Thursday, July 05, 2007
Inca trail (revised)
Although it was one of the easier days, it was a little harder than I thought-the guide and maps make it look level, but it isn't! We started around 10am, stopped for a big lunch, saw the ruins of Patallacta on the way, and camped at Wayllabamba. About 12 km (yes, the metric system again!)
The second day was the hardest-dead womans pass-4000 vertical feet in 10 kilometers-that means a lot of stairs! The pass is 13,776 ft, the highest point of the trek. If that´s just a pass btwn mouintains you can imagine how high the mountains are here! Then we went back down 2000 feet in 3 km. We lose several hours of sunlight every day because the mountains are so high. It's light but cold until the sun comes over the mountains. Happily, we were done by 2 or 3:00 this day so we could rest for the rest of the day. I took a nap, tried to stretch my legs so they'd still work the next day, had tea at "coca tea time" around 5 and then we ate dinner around 7. It gets really cold when the sun sets so we were all eating with our gloves on! Also pretty dark by about 5, so my headlamp came in handy. That night was FREEZING-we were camping at 11,480 feet in Paqaymayu. Our water froze that night and I kept waking up-even with all my layers and my 20 degree sleeping bag I couldn't stay warm!
The third day was long-16 km total and 2 passes, but neither was as hard. Ruins of Runkarakay, Pass #2 (12,792 ft), ruins of Sayaqmarka, lunch, third pass (11,972 ft) and ruins of Phuyupatamarka (seriously), and then DOWN. Going down was actually the most tiring because it was the end of the day, and it was stairs for about an hour, then steep switchbacks which had stairs thrown in. In addition to the ruins along the way, the scenery was amazing. The whole time, we could see high mountains in all directions. The mountain of Salkantay dominates the view, it is 6,200 meters high, however many feet that is! That night we camped at Winay Wayna, and it was returning to civilization. It has a lodge that sells BEER (about the best beer I've ever tasted in my life!) and things like candy bars. We ate indoors that night and the porters pulled out all the stops (coincidentally, that was also the night we tipped them) ;) Our whole group was exhausted and we went to our tents early, knowing our early start the next morning. This night I slept like a rock-we were down much lower (8,692 feet according to my map!) and it was warm enough that I slept with my sleeping bag unzipped, and only in regular pants instead of the fleece layer underneath! Too bad we had to get up so early!
The last day was easiest and shortest, although there were some steep spots (like stairs where you use your hands to get up). It was only 6km and mostly downhill. We woke up at 4am in order to reach Machu Picchu by sunrise. It was quite crowded on the trail that day because they opened the gate at 5 or 5:30 and had to check everyone's pass, so everyone started at the same time and was in a hurry. When we passed through Inti Puntu (gate of the sun) we could see the ruins from far away. (My picture stinks because it was still pretty dark). We continued on to the ruins and the plans worked to be there by sunrise. We were really lucky-it was totally clear, although it's often socked in by clouds and fog. Watching the sun come up over the mountains and hit Wayna Picchu (the mtn in every picture of Machu Picchu) and then the ruins was amazing.
Machu Picchu was incredible, like walking through a postcard! we spent the day with our guide on a tour for a couple hours, then had some time to look around on our own. Then took the bus down to the town of Aguas Calientes for lunch. We said goodbye to our guide and each other there and Ifound my hotel. (Of course MP and the town are full of more STAIRS!!!)
The food the porters made us was pretty good, and there was always lots of it. The best part was they brought us coca tea in our tents when they woke us up in the mornings!
I was in a group of just 5, but we shared porters and a cook with anotehr couple, which means we ate our meals and camped with them. That is good because the other 4 inmy group were 3 french and 1 hungarian, and only 1 of them spoke english (no spanish either) so they mostly spoke french to each other (the hungarian was married to afrench guy and she spoke french too). They were 2 couples. Luckily, the other couple (fromthe other group) was from CA and they were really nice AND spoke English!
My hotel is like a 5 star resort after camping for 3 nights. Shower, bed, comfy pillow (seriously, most comfortable bed and pillow since I arrived in Peru),coffee, what more could I want? Unfortunately the town is small,touristy, and dull. Not sure how I´ll spend the next 2 days. I was planning on sleeping in but I went to bed at 430 pm yesterday and woke up at 6am to roosters this morning! There are hot springs, the towns namesake,but it is cold and dreary today and I don´tfeel like hiking UP MORE!
Then I have pretty bad news. I lost my camera (and a couple hundred pictures, including the tour with Qeswachaka bridge and the caves on Saturday, and several ruins I went to) the day before starting the Inca Trail, anddidin´t notice it until the morning of.I had a terrible terrible headache that saturday andwas pretty miserable and it must have fallen out of my bag or something. I´ve offered a reward andafriend has contacted the tour agency and they are looking into it, but who knows. I´m really bummed about it. :(