Lares Trek & Agues Calientes– 18, 19 & 20 April 2011

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April 26th 2011
Published: April 26th 2011
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In Ollantaytambo, on the morning of 18 April, I was up at 3.30am and on the bus by 4.00am to drive to the start of the Trek. The reason for the early start was that they were doing extensive road works and close the road from 9.00am – 6.00pm plus 1 hour in the middle of the day. We had to get up the top of the mountain driving along this windy, dirt road. Some of our group who were not keen on heights were a bit freaked out by the road as many times the steep drop was very close to the edge of the road. One of our group was convinced at one waterfall / creek crossing the bus had one wheel air-born.

We arrived at a busy village with many markets and met up with the crew who were going to look after us on the trek. The cook and his assistant (which was his son), the guide (who we met in Cusco), his assistant and there were 7 other porters. The horses and donkeys were ready to be loaded up with all our gear. In addition, there were stools, tables, large water containers, food and tents (dining tent, cooking tent and toilet tent!) loaded up. We were all ready. It had rained that night but by the time we got to the village, the rain had stopped and fortunately this was the last rain we saw.

The plan was to trek for 2 hours then stop for lunch. We stopped in a beautiful spot with a stream bubbling by, green grass, trees and a few villages. The crew had everything set up when we arrived. Check out the photo of all of us in the dining tent.

The food we had on the trek was amazing. Lunch was a beautiful soup ranging from potato, chicken and pumpkin, a meat dish with vegies (the 1st lunch was spaghetti Bolognese and vegies) followed by a jelly fruit desert. We had peach juice and hot drink. For the evening meal we started at 5.00 pm with popcorn and small pastries with fried banana (very nice) and then dinner at 7.00 pm. We played cards (UNO and Billshit) and generally sat around chatting. The 1st night was VERY cold. It apparently got down to -12 degrees. There was a breeze blowing also but not so bad.

We were in bed by about 9.30 pm that night. I shared a tent with Erin. We got in our warm sleeping bags with thermals, 2 pairs of socks, and extra top and beanie. I could have done with a nice extra blanket over me as well. Before going to bed, we were given a plastic bowl of warm water to wash our faces and clean out teeth. This was repeated in the morning. How wonderful is that?

The scenery along the way was amazingly wonderful. My photos of course don’t do the views justice. After lunch we trekked another 1 ½ hours seeing villagers minding their herd of llamas and alpacas. On the 2nd day we saw a large herd and the villagers had many animals in a circular stone-fenced paddock. Our guide said they were doing 1 of several things: choosing one to sacrifice to the Sharma, killing for food, tagging to show which families the animals belong to, or immunizing them. It was a site that not many tourists see.

The 1st night we arrived at our camp site at about 5.00 pm. Again, all was set up for us. As soon as the sun went down it got very cold so we all rugged up.

The next morning we were greeted by a “knock on the tent” asking us if we wanted a hot chocolate, coffee, tea etc. There we were, rugged up in our cacoon sleeping bags looking like little worms. I looked over at Erin ands she was enjoying her hot chocolate, all snuggled up in her sleeping bag.

We took the batteries out of our cameras and put them in our sleeping bags to keep them warm so that they lasted longer – great strategy. I had no shortage of batteries while on the Track. I took the movie camera and our new Lumix digital camera. We have been so pleased to have bought the 2nd cameras a particularly one that has a 12 magnification and 14 megapixels plus GPS. It pales our other camera into insignificance, but remains a great 2nd camera.

After our hot drink we got out of our tent and washed our faces in the warm water. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and there was no wind. It was magnificent and we were all ready for our big day, expecting to walk for about 8 hours. We were all in high spirits and lefty camp by about 8 or 8.30 am. The 1st part of the morning was a bit of a climb but not too bad. It was up and down with some tough stretches. The guides were great, making sure we were all going at our own pace. One of our group members had been suffering stomach cramps but was now on antibiotics, and another had a headache which really tested her out. At the highest point on this day (4,600 metres a.s.l.), she was not feeling well at all due to the altitude. I was feeling pretty good.

Our lunch stop for the 2nd day was again in the valley. We saw villages in the distance. The wind had increased as bit. This was the spot that we could have camped for the night but we had made good distance yesterday so we were going to camp further on, at lower altitude which meant warmer weather. That was good news.

After lunch we were really tested. We had a big climb but the best thing about that was when we got up the top we were rewarded with the most amazing views of a volcanic lake with the rugged mountains surrounding it, lamas etc grazing, sun shining. As one says, “you wouldn’t be dead for quids”. The mountains had snow on their peaks and we saw a glacier also. This was of course reducing in size because of the global warming.

Before we started the steep pinch, our guide told us about an Incan tradition of picking up a rock/stone and taking it up to the top. When we all got to the top, we piled out rocks up on top of each other. As we placed them down, we made a wish.

