Dead Womans Pass..... or would she ???
We were awoken to a tap tap on the Tent door, which was also accompanied by a cup of piping hot Coca tea.
A nice touch and more than made up for the 5am wake up call!
Our backpacks were packed and we headed for Breakfast whilst the porters packed away our tents..... which was an entirely new experience... Luxury or what !
It was a lovely morning and the weather seemed to have changed for the time being from yesterdays downpours.
We got some Maize porridge (which was surprisingly good although it was easier to drink it than spoon feed yourself it), the obligatory bread & Jam and Pancakes.... WHAT ???
Yep.... feckin Pancakes !
First time I´d had pancakes whilst camping that´s for sure ! They were warm and nice too which made it all the better !
Then it got better........... How ???
We got a goody bag each !
We got a carton of juice, an apple (unbruised which was something!), a chocolate buscuit thingy and some coca sweets !
OK.... so you get some shitty things happen to you by not paying for the most expensive trip... however.... the cheaper ones also manage to treat you every once in a while (which was nice!)
We headed off at 6:30am sharp with Jackie and Clare rejuvenated and leading the way with Steph an I close on their heels and Hernan... well... somewhere behind us ?? Not too sure where though !
We soon hit the Uphill section of the Trek !
We´d been warned about Day 2 being a stiff ascent, however, it was about 8:30am already and the sun was baking us as we trapsed up the trail.
It was funny (well... sort of with Heinsight!) as we struggled with the steepness of the ascent combined with the altitude issues associated with breathing. However, you were intermittantly reminded that it could always be worse....
As a Porter Loaded down with a 30 Kilo Backpack trapsed past you!
Brought you down to earth anyway as our packs (assuming you had a large one that was) weighed anything from 2 to 10 kilos at most! even with our sleeping bags and sleeping mats)
Jackie started to feel the effects of the Altitude and the walking a bit later on up the hills. Fair enough I suppose as this isn´t a trail for the un fit (as we were finding out !!!)
Some of the Israeli Guys had decided to bring virtually their entire backpacks with them and hence had packs weighing (I reckon) maybe up to about 20 Kilos !!! And they knew it !!
Injuries were starting to Surface and one of the Israeli Girls decided to hire a porter for the remainder of the hike up to Dead Womans pass.
As we pointed out to her.... better to pay a little extra and get there than not to get there at all !!!
The Israeli Guys weren´t having any of it though and struggled on upwards!
Steph and Jackie decided to swap bags as Jackie was struggling.
We finally arrived at what we thought was the summit...... it was a flat piece of land called Llulluchampa, however, after a brief restbite and buying some more water (which incidentally was getting more expensive the further up the trek you got) Hernan informed us that the hardest section was yet to come and that it was another 2 hours or so walking to reach "Dead Womans Pass"
Jackie Revelled at this (both the time remaining and the name of the pass!)
It was steep going and Jackie and I took our time getting up by taking regular breathers every 50 or so steps.
Steph and Clare headed off ahead, whilst I held back with Jackie.
It was a lovely walk (apart from the altitude, steepness and the trek itself) and the views back down the valley were amazing. It sort of gave you hope that you´d eventually get to the Pass and have a rest......
Eventually..... we made it.
Jackie and I were down to having a break every 20 steps or so (which was quite slow I know) however, we all made it and had a photo with the lot of us when the poor Israeli guys and their full backpacks stumbled to the summit also !
We were at Warmiwanusca. It was the highest point of the trek at 4,200 metres and boy did we know it !
After some biscuits and some backslapping we headed downhill towards our camp. It was at 3,800 metres and having held back to ensure Jackie was safely up the hill earlier, I hammered it downhill on my own ahead of the others.
Late lunch was had at camp and then we had the remainder of the afternoon to relax and chill out (or recover as we called it!)
It had taken it toll on some of the guys though and knee injuries and back injuries were sprouting up amongst the whole group.
That night the Israelis lit another candle before we had our supper (chicken and rice) and we hit our sacks early.
It was a cold night !!!
Steph had managed to swindle my sleeping bag (which is warmer than hers) and so at 5am when our Coca Tea arrived.... I had already been half awake waiting for some warmth to relieve my frozen toes and fingers !!!
The same routine again was followed this morning, and we headed out after brekkie about an hour after getting up.
It was however, only a half hour (albeit steep) ascent to the ruins of Runkuraqay.
