Classic mistake

Trip Start Sep 09, 2005
Trip End Feb 20, 2006

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I arrived in Cusco after my bus ride from Nazca and the first thing that hit me was the lack of Oxygen. My hostel was located up quite a steep street overlooking Plaza de Armas and after carrying my backpack up the hill, I was quite literally breathless and left blushing as the old lady's laughed and mocked me. It took me several minutes to get my breath back to organise my accomodation. It turns out that this happens to most people coming into altitude for the first day and I took great pleasure when new waves of people came to the hostle as worse off as I had.
Cuzco itself was pretty stunning and the location of the hostel had the perfect view of all the goings on below.

The first day that I was in Cuzco I climbed up the hill to some massive inca ruins named Sucsayhuaman (pronuced sexy women!). Cuzco was designed by the Incas to be in the shaped of a puma and these ruins looking over the town are the head of the puma. There are loads of Zig Zag stones, weighing tones that represent the teeth.

On the thrid day I decided to catch some rapids and go white water rafting. I took a day trip to go rafting on the Rio Urubamba about 1 hours drive from Cuzco. The rapids level 3 and 4 and were quite good at times but at others it was a little lame. The scenery however more than made up for this. There were huge cliffs on either side and the odd Inca site scattered about.

The night before my Inca Trail I made a grave and classic Jaguar mistake to go out for a few drinks at 10pm. It ended up being a massive night with myself and a canadian guy named Jordan, getting smashed on Pisco Sours, the local drink. When 7am came around to get up for the trek I was a complete mess and refused to get out of bed. I spent the whole day in bed suffering from my hangover and stupidity. I took slight relief in the fact Jordan would be suffering, which he confirmed when he returened 4 days later. He said it was the worst day of his life, throwing up all day on the trail. I had the option to meet my group at Machu Pichu for a guided tour, however I wanted to do the trek so I was forced to pay again, A fair trade for a second chance. I also belatedly celebrated my 26th birthday having meant to be at the end of the Inca Trail in Cusco.

The day finally came when I left for my Inca Trail adventure. We drove to Piscacho past where I had been rafting last week to Km 82 the start of the trail. Here we meet our trek group and also our Guide Carlito. I had a German couple, A Canadian Couple and a crazy Norweigen in my group. After a quick brunch we checked in and then crossed the Urubamaba River to the start of the trail. The trail climbed pretty gentally along the river before we hit our first Inca site Llacapata. We then turned right angles south and climbed into a deep valley for 6km to Huayllabamba. From there we climbed into some woodlands to Llulluchupampa, where the porters has set up camp. The first day was a fairly short and not to strenuous hike. However we were warned that tommorrow was the hardest day so we took dinner and headed to bed.

Up at 6am the next day we started with a big breakfast for the hard day ahead. One of our group was feeling ill from altitude sickness. It was immediatly clear that this was going to be a massive effort. The trail we were to take lead straight up to Warmiwanusca or Dead Womens Pass. It was a very, very hard day. After less than an hour I had blisters on my feet, a few quick repairs however and I was off again hiking with the guy from Norway. The last 500m in altitude I absoultley hit rock bottom. I was taking ten steps at a time willing myslef on. I swear I was almost crying, talking to myslef and finding the big man in the sky all at the same time. Eventually however I reached the 4198m peak to cheers from the other trekkers taking a break at the Pass (Everyone gets a cheer, as all know what a struggle the climb has been). After appreciating the view for half an hour a fierce wind and cloud cover came gusting in so I made my way to the next part of the day hike, a 600m decent down some heavy stone stairs. I kept asking myself what the point was in struggling to the peak only to climb halfway back down again. Anyway after a final push I made it to camp exhusted. Here I had the coldest shower of my life, Water straight from the mountains. Myself and the Norweigen made it to camp 3 hours before the rest of the group, so prehaps we had pushed ourself a bit. We were also the only two to carry our own packs on the trail.

Next day again at 6am and after breakfast we hiked up very steep trails past a couple of Inca sites to Runturacay a basket shaped ruin. From here we continued to climb even higher past two small lakes to the top of the second pass at 3998m. After this pass we charged down to another ruin called Sayacmara or Dominant Town, which was situated on the crested point of the mountain. From here the trail turned into a less traumatic hike through some cloud forset. I enjoyed this part of the hike the most and with our final campsite coming soon the excitement was building. We had one final Inca Ruin to visit named Phuyupatamarca (town above the clouds)before we decended steeply into more cloud forest to our campsite. At the end of the days trail we were meet with a beer stall, so of course were participated in a celebratory drink. Later that night there was a party at the campsite and we all got to thank our Guide and Porters at one last main meal.

I woke up on the final day of the hike a little hangover after only getting 4 hours sleep for the final push to Machu Pichu. On this trail I rolled my ankle slightly and almost wenty flying off a 500m cliff. Eventually we reached Intipunku (Sun Gate) to many handshakes amongst the group. Here we could see Machu Pichu laid out before us for the first time. Another quick decent and we were fianlly amongst the great ruins. From here we checked in our bags and had our passports stamped with a Machu Pichu Stamp before Carlitos gave us a two hour guided tour of the Site. I canīt really explain how huge or awesome this place was to be in. After Carlitosīs tour we were free to explore on our own. The norweigen and I despite being knackered decided to climb Huayna Pichu (Young Peak) which takes an hour to scramble up near vertical path to an spectacular view of the ruins and surrounding area. It felt like we were truly on top of the world especially when the clouds rolled in below us.

At 3pm the tour buses were rolling in thick and fast and it was time to leave. We decided to hike the 8km to Anguas Calientes the closest town where we meet Carlitos for the final time. From here we caught the train back to Cusco before the group all seperated ways. I went straight to bed as I was wrecked. The Inca Trail proved to be worth paying twice for in the end!!!!
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