Kilometre 82 and the start of the Inca Trail

by CameronM Fri, April 14 2006 21:50

I had booked my Inca Trail hike with Peru Treks prior to leaving home and in a show of good faith I had even transferred a US$147 deposit to confirm my booking. Thankfully for me, this time I was not scammed, although I would seriously reconsider doing this again, especially since most of the local operators at the time only excepted Western Union transfers, which offers no protection or fraud protection in the event you pay for services that are never delivered.

I had gone to the Peru Treks offices a couple of days earlier to finalise payment (total cost US$325), organise a pickup from my hostel and sign the usual waiver forms. The bus that would take me to the start of the Iica Trail arrived at 5:15am with the rain drissling down. After picking up the rest of our team of 16 trekkers, 20 porters and 2 guides, we were off to Ollantaytambo for breakfast and to pick up a few last minute supplies.

From Ollantaytambo we drove to kilometre 82, the point on the railway line from Cusco to Aguas Calientes where most teams start the trail. The rain was still coming down as we loaded up our packs and went through the check-point and it rained off and on most of the next 3 days.

The first day is considered 'easy', although there are two small uphill sections that help to get your heart going. We passed a number of small villages along the way, with the inhabitants out selling bottled water, chocolate bars are other trekking essentials.

The first surprise of the day came when we arrived at our lunch stop. The porters, all carrying about 25kg, had raced ahead of us and set up a cooking tent and a large mess tent, complete with tables and chairs. Outside were buckets with soap and hand towels, so we could wash before lunch. If this wasn't enough to make you think you had died and gone to hikers heaven, when the 3-course HOT lunch arrived, we were all stunned. The food on the trip was nothing short of amazing.

We camped overnight at Wayllabamba, the last village before the trail heads into the 'unknown'. When we arrived, the porters, who had cleaned up after lunch, packed the gear and overtaken us agins, had now setup 8 sleeping tents. in addition to the mess and cooking tents.

Over the coming days, we would all be amazed at the strength and fitness of the porters, as the powered past us on tough climbs carrying twice the weight I carried while wearing sandles.

Check out the Peru Treks - Machu Picchu trail map

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Sacred Valley - Cusco

by CameronM Thu, April 13 2006 21:48

This morning it was back on the tour bus for a full day trip to the Sacred Valley. The valley is named thus because in Inca times there were a number of religious sites and important towns. First stop was the market town of Pisaq, where every local and their dog tried their hardest to seperate me from my Soles (Peruvian currency). I resisted quite well and since I had already shopped around both in Cusco and at the markets here, I was able to avoid being ripped off too much.

Pisaq also has ruins, however we did not see these, which was a bit of a bummer, since my tourist ticket covered entry to them as well.

Next stop was a buffet lunch of 'traditional' Peruvian foods, including small pieces of a relative of the Llama. All the food was very tasty, excect for the pieces of corn, which were horrible.

After lunch we headed off to Ollantaytambo, a hillside village and temple ruin. The village is still in use today, however the temple area was either never finished, or destroyed by the Spanish, depending on who you believe. The temple is located at the top of a very impressive terraced hillside. These terraces were used as protection against errosion and also for growing crops - either way they make for an energetic climb.

Leaving Ollantaytambo behind, we headed to another former Inca town called Chinchero. Here the Spanish took a novel approach and built their own church on the foundations of the old Inca temple to the sun. At a number of places in the church, the smooth Inca stones are still visible.

As it was the Thursday before easter, mass was about to start, so I felt a little weird walking around the church while the congregation was sitting waiting for the priest to come. Our guide didn't seem to mind and continued to talk about the various artifacts and traditions of the 'simple' rural people.

Hostelworld lists a number of hostels and backpackers in Cusco, including the Hospedaje Turistico Recoleta where I stayed.

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Peru