A Travellerspoint blog

The Inca Ordeal...I mean Trail to Macchu Picchu

sunny 20 °C

We started the Inca Trail on 29th April. We weren't off to a good start as Emma and I had just started taking antibiotics for the bad bellies we picked up in Bolivia. Instead of making us feel better we actually started the Trail feeling tired and sick! We had a great group and two excellent guides called Ellistan and Juan. At the start of the Trail we had to show our passports as there are only 500 people allowed on the Inca Trail a day. This number includes the porters who carry all our camping equipment, food and even some of our stuff. The porters are not allowed to carry more than 24kg, which considering they're all about my height and aren't given suitable shoes to wear is crazy. They run ahead of us to set up and cook lunch and then pack up and run ahead of us to set up camp for the night. They are amazing!

Fresh faced at the start of the Inca Trail

Fresh faced at the start of the Inca Trail

On day one we walked pretty quickly, I think Emma and I would've like to stop more but our group were quite speedy. At least we'd stocked up on snacks and there were a few little houses we could buy drinks and snacks at. We passed Inca ruins and looked down at the Urubamba river. The views were great and the sun was out. We got to the campsite (Wayllabamba) earlier than expected. I felt awful so had a rest in the tent before dinner. Luckily we had Mary in our group who's a nurse from the US and she gave us the sympathy we really needed! On the first day we walked about 14km and climbed up 500m.

On day 2 we woke up to the sound of a cockerel and to a cup of coca tea given to us by our lovely guides. We had to climb from 3,100m to 4,215m up to dead woman's pass. I thought it the pass was going to live up to its name that day! Emma and I just plodded along at the back and took our time. The group waited for us at the pass so that we could have a picture together and to give some encouragement. The view was so pretty and we could see the path we'd come up and couldn't believe how far we walked. The altitude had also made it a lot harder to breathe and you get dehydrated very quickly. We then had to walk down continuous steps for about 2 hours. I took it slowly because of my ankle but it meant we got to see hummingbirds and appreciate the view a bit more. We got to the camp and had dinner. Emma only had crackers to eat because she felt so awful which wasn't helped by the disgusting toilets! The camp was at 3,500m and we walked about 10km.

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On day 3 we continued to climb up to the second pass of the trail which was 3,950m above sea level. We passed an Inca ruin on the way and walked through cloud forest on the way down to lunch. It started to rain after lunch so Emma and I put on our stylish blue and orange ponchos! We walked through Inca tunnels behind slabs of rocks and got to the 3rd pass (3,670m). We took the path down at a very slow pace and went through a big Inca ruin called Winaywayna where llamas were grazing. We got to the camp just before it got dark. It was a very long day and took us just under 11 hours and we walked about 14km. This was the last night and we got to meet the porters and give them a tip. I also was elected to give a speech to say how grateful we were for all their extremely hard work - I have no idea how they do it and keep smiling! We then had some cake and went to bed.

On the 4th and final day we got up at 3.30am to pack up and eat breakfast so that the porters could take all the stuff and run to catch the only train they can get at 5.30am. We then had to wait until 5.30am for the control to open to allow us to walk to Machu Picchu. It was dark and some people were crazy and running ahead. We walked pretty fast and overtook some people to get to the sun gate (Intipata) to get the first glimpse of Machu Picchu. We were so lucky with the weather, we could see the whole of Machu Picchu in the sun. We then walked on to get to the famous ruins and managed to see experience it without the crowds of tourist that get there an hour later. Machu Picchu is so special because the spanish never found it so it was left untouched after its residents fled to the last Inca city. Our guide showed us around and told us everything there was to know about it. I was surprised how animated he was because the rest of us could barely keep our eyes open. We had a look around by ourselves, got a stamp in our passports to say we've been there (had to be done) and then got the bus down to the town below called Aguas Calientes. We had lunch with the group and said our farewells. Despite feeling sick and exhausted the Inca Trail was definitely worth it. Machu Picchu was by far the most interesting ruin we'd seen and the views on the way were incredible!

We Made It!

We Made It!

