Machu Picchu Madness

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
In a cold wet tent

Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Thursday, October 15, 2009

After a sleepless night (damn partying Brits in our dorm) its up at 5am to drive to the start of the trek. There have been cancellations in our group, so its just us, Loz and Kassia with guide Raul and 10 porters. TEN!!! And a professional chef well trained in the art of presentation and the carved cucumber parrot garnish. Despite this abundance of porters, we have to carry our own sleeping bag and mattress. On the first day my bag weighs in at 12.5 kg and Bevan's at 9kg - so on the second day I offload some of that on to Bevan.

Everything is Inka here, from Inka bano (aka toilet naturale) to Inka time (on time apparently) to Inka massage (no one is quite sure what this is, but Raul tells us it is not very good) although the title Inka referred to the king only, not the common (quechua) people. The name of the trail is apt, we are treated like royalty. When we stop, our tents are already set up, we are brought bowls of warm water, soap and towels and then a 3 course banquet is served. This is my kind of camping.
The second day was the hardest, with two difficult mountain passes to climb and our highest altitude of 4200m. Raul showed us how to chew coca leaves which, combined with sugary lollies, got us above the tree line to the top for fantastic views which we appreciate for the very long time it takes to catch our breath.
There was rain on the morning of the third day (appreciating not carrying the soggy tents) so we donned our oh so stylish ponchos for the trek onward through cloud forest and actual cloud. That evenings camp is 5 minutes from a beautifully restored Inka site of a hotel and farming terraces - best of all, we have it completely to ourselves in the quiet dusk (the other 495 inhabitants of the campsite are all in the bar I think). The beauty of the Inka trail are the Inka sites on the way, from tiny one room post houses to the city in the clouds to these magnificent terraces and water fountains.
The 4th day involves getting up at half past 3 in the morning - although they did bake us a cake and ice it in honour of Kassia's upcoming birthday.The reason for the early start is to queue at the checkpoint for when it opens at 5:30am - this is the last stretch and the going just got mighty competitive. The reason for this is Waynu Picchu - the small mountain on the other side of Machu Picchu where those postcard view photos are taken. Only 400 tickets are handed out each day at the entrance gate for the climb, and they are usually gone well before us disadvantaged Inka trail trekkers can race our way through the checkpoint and down to Machu Picchu. Raul was clearly disappointed in our enthusiasm for tickets - he obviously does not want to let us down but our chances of getting tickets are slim.
The first hour was a mad race, no group likes to be overtaken and walking sticks are used to full advantage. From the sun gate, there are exclusive views down over the whole of Machu Picchu as the sun is rising through the mountains. Even we have to stop to appreciate these views and take our photos before other groups can catch up. Raul took the opportunity to call his friend about Waynu Picchu tickets - already all gone for the day. So we take our time on the next hour downhill to the site where Raul gave us a 2 hour tour of the site, which covers barely a quarter of it. Raul then lead us over to the Waynu Picchu entrance where he proved his inability to disappoint by getting us through for the climb (small 'tip' required for his buddy on the gate).
Feeling guilty about path erosion and encouraging Peruvian corruption however smalltime, we set off for the top where the views were even better than promised. By this time Machu Picchu was awash with the colour of tourists flooding the site (while numbers on the Inka trail are limited to 500 daily and Waynu Picchu 400 daily, there is no limitation on entrances to Machu Picchu itself. The entry fees go to government in Lima, not upkeep of the site). There was barely standing room on the top of Waynu Picchu and its hard not to think back to the contrasting peacefulness of the other Inka sites on route.

Loz and I now have a bet that we will return to do the Inka trail when we are 66 (Raul's oldest trekker so far was 65). We will count the number of McDonalds en route.
Don't think you can back out of this one Loz.
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