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High-Altitude Peru

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High-Altitude Epilogue

Lima, Peru

Nursing bug bites, sore knees and calves, we opt to take it easy in Cusco over the next couple of days. I do some exploring around town for a few more photo opportunities, but mainly we spend time being lazy and figuring out the next stage in our respective tours.

The final night in Cusco we head to the km0 bar in San Blas and throw a few back while enjoying a band playing cover tunes into the wee hours of the night.

The next day I part with my friends who head out to Iquitos, presumably for some adventuring in the Amazon basin. I head to Lima in preparation for my flight home.

Killing time, I catch a cab to the Plaza de Armas and do the tour at the San Francisco monastery. In addition to some remarkable architecture and art the tour includes the catacombs below, which include the remains of over 35000 people.

Back to the airport, my tour comes to an end. This time there are no mishaps on the way home, just a very long day.


permalink written by  paco on October 31, 2009 from Lima, Peru
from the travel blog: High-Altitude Peru
tagged Peru, Cusco and Lima

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Inca Trail - Day Four

Aguas Calientes, Peru

Machu Picchu revealed!

We wake up at an early 3:30 in the morning basically to save our place in line. A quick breakfast and packing with our headlamps then we head down the trail about a kilometer before we reach the checkpoint. By the time the gate opens there are several hundred people waiting to get in, and fortunately we are among the first.

A bit of a climb and we reach the Sun Gate, where we can theoretically get a bird´s-eye view of Machu Picchu, although the fog is just a bit too thick to see anything. We take a break and get ready for the last few kilometers going downhill before entering the park.

When we reach the site the mists start to part just enough to take the postcard photo. Our guide then gives us a one hour tour of the major sites before cutting us loose to explore on our own.

There is way too much to explore here, and after a while my travel companions opt to find a nice shady spot to relax and we check out the sites around us from a relaxed position.

I´d like to covey just how awesome this site is, but I´m just not the poet I´d like to be. The ancient structures, the surrounding mountains, the history, the majesty can only be truly be conveyed by going there. Go visit Machu Picchu!

Later on our tour ends as our groups meets in Aguas Calientes for lunch and then we hop on the train, then by bus where we recap the events over road beers.

In all I had a fantastic time on the Inca Trail. I really want to thank the people who made this trip memorable-

The Fellow Campers - Jason, Helen, Richard, Sally, Eric, Liz, Emily, Sinead, Trisha, Yvonne, Paul, and Claire

The staff and porters at Llama path- their hard work made a huge difference

Our guides, Santiago and Edwin made the biggest difference. Their patience, passion, and good humor made the difference between a good trek and a great trek. Thanks, guys!

permalink written by  paco on October 28, 2009 from Aguas Calientes, Peru
from the travel blog: High-Altitude Peru
tagged Peru, IncaTrail and MachuPicchu

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Inca Trail - Day Three

Aguas Calientes, Peru

A lot of down!

The final pass is a mere 80m higher than the morning´s camp site, and then it´s down another 1000m for the rest of the day. A lot of sore knees creek down the steep staircase and I´m very glad I was talked into renting walking sticks, as the steps are also fairly slippery.

We make it to the final campsite at Wiñay Huaya early in the afteroon, where folks have a chance to shower and sleep off the rest of the afternoon (and drink beer!). Later our guide takes us to the nearby ruins at Wiñaywayna which is about 1/10th the size of Machu Piccu without the crowds.

Later that night we have the chance to thank our porters one at a time for all their hard work as our paths diverge the following morning.

permalink written by  paco on October 27, 2009 from Aguas Calientes, Peru
from the travel blog: High-Altitude Peru
tagged Peru and IncaTrail

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Inca Trail - Day Two

Aguas Calientes, Peru


We are awakened by our guide who gives us tea to enjoy in our tents, but we then have to quickly pack up before breakfast and we hear what´s ahead of us for the day. Not one, but two passes, both above 4000m elevation!

The sun is shining this morning and we head to Abra Warmiwañuska, better known to gringos as ¨Dead Woman´s Pass¨. I´m reminded of Tolkien´s description of the path from Minas Morgal to Mordor, where all you can see are stairs carved in the side of a steep mountain that disappear into the mist.

A very long morning later everyone is still in good spirits as we reach the high point at this pass. At 4200m (13800ft) we take time to catch our breath and head down to the campsite below at 3600m for lunch and a brief siesta.

Our siesta is cut short as the heavens open up once again and we get ready for the second pass. Part way up we check out the ruins at Runkuraqay and continue up the endless staircase until we finally hit the other pass at a mere 4000m (13100ft) elevation followed by a steep down-climb.

Just before approachig our camp site we check out the ruins at Sayaqmarka. Just before we´re ready to leave we hear the warning ¨There´s a bear coming your way!¨ I couldn´t understand what the joke was, but looking over at the 24-inch wide staircase that leads to the ruin was a 5-ft 300lb bear!

