Magnificent Cuzco

Trip Start Feb 23, 2008
Trip End Apr 28, 2008

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Where I stayed
Hotel Muñay Tika
Inkarri Hotel

Flag of Peru  ,
Saturday, March 29, 2008

We left Puno on a local coach service. The 6 hours trip through the Alto Plano was very scenic. In many ways I was glad we did not simply fly to Cuzco. We arrive in the early afternoon and had a brief walking tour of the central part of Cuzco. The city is very beautiful. It is approximately 3200m above sea level but walking up the hills are still a challange. We had our briefing on the Inca Trail by our guide and prepared our duffle bag for the hike. We had a 6 kg limit and that is including the sleeping bag.

Next morning we went to the Sacred Valley. We stopped by an Alpaca factory and like a good tourist I had to buy an Alpaca jumper. We had a brief stop at Pisac and visited the local market. Our bus then went off road to visit a community in Chawaytiri where the local women are demonstrating how they knit the alpaca products. They offered us some potato, local cheese and guinea pig. I had a taste and actually found it quite tasty. Our way back our bus was blocked by some muddy road work and a truck that got struck in it. We had to take a detour and climb a mountain that was close to 4000m high. It was quite strange that over 90% of the trees were Eucalyptus, it certainly remind me of home. The bus had a few challenges to pass, we had to get out of the car a few time to push the bus out of the mud. The path was extremely narrow and next to a cliff face and there were a lot of fallen rocks.  Nevertheless it was a very adventrous ride and we finally got to Ollantaytambo by 5pm. Unfortunately it was too late for the tour of the ruin. That night we tried the Inca beer brewed from corn.

Day 1 of the Inca Trail, we reached the check point at 82km and meet our team of porters and cooks. The elevation is 2600m and the walk was very gentle to start. Slowly we began the ascent and reached ou first achaeological site at Willkarakay where we had a good view of Patallaqta. We walked 15km in the first day and climbed to 3300m and camped at Yuncaclimppa. This was further than initially planned. The porters are truely amazing. We had 4 that´s 51 year old; one wore a cap with "Super Grandpa" on it. Super Grandpa deserve the best porter award. He is always enthusiastic, always carries a smile on his face, always ready to serve. Most porters are small build may be 50-60kg and they carry 20-30kg of weight through physically challenging terrans. I am most impressed with the service and the food provided by Intrepid.

Day 2 was the most difficult day. We started at 3300m and climbed to the first pass "Dead Woman´s Pass" at 4200m. As I approached 3800m I was reminded what it was like at Lake Titicaca. From there onward the walk was at a crawling pace; no more than 30cm a step and stopping every 10 metres to recover from oxygen debt. The climb to 4200m is definately the hardest thing I have ever done. Because we walked the extra distance, our guide decided to tackle the second pass in Day 2. We decent to 3500m and viewed Runkuraqay before reaching the second pass at 3950m. Although the second pass is lower than Dead Woman´s Pass, it was almost as difficult as the first given it was climbed in the same day. Walking in this high altitute was a unique experience, at time we were walking in the cloud and visibility drop to a few metres. By the time we got to Dead Woman´s Pass the valley below is covered with clouds. Similar at the end of the day when we reached Sayaqmarka and Qonchamarca those sites were covered in clouds. We camped at Chaquiqocha and ovenight it rained.

Day 3, so far we have been lucky with the weather; overnight rain ceased the before dawn. The walk is mostly down hill as our overnight camp is a 2700m. We visted Phuyupatamarka before going though the Inca Tunnel. As we approached over camp site we heard some thunders and there was some light rain. Half of the group decided to take a short cut to the campsite Wiñay Wayna. I decided to brave the weather and visited Intipata. There were lots of orchids on the trail to Intipata. We spoted the iconic Wakanqui orchid which made some of those who did not take the extra distance a bit jealous. We arrived at the campsite by lunch time and after a well earn break and a cold shower we visited the achaeological site that the campsite is named after. We had many first time porters and they have the afternoon to visit Wiñaywayna with us. Their excitement is wonderful to witness. This was the last night we had all the porters togther. We did the speech to thank them for their superhuman effort of carry all those weight and the fantastic service and food we received. They then sang and dance to celebrate our last night together.

Day 4, finally the highly anticipated day arrived. We had an early start at 4am. Many of us did not sleep overnight; it probably was a combination of the anticipation, it was a lot hotter than the two previous night and the storm that lasted all night and fortunately ceased at 4am. We gathered all our gears and headed to the check point in darkness. It was almost like a race to Inti Punku (Sun Gate) and when we got there clouds were covering all of Machu Picchu. We waited until the cloud lifted whilst many other decided not to wait. When the cloud finally lifted it was a wonderful moment, only to be spoiled by a bunch of whistles and cheers from near by tourist. Once we reached Machu Picchu and taken the goup photo of the classical Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu behind it was all done hill from there. Half of the group decided to climb Huayna Picchu and our guide provided an excellent tour of the ruin until his alarm went off. We were within metres of Intihuatana and he left us on our own! The special feeling that I have earned my place to visit Machu Picchu because I did the physically challenging Inca Trail rapidly deminished as train after train brought more tourists to the site. I have walked ver 44km approximaely 10000 steps to get there and my legs did not want to walk anymore. The cafeteria at Machu Picchu charged highly inflated price which reminded me how this wonderful place has been transformed into a giant money making machine. As we took our train back to Ollantaytambo I witnessed the first catwalk in a train. After serving us a drink and food, the attendants wore alpaca products and walked up and down the aisle!

Today is our free day in Cuzco. I went to the Inca Museum, Qorikancha and walked around the main street of the city. My legs are still recovering and a good day rest is probably what I needed.

Tomorrow we will head to Puerto Maldonado for the Amazon Jungle.
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