Inca Trail - pleasure & pain


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South America » Peru » Cusco » Inca Trail
January 2nd 2007
Published: January 6th 2007
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The startThe startThe start

at kilometer 82. We're handing over our stuff to the porters. Little did we know what the next four days would bring.
So, we're back after four days of high altitude, pain, low oxygen, rain and 49.5km of hiking in the Andes. Did we pay for this? Most certainly, and gladly. There's a very fine line between pleasure and pain and that's what we've been walking on for four days. It's called the Inca Trail.

Day one started with SAS Travel (the tour operator) picking us up 5.45 am at our hostel. After two hours on the bus we stoped at Ollantaytambo for breakfast and to buy walking sticks (bamboo, with wowen handles). The latter became cause for discussion for the next four days, as two schools developed. The people with and the people without a stick - support or extra weight to carry. We both chose the stick. Another hour on the bus followed and we stopped at kilometer 82, which has nothing to do with the distance from that point to Macchu Picchu, but the distance from Cusco.

After passing the first check point (they thought we we're Swiss for some reason), and weighing our luggage (porters are not allowed to carry more than 25 kg each), we set off on the first day of hiking. After an "easy"
Bridge over...Bridge over...Bridge over...

Urubamba. This river is apparently the largest single contributor of water to the Amazon river.
16 km, a very nice two course lunch and 800 m of climbing in around six hours, we arrived a bit wet to our first camp. Some local women sold beer, which we thought we deserved at that point. Little did we know!

We woke up 5.30 am next morning by porters bringing "special" tea to our tents. Set off at 7.20 am for what we knew was going to be the hardest part of the trail, just not how hard. In the first 2h and 40 min we climbed 1,000m, with just one half-decent break for 10 min. Finally at Dead Woman's Pass, at 4,200m, it felt rather good, if a bit sore. (H got help to carry the daypack the last bit, thank you so much Richard!!!) The views were very nice indeed and well worth the struggle. The only problem was that now we needed to decent 600m, in rather wet conditions, to get our lunch. We also knew that we needed to ascend another 400m for the second pass and then climb down to 3,800m for our camp on New Year's Eve. So far we had mostly done uphill and thought downhill was going to
Day 1Day 1Day 1

and still very happy, if a bit hot.
be easy. We were so wrong...

Through rain and mud on steep steps we made it down for the usual two course lunch. Now our knees and calves hurt, instead of us just being short of breath from mostly going uphill. Up again to the second pass at 4,000m - Abra De Runkuracay. Well at the camp at 3,800m, after 9 hours of solid hiking, we were greeted with popcorn and tea, as usual, before our New Year's Eve dinner. Our first guide Augusto served Tea Macho (tea, apple, orange, cinnamon, sugar and rum) after dinner. That was more than most of us could take at that point, and most people were fast asleep by 9.30, including us. However, another group camped just next to us and had the courtesy to wake us up by counting in the new year. Thanks! On top of that it was apparently someone's birthday on the 1st, so they sang a few songs for that poor soul as well. Thanks again!

The morning after we had a lie-in until 7am. Nice! Only 5h to walk today and most of it downhill. Remember that? Like that's easy. No way! Passed a few very
Half decent...Half decent...Half decent...

toilet on the trail. Actually - this is a nice one! (Sarah and Rach - why did you not warn me about these?! ;)
nice Inca ruins on the way, so nice that we took bit longer than expected and were 30 min late for lunch. We had the afternoon off, which in this case ment walking to the ruin of Wiñaywayna, which means "forever young" (remember Alphaville?) Breath-taking views as usual! After a very detailed guiding by Augusto, also as usual, we walked down some of the steepest steps on the trail to get to a waterfall, secluded in the jungle. H dared the freezing cold water, D just took pictures, as usual.

After the first hot (well, lukewarm on the ladies' side) shower in three days we enjoyed the usual very nice multi-course dinner, chatted away a bit too late and may have had one beer too many.

Day four started at 4 am! We were supposed to start our last 2 hour hike to Macchu Picchu (MP) at 5 am. Almost on schedule we set off. The first stop was the Sun Gate (Intipunku), where we would see MP for the first time, in the sunrise (6am). Slightly late to the gate, we were greeted by some fog and then some more fog. In fact, fog was all we
The beer lady...The beer lady...The beer lady...

and her kid, who kindly sold us some refreshments at the first campsite.
could see. We waited for the fog to clear, but that never happened. We continued down to MP, now more than an hour late. We arrived at MP at 8.45, which didn't really matter as it was so foggy that you could hardly see it anyway. Had some snacks at the entrance and as if MP had heard our complains, the weather cleared.

