Super Fit Shaun

Trip Start Jun 15, 2004
Trip End Jun 15, 2005

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Tuesday April 19th 2005
6am meeting outside the SAS offices on the Plaza De Armas, carrying our rice sack full of the things the porters are carrying (up to 8kg, which includes hired sleeeping bag and roll mat), and onto the SAS bus.

Only 9 people in our group, which is really good, plus our two guides, Isaac and Justin (time, case). The myriad of porters and cooks travel in a different bus.

Along the bumpy roads outside Cusco, we stop on a mountain overlooking a village for breakfast, and my first taste of Coca tea, which is actually OK, and is meant to help with altitude sickness. Onto another village, where I buy the standard walking stick, and then we arrive at...a field - the road is being repaired, so we have an extra two km to walk before we even start the trek.

We reach KM82, the official start, across the suspension bridge, and we are off . Today is billed as "easy", and whilst there are some mountains to overcome, its not too difficult, especially as it is broken up by our nice three course lunch provided by SAS - food of a quality a lot of restaurants would struggle with.

Some views of Inka ruins along the way, viewed from a distance.

Beginning to learn the various expressions of our tour leader, Isaac, who is very funny - "Hola Amigos", "Hola Chicos", "Such is The Experience" and "Its included".

Sleep in the good hired sleeping bags, in a two man tent, half way up a mountain.

Wednesday April 20th 2005
Day 2 was billed as the most difficult, but being woken by the porters at 5.45am with Coca tea to your tent, followed by a full breakfast, certainly helps.

The walking today was hard work, but not killing me, and amazingly I managed to keep up more or less with Stephen, and always in the top four of the nine for reaching the various stopping points!

Reached Dead Womans Pass, so called due to the shape of the rocks supposedly resembling a dead woman - at 4215m, this is the highest Ive ever been, and I was feeling OK!

Down the rocky steps from the pass, when it begins to start raining, so Poncho on, and its probably harder going down the sometimes slippery steps than it was coming up.

Reach camp at 2.00pm, and crash out for an hour - today might have been hard walking, but it was not so long. Its still raining, so no real appetite to explore around - instead enjoy the lunch - 3 courses again, afternoon tea - popcorn, cookies and coca tea, and dinner, again three courses - SAS seriously feed you up!

Colder camp site (we are higher up), but still get reasonable sleep.

Thursday 21st April 2005
Day 3, and I realise Im actually quite good at this - my legs dont ache too much - the volcano I climbed a few weeks ago helped, plus the last 10 months of activity.

Hence the Inka trail, which Lonely Planet calls the Inka "Trial" is not that bad for me. Today is a longer day - again up early, and we dont arrive at camp until around 5pm, as there were a lot more ruins to look at today, and a fair few steep climbs, coupled with a longer distance. The ruins were amazing structures - dominating the surrouding mountains and still in very good condition.

There were in fact many Inka trails - its just this one that people happen to walk and is restored / looked after. We learn how the location of structures was based upon the Southern Cross, with Cusco at its centre, Machu Picchu at one point, and a recently discovered site (3 years ago) at another (this site is meant to be twice the size of Machu Picchu).

We stay at a large camp site, with many other hikers - though I am glad to be hiking at this time of year, when there are appx 200 other hikers - in peak it can be 500. This campsite does at least allow me to have a lukewarm shower.

This is also where we say goodbye to the majority of the porters, who will dissappear early tomorrow - they are mainly quite shy, Quecha speakers, who only speak a little or no Spanish (and certainly no english) and we give them a collective tip.

Friday 22nd April 2005
Machu Picchu Day!!
It has been raining quite hard overnight, and we are awoken at 4am for breakfast, and then the 5 minute walk, in the dark and rain, to the checkpoint where our tickets are checked, when it opens at 5.30am. Our guide manages to get us through the crowd quite quickly, and then we start the high speed walk to Machu Picchu - very hard high speed up and down the mountains, in the rain and thick fog, and jungle landscape as we are now lower down (at about 2500m).

Eventually reach the Sun Gate, which overlooks Machu Picchu, but as the fog was so dense, you could barely see the sun gate, let alone Machu Picchu, so we carry on, and then eventutally reach Machu Picchu, after almost 50km of walking in the last 4 days.

Machu Picchu itself is fogged in, giving us only occassional brief glimpses of the ruins. There is barely anybody around, and go down to the main entrance to formally check in, and of course get food provided by a willing SAS porter.

Weather has finally improved, the fog lifted, and reasonable blue skys, allowing us to see the full glory of Machu Pichhu. Isaac gives us an excellent guided tour - he is very well informed, from the terraces that grew the herbs, to the gold leaf covered temples and the amazing irrigation system.

Machu Picchu was never actually finished - abandoned when they feared the Spanish were coming inland.

Not content with all the walking over the past few days, we decide to climb the main mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu - the hardest climb so far - clambering up slippery steps, tiny Inka steps or huge giant steps, slippery, and using ropes occassionally - this climb is not for the faint hearted.

At the top, the view was amazing - best viewpoint of Machu Pichu you could get, and so worth the arduos climb.

Back down, a little more wandering amongst the ruins, and then down to Aguas Calientes, the town in the valley, which is very tourist orientated, but nice, with the rocky river running through it, and then catch the train back to Cusco, which turns out to be part bus, but the train part is great - windows in the ceiling allowing you to see the views of the mountains, following the river.
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