Fairytale city Cusco and Trek to Machu Picchu
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Ever wondered how it would actually be to visit a picture postcard or fairytale city? A city with cobbled stone lanes, small heritage buildings and churches which are hundreds of years old. A city tucked away in the mountains with a grand plaza buzzing with activity……Welcome to Cusco, one of the cutest little places I have visited, perched at a height of 11,000 feet in the Andes mountains of Peru.
As Peruvians take pride in the gastronomic delights of their country I would like to describe my visit to
I landed in Cusco on Jan 2nd 2010 and after checking into my hotel proceeded straight to the office of Peru Treks, where I had to pay the balance money for my Inca Trail Trek.
The main task done, I wandered around the main plaza (Plaza de Armas). This was sheer beauty in the mountains. You instantly feel it’s a place you can live for 3 to 6 months and literally go back in time. Normally, I am not a fan of places that are too touristy but this place was so cute it overcame all the “touristy tags”.
People usually end up treating
I had already walked for two hours and could suddenly hear loud protests. I looked around and didn’t see anyone. Within seconds I realized they were coming from within….my stomach had put me on notice. With a very light breakfast and no veg food on the flight from Lima I was feeling hungry and had to hunt or veg food.
I was so looking forward to the trek that I am guilty of remembering very little about my day tour of the city. Other than Qorikancha,
As promised I went back to Prasada that night for dinner and got packing for the long awaited trek to
Inca Trail, Day 1 (Jan 4)
I was picked up at the hotel at by a bus driver who could give James Bond a run for his money. The way he maneuvered the big bus in the narrow lanes of
Within the next hour everyone in our group of 16 was on board and it was a nice mix of people, all from
Our final stop within the city was at the Peru Treks office where we were joined by our guides, porters and chefs! Our guides Victor and Lizandro introduced themselves and we were on our way to “km 82” the starting point of our trek.
The trek starts at the bridge over the Vilcanota river. The first day is more like a practice or training for the coming days. The bad roads back home seemed like a blessing in disguise and I was quite comfortable with the gradients which were not very demanding. We stopped for lunch which was absolutely awesome and would serve as a great motivation to reach campsites in good time!
As we moved higher we met fellow trekkers and porters from different tour companies, countries and beliefs all united with the sole purpose of enjoying the long journey of about 43 kms to
In a few hours we would be closing in on 3,000 mts (10,000 feet) and Wayllabamba was our stop for the night. The porters had already gone ahead and set up our tents. We were right in the centre of nature and it felt like pure bliss. Dinner was served and once again more delicious than expected.
We chatted a bit around the dinner table and soon it was time to call it a day but before that our guide Victor gave us a short briefing of the next days plan and left us with a couple of jokes, he insisted we hear. His expressions and passion for telling jokes more than made up for content and we went into our tents and tried to get as cozy as possible in our sleeping bags.
We had trekked about 11 kms!
Inca Trail, Day 2 (Jan 5)
our guides were going to each tent waking up everyone with a nice hot cup of tea/coffee.
Before we left the campsite all of us including the porters and chefs gathered and introduced ourselves. It was a nice gesture and we also got to know a little bit more about our group members. The previous day I had already chatted a bit with everyone especially with Marsha and
We left the camp around knowing well that this was to be the most demanding but also the most rewarding day. We would reach the highest point of the trek at 4,200 mts (13,800 feet). The climb was getting steeper and the trail treacherous. Some stretches were really tricky and others warned you that one wrong move and you could be hurtling down the valleys.
Victor, our guide, had repeatedly told us to take our own pace but didn’t realize what he had bargained for! I starting lagging behind and not only was I taking my own pace but was also taking away Victors pace. Luckily none of us suffered from altitude sickness but the steep climb and heat was sapping every bit of energy. My first trek and I seemed to be in the middle of the mother of all treks!! My team was well ahead barring the all girl team of Jenny, Kym and Vanessa. The front was led by Lizandro and Victor was taking care of us at the back. He refused to ahead and join others insisting that it was his responsibility to see that I reached safely. I told him more than once not to worry coz I might take more time but I will surely see him at campsite. He wouldn’t relent and stayed with me all the way. We got talking and it was nice to know a little bit more about him and life there in general.