Augusto gave us a fantastic tour of most of the site for 2 hours. After that he volounteered to give some of us some more guiding. Think it's hard to find a better guide. After more than 600 Inca Trails over the last 12 years, you can really tell that he thoroughly enjoy what he's doing, as his knowledge is very deep on this subject, and he's very keen to tell you about everything you see. The perfect guide in other words.

The day was finished with lunch in Aguas Calientes (or Macchi Picchu Village as it's apparently really called according to the MP ticket).

The only annoying thing at MP was the bus tourists we met, with full make up and white trainers. There we walked around without a decent shower in four
Well deserved beerWell deserved beerWell deserved beer

after the first day.
days in dirty, smelly clothes. Don't really think you should be allowed into MP without doing the Inca Trail. It's not fair!

However, despite the rain, the mud and the aching muscles, the Inca Trail is more than worth it. Actually the trail itself we found more enjoyable than MP. MP is nice, but the scenery you get along the trail and the sense of achievement makes the trail the winner by 6 to 4.

So, if you enjoy walking the line between pleasure and pain and get greately rewarded at the end - just do it!

Inca Trail map and info


Tillbaka efter fyra dagars hog hojd over havet, smarta, daligt med syre, regn och 49,5 km vandring i Anderna. Betalade vi for det? Absolut, och gladeligen. Gransen mellan smarta och njutning ar valdigt fin, och vi har vandrat pa den i fyra dagar. Den kallas Inkaleden.

Dag ett borjade med att SAS Travel (turarrangoren) hamtade oss utanfor vandrarhemmet kvart i fem. Efter tva timmar pa bussen stannade vi i Ollantaytambo for att ata frukost och for att kopa vandringsstavar (bambu, modell vagpinnar, med vavda handtag). De senare blev hett diskussionsamne de foljande fyra dagarna, da tva skolor
View from 1st campView from 1st campView from 1st camp

Notice the glacier at the top.
utkristalliserades. Folk med och folk utan stavar - stod eller extra vikt att slapa pa. Vi valde bada stav. Ytterligare en timme pa bussen foljde, och vi hoppade av vid kilometer 82, som inte har nagot med avstandet till Macchu Piccu att gora, utan avstandet fran Cusco.

Efter att ha passerat det forsta kontrollen (de trodde av nagon anledning att vi var schweizare), och vagt vara vaskor (barare far bara max 25 kg var), borjade vi var forsta dags vandring. Efter 16 "latta" km, en valdigt god tvaratterslunch och 800 meters klattring pa ca 6 timmar anlande vi lite blota till vart forsta lager. Nagra lokala kvinnor salde ol vilket vi tyclte vi fortjanade vi det har laget. Vi visste inte vad som vantade!

Vi vaknade halv 6 nasta morgon av att bararna kom med "specialte" till vara talt. Vi satte av 7,20, pa vad vi visste skulle bli den jobbigaste delen av leden, vi visste bara inte hur jobbig. De forsta 2 tim 40 min klattrade vi 1000 meter, med bara en halvbra rast pa 10 minuter. Slutligen vid Dead Woman's Pass, pa 4200m kandes det ganska bra, om dock lite omma. (H fick hjalp att bara
BreakfastBreakfastBreakfast

the second day. "Special" tea, toast, very nice porridge and pancakes.
dagvaskan den sista biten, tack Richard!!!) Utsikten var verkligen valdigt fin, och val vart jobbet. Det enda problemet var att nu maste vi ga ner 600 meter i ganska blott vader for att fa var lunch. Vi visste ocksa att vi maste ga upp igen 400 meter, for att sedan ga ner till 3800 meter till vart andra lager pa nyarsafton. Hittills hade vi mest gatt uppfor och tyckte att nedfor skulle bli lattare. Ack sa fel vi hade...

Genom regn och lera pa branta trappsteg tog vi oss ner till den vanliga tvaratterslunchen. Nu hade vi ont i knana och vaderna, forutom att vara andfadda da vi mest gatt uppfor innan. Upp igen till andra passet pa 4000 meter - Abra De Runkuracay. Val framme vid lagret pa 3800 meter, efter 9 timmars vandring, halsades vi som vanligt av popcorn och te, innan var nyarsmiddag. Var huvudguide Augusto serverade Te Macho (te, apple, apelsin, kanel, socker och rom) efter maten. Det var mer an de flesta av oss klarade av vid det har laget, och de flesta, inklusive vi, sov kl 21,30. En annan grupp campade bredvid oss och hade dessvarre vanligheten att vacka oss genom att rakna
Half way to 1st passHalf way to 1st passHalf way to 1st pass

Not so happy now. It'll get worse before it get better. But that's part of the game.
in det nya aret. Tackar! Dessutom var det tydligen nagons fodelsedag den 1 januari, sa de sjong nagra sanger for den stackarn ocksa. Tack igen!