Posted by Ninirock 12:18 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

El Valle Sagrado - The sacred valley of the Incas

sunny 26 °C

We arrived in Cusco which is a pretty city with spanish colonial architecture in the centre. Its also Peru's tourist capital because it is the base for visiting Machu Picchu and the Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley). We did two trips to the sacred valley. During the first we visited the ruins of Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. Pisac is an small old Inca village built high up in the mountains in a pass between two valleys. The fresh water fountains they built are still intact and working today!

Next we went to Ollantaytambo, which was an Inca city built in the junctions of three valleys. This location was perfect for building store houses on the mountainside because the wind is funnelled down the valleys and to these store houses to preserve their food. There were terraces that were built for agriculture to grow corn and potatoes. The Incas made sure that stones fitted prefectly together when building so that the buildings were earthquake-proof. Unfortunately the Incas did not finish building here because the spanish conquerers came and destroyed the buildings and stole the gold the Incas used for decoration. The spanish then used the ruins as foundations to build their own houses on.

Our final stop that day took us to a village called Chinchero. Here the spanish also built their own buildings on top of Inca foundations and the church showed a fusion between Catholic and Inca/Quechua beliefs. We also saw a demonstration of how they make the beautiful patterned textiles they have here. Its all using natural products. They use alpaca or sheep wool to spin into thread and then dye it using flowers, leaves and they use a squished cactus bug to get a bright red colour. They then weave the different coloured threads into colourful patterns which all have significance to the Quechuan religion.

The next tour we did took us to a place called Moray. This looked kind of like an amphitheatre but made of circular grass terraces and was not used for plays! It was an Inca experiment to see which conditions each type of potato. They have over 2000 varieties of potatoes in Peru and about 360 varieties of corn in every colour.

We then went to the 'minas de Maras' these are salt pans cut into the mountainside. The salt is dissolved in rainwater and then seeps through the rock. When the water evaporates in the pans the salt gets left behind and the workers scrape it up and collect it.

We then had a couple of days to sort ourselves out before doing the Inca trail.

Moray

Moray

Posted by Ninirock 12:13 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Floating Islands - Lake Titicaca

sunny 20 °C

After a great month in Bolivia we felt it was time to move onto a new country and we needed to be in Cusco by the end of April to do the Inca Trail.

Our first stop in Peru was Puno. This is a small city on Lake Titicaca. It already felt more developed than the cities in Bolivia or just more geared up for tourists.

On my birthday (21st April) we went on a trip to see the "islas flotantes. We got picked up nice and early from our hostel and then got a boat from Puno port to the floating islands. These islands are made from blocks of reed roots that they cut from the bottom of the lake. They tie these blocks together and they become intertwined over time. They pile the reeds on top, which make a really spongy floor. Their houses are also made out of woven reeds. The islands were smaller than I had expected - not a lot of room for the kids to run around on! We took a little ride on a reed boat pushed along by one of the residents.

After the floating islands we had lunch on a (real) island called Taquile. The food was great. On this island the single men where red and white woolly hats and the single women wear what they want but the married men wear patterned hats and married women wear red tops and black skirts. I guess it's their version of a facebook relationship status! The authority figures on the island wear rainbow coloured woolly hats - not sure I can picture our MPs being taken seriously with them on but it's a very different society!

That night Emma had a migraine so I celebrated my birthday with people I met in the hostel and will probably never meet again and Jitske who we met in the Pampas and on isla del sol joined us for the night on her way back to Lima. It was a fun night!

Photos to come when I can upload them!

Posted by Ninirock 15:12 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Isla Del Sol - Lake Titicaca

sunny 22 °C

We left La Paz before we ran out of money and space because of all the shopping opportunities! We got a bus to Copacabana, which is a small touristy town on the edge of Lake Titicaca. We were lucky because before we left to go to the Pampas and jungle no buses were going to Copacabana due to a blockade. To get from La Paz to Copacabana you have to cross a short stretch of water unless you want to drive around the whole of Lake Titicaca. At the moment the people living on either side of the water earn their living by taking buses, lorries, cars and passengers across however, the Bolivian government are proposing to build a bridge across to connect the two peices of land. This would mean that noone would stop in these towns and their livelihoods would be lost so I can't blame them for wanting to protest but I'm glad they did it before we wanted to go to Copacabana!

