Of Inca´s and the Andes

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April 20th 2008
Published: April 20th 2008
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Inca RuinsInca RuinsInca Ruins

Day 1 of the Inca Trail, this was the first Inca ruin on the trail.
I shall try and tell you all of the wonders of the Peruvian landscapes and our trek through the mountains to get to the sacred city of Macchu Picchu, but i will not be able to do it justice. In any event, here goes;

After arriving in Cusco and realising that my lungs were complaining of having 10% less oxygen getting to them than normal, we had our city tour (which was described by Em in the last blog) and passed out, waking up just in time for the tour of the sacred valley of the Inca´s tour the next day (i would not recommend 2 day travel and airport sleeping to anyone). We began by leaving Cusco and going down rather steep mountain roads to the small town of Pisac, were we were duly obliged to walk through the small markets and sample what the locals had on offer. After a few purchases later, we boarded the tour bus and (after lunch) finally got to the point of the trip, Ollaytaytambo. Hidden in the valley, the city or what remains of it, used to be a large bustling centre of Inca life prior to the Spanish invasion. Its well

Day 2, walking up a Mountain.... at altitude ! You can just about make out part of the trail in the distance
preserved and offers some interesting sights such as the face carved out of the mountain which overlooks the city, and the sun temple which catches a ray of light from the summer solstice giving the city its" eye", and the city itself being the body of a camel. Intesting stuff, but i was getting thirsty and cranky and so after ascending to the town of Chinchero (3900 mts ) for more sightseeing, I was happy to be back in Cusco.

One more day to go until our 49km trek so we went on a little light water rafting down class II and class III rapids on the Urubamba river. The rapids where decidedly more difficult than in Costa Rica and the water alot colder but in the end it seemed much more gratifying as it was more challeging. Although, I doubt I will try class IV or V rapids anytime soon as I got to have a look at some of them further down the river.

The first day of our trek came all too soon as the sound of our alarm woke us up at 5:30am in our hotel in Cusco. After breakfast, and our pickup an
Highest PointHighest PointHighest Point

The highest point on day two - it only took six hours of walking up hill to get there !
hour or so later, our guide introduced himself and we began our bus ride back to Ollaytaytambo for supplies, then a further 25mins past Ollaytaytambo to the start point for the Inca trail and the checkpoint. Now, I have to comment that at this point in the trek, Em and I were not so concerned that our packs were decidedly heavier and larger looking than anyone else in our groups. But it was to prove a mistake that we either packed too much or didn't give our bags to a porter to carry for us, as I believe the trek was that much harder if not less enjoyable for us. In any event, we got off the bus, got through the checkpoint, went over the bridge and waited for our guide, Reuban, to lead us into the sunset (excuse the dramatic license). 10 mins later and I thought I was about to heave a lung up. Im fairly certain I had not done that much work in years and now I had another 3 and a half days of it! Looking around at Emma didn't exactly inspire anymore confidence in me either, but fair play to the girl, she was
The DescentThe DescentThe Descent

The start of the 1 hour journey downhill
carrying her whole pack, which not many girls where doing on the trek. I did however see a fair amount of guys carrying their packs which made my ego carry my pack for me. Damn you people who caught the train, damn you. Enough whining then, day 1 was about 10-12kms up a gentle gradient with panoramic views of the mountains and glaciers. After passing some Inca ruins and many donkeys on the trail (including one pair which decided to bump ugly's just as we were walking past) we reached our camp at about 4 in the afternoon and collasped into a sweaty heap in out tent. But beer was available and I soon perked up and we both got to know our group a bity better while our guide, Reuban, told dirty jokes. We were then briefed on day 2, which is known as the hardest day, probably becuase it is ascending about 800 mts up to 4215 mts above sea level and all uphill, and then all downhill to our camp. With this information, we proceeded to go to sleep and have nightmares.