Morgoinen efter hade vi sovmorgon till kl 7. Skont! Bara 5 timmars vandring idag, och det mesta nedfor. Kommer ni ihag? Som om det ar enkelt. Inte ett dugg! Passerade nagra fina inkaruiner pa vagen, sa fina att vi tog langre tid pa oss an planerat och kom en halvtimme forsent till lunchen. Pa eftermiddagen hade vi ledigt, vilket i det har fallet betydde att ga till ruinen Wiñaywayna, vilket betyder "evigt ung" (kommer nagon ihag Alphaville?). Hapnadsvackande utsikt som vanligt. Efter en valdigt detaljerad guidning av Augusto, ocksa som vanligt, gick vi medfor nagra av de brantaste trappstegen pa leden till ett vattenfall helt avskilt inne i djungeln. H vagade sig ner i det iskalla vattnet, D tog bara kort som vanligt.

Efter den forsta varma (naja, damsidan hade bara ljumna) duschen pa tre dagar njot vi av den vanliga fler-rattersmiddagen, pratade skit lite for lange och drack mojligen en ol for mycket.

Dag 4 startade klockan 4! Det var meningen att vi skulle borja dagens tvatimmarsvandring till Macchu Picchu (MP)
1st pass1st pass1st pass

We made it! Dead Woman's Pass (4,215m) deserves it's name. Actually it's called that after finding female mummies here, not because someone fell off the cliff...
klockan 5. Nastan enligt schemat satte vi av. Det forsta stoppet var Solporten (Intipunku), dar vi skulle fa var forsta glimt av MP vid soluppgangen klockan 6. Lite sena till porten halsades vi av dimma, och mer dimma. Dimma var faktiskt det enda vi sag. Vi vantade pa att dimman skulle latta, men det hande aldrig. Vi fortsatte ner till MP, nu mer an en timme sena. Vi kom fram till MP 8,45, vilket inte spelade nagon roll eftersom det var sa dimmigt att man knappast kunde se det anda. Vi at mellanmal vid entren, och som om MP hade hort vart gnall klarnade det upp.

Augusto gav oss en fantastisk rundtur pa tva timmar. Efterat erbjod han sig att ga nagra av oss mera guidning. Tror det ar svart att hitta en battre guide. Efter mer an 600 turer langs inkaleden pa 12 ar kan man verkligen marka att han helt klart uppskattar sitt jobb eftersom han vet sa mycket om amnet, och han vill verkligen beratta om allt man ser. Den perfekta guoden med andra ord.

Dagen avslutades med lunch i Aguas Calientes (eller Macchu Picchu-byn som den tydligen heter egentligen enligt MP-biljetten).

Det enda
4,215m4,215m4,215m

It can be done!
irriterande vid MP var bussturisterna vi motte, med full make-up och vita sportskor. Dar gick vi omkring efter fyra dagar utan en schysst dusch, i smutsiga illaluktande klader. Tycker inte riktigt man ska fa slappas in pa MP utan att ha gatt inkaleden. Det ar inte rattvist!

Trots regn, lera och de omma musklerna ar inkaleden mer an vart det. Vi tyckte faktiskt battre om sjalva leden an MP. MP ar trevligt, men vyerna langs leden och kanslan av prestation gor leden till en vinnare 6 mot 4.

Sa, om du uppskattar gransen mellan smarta och njutning for att bli hogt belonad pa slutet - bara ga!

Inca Trail map and info


Additional photos below
Photos: 37, Displayed: 30


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Wet, tired & hungryWet, tired & hungry
Wet, tired & hungry

Luckily lunch is just around the corner.
One of several ruinsOne of several ruins
One of several ruins

along the way. Can't remember the name of this one though. Beautiful still.
Restroom & cold showerRestroom & cold shower
Restroom & cold shower

at the 2nd camp (New Year's Eve). It's hard to find a more beautiful setting, don't you think?
Augusto, our guideAugusto, our guide
Augusto, our guide

took his time to show us not only the large wonders along the way. Here he's showing us the Wiñaywayna (forever young), the flower in this case.
Steep stepsSteep steps
Steep steps

That was the tune for most part of the third day.
WildlifeWildlife
Wildlife

was a bit scarce, so we had to make do with what we could find. Have a close look (click on it) at this hairy fellow.
Just some...Just some...
Just some...

nice jungle flower in an OK framing.
Will they make it...Will they make it...
Will they make it...

out of the cave?
It's there...It's there...
It's there...

- we promise. Macchu Picchu mountain in the middle of the frame.


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