The terrain was becoming more and more spectacular and we passed by some waterfalls and a beautiful cloud forest.
When we reached Llulluchapampa at 12,000 feet I thought that was the top but Victor, who was motivating me all the while, said that ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ was two hours away! I had to call into service the reserve tank of my energy to brave the scorching sun and some very cold winds.
My mantra during the entire day was “Treks are for completing and not for competing” and this kept me going together with encouragements from my guides and friends especially Marsha and Jess. Thanks guys for all the kind words and support!
Late afternoon and the moment of truth had arrived! I had finally made it to the peak.
It was brief stop as I was already running late and still had to cover the 2,000 feet descent from the top to reach our campsite at Pacamayo. Walking down after such an arduous trek can be demanding as you knees start buckling. My walking stick was worth its weight in gold and saved me from many a slippery rock.
I had the constant company of Victor until I made it to the campsite. I was so exhausted that after a late lunch I went straight to my tent and just crashed on my sleeping mat. I told Victor I would skip dinner and wake up the next day. Every muscle in my body seemed to be thanking me for the rest I gave them that night!
Another 12 kms were out of the way!
Inca Trail, Day 3 (Jan 6)
The long sleep I had seemed to have worked wonders.
Day 3 was fun. It was full of amazing landscapes, snow capped mountains in sight and steep and risky descents. We stopped by many ruins with our guides giving us a little bit of history and also allowing us to catch our breath. We saw a lot of tourists converging at the various ruins and it was wonderful to say hello to many fellow trekkers we had passed during the last two days! I remember in particular an elderly couple with a little girl who was barely 5 or 6 yrs old. It must be a great age to start trekking.
The magnificent cloud forests, orchids and fern trees were making the journey unforgettable. What an amazing place to be I was telling myself. No cell phones, no television, no newspaper, no internet….. this was sheer bliss. There was nothing between you and nature, between you and your dreams, between you and your thoughts.
This place was the coolest in terms of infrastructure. It had power, good toilets and showers and a restaurant as well. I had a hot shower, freshened up and got ready for dinner. Today’s dinner was special as it was our last dinner together. We were surprised with a nice big cake which we had to cut and it tasted so good! This would be the last time we would be meeting the porters and the chefs so it was also time to say good bye to them for the wonderful job they had done. They had absolutely earned their tips which we were happy to give.
The next day we had to leave very early to try and get to
We had trekked 15 kms today!
Inca Trail, Day 4 (Jan 7)
We were all very excited about the final day. This was the moment we were waiting for. The trail that morning was quite easy and just about 5 kms except for the final flight of around 50 steps which was absolutely vertical and you needed to scale up the wall like Spiderman! The final pass at Intipunku (Sun Gate) had been reached and the whole of
We soon arrived at the ruins and after leaving our bags and grabbing some coffee at the restaurant started our guided tour of the ruins.
There were innumerable photo ops and literally no end to the number of pictures one could take. Our guides told us some amazing stories about the lives and times of the Incas and we were proud to witness a part of history which someday would probably be buried yet again and lost in the annals of time.
We had a few hours to explore the place on our own as well and then take the bus to Aguas Calientes where we would be having our last lunch together at a pre-appointed time and place. The cute little restaurant next to the tracks of
In a few hours we approached Cusco and said good bye’s to all our group members as they left the bus at different points in thecity. I entered my room in my hotel and was thrilled to see a real bed after the sleeping bag experience for three nights. The bath tub in the washroom was the perfect place to relax those aching muscles and literally soak the incredible trek I just came back from.
As I was preparing to sleep I got a call that night from the local tour lady asking me if I was interested in a full day tour of the sacred valley the next day.
Well, that then was the main course, in one word "PERFECT".