The Inca Trail

Trip Start May 17, 2006
Trip End May 2007

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Nov 28th
Left Cusco to head to Ollantaytambo to start the Inca Trail. The way is littered with Inca sites and we got the opportunity to visit a few on our "sacred valley tour". Got off to a bad start though as we skipped through Sacsayhuaman, an Inca fortress above Cusco, in about 20 minutes so that we could go to a Lama petting zoo and gift shop! We were very annoyed as we had not come all this way to buy alpaca jumpers. It picked up after this as we went to Pisac, an amazing Inca town built in an impossible position on a ridge above the Rio Urubamba valley. Stunning architecture and stunning views. Next stop lunch at an overpriced buffet so we wandered into the small town and had rice and beans in a small local restaurant - much better experience than lasagne and panpipes. next stop Ollantaytambo for some more precipitously perched inca ruins in a stunning mountain location. The rain began at about 6pm and lasted all night - hopefully this was not going to last for the 4 days of the Inca trail!

Nov 29th
Awoke to a dry morning, thank goodness. Got our passports stamped at the start of the trail and we were off. 1st part very gentle down the Urubamba valley by the river. We were with a company called SAS who provided porters for our stuff and cooked us all meals and even put up and took down our tents. Stopped for lunch, soup and a cooked meal, by the river - very promising start. We then had a bit of climbing to our campsite but nothing too taxing (about 400m). We were in awe of the porters who trotted past us with massive 25kg bags on order to get there first and put up our tents.

Nov 30th
This was the day of dead woman's pass, a climb of 1400m from 2800m to 4200m. We motored the first part, arriving at the lunch spot at 10am! After a long lunch, The final part should have taken 1.5 hours but we got to the top in 45 minutes, beaten only by Guy, the super fit Kiwi who joined in Lima and insisted on doing the whole thing in either bare feet or flip flops. We were very lucky with the weather and enjoyed fine views in both directions from the pass. We waited for everyone else to arrive and after a group photo, headed down the other side to our campsite for the night. Another fine 3 course meal and a game of cards before bed.

Dec 1st
Awoke to another dry day but a bit misty so views not that great today (still not had to use the ponchos we bought). started the day with a 400m climb to the second pass at 4000m. Should have had great views but could not see anything. On the way down to the final campsite we passed the ruins of Sayamarca and Phuyupatamarca (town above the clouds). This was when the clouds eventually began to lift. We then had some great views on the long descent down the hundreds of inca steps to the final campsite. Today was a long day of 17km with lots of steep downhill - glad we invested in bamboo walking poles before we set off. Everyone in a celebratory mood as we had effectively done it so stayed up for a few beers, but still mindful of a 4am start the next day. We all gathered to thank and tip the porters and our great guides Jose and Banderas. Rebecca was volunteered to do the thank you speech and did a great job.

Dec 2nd
Up at 4am and found that some people had had rather too many beers! Still we were in good form and our group was second through the final checkpoint that opened at 5.30. Then it was a really fast walk to the Sun Gate. On previous days, all the groups had been well spaced so that the trail never seemed crowded. Today though, with everyone camping together there was a constant stream of people. We arrived at the Sun Gate in typically speedy fashion and should have had our first view of Machu Piccu but due to the cloud we decided to push on. Mark and Guy headed the pack and should have been first to arrive at the ruins. Instead they were beaten by clean and neatly ironed people who had spent the night in the lodge. How gutting! They looked at us, smelly and dirty, like we were tramps!! So by 7am we were sitting in the mist waiting for Machu Piccu to emerge. Slowly the clouds lifted and bit by bit the ruins became visible. It was a really magic experience. Despite having seen so many pictures of the site we were blown away by the setting of steep forest covered, cloud topped mountains. It is truly spectacular.

We had a guided tour of the site and then had time to explore on our own. Guy, Mark and I hadn't had enough climbing and decided to race up Huayna Picchu, the mountain that is in the background of all postcards. The climb was really steep but the views were amazing.

After descending, we got the bus down to the town of Aguas Calientes and joined everyone else for lunch at 2. Then it was back to Cusco on the train and bus. We were all shattered but most made it out for celebratory drinks in Cusco's Irish Bar!
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