The Ruins themselves were covered by mist and so the whole vista was somewhat mystical in appearence.
The Mountain side fort was only a small site, however, was presumed to have been used as a staging area for the inca runners (or messangers) that used to traverse the trek daily passing goods, produce and messages along it´s length.
They covered up to 14 km each if the land was flat and 10 kms if the land was undulating. The messages were passed from one to another at each check point and this meant a message could get from Cusco to Machu Pichu in less than a day...... which is no mean feat these days either !!!!
Half an hour later, we´d reached the summit of yet another "Andean Flat" (i.e. It´s Not FLAT !!!)
Here we headed downhill after a quick buscuit break and towards the Citidel of Sayacamarca Perched on the hillside in the distance.
The Ruins were a Military base and where the Soldiers were based primarily (like an Army barracks!)
Because of it´s locailty, the soldiers could easily reach either side of the sacred valley within a days walk to assist or act out whatever function they were required to perform.
We then continued walking until we reached the Sacrificial site of Phuyupata Marca.
This was one of my favourite sites as you looked down onto the site as you approached it. Firstly it was in the shape of a heart with the two rounded ends heading towards Machu Picchu and the West. It also had some fountains and a Sacrificial Stone Platform at the side of the ruins. Here was where the Llama or Human Sacrifices would take place and the fountains running along side the Platform would run red with the sacrifical blood from it´s victims !
At the top of the platform the Priests would offer whatever it was they had (normally the Hearts of their frshly sacrificed victims held aloft as an offering) to the Mountain Gods... all of which were clearly visible in the distance !
An Intersting place indeed !
Hernan had explained most of this to us in Spanish (just Steph and me as Clare and Jackie had decided to carry on ahead and not bother listening to Hernans Pigeon English account of the site.... Unlucky Them !)
Anyway, from here on was the step Section we´d heard about. The route roughly consisted of 3000 steps heading downwards towards our camp site for the night.
The Steps were cuite steep and luckily for us it wasn´t raining as they were pretty slippery when dry, never mind wet!
Steph an I soon reached a fork in the path and decided to head up to Winawayna as opposed to heading down directly to the camp site.
This was a great decision as there was hardly noone else at the site and it looked pretty much as it had been for the past 400 years or so. Plants still crept up it´s walls and the buildings still looked like it was the first time someone had looked on them for a few millennia.....or so it seemed anyway
I loved it !
We climbed up the steps to the top of the terraces and then headed back down having sat and scanned the surrounding mountains and the Machu Picchu Valley and it´s associated train down below us !
We then headed back to the camp site and srrived just in time for tea.
The camp site was different in that there was a shop that sold beers and also somewhere to have showers!!!!
This was luxury and Steph and I had a shower and a beer before we had a posh tea on a big table in the camp site.
It was buffet style and very nice and afterwards we had a formal (and dead cheesy I thought) "ceremony" where we passed over our "tips" to the porters.
I hated this bit and wasn´t too enamoured when we were asked to say something again......
Luckily one of the Israeli guys stepped up to the challenge and gave a thanks on all our behalfs!
We hit the sack after a few more beers (nothing compared to some of the other groups though who partied until the early hours of the morning !!!)
Our decision was rewarded the following morning, when, whilst it was still dark we were awoken with our customary Coca tea.... at 4am !!!!
Today was the Final walk and we were all queued up by the entrance gate to Machu Picchu at 5am (which is when it opened!)
It was now a race to the Sun gate..... or so it seemed for most of the people on the Trek.....
Steph and I on the other hand continued to take pictures of the views and the Plants etc. as we sauntered up to the Sun gate with Jackie and Clare.
It was especially rewarding when we saw all those that had shoved and ruched past us earlier down the path sat at the sun gate...... except there was no sun !!!!
Sunrise seemed to have been postponed today and the mist seemed to have blocked out the view down to MAchu Pichu !!! All that rushing for nothing it seemed
Steph, Jackie, clare and I all sat down and laughed as the other groups all then filed down the remainder of the path towards Machu Pichu ready for the mist to rise.
Our guides didn´t seem too fussed at our Lack of a view anyway !
The mist did rise... eventually.... however we´d already walked down to the site (where we could see nothing) and gone to the Entrance gate to get our tickets stamped (which was a requirement... and seemed specially strange since we´d already entered the park once !!!)
