Saturday, 7 August 2010

The Inca Trail & The Machu Picchu

This special trek had to be arranged 3 months in advance in order that all of us would have room during the desired dates. We chose a private tour, not knowing our ability to carry all the equipment by ourselves, or how well we would all keep up with other (more fit) people.
We were told to arrive on the 1st of July to Cuzco, so that we could pay the remaining 50% of the payment directly to the company (Enigma), as well as to be briefed by the guide on the 2nd. The trek would start only on the 3rd of July.
Apart from those specific meetings, we didn’t have planes for the 1st & 2nd of July, so meanwhile we just rested (we took a night bus from Puno) and walked around the beautiful center of Cuzco.
2.7.10, evening, we are all packed up, ready to go and waiting (I drinkGoldstar’, my first good beer in months! Brought especially for me strait from Israel!) for our guide (Milton) to show up. He arrives late (first bad impression), but apologizes nicely. The briefing goes fast and well. The main outcome of the meeting is a repack of the bags and the fact that we don’t have to wake up as early as we thought (03:00am), and could sleep a bit late (06:00am).
Day 1:
07:00am, 3.7.10. We leave the hostel and drive off to K82 (the starting point of the Inca- Trail, located 82km from Cuzco).
For us (me and my family), the whole idea of going to the Machu Picchu is like a dream
come true, and to be able to be there as a familythat’s a whole new level of fun.
The first day doesn`t give us a taste of what awaits us in the following... We start on with a flat walk, Milton stopping every 5 minutes to explain something. It`s nice - at first, but we start thinking about making an effort and progress. The first climb (and not last...) is just around the corner.
On the way, we mange to witness some of the Inca remains that were built close by to the Inca-Trail. Sallapunku & Wilkarakay are bellow the trail, and we explore them in our minds (Hopping the real thing is a lot nicer!).
In the middle of the trail, we stop to eat lunch; The kitchen/dinning tent is made and ready to feed us. From meal to meal, we will learn to love our awesome chef Teo. Just a bit more, and we`re one day closer to our goal!
Tired, we arrive to camp Wallabamba (3100masl). The porters clap there hands as we enter the campsite, our tents (Three of 4-Pax, a per in each leaves a lot of room) already made. The kitchen/dinning tent is also up, and after washing our hands, and eating the great Israeli made (by Inbal) Brownies, we continue to a great dinner. Knowing what awaits us tomorrow, we all fall asleep very easily.
Day 2:
Waking up and leaving before everybody, we start the 1100m ascent to Abra Warmiwanyusca (4200masl). We climb together. Slowly. Inbal is having trouble to keep up, and so we find ourselves walking even slower. Milton stopped explaining, and instead complains about our achievements in height. Even though we are the last group to do so and Milton was of no help, we all arrive to the pass happy, and satisfied.
The pass is the highest point in the Inca-Trail which makes the second day the hardest of all the 4 days of the trip. Knowing the worst is behind us, we descend 600m the same day and arrive to camp Pacaymayo (3600masl).
Day 3:
First to wake up, knowing our abilities (Milton has a hard time excepting that...), and starting to climb (again!). After an hour of ascent we, reach Runkurakay (3800masl), AKA ´The Balcony´. From it, we can see Rio Pacaymayo, and Milton (happy to get there early), throws out a short explanation. From Runkurakay, we ascend some more, and reach a Lagoon. Today Inbal is feeling great and reaches all the summits first!
To Abra Runkurakay (3924masl) we arrive first of the groups (not including the running porters) and continue quickly to being the first group to descend and arrive to Sayacmarca (3600masl), AKA ´The Fourte´. Sayacmarca was the most impressive remain before Machu-Picchu. It is located on top of a steep cliff, which makes it very strategic. Too bad the Inca knew nothing about strategics. From it, we can see camp Chanquicocha (3680masl), our lunch break location. Before lunch, we descend to Conchamarka (3500masl).
On the Inca-Trail, each group registers for certain campsites, and is not allowed to switch between them. Arriving fast to the lunch area, Milton decides to take a risk and try and sleep a bit closer to Machu Picchu tonight. The plan is to tell the rangers that we (the family) felt sick, and needed to continue (down) so we`d feel better. The Porters get the message, so that they could make camp in the right campsite.
We have to climb some more before the major descent to our new campsite. On the way, we pass Inca Tunnels carved inside the mountains. Puyupatamarka (3600masl), our registered campsite, is located high and as we pass it we had a good first view of Aguas Calientes and also could feel how cold it would have been that night (lots of winds). On the way down, Inca stairs help us locate our knees. We pass the Puyupatamarka remains shortly after leaving the camp with the same name. There, we learn that the porters don´t like to serve groups here because of the fact that they have to climb up and down from the remains to the camp in order to bring water.
Winyay Wayna (2700masl), is the biggest looking camp yet, and it seems to us, that no one really sleeps up at Puyupatamarka. On arrival, 17:00 tea & popcorn are served to the table. Later on, a great looking dinner is serves as well, in order to say farewell to the porters and chef which we wouldn`t see the following day.
Day 4:
This is the day! For this we waited!
The Inca-Trail finishes in a gate that blocks the trekkers on the trail from getting early to the Inti Punku (The Sun Gate) & The desired Machu Picchu. In order to be first in the cue near the gate, we woke up at 03:00am.The gate opens at 05:30am, and the sunrise (a very beautiful one - so they say), is said to be 06:30am. The walk takes an hour. We divided to three and three, Mom (Orly), Dad (Shlomo) & Inbal behind (walking slower), and Kobi, Igal & I running with all the recording gear (3 cameras & a tripod) in the front. The sunrise was not worth the run. Calling it `The Sun Gate´, the Incas meant that the sun could be watched rising up, from Machu Picchu itself, and not from the Sun Gate. We still were happy to finally see the great and beautiful Machu Picchu, from high up!
We stayed, resting, on the Inti Punku (2700masl), until the sun went up and over Machu Picchu. Then climbed down to the sacred site.
Machu Picchu:
Only 400 people are allowed to climb to the Wayna Picchu (2700masl), making it impossible for the Inca-Trail trekkers to reach it on the same day. We were with the rest.
Passing quickly through the famous remains, we head for the entrance where we are supposed to get out and then in again (Milton says that`s the only way to go, though it seems stupid). Then, after being recognized as the right ticket owners (they check passports!), we head back to the dream.
The town is located on a `saddle` between two mountains (Wayna Picchu & Inti Punku). It is said to be a sacred agricultural laboratory, and so hundreds of terraces welcome us to our right (downwards) and to our left (upwards).
We first sit down and listen to what seemed to be an endless history lecture by Milton. He then frees us from his spell, and we go to the next spot of interest.
The Main Gate - A big open door was built, only Incas (kings, rulers & monks) were allowed to enter through it, all the rest were told to step aside. At night, the whole town was `shut`. The door was closed with two poles tied into a shape of a cross and a blanket made of leather was connected to them. Never was the door `really` closed.
Entering in the ways of kings, we go to see the main courtyard. All temples were built with giant `Inca-Stones` - very impressive! The Pachemama Temple, The Sun-Clock Temple The Condor Temple, The Stars Temple, The Wayna Picchu Temple & The Sun Temple all built for the purpose of serving the gods (Mother-Earth, Condors, Stars, Mountains, and the Sun), today are walked upon by Tourists and explained about by guides (serving the money god).
After the tour with Milton, The strong (Inbal, Igal & I) continued to see the Hanging Bridge. in one word - disappointment. we thought it would be an `Indiana Jones` like bridge, but instead - we got this.
All of us were really tired from the 4 day walk, and some of us didn`t feel good from the early (and unnecessary) run, but we still `ate` all that was in front of us with hungry eyes.
There are not enough words to describe how excited we were to walk around all the amazing structures of the sacred then, and definitely now, Machu Picchu.

