The Inca Trail: Day 4

We woke up at 2:45am, packed our bags, had breakfast, and walked for about five minutes to the entrance of the last part of the trail. We waited an hour and a half for it to open, and then began our hike, it was drizzling, and very foggy, so by the time we reached Machu Picchu we could not see anything. Luckily we had plenty of time so we waited until the clouds cleared and were able to see some spectacular views. By the afternoon, the sky had cleared, and it was really hot. We fed some llamas, checked out some more ruins, and then headed to lunch to meet up with our group. The Portuguese taught us how to party, and we eventually boarded our train and headed back home.

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The Inca Trail: Day 3

This was by far may favorite day, even though my muscles were sore, and I was exhausted, this day offered the most exciting sights. We hiked through a cloud forest, where you are literally at the same height as the clouds, saw some spectacular Incan ruins, and then finished the day with a visit to a nearby waterfall. In total we hiked over 6 miles, with a lot of it being a steep downhill. Our last meal was so much fun, and we really got to know our group that night. The chef even made us a cake for our last night! We tried to fall asleep as early as possible because our wake up time was 2:45am on day 4.

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The Inca Trail: Day 2

Day two was supposed to be our hardest, although I found day three more difficult because I was so exhausted, however we hiked the second day for about 10 hours, stopping for lunch after about 6, and going to our highest elevation through Dead Woman’s Pass. We went a total of 7.5 miles, but it was all either steep and uphill or steep and downhill. For energy we frequently chewed on Coca leaves. After all our hard work, our porters gave us tent-service, bringing us hot chocolate and snacks to our tents.

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The Inca Trail: Day 1

The first day we caught a cab at 4am to go to the main square and take a bus to the starting line about two hours away. After a quick breakfast we headed to Kilometer 82, where the trail begins. We hiked for about 5 hours, then stopped for lunch and a nap, continuing for about two hours after lunch for a total of 10 miles that day. Before dinner we were introduced to all of our porters, and the chef. And after dinner, the chef made bananas with rum, that he caught on fire in a pan tentside. It was incredible.

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Inca Trail: Overview

Diana and I just got back from our 4 day hike to Machu Picchu, one of the new seven wonders of the world. Our hike covered 26.5 miles, and reached elevations of 13,779 feet. We booked our tour through Llama Path, an organization that does a lot of good things for its employees, including education classes, and housing for their porters and families. The porters, seventeen in total for our group, carried everything that we needed, tents, food, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and supplies. Each with about 50 lbs. on their back for the trek. There was also a chef that gave us an appetizer, soup, and several main dishes served family style for both lunch and dinner, in addition to a wonderful breakfast spread, teas, and snacks throughout the day. We slept two to a tent, in tents that were big enough for four people.
Our group had 11 people including us, a guy from Australia, an older couple from Canada/Florida, and a group of 6 college students from Portugal. Our tour guides were Rueben and Adolfo, both native Peruvians who had so much knowledge to share with us about the trail. We stopped at several Incan sights along the way, and of course ended out trek arriving at Machu Picchu on the fourth day. It was an incredible experience, and wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be. It was challenging, but no where near impossible. Like I always say, if you are thinking about doing the Inca Trail, feel free to email me with any questions.
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The Sacred Valley: Chinchero

Our last stop was Chinchero, where we got to visit a center that is focused on preserving the Andean women’s handicrafts, including weaving and dying of Alpaca and Llama fur. Then we went to a beautiful church that was from the colonial period and clearly had more influence from Spain than from the Incas, but there were small Incan touches throughout.

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The Sacred Valley: Urubamaba

We stopped in Urubamba for both lunch and more ruins. We ate in a quaint open-air restaurant, and then went to see more mountains and terraces built for farming. There were also some areas that were meant for religious activities.

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The Sacred Valley: Pisac

Our first stop on the Sacred Valley was the town of Pisac. We saw many different Incan ruins, including an urban center with royal homes and normal homes, terraces built for farming on the mountainside, and a mountain that at one point held over 200 bodies/tombs. We then visited the Pisac Market, and did the best shopping so far on the trip, getting large and colorful duffel bags, headbands, and llama stuffed animals. The views were spectacular, and gave us a taste of what we will encounter Sunday when we begin our trek of the Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu.

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Cusco: City Tour

Today Patty, our host, arranged for us to go on a city tour. We met our guide just off of the main square and took a bus around to several different spots. Each spot was a different Incan structure, so we saw an ancient place of worship, a fortress, a place where animals (and possibly humans) were sacrificed, and our favorite, naturally formed slides that only the locals know about.

