The Trail.....

Trip Start Sep 04, 2012
1
43
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Trip End Aug 02, 2013


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Flag of Peru  , Cuzco Region,
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

......OK 2 more things left to do in South America. The first was to have a look at Cusco, another 'old towny' type place with churches and cobblestones galore. Very nice place, but very touristy. They have a chocolate museum which was actually a bit of a let down (mainly because we didn't get anything free!) but after learning about the lengthy process of going from cocoa tree to chocolate we felt extremely grateful that someone had gone to the bother of inventing it! We wanted to see some Inca Sites from here and, well basically got conned, rode a horse and 'nearly' got to see the site! (It was just a very big wall to be fair, called 'Sacsayhuaman'....or 'Sexy Woman' to the locals). As it turns out, we saw enough of the wall and paid a bit less, so it was a 'good con!'
All of this was the warm-up to arguably South America's main event for us.....the 'Inca Trail.' This thing is popular.....really popular......we only just got on it having booked it in mid-February. It was a 3-night, 4-day trek, culminating in us getting to Machu Picchu, the most famous Inca Site in the world (probably). We had a good team of 14.....a Dane, a Norwegian, a Zimbabwean, 2 other Brits, a handful of Americans and us two. We had 2 guides and 22 porters. Let me just explain a little about the porters. Basically.....MACHINES!! These are the guys that run.....not walk.....RUN up and down the mountains with up to 25kg on their back so that everything in camp runs smoothly for us. Their bags are bigger than them!! They carry our tents, sleeping bags, all the food for the 4 days, cooking equipment,....one guy even chucked a GAS CANISTER on his back then ran past us!! Unreal!! And to top it off......not only are you going up or down by as much as 1,200m per day...all this is done at ALTITUDE which makes it even more of a feat! Oh....one more thing.....the porter who carried the majority of our stuff........58 years old!! WOW!! Unbelievable athletes! And the food.......another WOW!! You'd think it'd be sh@te for 4 days being in the middle of nowhere but the chef did a top job!! 3 course meals were dished up on most occasions and on the last night he even whipped up a CAKE for us! How'd he do that??!! It was top notch!! (It is worth noting that the tents we slept in were 'Peruvian' tents and because Peruvians are generally quite small, so were the tents - so virtually everyone had to sleep diagonally in them!!). Not comfy!
So day 1 was very easy (flat). Day 2 was a bit gruelling as our elevation changed 1,200m up, and then 600m down to camp and then day 3 was a longer day, with random up and downs in it! Most of the time the scenery (either mountainous or 'jungley') was beautiful.
Day 4 is an ABSURD 3.30 get-up, a long wait in a queue, waiting for the final checkpoint to open, then a bit of a pace-walk for an hour to the 'Sungate' to get your first glimpse of Macchu Picchu. We got there at 6ish.......and not for the first time on this trip......COULD NOT SEE A THING......CLOUDS!! The guides made themselves comfortable which we took as a positive sign and about 15 minutes later, within the space of 30 seconds, the clouds miraculously lifted and revealed what we had all been waiting for. Everyone's seen the pics of this place and it is ABSOLUTELY STUNNING....even more so when we got a bit closer to it. Definitely one of the best sights we've seen! These Inca chaps were quite something to build what is technically (by their standards) a small city right in the middle of the mountains! The site was built by the Incas over 60 years and was home to the King and Nobles in approximately 1450. Incas from all over South America travelled to the site to worship the King and to volunteer in helping to build the city. In total there are approximately 40,000 km of trails through Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru which ultimately lead to Machu Picchu. Sites along the trails were mainly made up of houses and farming terraces and are thought to have been used as resting places for people who were travelling to and from the city. There are thought to be several more trails and sites that have not yet been discovered and, in fact, one trail was uncovered just 7 months ago! Machu Picchu was abandoned in the 16th century due to the fact that a new King wanted to relocate to Cusco. (I bet they were fuming! A lot of graft went into that!!). The site itself was discovered in 1911 by a chap called Hiram Bingham, an American historian who was actually looking for a different Inca site after studying their culture. As the Spanish conquerors never found the city, it remained relatively in tact but was completely covered by the jungle.
We were given a short tour which included what rooms/places were used for what purpose (based on the quality of the stonework), how they used the sun and constellations to determine seasons and farming patterns, how they kept jungle enemies at bay and how they actually cut the rocks to form such pristine buildings among plenty of other interesting things. A really impressive bunch of people!!
Shortly after our tour, we broke off from our group as we had already booked to climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain directly behind Machu Picchu (the one you see of the 'postcard' pic of Machu Picchu). As if we hadn't done enough bloody climbing already! Anyway, it was only half an hour or so up and provided even more superb views! An incredible day to be honest, marred only by the fact that the 'hot springs' at the end of the tour were a) BLEEDIN UPHILL and b) LUKE WARM AT BEST!!!
So that brought South America to an end for us. It certainly tested us for a 2-3 week spell in late May/early June but one of our main reasons for doing what we've done this year is to get 'wowed' by stuff, and this place does that in ABUNDANCE!! Massively fond memories of South America! We'll miss it, but it's time to go on 'holiday' to the States.......
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Comments

Sheila G on

I'm quite sad that your trip is nearly coming to an end Paul & Kala. I've really enjoyed reading all of your blogs and seeing your photos. Can you go around again please? ...lol. x

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