Day 2 started without any warning and after a quick breakfast, we started our ascent up to the next checkpoint. We were also shown the target for the day, Dead Womans Pass at 4215 mts, far off in the distance. Today we were going at the groups own pace and Emma and I were soon way off it. I mean by 7:30 in the morning I was dripping with sweat and cursing my luck. However, at that point you cant really complain much but just get on with it and we started our run up a steep gradient of steps next to the most beautiful stream running downhill in the other direction. After having to stop for breath every ten steps or so, we made it to the break point above the canopy of the forested stream. After "brunch", we continued the notorious climb up to the pass. The most annoying this is we could actually see the pass the whole way, but for most of the climb it didn't seem to get any closer until the very end. But getting to the top was a most rewarding (and cold) experience. I likened our ascent to that of Sir Edmond Hillary and Sherpa Tensing, then woke up and realised the lack of oxygen must
Another RuinAnother RuinAnother Ruin

At the start of day three we had another 45 min vertical (well not quite) climb up to this 1st ruin of the day
be getting to me. But there is something quite weird about being that high up in the clouds. We descended the mountain just after 12 noon and it took us a further hour and a half, all downhill to reach our campsite just below another Inca viewpoint building shaped in a half round moon.

It was past this half round Inca building 500 mts above our campsite, that we would have to climb on the start of day 3, up through the mountains and past still water lakes to the second highest point of the trail, which we were grateful to have finally reached. The rest of the morning took us down to Sayacmarca, a small Inca city reserved for the most effluent Inca's of the day, where after a short brief on Inca history from Reuban, we continued onto a break point for lunch, through quite spectacular cloud forest. After lunch, we continued this route along the mountains edges, my vertigo setting in quite well now, and through more Inca ruins and rain, until we reached the start of a 2hr downhill climb, down slippery stone Inca steps. I think our part of the trek took a little longer than everybody else's probably becuase Emma was focusing on trying out the macro function on her camera rather than worrying about getting to our campsite, which was good because we got some great pics. We finally, arrived at Winaywayna (an Inca experimental terrace remain) and past it to our campsite about 5 in the afternoon, where we found our tent had been pitched next to a shit. Not some nasty person, but a nasty persons poo. Not impressive after walking 16km with 10kgs on your back to find that.

The last day starts early, at about 4am. A short breakfast later, the final 6km starts in the darkness after the final checkpoint and an undulating trail takes us up to a final steep climb up Inca stairs to the Sun Gate, from which we could finally see the fabled Macchu Picchu in all its glory. Pictures and satisfied chatter later, we start our descent down from the Sun Gate to Macchu Picchu and passing people from the train going up, but on this occasion my hard feelings had dissipated as a small amount of pride for out trek came over me.

Macchu Picchu itself was amazing, but unfortunately quite cloudy, so the pictures could have been better. However, Reuban, did the honours of walking us around the city telling us about all the nooks and crannies and history. We didn't end up staying in Macchu Picchu very long, as we were all thirsty and hungry and so headed down to Agus Calientes for beer and food and to recount tales of the trip. Our trek ended later that afternoon by boarding the Peru Rail train bound to arrive in Cusco 4 hrs later that evening and provided good time for reflection and muscle relaxation, although a bath and bed were much more welcome.

After getting our flight information wrong, we realised we had an extra day in Cusco, which we spent valuably on getting washing done, sleeping and having a few drinks at Mama Africa's later that evening with a couple of very cool American girls who we hiked up the trail with. Our flight from Cusco left the next morning at 8 and we arrived back at Lima airport just after 9, jumped in the first taxi we found and headed for downtown Lima. Lima is a bit of an eye opener. The first thing
Cave StepsCave StepsCave Steps

This was a set of steps carved out of the cliff face, It was so step I (Em) had to go down on my bum
that struck me is how dusty, polluted and dirty everything is. But true to Peruvian form, the people are still very friendly and we have felt welcome in the hostel we are staying at just next to the Franciscan monastery. That afternoon, we decided to check out the monastery and were pleasantly suprised by how creepy and historical it seemed. Not wanting to wait for an English guide, we walked it on our own and I would advise anyone who is in Lima to check out its catacombs and its old library full of tomes and relics (including the old bugger in the corner acting as security). Since that we have done the normal touristy things such as the tour bus around colonial Lima and taken a day trip down to Miraflores, which seems very much like the place to go if your in Lima. Big hotels, surfing and paragliding and a mall built into the cliffside with good views of the whole coastline.

At present we have 1 full day left in Lima, which we will probably spend doing boring stuff like washing and posting stuff home, before flying onto Chile and Oz. But the Cusco - Lima experience is one which if you can do it, you should do it.

Additional photos below
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6th March 2012
Yeah... we made it !

dude, it's pretty cool in there... wish i was there...

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