The lost city is found again...

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
Trip End Apr 08, 2008

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Day 2...The Hike...1/13
Our feet are the only mode of transportation today...and I'm told we're mostly hiking through the rainforest, along the magnificent Urubamba...pure pleasure.
We are joined by a few other hikers who would like a little guidance through the forest...Sleepy Angel, our guide, appears to know the way so we join forces and become a group of 5...these two women are from Germany and turn out to be a pleasure to spend our travel with.  And later we are joined by 2 more...their friends also from Germany who just came from NYC and are just so excited that we are New Yorkers so that they can share their enthusiasm with us. 
The hike is mostly along the Rio Urubamba, one of the most exciting rivers I've ever seen...its flow is thick and fast and the boulders in its path make for waves and swirls and curls and's completely non-navigable, but what a thrill it would be to take a raft down this one...
So of course we have to cross the Urubamba a number of a variety of bridges to try out...some swing and sway and bounce around...with others I find I'm looking for the most solid wood to step across on.   But my favorite crossing is in the little cart-on-a-cable that doesn't quite get you across by momentum but almost.  I watch another guide lying on his back, pedaling his way across, and I'm thinking - that will be me shortly.  But I feel pretty grateful when I realize we get to go 2 at a time and there's no back pedaling for us...after our initial momentum fades and we stop midway across the river, the people on the other side will do some pulling to retrieve us.  And it's really fun...I'm sure it didn't pass any international safety standard or anything but it works and we're on the other side to continue our trek. 
It's hot, it's humid and it's beautiful.  Trees and bushes heavy with mangos, bananas, oranges, coffee beans, cotton, and peppers, and brilliant flowers in full bloom - Angel says there are over a thousand varieties of orchids in Peru...if I understand him correctly...and we're able to see a whole range of colors.... We stop at some roadside stands, little tiendas in the forest, where locals folks offer fruits and drinks and conversation.  I'm getting lots of practice in speaking Spanish...the first few days I felt like I had forgotten everything I ever knew, but now I'm getting right in the groove and I think I'm actually having valid conversations. 
We connect up with two people from Uruguay along the trail and learn a bit about that part of the's all been a delightful day...until the rains and the railroad tracks appear....  We've hiked now for about 5 hours, including rest stops, arriving at Hydroelectrica which is a small cluster of tiendas near the hydroelectric plant.  We have the option to take a train from here but not for another 3 hours which is too long, and Angel assures us that there is a footpath along the tracks so we won't be stepping from railroad tie to railroad tie in the rain for the next 3 hours.  Well not so surprisingly, there's no path....and the next 3 hours or so are spent on the tracks or, just for variety, on the sharply cut rocks that border the the pouring rain, no less.  My mind wanders into thinking about how easy it would have been to take the direct train all the way from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes, like most people do.   I'm drenched early on the path, my legs start to get heavy, the bottoms of my feet are sore, I'm thinking this is a longer stretch than I had expected.  I'm watching people far younger than me also wear out, but the Urubamba, with its dramatic rushing waters, keeps me fully entertained...and we finally arrive at Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu, where all visitors must stop to regroup before paying homage.   And I have to admit, I feel some twisted sense of accomplishment for having arrived along this route.
We eventually dry out...the heel of my new hiking boots suffers a melt down in the pizza oven I was using to dry them out in - check out the photos... we indulge in some delectable hot chocolate, get a decent night's sleep, and spend the next exorbitantly sunny day up on Machu Picchu.  And it's all very amazing. It looks just like any poster you've ever seen of it...way on top of this mountain peak, surrounded by deep valleys, a wonder of construction and imagination.  One feels the undeniable power of its history and mysticism...and all the unanswered questions allow visitors to create their own stories as to the actual relevance of the place... And visitors there are!!!   I'm amazed at how many tourists of all ages and abilities have ascended to this place...that the lost city of the Incas in the middle of Peru would attract every type of person from the world over.  It's sometimes a little hard to see past all the people... but I can see why a visit to Peru without MP would be foolish and after all, I'm simply another one of those many tourists drawn to its magnificence...

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