Machu Pichu

Trip Start Sep 30, 2013
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Trip End May 31, 2014


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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Friday, January 17, 2014

Saturday 18th January, 7am

On Friday, the last day of the trek, we were up at 3am and didn't get to bed back in Cusco till after midnight. It's now 7am and I am awake, my mind racing with all the events of the past few days..........

  • The trek
  • The challenge of climbing up or down over 11,000 steps
  • The Inca sites and especially Machu Picchu
  • The group (4 Canadians, 4 Irish, 3 Ozies. 2 Italians and one from each of India, USA and England)
  • and most especially our guide, Elias who was excellent.
  •  
    This was a 4 day trek with 3 nights camping within a National Park in Peru.
    Such is its popularity that numbers are limited to at most 500 per day and you have to go with an organized group and pass through various checkpoint showing your ticket and passport. There are sensible rules about fires and garbage and porters may carry at most 25Kg.

    In our case there were 18 other groups on the trek and it was nice to see familiar faces and exchange comments on the way.

    It is a 'one way trek' since we return by train from the town of Aguas Calientes near to Machu Picchu. It is as much about the journey as the destination. 
     
    Machu Picchu was abandoned by the Inca in about 1540 and never found by the Spanish conquistadors. It was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911.  

     
     
     
    Day 1
     
    An easy day's walking through pretty good scenery. We climbed 500m during 5 hours and stopped at a campsite where we could get beer. 
     
     
     
    In the evening Elias introduced us to the porters. We have 23 porters plus 2 chefs for our group of 16 passengers and 2 guides.  Each was introduced and told us their name and a little bit about themselves. They were a humble bunch, not used to talking in in front of strangers but, with Elias translating, a rapport was established. Then each of the passengers introduced themselves. Most moving was Sharon, a girl in her late 20s from Toronto, who said she had recently lost her father and brother in a car accident and her cousin to cancer. She was going to Machu Picchu to be closer to them. There was not a dry eye in the tent.

    Day 2 - generally described as 'the difficult day'

    We were back on the track at 6am to climb 1200 meters to Dead Woman's Pass. It was like walking up Barbican Hill for 5 hours with a dozen 79 steps thrown in... but the oxygen shortage at that altitude was the extra factor. Many struggled, some cursed and a few wept but everyone made it in their own time. Marian and I managed better than many due to our experience on the South West coastal paths. 
     
     


     
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    At the summit we had a snack and then walked down steep Inca steps loosing 600m in altitude for a further 3 hours to the campsite where we had lunch, followed by a rest, and then supper. I guess we would have done a further couple of hours, except that the next section was another steep uphill section.

     
     

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    In the evening it started to rain. It rained all night. As we awoke at 6 am we were all wet somewhere or other. Many had headaches and other ailments due to the altitude and a poor night's sleep, but there is no choice but to get dressed, have breakfast and get back on the path to warm up. Elias gave us a excellent briefing to raise the spirits.  


     

     
    Day 3 - the longest day
     
    It rained all the way up to the next summit (350 meters up) and all the way to our lunch stop (400 meters down) but then it eased off.  I could feel the water squelching between my toes in my 'water proof boots'. In fact we were VERY lucky with the weather. Other people I have met have walked the 4 day trek in constant unremitting rain and poor visibility. For us this was the only significant rain  

    After lunch I experienced the most glorious few hours walking ever. The Inca steps wound their way through rain forest with lush vegetation and magnificent views on both sides. The group were fairly spread out by this time so each was able to contemplate and appreciate how lucky we were to have this opportunity. 

     
     
     
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    In the evening, having lost 1,000 meters in height since lunch, we had to say goodbye to the porters. In the morning we were to leave for Machu Picchu and they were to take all the stuff back on a different path. Each of us shook the hand of each of them. One of the group, Nikolai from San Francisco, gave a really good little speech thanking them for making this trek possible for us.

     
    Day 4
     
    We woke at 3am, breakfast at 3:15, back on the path at 3:30 (in the dark) but only for 5 minutes. Here we stopped at a checkpoint which didn't open till 5:30. The reason we had to start so early was that the porters had to pack up all our stuff to get a particular early train back to Ollantaytambo. They have to take an early train because the later trains all full of tourists. 

     
     
     
    We waited at the checkpoint for 2 hours while the dawn came anticipating the day ahead. 

    Then we had a one and a half hour walk ending in a steep ascent to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. Here is where the lost city of Machhu Pichu itself comes into view and you can first appreciate it's scale and magnificence. On midsummer's day the sun shines through the Sun Gate onto a particular stone in the Temple of the Sun far below within the center of Machu Picchu.

     
     
     
    Elias showed us round some of Machu Picchu and then we had a couple of hours to explore for ourselves. Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machu_Picchu for more details.

    We left on a bus down a step hairpin bendy road for 5 minutes till we came to a point where the road was blocked by a serious landslide - this happened a couple of weks ago. After a swift and efficient change of bus we continued for half an hour to Aguas Calientes. There, for the first time in 4 days,  we had a `normal` meal and used real toilets - it was bliss.

    Aguas Calientes lies on the raging torent of the river Urubamba. Later we took a very comfortable  2 hour train ride back to Ollantaytambo which follows the river all the way. I spent the whole time gazing through the window and thinking how that river had cut this hugely deep valley over the last sevreral thousand years.  

     

     
     


    So, to conclude this acount of a truly memorable adventure:
    Thanks to
    • The mountain
    • G Adventures
    • Elias
    • The porters
    • The group, each and everyone, who pay the dollars to make it all happen 

       
     
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    Comments

    Viv Sullivan on

    A truly fab account wonderfully written, such a pleasure to share your journey, thank you for taking the time to create this Simon x

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