A solo hike to Machu Picchu

Trip Start Dec 26, 2009
Trip End Dec 22, 2010

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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ever since marveling upon my cousins photos of Machu Picchu six years ago, I have been somewhat intrigued with everything that this special place represents. A lost city now found, proof of old civilisations that once existed. New Zealand is such a young country, the whole concept of discovering old civilisations is so enchanting, something real that is close to a magical myth to me. Finally to be in Cuzco, Peru; with plans of reaching the sight, its almost like closure. This was something I needed to do, to relieve my inquisitive curiosity.

The decision was made a few months ago; to march upon Machu Picchu by myself, without the assistance of guides, porters and mules. I did try to find a companion, but not to many people are interested in walking four to five days at high altitude, between vast mountains, carrying everything on their back in search of a "lost city"

I was subjected to trekking on a trail named Salkantay, on route to Machu Picchu. I don't travel in this way to save money (although allot is saved), but because I enjoy the freedom of discovery, without guides pointing it out to me. I want to make it clear that I'm not judging those that use guides. If I had the chance to do the original Inca trail, I would take it in a hart beat. Its just that I don't have the luxury or foresight to book four months in advance, for a four day event and unlike most 2-4 week travelers, I have the pleasure of acclimatisation. Also an over priced train ride would take away the magical lost city feeling thats contained in my mind, this wouldnt be close to for filling.

Cramped into a hot stuffy combie van with locals, I entered the small village of Mollaypampa. It was the day of the village anniversary celebrations, the central square packed with Peruvians drinking together in the embracing warmth of the sun. "Queires tomar celvasa con nosotros, tu es muy linda. Te gusta me hermana? ella pansa tu es muy rrrrrico" A guy was trying to hook me up with his sister, as apparently she thought I was very tasty. After a few photos, including ones with babies(god knows who's) I was finally released. Although he was very funny and his sister attractive It was 4pm, I had 1 1/2 hours of light left, without a torch and a "Lost city" to hike to. I bide them farewell and was off on my journey.

I was lucky enough to hitch a ride to the next village, however what I thought was luck, was completely the latter. After staring at the map and the landscape for 10 minutes, nothing was corresponding. No matter how long I stared at the landscape, it wouldn't transpose in conjunction with the map, strange....

The sun was in a hurry to set and with deminishing light, lost and without a flat area to sleep, I was slightly concerned. I noticed a crooked, rotten wooden fence, somehow still attached to its hinges by old flip flop soles. Approaching the fence, I identified a portion of flat land inclusive of a tiny farm house and its owner.

I soon found myself constructing my tent with their three year old son Jose, who's enthusiastic inquisitive nature made an empowering impression on me. Once the tent was complete. I raised my hand to give him a high five. But without electricity, let alone TV; he looked at me with a tilt of his head, along with a cringed left eye. He was about to learn a high five Borat would be proud of. And learn he did, leaping into the air with the widest grin and one big "CLAP" classic, no?

Finally I visualised the fourth animal of the camel family living here in South America, an alpaca. The only difference from llama, its shorter, hairier and fatter, kind of like Danny Devito to Arnold Schwarzenegger. The family was so warm and inviting, giving me coffee and my first taste of alpaca meat. That night was very special to me, an event stored in the memory banks for some time to come.

The sun slowly rose over the thick mist of the horizon, enlighting the landscape and my mind alike. I had figured out that I was dropped off in the complete wrong valley. With a high five to Jose, I was once again off on my journey to the "lost city". No money exchanged hands that night, just an appreciation for each others company.

The once reliant sun submitted to its oppressive offsider, that is the dark ominous clouds approaching from the west. Roaring cracks of thunder vibrated through the steep pristine valleys, followed by rocketing chunks of hail, sympathy not being one its its strong points.Standing there at the bottom of two monstrous, snow caped, glacier protruding mountains of Humantay and Salkantay, the dreaded Salkantay pass awaiting me; I was forced to camp in said location for the rest of the day and night.

