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Published: March 17th 2018
Our first stop in Peru was Cusco, our gateway to the Inca Trail. But before we get into all that, we must first pay homage to the beautiful city of Cusco which was the capital of the great Incan Empire for 200 years. It's main square, the Plaza des Armas is the most impressive we've seen in all of South America - the large square boasts beautiful colonial architecture (built upon Inca foundations), cafes, markets, and enthusiastic vendors go leor!
We had signed up for the 4 day 3 night Classic Inca Trail trek with a company called Llama Path (thanks to the great reviews it received from friends who had used them last year). At our pre-departure meeting, we were casually told that we would be leaving in a few hours as opposed to the following morning in order to avoid a planned national strike for the following day. Sure, what was another 12 hours in the wilderness anyway?!
We arrived at our campsite in Piskacucho on the first night at 1am and quickly settled into our tents conscious of our 6am alarm call the following morning! Our alarm call came in the form of two cups of
Making friends along the Inca Trail...
...silently praying he doesn't spit on us!
coca tea delivered to the tent by some porters along with some water to freshen up with - we could get used to this! After being introduced to our 32 strong team of porters, chefs and guides, we set off on our 45km hike to the lost city of Machu Picchu.
Day 1, the so called "easy day", saw us walking 14km climbing "gently" up the Cusichaca Valley. It didn't feel very gentle/easy! Walking along a small fraction of the 42,000km trail network made by the Incas, we got our first glimpse of Inca ruins (the Incan sites of Wayllabamba and Llactapata) which succeeded in whetting our appetites for Machu Picchu on Day 4. We spent our evenings at the campsite playing 45. Anna, a novice to the game, was lucky to have not one but two former Shannon Development employees (AKA two semi-professionals at 45) teaching her!
On Day 2, "the hardest day", we tackled the infamous Dead Woman's pass at 4,250m above sea level followed a few hours later by the second pass at 4,000m (we couldn't enjoy the downhill in between knowing we had to walk back up every step we were doing down). Along
the way, we visited the ancient sites of Runkurakay and Sayacmarca before camping at Chaquicocha. With the mileage we were clocking up everyday, luckily we had no problems falling asleep at 8 o'clock every night - the tents and the torrential rain didn't knock a stir out of us!
By Day 3, the worst was over and we were treated to a relaxing day with ONLY 6 hours of hiking to do. Making our way through the rainforest was tough as despite the warmth, the ponchos were needed for the rain! In the afternoon, we visited the Inca sites of Phuyupatamarca, Intipata and Wiñay Wayna (where we met our first llamas of the trek)!
In the early hours of Day 4, 2.30am to be precise, we emerged from our tents into the torrential rain to start queuing at the checkpoint for Machu Picchu (which wasn't due to open until 5.30am). Yes we did question our sanity. But our early rise was worth it as our group managed to secure the first place in the queue. At 5.30am, we found ourselves running like lunatics through the rain forest to catch our first glimpse of Machu Picchu from the Sun
A birdseye view of Cusco
At 3200m we could probably tackle Everest at this stage we are so acclimatised to the altitude!
When we reached the Sun Gate, sweaty and breathless, Machu Picchu was covered in cloud! But we didn't mind as we were all high on adrenaline after our crazy run. We needn't have worried about the clouds because within a half hour they had lifted and we were blessed with picture perfect views of Machu Picchu for the rest of the day.
Given the hype that surrounds it, we have to admit we were afraid Machu Picchu might disappoint. But we needn't have worried! Whilst it was admittedly a little smaller than we had imagined, the long standing ruins and the ingenuity behind it leaves one breathless. The astronomical genius of the Incas is evidenced in the Sun Temple - a structure created to signal to the people when the seasons changed so they’d know when to plant, harvest, and store.
One of the most interesting facts about Machu Picchu is that the Spanish conquistadors never found it. Between 1537 - 1545, as the Spanish army and its allies started to gain ground over the Inca Empire, it is thought that the Incas abandoned Machu Picchu fleeing to safer retreats. The residents took their most valuable
Back to the camping......again!!!
Our unscheduled campsite in Piskacucho.....not the nicest of starts........the "toilets" left a lot to be desired!
belongings with them and destroyed the Inca trails connecting Machu Picchu with the rest of the empire. It was never found by the Spanish and was lost to the dense Amazon jungle for five centuries until it's re-discovery in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.
And so 4 days and 0 showers later, we returned to Cusco - tired and dirty but delighted with ourselves after our Inca Trail adventure. Luckily, we had pencilled a couple of recovery days into the itinerary which gave us an opportunity to further explore and enjoy the beautiful city of Cusco before departing for our next stop - the city of Arequipa.
Tot: 2.833s; Tpl: 0.052s; cc: 16; qc: 51; dbt: 0.0413s; 2; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb