Sunday, July 17, 2011

Inca Trail

We had a tough night sleep as the wedding party was rocking next door until about 3 am. Ah well....can't feel badly about people being happy, I suppose. We got up at around 6:30, had breakfast, and waited to meet our guide for the next few days..."Willow." He showed up at about 7:10 and was all business, we got our things together (we actually had to leave four bags at the hotel...we were only allowed to take our day packs and one small Amazonas Explorer duffle bag to Machu Picchu) and then headed to the train station, which was only a few blocks down the hill.

The train to Km 104 took about an hour and a half. All of a sudden, the train stopped and Willow said it was time to get off...we grabbed our things and got off the train in the middle of no where...we were the only people to get off here and there was no station of any kind.

We put on sun screen, bug spray and packed our bags (Willow had arranged for the one duffle bag to be dropped at our hotel for the night) and started up the trail. This was a very different hike than those we had been doing. There was way more vegetation along the trail and it was much steeper. The first two hours was very hot and all up hill...fortunately, there were a couple of huts in which we could rest...we would have been hard pressed to make it otherwise. Willow set a quick pace for this part of the hike, which was all in the sun (as a side note, he is a former Inca Trail porter, who had, at one point, the ability to hike the entire Inca Trail in about 7 hours) as he wanted us to get through it more quickly. There were tons of stairs going both up and down, but mostly up...we decided that these were harder to hike than the other trails we'd been doing. Alex even thought they were stupid to make the stairs, but it provided the ability for the trail to be much more direct than the others.

Eventually, after much cajoling of Persie and Alex (who was still not feeling great), we made it to a waterfall. The kids had a chance to cool off here and then we headed up to Winya Wayna, an Incan site that was a farming research facility for Machu Picchu. This is a multiple terraced site that is quite spectacular to see, if only for it's size and location. After climbing the 345 or so steps to the top, we had a nice lunch in the shade and learned about the site from Willow.

We headed off after lunch and soon came to a "hiker's lodge" that services Inca Trail hikers. It's right a the bottom of the infamous 3,000 step descent from a pass high about Winya Wayna. It didn't look like much compared to the AMC huts we're used to, so we just stopped to pee and then moved on. This section of the trail was much flatter and in the trees, so the kids felt a lot better about it and moved much more quickly.

After about an hour and a half, we arrived at a spot from where Willow told us it was all uphill for twenty minute to the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu (Inti Punku). We quickly moved throughout the "oh my god" section (hand over hand stair climbing) and before we knew it, were at Ina Punta (Alex timed us in 7 minutes and 30 seconds!).

Machu Picchu is an impressive sight from high above, as you are at Inti Punku. It is a city that once housed 1000 people and it is poised at the top of a mountain. There are many terraces visible as well as houses, temples, etc. The sun was in the wrong place for good pictures, but we took them anyway and then headed down the trail to the actual site. Willow didn't really want to do much touring as our pass only allowed us to finish the trail and take a bus down to Aguas Calientes, but since it was late and there weren't many people there, we convinced him to show us some things. We toured for about an hour and saw a number of significant parts of the site including the Temple of the Sun, and the Monument to the Condor. It's amazing what the Cechuans were able to build under the direction of the Inca. The lasting impression I have is one of incredibly hard work...

We headed down to town on a bus to find our hotel, had a quick pizza dinner and then went to bed. Mom & Dad's room was right on the river, so it was a good night's sleep...the kids were a few rooms down and also slept well after a number of difficult hiking days...we figured out that we had hiked 58 kilometers (more than the standard 43 km Inca Trail, which is typically done in four days) in five days through all sorts of altitude changes. Very impressive for ones so young!

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