The last 2-3 hours of the 2nd day was all downhill. The ground however, was very stony so it was tricky and slow walking. Occasionally a stream would flow along the path. I walked pretty carefully as I was wearing my running shoes rather than my waterproof hiking boots which I used for the Kokoda Track. I decided not to bring them because they are pretty big and I was conscious of space. This part of the walk was hard on the knees but mine were great. Several of our group had to take it pretty cautiously as they were feeling their knees. I got into camp at about 5.00pm. The last got in not long after dusk (6.30 pm). Mike, the only male member of our group, decided to take a short cut with the porters (many of them who ran some of the way). One of the porters carried the eggs as they didn’t do too well on the back of a donkey. Mick got into camp at about 4.00 pm. They played a bit of soccer (which is THE sport in Peru) and then helped put up the dining room tent.

Next to our camping spot (which was a soccer field) was a building with toilet. I looked in one of the rooms and there were small tables and chairs. The next morning, I learned that it was a classroom as a van with 25 3-4 year olds, all in their blue and green track suits and their little back packs, got out of the van and went into their classroom. They apparently come to school 3 part days per week. I took a photo and movie of them. One of the boys started to play soccer with us. He wasn’t pleased when he had to go into the classroom.

That night was a lot warmer. Again we had a great time. The next morning we got up at 8.00 am, again with a hot drink. We only had 1 ½ hours to walk on this, our 3rd day. It was a very easy (almost flat) walk. We came to a town. There was a mixture of standards of building with some hotels of good standard, through to the half finished mud brick homes which was the common feature of houses in villages in Peru. We reached our lunch place at about 10.00 am.

We had over an hour before lunch so we were introduced to a local game called FROG. We formed 3 teams and each team had 11 gold heavy coins we had to throw underarm, on to a small bench which had a frog with an open mouth in the middle and various other holes for the large coins to fall through. Under the top surface of the bench was a draw, divided into 9 sections ea team was the first to 50,000.

We had a great lunch again and as there was a shop next door, I bought a cold beer which was wonderful. There are many a time when we can’t get really cold drinks because of their refrigeration system (or the lack there of!). The group asked me to say some words of thanks to the crew and guides as we gave them all a tip (Sol 60 each) which they divided between the staff. They certainly added to the great pleasurable experience of the Lares Track.

We had a van waiting for us to take us back to Ollantaytambo. Tom was to meet us there but he had already gone to the train station which is where we met him. It was great to see him. . We were going to pick up the painting but Tom had the money, and we needed to be there together to see if we were happy with it. We could pick it up after visiting Machu Picchu.

We all hopped onto the train to Agues Calientes. Again we followed the fast flowing Urubamba River with its amazing rapids. The train was excellent. It had class roof so that you could see the high volcanic Andes.
I took a movie of everyone in our group asking them how they were feeling after the trek. I then asked our guide if I could go to into the next carriage to film the last 2 members of our group. He said yes so off I went. I walked down the carriage, opened the door and walked into the next carriage. There were 2 train porters who met me with a look of horror. They said “did you just come through from the other carriage?” I said yes but saw by their colour-drained faces that I had done the wrong thing. They told me I could not go back. Apparently when the train porters in my original carriage saw what I was about to do they started racing down to stop me. I didn’t know this was happening behind me. Anyway, there I was stuck – but with my movie camera. There was a spare seat next to a Swizz guy who I had an interesting conversation with as he had been in South America for 2 ½ months.

Aguas Calientes is the colloquial name for Machupicchu Pueblo, on the Urubamba River. It is best known as the closest access point to the sacred Incan city of Machu Picchu on Quechua: (old mountain), which is 6 kilometres away, about 1.5 hours walk. It has many hotels and restaurants for tourists, as well as natural hot baths, which give the town its name ("hot waters" in Spanish). The baths were destroyed by floods several years ago, but have been rebuilt.

Originally settled by a few farm families in 1901, the tiny settlement was transformed into a busy railway worker's camp, called Camp Maquinachayoq, during the construction of the railroad through there in the late 1920s. The town was the central hub for worker lodging and their equipment up until the railway was finished in 1931.

Aguas Calientes, despite its magnificent setting, it's not the most scenic town, owing to fast and ruthless development to support the huge influx of tourists. Unless you're on a daytrip from Cusco or plan to spend a fortune and stay at the sole lodge in Macchu Picchu itself, you´ll need to spend at least one night here.
We settled into the Kuychipunku Hotel and 4 of us girls and Tom went to soak your weary Lares Trail-beaten muscles in one of the hot springs. We found the baths after walking through the town square, up the main street. These were not bad, but the feel is much like a public pool and some of the pools were crowded, since everyone wants to get into the hottest pools. We got into a pool that had no one in it first but it was luke warm so found a hotter pool which was wonderful. The cost was 10 soles.

After coming back from the baths, we found a cafe and with several members of our group, sat and had a few drinks at the restaurant we were going to have our celebration dinner. Everyone was on a real high as we all did so well on the walk. Despite some sore knees and muscles, and blisters (Erin had really bad blister on her heals), we were full of stories and Tom was full of questions.
Our room was really comfortable and modern. At dinner we made our plan for Machu Picchu.

Additional photos below
Photos: 70, Displayed: 31


Local childrenLocal children
Local children

The 2 children on the right walked with me for about 45 minutes
Our 1st night campingOur 1st night camping
Our 1st night camping

It apparently got down to about -10 degrees
Potato cropPotato crop
Potato crop

This is the only crop they can grow at this altitude (4,200 m asl)

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