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Machu Picchu

Cusco, Peru
July 1 to 12, 2005


When an opportunity came up to fly to Peru to hike the original Inca Trail to the lost city of Machu Picchu, my brother Charles and I jumped on it. We and 4 friends left on Friday July 1st from Grand Cayman.

Our first leg was a flight to Miami where we had an 8 hour layover. We took the opportunity to stop at an outfitter store to stock up on supplies that were not available in Grand Cayman.

In the taxi on the way to the outfitter store in Miami, the driver just happened to have a guitar.
I couldn't help myself...i busted out a few Elvis tunes!

An overnight flight to Lima, Peru then a quick flight to Cusco had us arriving at 8am on Saturday.

View from our hostel in Cusco

We took care not to overexert ourselves as the high altitude had us out of breath even when we climbed the 30 steps to our hostel. We took this seriously as altitude sickness can be life threatening when severe. We encountered a few people on the Inca Trail who had to turn back to lower altitudes because of this.

The main square in Cusco 'Plaza de Armes'...the heart of the city. Most buildings have Spanish influence like this very ornate church 'Iglesia de La Compania' (1571) which is lit up at night.
Its foundations are built from the palace of Huayna Capac - the last Inca to rule the empire.
Our Cusco hostel was Hostel Orquidea Real ( http://www.orquidea.net ). This is a renovated old colonial house located in the historical heart of the city. The hostel has original Inca walls and had great views of the city…all for only USD$44 for a double room which included breakfast and a free airport pick-up.
Our Hostel at the top of the steps.  

We spent our first 2 days relaxing in and around Cusco before the start of our Trek to Machu Picchu.

Charles negotiating the for a bargain from the street vendors in Cusco.

One morning as we left our hostel, we were summoned from the hotel across the street to act as models for their Internet promotional images. See the result here: http://www.suenosdelinka.com/03lodging-cusco.htm.

On Sunday we hired a private guide and mini-van to show us around the Sacred Valley area. This included the weekly market in Pisac where traditionally dressed locals as well as tourists from all over the world were selling and bartering everyday products along side colourful craft stalls. We also stopped at the village of Ollantaytambo, which has a massive Inca fortress on the hill above the Urubamba River.

Our guide showing us the sights in the Urubamba valley...popularly called the Sacred Valley
Village of Ollantaytambo with Inca fortress above. Charles feeding the alpacas.
Local girls with their pet goat...which I am sure they will eventually eat!
Local characters...Note the quality of the original Inca stonework on the right image...
and the guys feet on cardboard pieces?
Shopping at the Sunday market at Pisac.

On the chilly Sunday night, we got together with the trek guide where he briefed us on what to expect for the next 5 days. We hired a tour operator called 'Andean Life' ( http://www.andeanlife.com ) The price of USD$460 each for the 5-day trek included 9 porters, cook, guide, all food and equipment. What a deal! The guide knew an amazing amount about the history and culture which he shared with us during the course of the trek.


Map of the Inca trail through 43km of the Andes Mountains
(click to see larger version)
Our Guide & Porters. Second guy from the front is carrying our toilet on top of his pack.
Ben, Sandra, Shalaina, Charles, Jeff Porter passing us on the trail
Lunch Break Porters cleaning the dinner dishes
in a nearby stream.

The trail laid by the Incas from the sacred valley to Machu Picchu winds its way up and down and around the Andes Mountains. The views of snow-capped mountains, and the cloud forest were awesome and walking from one cliff-hugging ruin to the next is an unforgettable experience.

Local kids enjoying our desert left-overs...bananas & chocolate! Village children along the trail.
Starting to get cold at 3,500m near Llulluchupampa.
Steep steps on the trail. All of these stones are original Inca. The pass of Warmiwanusca, also known as the' dead womans pass' was the highest point of the trail at 4,215m. This steep part of the trail left us gasping. Near the Llulluchupampa campsite. We set up camp a little farther down the valley to avoid the other campers.

Hiking the Inca Trail is Peru's best known hike combining a stunning mix of Inca ruins, mountain scenery, lush cloud forest and rich subtropical jungle.

Essentially the Inca trail is a mountainous jungle hike leading to the sacred Inca city of Machu Picchu.

The 43km trek is usually covered in 4 days but we opted for the 5-day version which allowed us to escape from the majority of the other trekkers on the trail. We were able to make better progress and reached quieter, more distant and more beautiful campsites.

After 4 full days of trekking, we finally reach our goal...
the awesome cloud topping Inca city of Machu Picchu.
Intricate stonework in the buildings at Machu Picchu.

The Inca Empire for all its greatness existed for barely a century. The Inca's, whose emperor was believed to have descended from the sun ruled only over the valley of Cusco and founded the city that was to become the thriving capital of the Inca's.

Eventually, the Incas conquered most of the cultures in the area stretching from Columbia to Chile.

   

When Europeans discovered the new world, they brought with them various diseases causing epidemics, which killed many including the last Inca to rule a united empire. The Spanish landed in northern Ecuador and marched southward protected by armor and swinging steel swords, they were unstoppable by the Incas.

Once Cusco was safely captured, looted and settled, the Spaniards turned their attentions to Lima, the newly founded capital and Cusco became just another quiet colonial town.

   

It was the rediscovery of Machu Picchu in 1911 that has affected Cusco more than any event since the arrival of the Spaniards, changing the city from a quiet colonial town to Peru's foremost tourist center.

We reached Machu Picchu late on day 4 when it is at its quietest. We had a quick look at the site then proceeded down to a hostel in Aguas Calientes for the night. Five hours by train from Cusco, Aguas Calientes which has basically only one street: the railroad tracks. As soon as the daily train has left, all commerce moves out on the tracks.

Town of Aguas Calientes located at the base of Machu Picchu famous for its natural hot springs.

We returned to Machu Picchu early the next morning for a guided tour. We caught the 6am bus to the top of the mountain before the majority of the trekkers arrived from the Inca Trail and the train from Cusco.

On one of our last days in Cusco, we decided to take a white-water rafting trip on the Urubamba River. We used a company called Eric Adventures (http://www.ericadventures.com) Cost was only USD$20 including transportation and lunch!

White Water Rafting on the Urubamba River

On the way back to Grand Cayman, we had a long stop-over in Lima and decided to head into town. We took a taxi down to the sea side at Miraflores for dinner and checked out the slot machines at a casino (we lost USD$4 ) and visited a street market at Parque Kennedy.

A stop-over in Lima, Peru left us time to explore the city for a few hours.

This adventure to Peru was amazing. We had a very diverse trip which ranged from exploring the magnetic city of Cusco, visiting archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley, trekking in the Andes Mountains, learning about the Incas along the ancient footpath to the lost city of Machu Picchu, and a stop at the bustling, fast moving metropolis of Lima. I just wish we had more time to explore more of this unmissable destination.




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