Inca Trail Day 4: Machu Picchu – Goal Attained!

inca_trail_0218Anxiety of anticipation is a terrible thing. We were told that our wake up call would be at 4 am, with no mate de coca this time because we had to quickly get our things packed before our 4:30 am breakfast. Naturally that meant that I woke up around 3 am, not actually knowing what time it was, and not being able to go back to sleep.

Dave woke up around 3:30 am, so we started getting dressed and getting our bags packed up. For once we were the first and not the last of our group.

Breakfast was the most basic meal they had given us the entire time (actually a reasonable amount of food instead of mountains of it), but I couldn’t really eat anything. My stomach isn’t ready to receive anything that early in the morning. I sipped some mate de coca and waited until we were told to get our packs on.
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Inca Trail Day 3: Of Ruins and Rainforests

Our trek guide LeoThis morning our wake up call and mate de coca visit was at 5:30 am, though I had been awake for some time wondering what time it was. We drank our mate and then rushed to get our stuff all packed up. Breakfast was at 6 am (no quinoa this time) and we started walking around 6:30 am.

For about 45 minutes the path went up yet another series of steps, taking us to the ruins of Runkuracay. As usual the group was waiting for me to arrive, and then Leo proceeded to give us the history of this site. The smallish site may have doubled as a guard post and a waystation for messengers.
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Inca Trail Day 2: Never-ending Stairs

Inca Trail first night campsiteI slept surprisingly comfortably and warmly in our tent, and didn’t really wake up until sometime early in the morning when I could hear Dave poking around. He got up early and went out to take photos of the mountains in the early light. He came back to the tent around 6 am and we started packing up our things. Wake up call was around 6:15 am, when two porters came to each tent and asked if we wanted some mate de coca. I sipped mine while trying to finish up packing.

Breakfast was at 6:30 am, and wasn’t just cold cereal. They gave us toast and pancakes with jam and butter, and also a local porridge-like dish called quinoa (very yummy).

As we hiked yesterday I quickly realized that I was one of the slowest members of the group. I also realized that Day 2 was supposed to be the hardest, most vertical day, and that if I was having some problems on the relatively flat hike on Day 1, there was no way I could make it through Day 2 with a 25-pound backpack on my back.

Dave and I talked about it, and we decided to take advantage of the option to hire a local porter to carry our packs just for the day (50 soles, or less than $20). It was the smartest decision we made throughout the entire experience.
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Inca Trail Day 1: The Trek Begins

After a restless night of sleep, the alarm went off at 4:30 am. I got up and went into the bathroom, and as soon as I flicked the light switch I knew the day was starting off crazy. There was no power. I tested the light in the bedroom as well, just to verify – we had no electricity. I woke up Dave to let him know, then went downstairs and woke up Javier, the guy at the hostel who keeps everything going. I told him there was no electricity and he started testing a bunch of things. Finally he told me that there was no electricity in the whole hostel, other than the doorway (which was apparently on a different circuit).

I asked him what we should do. After a few minutes of activity and craziness, he told me that there was one room in the hostel that had a shower that ran on gas, rather than electricity. Unfortunately there was no light, but we were welcome to use that shower to bathe in the dark. I went and got my headlamp out of my backpack and gathered my things for the shower.

It was the hottest shower I had the entire time we were in Peru. It was lovely.

After I was done, I showed Dave where the shower was, and then proceeded to get everything ready using my headlamp as my only light. Fortunately we had almost completely packed the night before, so we just had to get dressed, pack a last few things, and then we were ready to go.

Fortunately the electricity problems didn’t put a dent in our schedule, and we were out the door with our backpacks on around 5:30 am as planned.
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Overcoming Altitude Fatigue

The first day and a half we were in Cusco, we were unbelievably fatigued the entire time we were there. It’s easy to attribute that to the altitude – the city sits at approximately 10,000 feet, a height at which sea-level dwellers are prone to get tired or worse. Certainly the altitude played a part in our exhaustion, but there must have been other factors as well – jet lag, the lack of a normal schedule, difficulty sleeping due to the busyness of the hostel, and the cold I’d had for over a week now.

However, we got a very good night’s sleep on Sunday night – there were very few people coming and going during the night. We got up a little after 8 am and had uneventful showers. We went down to breakfast at 9 am. About halfway through our breakfast a couple came down and greeted us with “Bonjour”. I really wasn’t sure what to do with that; I think we murmured “Buenos dias” or “Hola” and went on with our breakfast. We didn’t really try to engage them in conversation nor vice-versa. It was too perplexing to know whether or not they spoke Spanish or English.

We got ready and went out around 10 am with plans for a full day. We were feeling energetic and ready to experience more of Cusco, and also to accomplish a few errands.
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Bummin’ Around Cusco

Our hostel room in CuscoWe didn’t sleep well that first night in the hostel. At first we thought it would be too cold, but the heavy blankets on the bed kept us warm while we slept. The problem was the traffic coming in and out of the hostel. Guests aren’t able to come in the front door without buzzing the doorbell – the front door is kept locked with a bar on the inside. Keep in mind that it was Saturday – there were probably a lot of people who went out to discos.

Finally in the wee hours of the morning it got quiet again, but not for too long, because once the breakfast hour began at 7 am, there was the usual hostel noise of people getting up, going down to breakfast, etc.
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Travel to Cusco

"Peru, birthplace of the Potato"On Saturday I got up around a quarter to nine and had a nice shower. I woke Dave up and then went back downstairs and had breakfast of tea and fruit with Ana Maria. She and I arranged the details of our return to Lima the following Saturday. Then Dave and I packed up our bags, including one suitcase that we left with Ana Maria.

We got into a taxi at 10:30 am and were at the airport by 10:50 am. There was basically no traffic. Everything was smooth checking in, checking our luggage, etc. We walked over toward the gate and were told we had to pay an airport tax before we could go through security. That was pretty annoying but we did it anyway.

When we got into the waiting area, there was no gate yet assigned for our flight, so we waited in a general waiting area, next to a huge sign that said “Peru – Birthplace of the Potato”. Finally the gate was assigned to our flight so we moved to the waiting area for that gate, which was more cramped and full of passengers than the general waiting area.
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