Aug 092008

Up or down Inca stairs that is. =) We just finished our 4 day trek
on the Inca Trail. We hiked up two very tall mountains, and at one
point our guide took us down what was pretty much a drainage channel.
We got very muddy falling down in that one. We actually arrived at
our destination, Machu Picchu, yesterday via the Sungate. We had to
wake up at 3:30a to get in line at 4:30 at the check point to wait
until 5:30, to practically run the last 2 hours of the trek to get to
MP. We arrived and had a 2 hour guided tour before we got to explore
on our own. We met in the small town of Aguas Calientes for lunch
with our guide who was supposed to give us our train tickets back to
Cusco. Unfortunately, we had a little administrative fiasco. Many
phone calls and a very late night waiting for someone who never showed
up at our hotel, we gave up and stopped worrying about it. Finally
today we got our train tickets at lunchtime and now we are just
killing time waiting for the train out. It doesn´t make sense to go
back up to MP for just an hour.

So back to the Inca Trail….

It was fantastic. This was a luxury hike for sure. We had 6 porters
and a guide for just the two of us. Each porter was allowed to carry
only 25 kg and they did. There is a limit of 500 people a day for the
Inca Trail, and about 300 of them are porters. Our porters cooked us
3 course meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also set up our
tents, brought us hot tea in the morning when waking us up so we could
drink in our sleeping bags, and they would clap for us every time they
saw us. It was nice not to have to set up tents when we were beat at
the end of the day, but all the catering is not really our style. =)
It was fun, though.

In 4 days we hiked about 45 km going pretty much straight up or
straight down. This is not a hike for the weak for sure! Phew. My
left knee was not happy with me for the past 2 days and going down
stairs was not as much fun. But I´m much better today after having
slept in a bed last night. Mark had no issues at all. On the second
day we climbed two mountains. We climbed the first mountain called
Dead Woman´s Pass (named for the shape of the mountain), then went
down into a valley and then up a second mountain. Boy was that a hard
day. We reached elevations as high as 4200 meters and we had no
altitude sickness. We could hardly breath up there, but other than
that we were fine. Our guide carried portable oxygen, but we never
needed to use it.

The third day was easier, but our guide decided that since we were
such strong hikers, he'd take us on a little detour. It sounded great
at first, because we were going to visit an Inca site that was not on
the regular trail, but little did we know that this detour would take
us up an extra mountain, and add 2 extra hours of hiking. Once we got
to the top of this second mountain, the only way down was by way of a
drainage path. At points I was waist deep inside a muddy channel that
was as wide as me. Plus, the going was almost straight down. One
more surprise was in store for us. We got to go down a shortcut which
basically meant sliding down on our butts. We were so muddy. =)
Also very tired of hiking down, but I think it was worth it in the

Each night was freezing cold. And 2 of the 3 nights it rained.
Luckily we didn't have to do too much hiking in the rain, but we were
glad for our rain suits. Also, I was glad I bought a dry bag for my
camera. We wore 4 layers plus hat and gloves at night. brrr.

Another thing to note is that Peru is full of people wanting to sell
you souvenirs, water, food, and anything else you need. We knew this
in Cusco of course. You can't walk down the street without people
trying to pull you in their restaurant or shop. However, they were
even on the Inca Trail! Peruvians will wake up early, and haul
drinks, chocolate, snacks, hats, gloves, etc up the mountain so that
when the tourists got there we could buy them. Actually, we did take
advantage of this. On the way up Dead Woman´s Pass, our GPS needed
batteries and we realized the extras were in the bag our porter was
carrying. So, we bought AA batteries on a mountain. =)

Today was our second day in Aguas Calientes and the Machu Picchu. We
wanted to hike up WaynaPicchu, but they only allow 400 people a day to
hike it. So, we woke up at 4am to get in line for the bus. The first
bus is at 5:30a. We were about number 30 in line for the bus at
4:30a, and tons of people filed in behind us in no time. While Mark
waited in the bus line, Joanna went over to the line for MP tickets
which opened at 5a. She made it back to the bus line just in time for
the first bus to arrive. There was a mad dash to get on the bus.
About 20-25 buses came and lined up to cart us all to Machu Picchu.
We got on the first bus, but on the mountain the second bus passed us!
Noooo. We arrived at MP and the bus driver told us all to hurry! We
thought that was funny, but then we say that there was already a huge
line at the gate for MP. Some people got up even earlier and hiked up
for probably 2 hours to sit in line. Plus the other buses were all
disembarking. MP opened at 6a and it was about 5:45. I went and
stored our luggage and then gates opened and there was a mad dash to
get through the gate. You´d think that at the gate they would give us
numbers to hike up WaynaPicchu, but no. Everyone now had to literally
run through the bulk of MP city to get to the gate to WP. It was
quite the mad dash. We all made it there by 6:10a, but the gate
didn't open til 7a. So, more waiting. And it rained. At 7a, we
finally got through the gate and Mark and I were numbers 37 and 38.
We got to be in the first group to hike. The whole process was
hilarious and we had a lot of fun. It rained the whole way and it was
too cloudy to see anything other than 10 feet in front of you, but it
was still fun. We hiked to the top and all sat in precarious
positions on jagged rocks while we took pictures of the clouds. On
the way down, Mark and I took the detour that would take us to an Inca
cave. Now this hike was difficult! I think it was worse than the
whole Inca Trail. Soooo many tiny and steep stairs. Luckily there
were a few railings. We climbed up and down a few ladders and
squeezed between rocks, but finally we arrived at the cave. The sun
finally came out and we took off some layers for the hike back. The
hike back was all uphill, well except for the section that went down
down, just to go up, and up. We arrived at the end exhausted. Oh,
and it was raining again.

We came back to Aguas Calientes at noon to hopefully get our train
tickets and to eat lunch. It was too cloudy and rainy and we were too
exhausted to see any more of MP.

Our vacation is now winding down. Today we go back to Cusco by train.
We'll stay a brief night there and then fly to Lima in the early
morning tomorrow. We've got a day and a half in Lima and then on
Monday night we are flying back to Houston. It's been such a great
vacation, and we really aren´t ready for it to end.

Thanks to everyone reading my travel blog. I didn´t bring my memory
card reader to Aguas Calientes, so no pictures this time. However, if
we need to kill some more time in Lima, I'll post again.

Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

Until next time, hasta luego.

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