Sayaqmarka and Aquas Calientas

by CameronM Sun, April 16 2006 21:54

Today we faced three smalled passes, the first immediatley after leaving the campsite. At 3950 metres, it was only marginally lower than Dead woman's pass, however the gain in altitude was only about half as much.

In addition to the challenge of the trail, we stopped at a number of interesting Inca ruins, the main one being the storage and overnight Inca rest stop at Sayaqmarka. The town was located on a beautiful hillside and would have had amazing views over the valley below, if only we could see them for the cloud!

A recent series of landslides meant that we could not walk the final 6 kilometres from the Gate of the Sun into Machu Picchu, so the group decided to walk directly to Aquas Calientas, where we could stay at a hostel and take the bus to Machu Picchu in the morning. This meant that as well as having the normal full days hike, over three passes, we also spent an additional 2 hours descending to meet the railway line and then a 45 minute walk along the line to Aquas Calientas.

On the descent from Winay Wayna (2700m) I decided to follow the example set by our porters and began a slight jog down. Although running downhill with a 15kg backpack seems illogical, it actually reduces the impact on your legs, which normally begin burning after a few kilometres. This was also only possible because the descent is more gradual than “Gringo Killer” and had few steps.

We finally intersected the railway line, but had to wait for the rest of our group, who arrived just as it was getting dark. The brisk walk along the railway line was rather boring, although having to get out of the way of the train returning to Cusco added some interest. The railway line follows the river into Aquas Calientas and is bordered by rainforest on the otherside, so there wasn't a lot of scope for deviating off course too far.

Eventually we arrived at Aquas Calientas about 6:30 pm, in the dark, completely exhausted, but looking forward to a good nights sleep in a normal bed.

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Warmi Wanusca (Dead Woman's Pass)

by CameronM Sat, April 15 2006 21:52

Today we faced the biggest climb on the trail, over Warmi Wanusca, or Dead Woman's Pass. No one seems to know why it is called dead woman's pass, however our guide said he thoght it was because from the approach side, it looks a little like a woman lying down.

Dead Woman's Pass lies at 4200 metres above sea level, higher than I had been previsouly, plus you have to climb up about 1100 metres from the camp at Wayllabamba, making it a tough morning.

The weather again turned out to be terrible, and while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive and have morning tea, I froze. I had managed to walk at a good pace and arrived at morning tea about 10 minutes before anyone else, and about 45 minutes before the slowest of our group.

After morning tea, we hit the hardest part of the climb, which consisted of a ridiculous number of stairs, leading over the pass. I was comforted by the fact that even the porters had to stop and rest a number of time before the top.

After the pass, we headed down to our campsite, located at Papaymayu, at an elevation of 3500 metres. The descent, although hard on the legs, was a welcome relief and I found myself singing along as I 'hopped' over the steps.

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