An amazing trip, I did 3 times and everytime is different ...
25.04.2009 6 °C
There are some options to get to the ruins of Machu Picchu. All of them departing from Cusco. The world famous Inca Trail is just one choice! Here I’m going to talk about it and also about the “Biking through Málaga” program, the “Mollepata/Salkantay”, the “Lares”, the “Huchuyqosqo” and the “LLactapata” trekkings. They vary according to a number of facts such as duration, type of views, difficulty etc.
1) The Inca Trail trekking : 4 days / 3 nights
(one day prior, the guide visits clients in order to set last details for the trekking)
First day: Usually around 7 am the guide catches clients at the hotel and, in a touristic bus, go to Piscacucho, where they serve the first breakfast. On the way, it is time to watch the Sacred Valley (Chinchero, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo) pass by. Here, at the 82 kilometer point, we check in to the trail showing the passport and trekking voucher (that’s the importance of giving the agency the correct number of passport, age and complete name). Near the start point office, crossing the train line, there is a sign pointing where the trail starts. After taking a picture by it, groups are off to the trail around noon. 9 km from here is the first campsite - Waillabamba, to be reached in about 4-5 hours walking. After an hour and a half, we pass through Misscay village: donkeys, chickens, small houses and children playing with their balls are part of the scene. At some point the Llactapata ruins can be seen and the guide explains a little about it. Time to take great pictures! About 45 minutes more or so, we get to the campsite to see that porters and cooks have already settled our tents and dinner is almost ready! Food is served around 5 p.m. It’s time to get to know each other and to learn more about the second day of the trekking. Before going to the tent, the guide serves us a cup of coca-leaf tea for the soroche – altitude sickness – because the second is the toughest and highest day!
Second day: this is the toughest day of the trek! We go from sea level to 4.200 meters! It’s a 7-9 hours walking day (depending on how fit people in the group are), and the path is full of ups and downs on steep and rocky terrain. So, at around 6:00 am we get our hot coca-leaf tea from the guide, even before leaving the tent (nights on the trail are usually cold) and get ready for breakfast. Leaving at around 7:30 am and stopping at some points (every 20 steps or so…) to catch the breath and enjoy the view, after 4 hours going up we get to the Dead woman’s pass (Warmiwañusca in Quechua, the indian language). It’s said this name comes from the fact that the landscape has the shape of a woman lying on her back. The path goes through her “breasts”. Take a look at this picture of it!
See her breasts?
After a break of half an hour, we start the climb down to the campsite of Pacaymayo (3.600 meters). The precariously arranged 3.000 stone steps ask for a stick, in order to help knees and ankles… After an hour and a half down, we reach Pacaymayo. It’s the biggest camping site on the trail and there are real toilets there. Once there, lunch is served (thanks to the porters again!) and for those who still have some strength left, we are off up to the Runcu Rakay resting Inca place (3.900 meters). It’s an amazing half-moon shaped Incan ruin with an awesome view of the valley below! Back to campsite we had time to rest. Tomorrow the trekking continues through Runcu Racay again: the first of the three passes of the third day!
Third day: Some say it is the easiest day, others say it is also a hard one. Maybe because legs are still tired of the former day… The thing is: today we reach the last campsite where there’s a bar open up to 10:15 pm!
