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High-Altitude Peru

a travel blog by paco

This trip is my introduction to the continent of South America. My itinerary mainly keeps me in places above 10,000ft (3000m) altitude.
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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 - 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 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 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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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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