Day 1 - The Mountain Biking
The first day consisted of a mini van ride to about 2 hours away to just past Ollantaytambo and to an altitude of around 4300 metres (just over 14,000 feet), where we got kitted up with mountain bikes to start a decent to Santa Maria. It was a bit like the death road, although not as beautiful and it was pretty much all tarmac roads. Luckily the weather held up, as apparently a couple of days before it had been chucking it down. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed the bike ride so much if that were the case...
|Abra Malaga Mountain (4700m)|
|Our group before the bike ride, with our guide (known as "Herby") on the right. Check out the size difference!|
|The Sacred Valley|
Day 2 - The walk to Santa Teresa
We got up at about 6am to start our trek to Santa Teresa. The walk was through various types of vegetation such as coffee plants, coca, bananas etc. It was pretty hard, mostly because we had to carry our backpacks and it was boiling hot! I hadn't really thought about the fact that we would be walking with our backpacks on, I think I would have packed a bit less! We stopped along the way for Herby to paint all of our faces with this red fruit, and then carried on to this place called the "Monkey House" to have something to drink and get dressed up in traditional Cusco clothing. We had a yummy drink called Chicha Morada, which is made from fermented purple maize - it sounds gross but it was actually amazing, and refreshing!
|Us with our faces painted|
|Us in traditional Cusco clothes. With a doll...don't ask|
because of their supernatural strength.
|Going over the rapids in a dodgy cable car|
Day 3 - The "Adventure" Walk
The night before, Herby had asked whether we wanted to do the adventure walk or the easy walk. The thing with the adventure walk was that you had to get up at 5am and then go for 2 and a half hours up hill, where the reward is a view of Machu Picchu from a distance. It was also about 18km instead of 13km. Obviously we all chose the adventure walk. I found it pretty hard, the hill was relentless and it was already getting hot, even though it was only about 8am. When we got to the top we reached a recently investigated Inca site called Llactapata (2700m) perched high up on the side of the Vilcanota River Valley. From there we saw Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu in the distance. It was really beautiful, even in the morning haze.
|Llactapata Inca ruins|
|Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu in the distance|
Day 4 - Machu Picchu!
Aguas Calientes is probably the most touristy town i've ever seen. Everything is overpriced and there doesn't seem to be one shop that isn't dedicated to trying to sell you crap tourist stuff. In any case, we weren't there for that long. We had to get up at half 3 (ouch!) so that we could get to the bridge that goes over the river below Machu Picchu. Basically there are only 400 people a day allowed onto the Huayna Picchu hill (the hill you see in all the photos of Machu Picchu) so people get up super early to climb the stairs that go up to Machu Picchu in order to be part of the 400. It's pretty crazy, and looking back I can't believe I didn't burst a lung or something (Tony obviously wasn't even out of breath - dick). We had to go for almost an hour and a half up stairs to get to the top. And we didn't stop once! Luckily Herby had told us to bring a spare top as we would be sweaty at the top, and he was so right! Both of us were soaked though, and when we got up there it was still only half 5.
What is amazing about getting up so early though is the fact that you are in Machu Picchu with hardly any other tourists. When it gets to mid morning, all the other people start arriving in buses - when we were there we got to take photos of it with almost no people there.
|A llama trying to eat Tony's breakfast|
|Inca architecture in Machu Picchu|
|The view of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu|
|Machu Picchu at about 6am.|
Machu Picchu really didn't disappoint - I was worried that after having seen so many photos, heard so much about it and things that it would be a bit of an anti climax. But both Tone and I were stunned. The 3 day hike before with quick glimpses of it in the distance also made it all the more satisfying to get there.
The day after we got back from Machu Picchu we were picked up at 4.30am to go to the jungle, which Tone is going to blog about next. We are off to Arequipa on Monday night (for more bloody hiking! arrghh!) and then onwards to Chile!