Hiking the Inca Trail

February 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Posted in Cuzco, Mountains, Peru, Travel | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Everyone says go to Machu Picchu in June and July. When it is dry. And warm. But for me, I say that is ridiculous, and both times I have visited Machu Picchu have been in the final weeks of January at the height of the rainy season.  This second visit included hiking the Inca Trail with my parents who were visiting Cusco for the week.  Results> fog, rain, rock solid calves, and a sense of accomplishment.

The Inca Trail is 42 km of work. Although there are numerous porters carrying your tents, food, and everything to make backpacking seem less like actually backpacking, you still carry your sleeping bags, mats, and clothes.  After months of research (and searching), I settled on going with Cusco Explorers for $250 which is… the upside to hiking it in the rainy season.  Less tourists, less money.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first day is a 11km walk up the valley over a relativity flat trail. The second day is where it gets intense. You start at 2900m and go over a pass at 4200m (dead woman’s pass) before dropping down to 3800m over 12km.  The result? Coming into camp with my legs violently shaking.  The third day is longer, 16km, with stops to some ruins along the way before getting into a campsite 6km away from Machu Picchu complete with hot showers and a restaurant.  This doesn’t feel like backpacking.

Unfortunately, there had been a landslide on the last leg of the trail, so we had to hike down to Aguas Calientes and arrive to Machu Picchu (not via the Sun Gate) wet, tired, happy, accomplished.

As our guide said, the trail is challenging, unforgettable, and eunich (wait thats not right, he meant unique). The experience of a lifetime and the chance to check yet another thing off my bucket list.

Cuzco Ruins Travel Guide

December 23, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Posted in Culture, Cuzco, Mountains, Peru, Travel | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is the best information you are going to get on the ruins around Cuzco.  Which ones you can get in for free, which ones are the best.  Here, I´m evaluating Tipón, Pikillacta, Moray, Chinchero, and Q´enqo.

So, this past week Marc Capule came to visit.  Being a shoestring traveler like myself with a strong adversion to paying the gringo tax that Cuzco imposes, we decided to try to get into as many ruins as we could for free.  To prove my point, we walked into a bookstore to find him a notebook, and when the lady behind the counter said 80; he assumed it was 80 soles ($40) and said, “Ok, I don´t need it that badly” and started to leave. Soon everything got sorted out (the notebook was 80 cents), and we started a week of awesome food (will be in a following post) and touring around Cuzco.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tipón is my favorite ruin so far.  To get there, take a cab to the Urcos taxi stop on Av. La Cultura in front of the Universidad.  Get off at Tipón.  Cabs cost S./10 a person and another S./10 to get in.  Alternatively, walk down the road 4 km.  When you get to the base of the hill, don´t go up the pedestrian steps, but walk up the road past the giant Tipón sign.  About 20m up the road, there is a small path leading up the ancient Incan steps to the ruins (and bypassing the control).  Tipón is a beautiful series of terraces interspersed with canals.  You can walk up the Incan steps in the wall (generally rocks sticking out of the wall) to climb the terraces to the natural spring at the back of the ruins. Or alternatively, check out the view from the fortess that you passed coming up the Incan steps.

Pikillacta. Similarly to get here, you take the taxi from the Urcos stop, and get off at Pikillacta.  The only cool part of the ruin is the giant wall alongside the road and views of the lake. (see slideshow). Sneaking in to the main ruin is easy.  From the road, take “the high road” instead of walking down the path to control.  The path leads you past control directly to the ancient city.  Now, merely crumbling rock walls. Place this at the bottom of your list.

Moray. I thought (and had been told) this was one of the closest ruins in the Sacred Valley.  My verdict, go to Tipón first.  It´s better maintained, greener, and with the natural spring, more beautiful. To get here, take the bus to Urubamba from Pavitos street in Cuzco.  Get off Moray.  Your options of getting to the ruin are limited (they are 14km away).  The cab runs S./15 each way.  Alternatively, you can do a bike ride to the ruins.  The circular terraces were used for crop rotation (each terrace differed by .5º C so they were experimenting with temperature differences) and the larger one as an amphitheater.  The cab will drop you off at the control, but a dirt path leading down to Urubamba suggests that you could sneak in from the valley.  There is a nice hike from Las Salineras to Urubamba (another S./15 to get there).

