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October 05, 2004

The Trek Begins...

Tomorrow morning at 5:45, Jessica and I will be picked up by our tour agency, PeruTreks, and whisked off towards the beginning of the infamous Inca Trail, on which we will make a 4-day trek to Machu Picchu. The trail has become more regulated in recent years, to protect the surrounding environment and monitor the treatment of porters and such. You typically have to sign up at least a month in advance, and there are many people who arrive in Cusco and are disappointed to learn they won't be able to do the trek, so I feel very lucky! Tonight we met up with a few friends from my Spanish class who just got back yesterday from doing the trek with the same company, and they raved about the experience, even though it was really tough going at times. They said they'd go again tomorrow if they could!

So over the course of about 3 1/2 days, we'll hike 26 miles, and the highest point is almost 14,000 feet. Machu Picchu is actually at a lower altitude than Cusco (Cusco's at about 11,000 feet I think, will have to get back to you about MP), but we have to climb and then go back down. We will visit numerous other Incan ruins on the way, as well as pass through an area of cloud forest. The company brings porters to carry all the food and other equipment, and Jessica and I have also hired our own porter to carry our personal gear, up to 18 kg. We decided the trail sounds hard enough just carrying yourself up the hill! My friends said on their trip there were 14 hikers and 21 porters and 3 guides.

The second day is the hardest, and today my friends agreed that it really is a beast. Essentially, you climb on paved Incan steps straight uphill for about 6 hours. Wahoo! I know how hard it is just climbing a hill here in Cusco with the altitude, so I can only imagine how tough it will be. But apparently the guides really encourage you to take your time, and not to push too hard, and a guide always stays at the back of the pack so you don't get left behind. I think it will be really cool to arrive at Machu Picchu in this way. It's like a pilgrimage, and it will be even more meaningful to finally arrive there after all the effort to get there. This is also the way many Incans made the trip, I believe (there certainly weren't any trains back then!) so it's cool to follow in their footsteps. This is a big deal for me in other ways, too. I've never done a hike even remotely this long, never done an overnight hiking trip of this type, not to mention at this altitude.

We'll arrive at Machu Picchu around sunrise on Saturday morning. We're planning to spend that night in the nearest town, Aguas Calientes, which will allow us to stay at the ruins later than those headed back to Cusco that day, and we can even retrun to the ruins the next day if we want to. Sounds like Aguas Calientes isn't the nicest place, but we'll manage.

So we'll get back to Cusco fairly late on Sunday night and crash hard, I'm sure. Monday's for laundry and uploading photos, and Tuesday I'm flying to Arequipa! I got a good deal on a flight and I'm excited to move on.

Posted by Amy on October 5, 2004 08:22 PM
Category: Peru

Amy - your photos are so good! I love how you have taken the big picture as well as the details, like the bricks.
I had flicked through your Joshua Tree pics before we went out to San Diego recently for a wedding, and insprired, we made the effort to go.
Thank you!

Posted by: Emily on October 7, 2004 07:00 AM

We're back! It was an amazing, exhausting, exhilarating experience. Will probably have time for an official update and some picture-uploading this afternoon.

Posted by: Amy on October 10, 2004 08:29 AM

What wonderful pictures! You are seeing such incredible things. And you are doing a fantastic job of taking all of us with you. Thanks for taking the time to write such detailed entries. I can't wait to read about your next adventure.

Posted by: Annie on October 12, 2004 06:43 PM
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