Saturday, September 12, 2009

Machu Picchu- The Inca Jungle Trek

We decided to go with a tour group after getting lost every single day in the Canyon. Our group was really fun with one Australian, 3 other Brits, 2 dutch, one Brazilian, one Irish and one Spanish/Swiss guy. Doing the original Inca trail is about three times more expensive than doing one of the other alternative treks so we picked the Inca Jungle Trek. We chose it from the others because the first day is 5 hours of downhill mountain biking which sounded like a nice change of pace.

The Australian guy crashed into our guide within the first 10 minutes and dislocated the guide´s shoulder and crushed his hand which left us sans leader for the entire trip. I naturally stepped in and led most the way down just because I wanted to go faster than most. (Guide is right behind me below.)
The first 3 hours or so were amazing as we glided down the mountain side on a perfectly paved road. Then we hit the worst road in Peru and were all miserable for about two hours. No one mentioned this awful part when they were selling it to us. I was riding down it as fast as possible just to get it over with but decided I should stop and wait for Gemma.
We started riding together and the second I went 3 seconds ahead of her I hear "ahhhh, oh, oh ahha, AHHHHHH". I immediately knew she was crashing but was just hoping it wouldn´t be a bad one. I screached my bike to a halt, turned around and see Gemma lying on her back in the middle of the road. She twisted her knee pretty badly but other than that was able to hobble away with just some scrapes on her arm, knees and hip. They also didn´t mention when they were selling us the package that there would be a 50% crash rate. We spent the night in Santa Maria and stayed up learning from the all knowledgeable Rob.
Gemma and one other girl had to skip the second day of hiking and took a cab to the next town. Which was really nice until it stopped and picked up five other locals along the way and nearly drove off a cliff edge. The rest of us hiked up a pretty steep mountain and then all the way down it to Santa Teresa.
The highlight of the day had to be this little guy below. Its part of the guinia pig family but much much larger, and cooler.

We ended our day of hiking with an amazing stop at really nice hot springs.
The third day the girls rejoined us for a hike to Agnes Calientes which is the town you have to arrive in the day before you hike to Machu Picchu. We walked along train tracks most of the way but crossed this bridge below which I thought was beautiful.

We were given the option to hike to the top of a mountian next to Machu Piccu which would be our first view of the ancient city but from the side. The first part of the climb is actually straight up four sets of handmade wooden ladders the longest of which is 100 feet high. After you ascend these ladders you are half way there and have to climb up rock steps to the top.
Wikipedia says the most defining feature of Mt. Putucusi is the hour and a half climp up these 1700 wooden and rock steps. I did it in 40 minutes. Gemma and the Aussie were only about 5 minutes behind me and then the rest of the group slowly made their way to the top. I was just so damn excited to finally catch a glimpse of Match Peach that I pretty much ran all the way up.
Here were our first views of Machu Picchu from the top of Putucusi!

The winding zig-zag road you see in the left of the pic below is the road the bus takes to the top. The path we climbed was actually straight up through the middle of this path.
Partially because we ran to the top of Putucusi and partially because this was our 8th day hiking out of 10, Gemma and I were absolutely dead last of our group to the top the next morning when we climbed an hour and a half to the gate. I´d like to blame this partially on our two wardrobe changes we had to do en route. We started at 4:30am and figured we´d be hiking so wouldn´t need warm clothes. Well when we could clearly see our breath for the first 10 minutes we decided to change into our longjohns and long sleave shirts. After 10 minutes of strenous hiking we stripped off for our shorts and short sleave again.

This is what we looked like half way up. Drenched in sweat, well at least I was.
But we made it.

And it was well worth the wait. Even though we were the last two of our group, we were still amoung the first 100 people in line and got to see the grounds with virtually no one there. After 11am the posers that take the train in that day and then the bus to the top arrive and crowd the place.

There are about 20 llamas that live at Machu Picchu and wander the grounds. Not a bad address huh?

Relaxing and clowning around on one of the many many terraces.

We spent from 6am until 2pm there. When we decided to leave we made our way to the exit and took one last look. That last look took about 25 minutes because it really is just so damn beautiful that it makes it hard to look or walk away from.

I took one last business call and then we hit the road back.

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