From Machu Picchu, we took the bus to Aguas Calientes. We still had a lot of time to spear, and so we went to rest ourselves in the Hot-Springs whome give the name to the town. Like any other thermal bath I took around South America, these ones were disapointing. We still had fun together (as a family).
Bathed and happy, we took the train + bus back to Cuzco.

Tips for The Inca-Trail & Machu Picchu:
- Book ahead. Do to the strict bureaucracy of the National Park and the Peruvian Government & it`s popularity, you can`t enter the beautiful Inca-Trail unless you book 3-4 months ahead. Children under a certain age get 20$ discount (we discovered that too late).
- Check in advance which campsites you are booked to, and what time your train back to Cuzco is. This will save you a lot of worries. (we were booked to the wrong campsites, and at first had a train at 14:00 leaving us with about 5 hours in the Machu Picchu site).
- Enigma is a very expensive company recommended by the Lonely Planet. We were treated badly, had worries and trouble about the booked campsites and train back, and they `forgot` to mention to us about the discount we deserve (Igal & Kobi are young enough - that`s 40$!). Putting that a side, eventually they managed to fix the campsites & train problems, and their porters and chef did an outstanding job!
- Milton was not professional. He complained a lot, and stopped to explain in the wrong moments.
- Even though the walk is nice, the Hanging Bridge is not that impressive.

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