Well, after an early wake up at 6 am again, the coca leaf is still advised because the trail is always above 2.500 meters. Breakfast is served and, at 7:30 we are off to Runcu Racay pass, 300 m up steep stone steps, from last camp in Pacaymayo. A little after leaving Runcu Racay, we get to the Second Pass and the mirador (3900 meters), from where we have a great view of the surrounding snow-covered mountains in the distance: the Veronica and the Urubamba. On the way here there are waterfalls and two lakes to take pictures! Going down on concrete steps, to the Third pass, we pass an Incan tunnel and in the distance we can see the ruins of Sayac Marca (it means inaccessible place), where we are headed next. No one knows its purpose yet but it is worth the effort of climbing up the steep steps! On the way we can spot our last campsite! Sayac Marca is bigger than Runcu Racay and from there, if weather permits, one can see the Amazonia far on the horizon! The remains of an aqueduct can still be seen going off the ruins. From Sayac Marca to the third pass it takes about 2 hours walking and this part of the trail is through jungle-like vegetation and canopies of trees. The trail goes on boarding the “precipice” so, be careful! Beyond the pass we can spot the ruins of Phuyu Pata Marca (city among the clouds). The ruins are a series of terraces and baths (not public ones), built for ceremonial purposes. In one of the baths, it is the only advisable place along the trail, where we can fill our bottles with pure water! On the way round the mountain, following the terraces there’s a kind of castle, from where a real staircase goes down some 1 km (they say there are 5.200 steps). Down on the Urubamaba valley, the railroad gave back the signs of civilizations for the first time during the trek! The next ruins are Intipata: it is a set of agricultural terraces and communication post. Researchers came to these conclusions due to the fact of it being close to Machu Picchu itself. There are not many “things” to explore here, the views are magnificent though. A couple of hours more and we get to our last camp at Wiñaywayna. After dinner it is time to say good bye to the porters. We collect tips (there’s not a fixed amount) and the guide symbolically gives it to the porters representative. It’s done not because they are underpaid! Not at all! They have their own association and salaries are fixed and better than the guide’s! The real reason for tipping them is their job: they not only carry the heavy gear (lots more than tourists could carry). They go faster than us so that, when we arrive at the campsites, the tents and food are ready for our joy! They are the real reason for our “comfort” during our journey! After this small celebration, some people go to the bar, others go to their tents. The greatest day is only a few hours ahead!
Fourth day: Why wake up at 3:30 am? The simplest answer: to watch the sunrise over the Machu Picchu ruins! After the last breakfast we head off to the Intipuku (The sun gate). It’s a stone fortress from where we can see the worldwide famous ruins of the Lost City of the Incas! Those famous pictures of a person pointing to the ruins is usually taken from here lol They say it is aligned with sunrise in important days of the year! The view of the sun slowly coming up and enlightening the ruins is indescribable! Well, 15 minutes walking down and we reach Machu Picchu!
The citadel is divided into 3 main parts: the living place, the ceremonial place and public place. Also, there is the Huayna Picchu to climb! It is the high mountain in the complex. If you pay attention to the whole site from the distance, it’ll look like the face of an Indian lying back. The Huayna Picchu is the Indian’s chin lol Only 400 people are allowed to climb it up a day. So if you intend to do it, go there first and wait in the line. You will surely have time after that to explore the ruins. This climb takes 2 hours going up uneven and narrow steps which are not for the faint-hearted! Although the view is really worth the effort, don’t go there if you’re not well prepared!
After some time exploring the ruins, around 3 pm, we headed to Aguas Calientes village (by bus departing from the Machu Picchu bus station), where we had lunch (usually not included in the price for the Inca Trail. Check on it with your agent!) There is a “restaurant” up in the ruins but it is not for ordinary travelers, due to the prices. It is better to wait and eat in Aguas Calientes. Once in Aguas, ask your guide about restaurant options. There are all kinds, serving all types of typical and international food! You can eat with your group or choose your own option! It is important to pay attention to the time the guide sets for meeting again at the train station. This is the time to get the train beck to Cusco. Also very important, is to be sure if your package price includes transfer services from the train station in Cusco to your hotel there!
All places, every ruin, the crew, the travelers; every single detail of this adventure is unforgettable!
In order to better fulfill one’s needs and enjoy the 4 days/3 nights of the trekking, one must bear in mind that the respect for others and their cultures is a MUST! Also, knowing the complete travel program (what it includes or not) is crucial, so that complaints don’t take part of these terrific moments!
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