-83 should be – don’t go to the rail. Another mistake I made. Stay on the high road, look at the mountains, pretend you’re on LOST, see how beautiful it is, pass the cemetery, keep going. Past the cemetery you’ll see ruins in the distance that people are working on, you can get on the rail there but then you go right back up through the ruins.
You start to see towns now but you need to avoid the rails even though you’ll see them. You’ll also start to die here. This is where my limp kicked in. Hopefully you’ll have rested much more than I did. For some reason I thought it was a race. When you hit the towns keep on the high roads – forget the rails, they are decieving and washed out every few hundred meters. If youre lucky you can maybe catch a ride into town now, the only problem is some of the town roads are flooded, but at least you’re out of the sticks.
You can do it, especially if you take it easy and don’t have that sinking feeling that your on your own and no one will know if you fall into the river and die. I’m sure the paths are well trodden now. The American embassy chick said they were expecting a few hundred people (mostly locals) to walk out in the following days. Unfortunately when I went she said there were less than 50 that had come out. The trail should be well blazed and it’s beautiful.