Anyway, Hernan then sprung it on us that he was leaving us there and we were to join the Isrealis and the Brazilian and Korean´s guide for the tour of Machu Pichu....... hmmmmmmmm
So Hernan´s tip suddenly got smaller as we shaked hands and he headed off back to Cusco... early !
The Other Guide was alright anyway, and his English was a little better than Hernans so maybe it wasn´t such a bad thing after all.
The tour itself turned out to be a pretty much "formal affair"
Whereas, we were taken to Point A
Given a 3 minute talk on Point A
Moved to Point B
Given a 3 minute talk on Point B
Asked if we had any questions...... which invariable couldn´t be answered.
Move onto Point C.....
Or so it felt !
Such a dissapointment, however, Luckily Machu Pichu Itself came to our rescue and the Site Purely from a Size and Visual point of view more than lived up to it´s Newly adorned title of one of the "UNESCO Seven Wonders of the New World"
We headed to the Sun Temple.
We then headed to the Three Windows.
From here to the Sacred Rock where we got a group picture !
We were also reliably informed that we weren´t allowed to touch it ???)
It´s a feckin Rock I thought !!!!
Stupid Rules !!! This was to be the start of our run in with Machu Pichu regulations and those that upheld them it turned out!!!
So of course... stone was touched !!!
I was told off and allowed to continue on my way.... However... had I received the Stones Energy and was Stronger and more spiritual as was supposed to happen.....
What do you think !!!!
That´s one thing you´ll find about these sorts of places.... and not Just Machu Pichu..... the Pyramids, Uluru etc. etc.
Some New Age Hippies always seem to cling onto the fact that the site is "Special" and as such... only the "initiated" i.e. those that choose to think like an Idiot can achieve a higher state of Consciousness and as such tap into the "Power of the Rock "
I hate these people and funnily enough (me being a closed persona ) didn´t manage to tap into the "power" of the Rock !!!! Damn !!! And to think I used to think I was the Messiah reborn and "special"!!!!
After visiting a few more sections of the Ruins (which were magnificent.... as Ruins !!!) We were invited to walk around the site until we then headed down to Aguas Calientes on the bus where we could pick up our rail tickets back to Cusco... via a bus journey also !
Firstly we headed straight back to the "Sacred Rock".......
we (or rather I) was informed that the Whole site was indeed a "One Way" system .... which meant you weren´t allowed to double back on yourself !!!
Feckin Shite Rules !!!
We walked ahead and around as to back on ourselves and made it to the Viewing Spot overlooking the Site where we´d been realier in the day.
Anyway, everyone immediately ran off in the direction of Huaynu Picchu... the Rock Behind the ruins in the "classic" picture of the site! We decided to head for the viewing spot at the start of the site....
It was time for the Welsh Flag Shot !
Steph got the Camera ready and I got the Flag out...
"You can´t take a picture with a Flag in it.... in fact Flags are not allowed here !!!"
What the F*** ???
"What about feckin Animals ???"
"If you don´t remove your flag then you´ll be escorted from the site!!"
Luckily we´d managed to get off two shots before the "Security" had so nicely informed us that you weren´t allowed to take pictures with a flag at the site !!!
Who the feck comes up with these damn rules I thought !!!
We managed to smuggle in a quick shot of the car too whilst we were there..... no security issues there though !!!
Anyway, Steph and I had been told that Apu Machu Picchu (Machu Picchu Mountain) was a better walk and gave you a different perspective of the site.
This we did... well.... we walked two thirds of the way up and then decided we´d head back down and (minus all the crowds from before) would climb up Huaynu Picchu Also !
This was no mean feat I have to say as both walks are quite tiring !
I was absolutely shattered by the time we reached the Top of Huaynu Picchu, however, we were rewarded by being two of only four others at the Summit and also by watching a Condor Gliding in the Updrafts right next to us as we´d climbed up !!!
The View of Machu Picchu was different and gave you a better perspective of how big the site was as all the terraces that clung to the cliff sides surrounding the main site were more easily visible.
We headed back down, jumped on the bus and headed to Aguas Caliented (or Machu Picchu Pueblo) where we had a coke and a sandwich with the rest of the guys, before we headed back onto the train to Ullataytambo.
Here we got on a bus and before you knew it we were back in Cusco !!!!
What a trip !
It was eventful, beautiful, testing, and some times tedious, however it was well sowrht doing the Inca Trail purely to see all the ruins leading up to the Climax Machu Picchu.... which we both agree.... definately lived up to the Hype.