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The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

Where ´the weather is like the women´ and ponchos are your new best friend

rain 13 °C

Landing in Cusco was the start of a few weeks above 3000m. Cusco sits at 3400m and is the historic capital of the Inca Empire and also referred to as the ´Navel of the world´. Cusco is built for tourists and has great cafes, bars and restaurants all serving western food. It also has a Starbucks and McDonalds who in their defense have been well designed to fit into the architecture and of the main square.
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I only had a half a day in Cusco to get supplies for the Inca Trail, put in a Christmas call to home and get to our trek briefing. The next morning we were picked up at 6AM ready or not! After a quick stop for brekkie we arrived at KM82 which is the starting point for all 500 people allowed to start the trek that day. Of the 500 approx 200 are porters though sometimes it seemed like porters outnumbered the actual trekkers. For example there were 4 of us in our group and we had a guide, a cook and 4 porters. I´m guessing for bigger groups the ratio isn´t as high.
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Day 1 of the trek wasn´t too difficult, one or two uphills and the rest was Andean/Peruvian flat which means up and down. Lots of people had advised me to get a poncho for the trail as it can be very rainy and misty and especially as we were coming into the wet season. I told them that I have a really good rainproof jacket that would be perfect while actually thinking that I wouldn´t be caught dead in a poncho, it would be like asking Paris Hilton to wear Pennys/Primark/Target! After about an hour it had started to rain and I realised I had made a schoolboy error and left my rainjacket in my main bag with the porters who were miles ahead already. Cue Aoife, tail between her legs buying a lovely purple poncho (inspired by Deborah Gallagher´s Tellytubby outfit) which became one of the most important pieces of gear over the rest of the trail.
Plastic Fantastic
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We lost one of our tour group on the second morning. She had cracked/bruised a rib when we were sand boarding and was just finding the up and down too painful to keep going. So two donkeys were hired, one for her and the other for her gear and she set off with the owner back to KM82. Day 2 is widely agreed to be the most difficult and I would have to agree, 5KM uphill and 4KM down starting at 3016m and climbing up to Dead Woman´s Pass at 4200m. That combined with the rain made it quite hard but my trusty poncho was again a lifesaver. I have thankfully put in some long, wet and cold days in the hills in Ireland and Scotland so I felt pretty comfortable for most of it. I met some very unhappy campers on the way up the last climb which I could understand as the weather was not playing ball by offering some decent views to ease the pain. After a quick picture at the top taken by a lovely Waterford girl I made my way down the other side, thoroughly enjoying the downhill!
Looking like a drowned rat at 4200m
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It cleared up later in the campsite and the sunset views were absolutely stunning.
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The porters and cook on the trek were absolutely fantastic. The porters each carry 25kg of equipment and pretty much run ahead of you so that lunch and camp is setup when you arrive. We were woken up with a cup of tea in our tent every morning and the food coming out of the kitchen was delicious! The stove was also useful to dry out boots!
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One of our porters, Caroline and our hilarious guide
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Day 3 was Christmas Day HOHOHO! There were a few Santa hats on the trail and even Mr Claus himself beard and all. The morning started off raining and popular opinions at to why the weather was so bad were that ´Baby Jesus didn´t get what he wanted for Christmas´ or ´Santa is hungover´. Thankfully the weather cleared and we got some gorgeous views and time to explore the ruins along the trail.
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'Santa' coming up the trail
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That night one of our group either picked up a bug or got food poisoning because at approx 9PM he started vomiting so violently near our tent I thought he was going to puke up his stomach. This continued intermittently for about 3 hours until he was finally cleared of whatever was making him so sick. Obviously I felt very sorry for him but I also selfishly was praying to every GOD there is that I wouldn´t get the same thing he had as we had eaten the exact same dinner. Counting my lucky stars I woke up at 4AM the next day with stomach contents intact. It was POURING rain however and that combined with how early it was, it was hard to be in good spirits. Along comes our saviour the cook who plonks this in front of me brekkie and made my morning.
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We had to wait for about an hour and a half (along with all other trekkers) at the checkpoint until it opens at 5.30AM and then we were off. I have never in my life witnessed such a large group of people walking at such a consistently quick pace in silence. It was freaky! We arrived at Sun Gate where if there was good weather we would have seen our first glimpse of Machu Picchu..it was quickly renamed Cloud Gate..
The weather was so bad it was actually funny!
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And finally we were there..it was cloudy and rainy but we had made it!
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We went down to the main entrance to meet the rest of our tour who had come up from Cusco the night before. The weather was starting to clear and after a really good tour of the ruins it was actually sunny and I managed to get a few decent shots.
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It’s hard not to be awestruck by it all, when you consider its age, altitude and quality of work, just amazing really. It reminded me of the scene in Avatar when they are on the mountains floating in the clouds..it felt like that when we were there with the clouds floating through that it wasn´t connected with the rest of the world.

After soaking up as much Machu Picchu as possible we took a bus down to Aquas Calientes to get some food and catch our train back to Cusco. Our guide reckoned the last day was the hardest because we got up at 4AM and didn´t get to Cusco until 9AM after a 3hour train journey..AKA a lonnnnng day but totally worth it.

The trek and Machu Picchu itself have definitely been a highlight of the trip. I was very very happy to be outside getting some exercise and of course what better place to do it then along the Inca Trail.

Up next is the Amazon and Lake Titicaca then Bolivia bound..

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Years.

Lots of love

Aoife
xx

Posted by AoifeNagle 12:47 Archived in Peru

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