Thursday, 1 May 2008

Perusing around

Machu Picchu
This is one of the major things i wanted to do on my world trip and i am so glad i did it. While trekking the popular Inca Trail just over 3 days with the 4th spending it at Machu Picchu. I had baby wipe showers at the end of each day and we witnessed many archilogical ruins such as Winaywayna (pic 2), Runkurakay (pic 3), and other sites such as Sayacmarka, Phuyupatamarka and Patallacta.

Day 1: The weather during this trek was blue skies and patchy clouds. We had a bit of rain as we arrived to our first camp site but that cleared up soon after. Excited and ready to go, we began our ascending trek from kilometre 82 into the valley. This day was the easiest of all 3 but was 7 hours long which was a good introduction. I was in a group of 16 where we all had porters carrying our 5-8kg of extra stuff as well as all the camping equipment (tents, chairs, tables, cutlery, food for 4 days etc). Each porter carries up to 20kg! Whereas before the new regulations they used to carry up to 80kg!

Day 2: Today was going to be tough. With a 3.45am wake up call, we climbed 2 passes today, one being ¨Dead Woman's Pass¨ at an altitude of 4200m and the other just below the 4000m mark. A freezing cold morning turned into a scorcher of a day where dressing in layers was an excellent recommendation from our guide. Feeling light headed was the worst i felt. Others in the group wern't as well off as me. Some felt quite sick with stomoch problems from mild food poisening and a poor girl was hobbling the trek with a recovering knee from a dislocation 3 weeks ago. However we all made it after 12 hours of walking and after a fantastic meal on arrival, we all went straight to bed soon after.

Day 3: Once again, we were woken up early with a hot cup of coca tea and a cooked breakfast. Today was pretty much all downhill for 5 hours, this may seem easy but it´s a lot harder on the knees. I am being very brief writing about this trek as on the way, there are amazing views that a photograph cannot capture. Llamas, cows and locals pass you all the time as well as the super fit porters that march past you as you huff and puff along. Our guide explained the importance and relevance of all the old Inca ruins along the way and explained the history of the Inca´s and the Spanish invasions.

Day 4: Machu Picchu... wooo hooo!!! So excited! We were up before the sun and off through the dark trekking through the jungle. It was a very cloudy morning with rain. Eventually the 500 of us reached Sun Gate and once we got there, what did we see?... NOTHING (pic). Cloud and rain everywhere! However we made offerings (coca leaves, sweets, Snickers) to Pacha Mama (God of Mother Earth) as a sign of respect to Machu Picchu and around 2 hours later the cloud lifted in what turned out to be a perfect day. Wow, i can´t fully describe how impressive Machu Picchu is. It is jaw dropping, eyebrow lifting stuff. We had a city tour as well as time to look around and take a bucket load of photos. I also climbed Wayna Picchu which is the tallest mountain beside the city which is a story in itself. An interesting fact about Machu Picchu is that the shape of the mountains around it look like an Inca face lying down. The small mountain being the chin and Wayna Picchu being the nose then the forhead. (You can have a look in pic 1)

New regulations on Machu Picchu
For anyone wanting to go here please be aware that rumour has it that soon (by 2010) you won't be able to walk onto the site of Machu Picchu due to too many tourists destroying it. 500 people a day are allowed on the Inca Trail and if you wish to climb Wayna Picchu, they now only allow 400 people per day to climb it. By 10am this number is reached. I was unlucky at the start as i turned up at the gate at 11:20am being told to go away, but with persistance pleads, made up stories and just waiting at the gate for 30min, the guard let a few of us in without anyone else seeing. Bribing will get you kicked off the site. Also arguing that this rule is stupid and waving your arms in the air will get you no-where as well as i saw many people flip out and fail to get by the gate. If you are late, be nice and be patient and you may have a chance like i did.

Lake Titicaca
Arriving at the town Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca on the Peru side, we all got to see and stand on a few of the 40 floating reed islands where around 2000 Uros people live. All these islands are man-made and it was really interesting to see how they live here, how they go to the toilet, and what they do all day to survive on the water. We also got to take a cruise on a reed boat between islands where they have to rebuild the boats once a year and the islands every few weeks due to them rotting in the water.

On the island of Amantani, i had the oppurtunity to stay with a local family at their house for 2 days where i helped to cook and tried to speak the local language of Quechuan with my little translation sheet that our guide gave us before we arrived. For dinner i had potatoes, fried cheese, orca (a poor mans sweet potato), corn and coca tea. My hosts Ruberta and Rupert were lovely and their house was really nice. No electricity though. That night i watched the storm clouds come in (pic) and we quicky made it to the dancehall where i met with the rest of my group who had different families to go to. Rupert chucked a poncho on me and sold me a beanie that Ruberta had made and we danced the night away to a live Peruvian band. (pic). I remember Ruberta grabbing me with her man-hands and leading me around the hall. It was a fun night for everyone where after a good sleep, i was woken up with more coca tea and pancakes for breakfast. I was nervous at the start of my stay, and it ended up being a very worthwhile experience learning about my hosts and how they live.

Volcano Misti
I missed out climbing Volcano Pucon in Chile due to bad weather 2 days in a row (not the one that just erupted) and i was so dissapointed. However i had another opportunity to climb here in Peru! Volcano Misti in Arequipa is famous for a discovery in 1995 where the world´s most preserved mummy (Inca) was found. This was a 2 day trek where i dissapointingly couldnt reach the smokey top. The height is 5875m above sea level and due to altitude sickness i barely made it to the base camp at around 4600m. I was also carrying 10kg of stuff (water weighing the most) where i had chest pains, lack of air, crying for no reason and dizzyness. So i stopped. It took me 7hrs to reach this height where the others in the group travelled a further 6 hours the next day to reach the summit. Misti beat me. I slept in thermols and my awesome sleeping bag where it was -6 degrees outside. It took only 1 hour 30 minutes to get back down as you moon jumped down the volcanic ash and sand. Still ´I CLIMBED A VOLCANO´... but didnt make it to the top.

Nazca Lines
Arriving in the town of Nazca, i had the opportunity of viewing the pre-Inca lines in the desert plains. Having to take a 4 seater put-put plane to see them was bumpy experience that left the poor bloke sitting behind me spewing all over himself. We passed 13 of the main drawings that range between 60m and 200m in length. Some were easy to see and some had to be pointed out by the pilot while he turned the plane 90 degrees on its side (face in the glass door). My favourits are the humming bird and spider (pics). No-one knows exactly why these lines are drawn and we all watched a documentary after on many of the theories. Some making sense, like offerings and reminders to the Gods to give them water as there was a drought at the time and unbelievable ones like aliens etc. But hey, you never know...

Dune buggies and sand boarding
A few hours from Nazca in the town of Huacachino, as a group we went off roaring through the desert, up and down massive dunes like an out of control roller-coaster. This was so much fun. Our guide/driver would speed up on the downhill to get up a dune where once you were approching the peak, you didn´t know how steep the other side would be until you creeped over and then... WHOOSH... down you went. Boarding was fun too. Setting yourself in postion, seeing the downhill slope in front of you and with a big push from the guide, down you went making sure your mouth is closed. Needless to say by the end of the day there was sand everywhere... everywhere!
My final country to visit is Equador. Quito the capital and the Galapogas Islands for the remainder of my trip.