Our friend Amy told us that when we get to Saqsaywaman to have the Jesus sculpture at our back, the town of Cusco down at our left, and we will find a set of stairs leading to these slides. During our ten minutes of free time in these ruins we rushed to find the stairs, which were actually super easy to find from Amy’s instructions, and followed them up to a large array of different sized slides, filled with small children riding them over and over again. We practiced on a small slide, then I rode the biggest one, and we both rode a medium sized ones before leaving. It was so much fun, and we are so grateful Amy shared this information with us, as it seems no one but locals know about this spot.

We also met a wild dog that could have passed as a baby llama, and learned the difference between real Alpaca and fake. Essentially, real Alpaca costs hundreds of dollars, but is softer. Overall, the tour was fun, and we are looking forward to our next tour today.

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A Night of Andean Dancing

Today we went into the downtown area to run some errands in order to prepare for our trek on Sunday to Machu Picchu; as well as, get tourist tickets for two tours this week. After we bought our tickets we had some free time so we went ahead and visited the Museum of Popular Art, a small exhibit of small sculptures, often of a religious theme. Then we came home for lunch, took a rest, and headed out for a show this evening of traditional Andean dances and music. The women and men perform nightly, in a cozy auditorium, cultural dances that they wish to preserve. The costumes are so bright and colorful, and the dances are really cute. Often representing llamas, or people, meeting, falling in love and mating. At one point two people from the audience who knew traditional dances also got up on stage to show their moves. Overall, it was a fun experience, even if the dancing and singing were a little goofy.

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Welcome to Cusco!

We arrive in Cusco, Peru on Sunday, and when the plan landed we were among the mountains and touched down rather quickly. We are sitting at an elevation of 11,200 feet or 3,400 meters. Needless to say, it has taken us some time to get used to the altitude. I have been suffering from mild headaches, and the rest of the group has been feeling some strange tingling throughout their bodies at random times, but hopefully this will all subside soon.

When we arrived Patty, our host mother, greeted us with Coca tea, which is made from the same leaves cocaine is made from, and is supposed to cure you of altitude sickness. She then instructed us to lay down for two hours, then come eat a light meal, and then lay down some more.

Today was our first day we did anything physical, walking to the store 3 blocks away made us feel like we were walking a mile. We got a short tour of our surrounding neighborhood which is really cute/rustic and has some very beautiful parks. Then after lunch we took taxis down to the city center. The taxi ride, about 10-15 minutes only costs the equivalent of $1.50, maybe even less for the entire car full of people, NOT per person.

We walked around the main plaza and bought some sweaters to help us stay warm at night. Cusco’s weather is warm during the day, and cold at night, and it always rains at least once a day. We saw where the Spanish school is located, and saw some buildings that were built by the Incas before tools were invented, and without using anything to hold the rocks together; however, the rocks in the buildings are solidly packed, and you can’t even fit a piece of paper in between them. Cusco so far has been a beautiful little town, and once we get started in our routine of volunteering and taking classes we will have so much to do!

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Downtown Lima and Chinatown

Today was our last day in Lima, and we had yet to go downtown, so we hopped in a cab and headed to the main square. We briefly passed through the famous churches, catacombs, and palace, and then headed to the central market and Chinatown. Both of which were overwhelmingly crowded. We were able to grab some Chifa on the way out, which is Peruvian inspired Chinese food, but are very thankful we have been staying in Miraflores, and not downtown.

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Surfing Lessons

What an awesome and exhausting day!!! Diana and I woke up super early and headed down to the beach where we met Carlos’ brother and were suited up and driven in a beat-up car to a different beach where the waves were better. After walking over some treacherous rocks, which were much harder to walk on than they looked, we spent some time on the beach practicing our form and learning the basics. Then we were off into the water with our instructor Paul, and our classmate Dante, a Peruvian lawyer from Lima (who ended us driving us home, which was amazing because the steps down to the beach would have been almost impossible to climb on the way up). Anyway, we all were able to stand up and ride some waves by the end of the lesson and we had a blast while we did it! I highly recommend Carlos’ company Pukana Surf School.

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Seaside Town

The neighborhood of Lima we are staying in is Miraflores, and is located on the coast. The ocean is just a short walk from our hostel, but the actual neighborhood is very high up soooo you have to walk down what seems like a hundred flights of stairs to get to the actual beach. We headed down on Thursday to look for surf schools and found a quaint little pier with shops and a restaurant.

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Kennedy Park

In one of our last of many visits to Kennedy Park, I actually brought chicken with me to feed the cats. They swarmed to us and relaxed while I fed them. I also met a few locals who feed the cats in their spare time, and learned that there must be an entire group of people who make sure the cats are fed everyday; and that the cat population was once at 300, but the government forced it to shrink. So now the cats are not quite a united tribe, and some are much more open to being pet and picked up than others. My favorite kittens were a litter we found living up in a tree. I was able to climb up it and feed them for a while with their mother.

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