Tourist approached one after another, maybe fourty of them with their water bottles and cameras in hand and little of anything else. Their guides encouraging them, mules carrying their food. After two days of solitude, it was slightly depressing submitting to the fact that my "new" adventure was anything but. My moral beaten down further with wafts of their dinner entering my sensitive nostrils, as I cooked the same tedious meal I always cook (pasta with tomatoe paste for flavor). I feel asleep thinking about the pain scale I had to endure humping my heavy pack over the pass the following day, fun hu?

Heavy footed mules carrying up to 80kg in weight clumped passed my side snorting at me, as if to say "what 25kg, is that it?"  I look up in desperation for inspiration, the blinding white snow covered mountain of Salkantay to my right and Humantay to my left. Nope not working, I was slowly dieing; the pass much more difficult than I first thought. More mules pass by, their arrieros (controllers) asking me in a high pitched tone, if I'm carrying everything including food in my pack; as if to say why not just take a mule, we do.. are you crazy? But as I made the hight of the pass, surrounded in exquesite scenery, the pain was behind me and it seemed all worth while. It wasn't that bad, really...

The ever changing landscape to my front propelled me forward. From the pierceing, bitter cold beauty of the mountains, to aggressive black rock faces, stagering into lush green pastures, inclusive of mules drinking from the maturing river, finally finishing in the dark green, humid, tropical rain forest; with chickens and children running around old adobe houses inclusive of tin roofs, held on by loose rocks.

It was refreshing observing the scenery develop as I descended, but it was even more refreshing to see that I wasn't the only crazy person doing it on my own. For I had met a cool couple Jasna, from Croatia and Mario from Italy. Their great sense of humor and spontaneous flair made the rest of the hike allot more enjoyable.

Mario Buying a dodgy whole chicken from a local in the middle of know where, locating cooking tools from whos knows where, starting a fire and somehow managing to make my peace taste like it had been cooked in a five star Italian restaurant. Later that night pointing out the stars that make up Scorpio, in which I will always be thankful for, the next day almost drowning in rapids whilst washing in the river and Jasnas quirky ability to attract snakes, this time stepping right over one, giving her a massive fright and sending us into a paraniod state. After the snake incident, a leaf may have fallen on my shoulder and I may have jumped like a little girl.

Florescent green parrots weave between the trees, peering up through the thick green canopy, I see a brake emerging. The gap reveals a misty hill in the distance, sitting on top of that hill, Machu Picchu. The smile on our faces enough evidence of our appreciation for what we were witnessing. An angle of Machu Picchu you don't see in the touristic photos. Its calling us, I can almost hear the beat of the drums. We choose a difficult route less traveled by others and this  surprising observation from afar, made the whole thing worth while.

Approaching the base of the hill Machu Picchu was built upon, was an energising experience in itself. Advancing along the railway, we gazed upon extravagant green mountains protruding from the ground, as if something out of a sacred dinosaur fairy tail, their embankments covered in radient vegetation and colourful escarpments and a flowing green river at its base, inclusive of sleak collosal white rocks. The landscape of Rio De Janeiro has nothing on this place. I can see why the Incas choose this surreal spot for such an architectural masterpiece.

"What ever you do, don't visit Machu Picchu, its completely over rated, touristy and not worth the effort" this bold statement from a Swedish guy I met a few months ago in Bolivia.

I ran to the edge of a small grazed peninsular, finally seing Machu Picchu close up. An exciting energy coursed through my core, absorbed from the sight that I was beholding. It was much bigger and more impressive than I had imagined, so much more beautiful. We were the first three to enter the sight. That ten minutes in Machu Pichu without noise, herd's of tourist and whistles blowing, was such a enriching experience no price tag could be placed on.

The reason Machu Pichu is in pristine condition, is because the Spanish never found it, because of this, not much things are known about it. People believe it may have been used for the Incan civilisation best schoolers or for ceremonial purposes. However in reality, know body really knows.

The swiss guy may have been right about the touristic feel that Machu Picchu possessed. It was completely over run for the rest of the day (2500 people per day) But seriously, who goes around telling people not to visit it, the nerve of that guy.

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