Lares (Andes) Trek & Machu Picchu

Trip Start Mar 12, 2009
Trip End Sep 02, 2009

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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Sunday, March 22, 2009

On the 19th six of the nine of us crammed as much as we could into one duffel bag each (to weigh no more than 6 kilograms) and a personal daypack and headed off to begin a three day hike through the Andes.  We had as company one guide, two cooks, four porters (who were strong and kind enough to carry our duffel bags), four horses and five tents for our trek from just outside Ollantaytambo through llama-filled pastures, past tranquil lakes and waterfalls, over mountain passes and to a town just outside of Aqua Calientes (which is at the base of Machu Picchu).     

We all had been acclimating to the higher altitude since arriving in La Paz, but felt we were ready to ascend 800 meters (approx 2,400 feet) to an altitude of 4,200 meters to reach our first camp site. We were fortunate that we experienced no rain to slow us down, but the thin air and steep ascent were enough to make all but the guide and two young Aussies (Dion and Kelly) stop every 10 minutes to catch our breath on day one.  Gradually, our lungs and muscles acclimated to the thin air at 4,600 meters and the day hikes became easier (but certainly not easy-despite tons of eating, I think I lost 5 lbs).

I would have sacrificed many more breaths for the tranquility and amazing scenery we experienced along the way.  Over our three day-two night trek we saw no other tourists, but only a local pastor (shepherd) and his children or wife every hour or two.  The wildlife along the way (llamas, alpacas, cows, pigs, eagles and chinchillas) easily outnumbered humans 10:1. The trek was trying at times, but overall a great experience, especially the much appreciated hot (local) meals cooked on site for breakfast, lunch and dinner along the way and our evenings spent playing cards or spoons in our dinner tent and drinking hot tea and cocoa leaves.  Awaking in freezing temperatures to a cup of hot coca leave tea was also a great way to start each day. I could describe the trek in many more words, but it's better I just post a handful of photos for you to see for yourself.

Our Lares trek ended with a night trip to the hot springs (hot, but not too "spring” fresh) in Aqua Calientes, and our first shower after over three days of muddy and sweaty hiking.  All of us were in bed by 10pm Sat night to secure a good rest before tackling Machu Picchu the next morning.  After a brief train ride on Rail Peru, we arrived at the base of Machu Pichu, welcome by a steady drizzle. Fortunately, by the time we were just getting our guided tour of this amazing former hub of the Inca empire underway, the rain let up, yielding to great scenes and photo opportunities as we explored this (much larger than I realized) site for the next few hours.  What an amazing place to spend a Sunday morning, giving thanks for a wonderful trek and having seen so much of Godīs beautiful creation! 
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