When we got to Copa we had lunch on the lake front. The lake is so big you can't see the other side. We then got a (very very very slow) boat to Isla del Sol. This is a small island on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. The Incas believed that the Sun was born here. We were met by a little girl who offered us a place to stay when we got off the boat (there's no internet on the island so hostelworld.com doesn't exist)! There's no cars on the island, just lots of donkeys. We ate in a local restaurant and went to bed as it was getting cold!

We woke up to the sound of a braying donkey, we got breakfast from one of the restaurants and then we walked up to find the Inca ruins. I managed to miss out on my last blog that I fell down a drain/road gutter in Rurrenabaque and hurt my ankle. So Emma left me behind in a scenic spot while she explored. The view was great, the only downside was that almost every local kid that walked passed me asked me for money so it wasn't as peaceful as Id like!

By coincidence we bumped into a friend we made on the pampas tour called Jitske. So we relaxed on the beach until the sun set and the temperature dropped very quickly and then we went for dinner.

After our second night on the island we got the boat back to Copacabana to catch the bus that would take us out of Bolivia and onto our next country, Peru.

Photos coming soon when I find a computer fast enough to upload them!

Posted by Ninirock 16:22 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

No pampering in the Pampas!

Tropical wetlands

sunny 28 °C

After a night in Rurrenabaque after the jungle we met our new group who we were going to the Pampas with. The pampas are lowland tropical wetlands which are stuffed full of animals! Like our trip to the jungle we set off in pouring rain so we got the most out of the stylish ponchos we bought for 50p. We had a 3 hour car ride to reach the pampas which turned out to be a lot longer due to the gigantic puddles caused by the rain. Although we were in a 4x4 we still got stuck in the mud and had to be pushed out by some helpful drivers. We felt bad because we stayed in the car whereas other drivers made their passengers get out in the rain and mud to help push! There was a very tall bus behind us but we didn't stick around see how that was going to get through. We eventually got to a town called Santa Rosa and had lunch. After we piled back into the cars for a short(er) drive to the boats. Again because of the rain we didn't see much but were greeted by some Bolivian river dolphins and some squirrel monkeys on the way to our lodge.

Squirrel Monkey

Squirrel Monkey

Our lodge was on stilts as the whole area is inundated with water. It was a bit of a precarious walk to the toilets in the dark. Especially as there were a few caimans (small alligators) below and around the lodge. Whiloe we slept we could hear splashing underneath us and the loud croaks of frogs. It was so humid it was a bit hard to sleep.

Luxurious Toilets

Luxurious Toilets

Our friendly neighbour - the caiman

Our friendly neighbour - the caiman

After our first night in the Pampas we had an amazing breakfast and then put on some wellies to go searching for Anacondas and other snakes. The area where we looked for them was covered in reeds and it was difficult to walk because the mud swallowed up your feet. For a while all we found was snail eggs and spiders. We weren't sure where in the reeds we were meant to be looking for snakes but all of a sudden we got called over by the other group who'd found an anaconda. It was big!

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On the way back from the Anaconda spot we got the boat back to the lodge and saw lots of animals such as turtles, monkeys andlots of birds whose names got lost in translation! After lunch we went swimming. The water was warm but so murky that you couldn't even see your hands. We tried to swim with the pink river dolphins but they kept swimming away from us (I don't blame them)! I was a bit worried about putting my feet down as I knew there were piranhas around! We then went to a riverside bar to watch the sun set.

We got up early the next day to watch the sunrise, which was spectacular ignoring the thousands of mosquitos swarming around us! We went back to the lodge to have breakfast and on the way saw (and definitely heard) howler monkeys. We then relaxed in the hammocks next to the friendly caimans and below foraging squirrel monkeys. We also did some piranha fishing but it was morelike piranha feeding because noone caught any (and I didn't want to anyway)! We then had lunch and got the boats back to land to be picked up by the 4x4s. Although it wasn't raining this time we still managed to get stuck behind lorries that had tried to get the the massive ditches. We had to wait for at least an hour for people to dig out one of the lorries so we could get through! It's funny how the cattle pulling carts had no trouble with the mud but the newer technology did!

Stuck in the Mud

Stuck in the Mud

We said goodbye to our pampas group as people got different flights back to La Paz.

Pamas group

Pamas group

Posted by Ninirock 06:12 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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