Chinchero. Second favorite ruin in this list. Take the bus/ convey/ taxi from Pavitos street in Cuzco.  Get off at Chinchero.  From the big sign that talks about the ruins, walk up until you see the plaza on your left. Walk through the plaza, and take the street up that is closest to Urubamba (away from Cuzco).  Although there are three controls in the city, going up the left hand side (if you are facing the ruins) lets you avoid all three.  The ruins, the church, and the market are all worth checking out.

Finally, Q´enqo. These ruins are a short trip from Cuzco and a lovely afternoon hike.  Walk up through San Blas until you hit the road going to Sacsayhuaman.  On the road should be a small sign for rock climbing.  If you cross the small creek and follow the path up, you reach the Moon Temple (when you get there, make sure you go into the caves).  For Q´enqo climb the hills on the other side of the creek until you pass a massive Inca stone wall. You can reach Q´enqo from the backside by crossing the bridge.

Happy Travels! Cuzco Restaurant and the Rest of the Sacred Valley Ruins Soon!

Stop and Stare

August 30, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Aldea Nimasac, Guatemala, Mountains, Travel | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

Read this if you wonder what exactly makes my life a One Republic song, if you have ever been out of your element, if you love thrift store shopping or lived in a town with less than 10,000 people.  If you have ever been the first white person a kid has seen or if you were wondering what happens to criminals in small towns in Guatemala.

Aldea Nimasac: population 6,591, elevation 2531m, 6.5 km from Totonicapán.

This is where I live. Well for now. As a roaming Kiva fellow, I get to work with multiple organizations here in Guatemala.  The first, in the capital, and the second here in Aldea Nimasac. The closest big town is… well small.  At least by my standards. I am used to Camarillo: which I consider a suburb of Los Angeles with over 600,000 people, not a suburb of a town of 50,000 with suburbs of less than 10,000 people.  Add some zeros….

Over the weekend, I trekked down to Totonicapán to pick up a sweater: yes, at 2500m, it is cold here, and the clothes I brought (an old sweatshirt, a long sleeve tee and a very thin shell) just don´t cut it. As I walked through town, I stopped every half a block at these second-hand clothing stores. Asking if they had sweaters or jackets in my size.  The store owner´s eyes traced my feet up to my head. They would laugh. No, we don´t have anything. Then, when I would ask about the biggest size they had, they would pull out a used, small A&F  sweatshirt. Does this fit? After the first store, I wouldn´t even humor them by trying it on.

I finally stumbled on a used clothing store and went through the same dialogue. But as I was browsing the racks, I found a large Eddie Bauer sweater. Yes, a little small, but this would do. I wondered what part of the U.S. it came from, and at 10Q ($1.25) I knew it had to have been donated to down here. In the U.S., I clean out my closet only to repurchase it six months later down south.  At least I didn´t have to pay to get it shipped? A whole industry based off the things we Americans no longer find useful.

Passing through the market, I stopped at a stall to buy some bread and papaya.  As I was paying, I felt something on my arm. A four year-old boy poking me. Seconds later, he had his foot pressed up against mine and his finger in his mouth looking down at his foot. He smiled and laughed. Am I really that big? As I walk through the town, the kids whisper gigante as I pass. I smile and say Adios–the standard greeting here–unsure of what else to do.

On a separate thread, as I was walking through the town to play soccer with the guy I am staying with, I mentioned how I got robbed in the capital. He grinned, and said I should have been here.  There are no thieves because they kill them. He corrected himself, well in the next village the neighborhood watch kills them. Here, when they catch one, they drag them through the town with a loudspeaker saying come look at the criminal.  When they finally get to the community center (an elementary school) they strip them naked and tie ropes and boulders to their body and make them haul them back through the town. He said, “the police never do anything…so we do”.

And because of this, the thieves flee or never rob again.  So, yes, mom, I feel very, very safe here. Now, I can walk around, and hike and not really worry about anything!

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.