This being the only way out of the ruin you´d think the logical thing to do was hide, but curiosity took over and the foolhearty crew (myself included) ran towards the staircase to get a decent picture of the bear. Unfortunately my pictures did not turn out, but more importantly the bear decided not to engage us and shot up a tree and over the hill beside the ruin.

Back at camp everyone was relieved the toughest day was over and enjoyed another great dinner and compared bear photos. In the end we completed another 16km on the trail. The rest would all be downhill. Later, most of the campers agreed this was the best day on the trail despite the strenuous hike.

permalink written by  paco on October 26, 2009 from Aguas Calientes, Peru
from the travel blog: High-Altitude Peru
tagged Peru and IncaTrail

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Inca Trail - Day One

Aguas Calientes, Peru

We start the day waking up at 4:00am to meet up with the crew at Llama Path who put us on a bus and hit the road for a two-hour drive to Piscacucho where we have breakfast and start off on the trail.

We check out some of the ruins across the river and some more again when cresting the first big hill before settling down for lunch.

We find a big tent already set up by the porters in which there are tables and place settings, from which we receive a five-course lunch that was pretty tasty after the long morning. I can´t say as I´ve ever had a complicated meal like that while camping!

The skies open up and we have to pull out our panchos to keep our packs dry as we continue on the trail. By day´s end we have finished 14km and climbed 600m (2000 ft).

Another five-course dinner is greatly appreciated and we do our best not to think about the day-to-come, where things get hairier.

permalink written by  paco on October 25, 2009 from Aguas Calientes, Peru
from the travel blog: High-Altitude Peru
tagged Peru and IncaTrail

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Inca Trail Prep

Cusco, Peru

More exploring of Cusco by going down to the market where all sorts of local food and crafts visited by locals and tourist alike.

We take care of the rest of the arrangements to start the Inca Trail on Sunday. After renting sleeping bags and walking sticks we head to the first briefing for our trek, where we meet our guides and the rest of the campers with whom we´ll be spending the next four days.

permalink written by  paco on October 24, 2009 from Cusco, Peru
from the travel blog: High-Altitude Peru
tagged Peru, Cusco and IncaTrail

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Exploring Cusco

Cusco, Peru

The guys running the hostel are jerks so we opt to find a better place in the neighborhood. San Blas has a great view of the city, with narrow cobblestone streets and steep roads that in some cases only hold enough room for pedestrians.

We take care of our plans for the Inca Trail and start to enjoy the city. Plaza de Armas is the main square with two huge cathedrals and a giant plaza where all sorts of activity happens.

Everyone tries to catch up on email and we finally get some do-nothing time.

permalink written by  paco on October 23, 2009 from Cusco, Peru
from the travel blog: High-Altitude Peru
tagged Peru and Cusco

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Border Crossing II

Yunguyo, Peru

On the way back to Peru, we now have our second illegal border crossing to contend with. Helen (English) crosses in the usual way while Jason and me (American) kind of casually tiptoe our way back to Peru, since our passports say we should already be there anyway. A policeman sees us but doesn´t seem to care enough to stop us.

We take the bus back to Puno, have lunch, and then it´s a much longer haul (8 hours) to Cusco. We get the first place we can find near the neighborhood of San Blas.

permalink written by  paco on October 22, 2009 from Yunguyo, Peru
from the travel blog: High-Altitude Peru
tagged Bolivia, Peru, Cusco and Copacabana

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Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Isla del Sol is a three hour boat ride from Copacabana. On there are ancient Inca ruins and some spectacular views. A seven kilometer hike takes us from the north end to the south end. I´m slowly aclimating to the high altitude here, 13000 ft (3800 m). The Inca Trail is just a few days away so it´s nice to have some practice. The only sour note to this trip is the three checkpoints on the island where we had to pay a couple of dollars to continue. The amount wasn´t that big a deal but the principle of the thing ticked us off!

On the boat ride back we saw a floating island, which was suppose to be made of reeds but we could tell it was made of a wooden base. The reed boats on there were pretty interesting, though.

Later that night we enjoy a fantastic trucha (trout) dinner and watch the sun set over the lake.

permalink written by  paco on October 21, 2009 from Isla del Sol, Bolivia
from the travel blog: High-Altitude Peru
tagged Bolivia, Copacabana, LakeTiticaca and IslaDelSol

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Border Crossing

Copacabana, Bolivia

It´s time to leave Puno, and Peru. We hop on a bus to Copacabana, just on the other side of the Peru-Bolivia border. Once we get there we learn there is a change in policy to Americans entering Bolivia. The border guards politely ask for a $135 visa application fee and I politely decline. Note that other nationalities do not require this.

So what to do....we work something out with the border guards where we officially re-enter Peru and then cross into Bolivia with an ¨entrance fee¨ of $20 per head. Now ¨bribe¨ is an ugly word, but we did not get a receipt for this, nor did they stamp our passports.

We finally make it to Copacabana which is a remarkably lovely town on the south end of Lake Titicaca.

permalink written by  paco on October 20, 2009 from Copacabana, Bolivia
from the travel blog: High-Altitude Peru
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