Travel Mumblings

June 13, 2008

Cusco & Machu Picchu

Filed under: peru — Tags: , , , , — paulparkie @ 16:57

From Huaraz, we took the easier, less stressful bus journey to Lima. Rather than spend half a night in a hostel, we decided to just head straight for the airport and ‘sleep’ (pah) there until our flight at 05:40. Lima isn’t a nice city. It’s loud and noisy and smelly, though I guess you could say that about most big cities! It was strange being in the airport. We saw things we had grown unaccustomed to, like Burger King and Pizza Hut… it was all a very Westernised affair, which by no means is a good thing, but it did make killing the 8 hours until our flight easier!

Cusco is a beautiful city. It’s just a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets lined with proud, old buildings, and the Plaza de Armas was one of the most impressive we’ve seen. We just spent the day getting lost really, exploring all the quieter back streets and markets. The amount of street sellers here selling the usual tat and trinkets was amazing… I almost lost it a couple of times with them constantly skulking round me. We had a early start the next day for our Inca Trail trek, so we just grabbed a few last-minute supplies before dinner. I’d seen ‘cuy’ on the menu in lots of places, but it was always surprisingly expensive, for what essentially is guinea pig… you can pick them up in a pet shop back home for a couple of pounds! Anyhow, we’d been recommended a restaurant in Cusco, so decided to plump for a cuy pate… which  was actually awesome. Not sure I could eat it back home, (I can just imagine the conversation in the pet shop… “Do you want this wrapped, or is it to eat now?” ha), but I’ll definitely be eating it again out here!

june-12-paul-013We left early on the next morning and were taken on the bus to Ollantaytambo, where we left on foot up the Sacred Valley. Leaving km 82, as it’s called, where we had to pass through ‘Passport Control’! I kid you not. It’s gone mentally tourist orientated in some places… where else, apart from entering a country do you need to get you r passport stamped? Anyhow, we crossed and climbed away from the Vilcanota River, we passed many ruins and had amazing views down the Urubamba valley. After about a 10km we arrived at Wayllabamba (3,000m). The name in Quechua means ‘grassy plain’.  We camped here for our first night.

The second day (apparently the most difficult), we hiked through steepening woods and increasingly spectacular terrain that brought us to the treeline and a meadow known as Llulluchapampa (3,680m). From there it was a 1½ hour climb to the first and highest pass of the trail (Abra de Huarmihuañusca or ‘Dead Woman’s Pass) at 4,200m. We sat at the top for a while watching other hikers sweating up the trail as the mentalist porters flew past them carrying loads as big as them! I shared my sherbert lemons with the porters. Keep in their good books! ha. Then it was a slog down the other side to Pacamayo (3,600m), where we camped.

On day three, the scenery changed from mountains to cloud forests. june-12-paul-0841It was weird how quickly everything changed. We saw loads more ruins… almost to the point where I was bored of them to be honest, which sounds terrible… but there was just so freakin’ many, and our guide wanted to stop and tell us the exact history behind every single one! Still, Phuyupatamarca, was easily the most impressive Inca ruin so far. The name means ‘Town in the Clouds’. We spent the night at Wiñay Wayna, and I had a shower… and a beer! Amazing.

We woke at 04:30 and hiked the final 1 ½ hours to Machu Picchu hoping to be at the Sun Gate for sun rise. Pah. When we got there we couldn’t see anything. Cloud/mist/whatever the smeg it was, filled the whole valley. Balls! Disappointed was not the word. We couldn’t believe we’d invested all that time and effort to not be able to see anything! We sulked our way down to Machu Picchu and the lo-and-behold the sun started breaking through and we got some awesome photos of the mist burning off the ruins… it looked so mystical! Completely made everything worthwhile. The day there was amazing, we had clear blue skies by  09:00 and we even were lucky enough to be able to climb Wayna Picchu (they limit the number of people allowed up each day). In trying to preserve it, and rightly so, they have little men with whistles running round, keeping people of grassy areas and certain parts of the ruins. One of the funniest things I saw was a bunch of hippies peacefully doing yoga on a quiet patch of grass get whistled at and chased away by two guards! ha.

Wow. So there you have it. One of the most amazing experiences of my life, summed up in a few paragraphs. My words, nor my photos will ever do it justice. It really is one of those places that you just have to go and see for yourself.

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