Tim and Helene‘s Excellent Inca Adventure

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Tim and I returned to Peru, ready and excited to go and explore Machu Pic­chu.  We had been sav­ing the city of Cusco as a sort of grand finale to our time in South Amer­ica.  We arrived really late after an inter­minable bus ride from hell from La Paz, and took the fol­low­ing day to rest up and relax before we made our plans to visit the noto­ri­ous Inca ruins, Machu Pichu.  We def­i­nitely didn’t expect that we we’re both about to get sick and take turns being bedrid­den for the next week.  For­tu­nately it was noth­ing seri­ous, and once we we’re feel­ing bet­ter, we knew that sim­ply vis­it­ing Machu Pic­chu by bus wasn’t going to be enough. We needed a lit­tle bit of an adven­ture to get there, so we booked a 4 day/3 night Inca Jun­gle trek.

It all started at 7am the first morn­ing. We drove uphill through extremely wind­ing roads until we reached our first stop at Abra Malaga at a chilly alti­tude of 4200 meters.  From there, we met the 23 other peo­ple on the tour, got geared up, and for the next 2 hours we moun­tain biked down into the hot and steamy jun­gle.  We were lit­er­ally bik­ing through clouds when we first started, with no idea of how beau­ti­ful the sur­round­ing views were about to get.  The scenery was so stun­ning that it was hard at times to keep our eyes on the road.  Tim in fact got dis­tracted by a water­fall and ended up crash­ing his bike into a moun­tain wall.  But don’t worry; all the pro­tec­tive gear he was wear­ing saved him from being hurt.

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After the bik­ing, it was time for a lit­tle rest and some lunch to fuel us up for the next big activ­ity of the day: white­wa­ter raft­ing.  We drove to what seemed like a guy’s garage (which also dou­bled as a chang­ing room) and once again got geared up.  Life-jackets and hel­mets in tow, we climbed into the rafts in groups of six and our guide gave us a quick raft­ing les­son.  With that, we were off.  It was extremely fun and thrilling.  For the next hour and half, we tried to fol­low the guide’s instruc­tion and row when needed.  Mostly though, we just clung on for dear life, hop­ing not to fall out of the boat.  Unfor­tu­nately, pho­tog­ra­phy isn’t exactly prac­ti­cal while raft­ing, there­fore we don’t have any pic­tures of this activity.

Wet, tired, and hun­gry we hiked for about an hour through the jun­gle at night with noth­ing but our flash­lights to lead the way.  We finally arrived at our jun­gle lodge and because Tim and I were the last ones to check-in with our guide, we ended up with a pri­vate room. Score! We ate din­ner, and went to bed.  It was only day 1, and we had already expe­ri­enced so much adven­ture.  No need to tell you how well we slept that night!

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We awoke on day two only to real­ize that once again we we’re sur­rounded by more beau­ti­ful land­scapes.  Our hike the night before def­i­nitely paid off.  We had break­fast and the guides explained to the group that we would be hik­ing for about 7 hours that day.  After the first hour of walk­ing, we took a break at a look­out point and were given a les­son in Inca his­tory.  We walked along orig­i­nal Inca trails, stop­ping every­one once in a while to eat deli­cious fruit from trees, or get an expla­na­tion on the sur­round­ing vegetation.

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Things were get­ting pretty hot out there, so after lunch the group chose to stop at a river for a dip.  The water was freez­ing, I could barely keep my feet in it for more than a few min­utes at a time.  Feel­ing refreshed, we con­tin­ued on our trek until it was time to cross to the other side of the canyon.  We each paid a local guy 2 pesos ($0.75 CAD) to get a ride across on the cable-car.  This thing def­i­nitely fell into the cat­e­gory of “things that wouldn’t be legal in my home coun­try”.  But it offered great views on both sides and was actu­ally pretty safe and fun.  We con­tin­ued hik­ing for another hour or two until we reached the much deserved hot springs of Santa Teresa.   We enjoyed it so much that most peo­ple in the group ended up stay­ing there much longer than we we’re sup­posed to and elected to take a local bus to our next hos­tel instead of walk­ing in the dark.  Once again, we we’re the last ones to check-in and we got the only pri­vate room in the hostel!

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Day three started off with a nice pan­cake break­fast, and then it was time to get that adren­a­line pump­ing and go zip-lining across the nearby canyon.  We went across 5 dif­fer­ent lines, sus­pended 150 meters in the air.  It was fun, but I actu­ally pre­ferred the cable car ride from the day before, as you actu­ally got to enjoy the scenery for more than a minute at a time.   The last part of the zip-lining was a sus­pen­sion bridge which was the most difficult/fun part.  You are strapped in, but every time some­one would take a step the whole thing would shake and wob­ble, leav­ing you in ter­ror of falling.

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From Santa Teresa we got into a van which drove us all the way to Hidro­elec­trica, which is the clos­est you can get to Aguas Calientes (a.k.a Machu Pic­chu town) by road.  From there you can either walk along the train tracks for a few hours or take the insanely expen­sive tourist train.  Guess which one we did?

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By the end of the walk, we we’re pretty beat.  We had finally arrived to Aguas Calientes, and Machu Pic­chu was within reach.  The town is overly touristy and expen­sive, but you can’t deny how mag­nif­i­cent the scenery is there.  We set­tled into our hos­tel (pri­vate room again!), decom­pressed a lit­tle and then walked around the town before din­ner.  At din­ner our guide gave us a run through of what our visit to Machu Pic­chu would be like the next day.  We had a choice of either the hour long walk up the stairs to the entrance at 5:00 am or to pay 10 USD and take a 15 minute bus ride.  Tim chose the stairs, and I chose the bus.   We were warned about how expen­sive every­thing is once inside Machu Pic­chu, so we spent our evening pur­chas­ing food and water for the next day before a very early rise.

Before we knew it, it was time to wake up and get ready.  Excite­ment was def­i­nitely in the air, we were about to finally get to see the mag­i­cal ruins every­body raves about.   As I waited in line for the bus, all I could think about was Tim and the oth­ers climb­ing up those stairs and how happy I was that I was not with them.  The whole group met up (some a lit­tle sweatier than oth­ers) at the site entrance just in time for the gate open­ing.  It was about to hap­pen, that grand finale we had been think­ing about for not only the past 3 days, but the past few months.   It def­i­nitely lived up to the expectations.

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The guides gave us a tour of the site for a few hours, explain­ing the his­tory and the archi­tec­ture, giv­ing us a much bet­ter under­stand­ing of Machu Pic­chu and the Incas.  After that, the guides left and we were on our own to dis­cover the rest of the area.  Most peo­ple choose to climb Huayna Pic­chu as part of their expe­ri­ence, but this hike is lim­ited to 400 peo­ple per day, and sells out quickly.  We chose to climb up the less pop­u­lar, slightly higher, 650 meter hike up Machu Pic­chu moun­tain instead, and I think we got the bet­ter deal.  It was a long way to go climb­ing up stone stairs the whole way, but the 360 degree views we were offered at the top were def­i­nitely one of the high­lights of this trip so far.

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After the climb we came back down and con­tin­ued explor­ing the site until clos­ing time.  We were a lit­tle tired but the energy of all that we had seen that day gave us enough juice to tackle the walk down to Aguas Calientes instead of tak­ing the bus.  As the day was com­ing to the end, we were filled with a serene sense of accom­plish­ment. Not only had we seen and expe­ri­enced so many great things, but the entire group got along really well and we met a lot of really cool peo­ple.  Of course, another great night’s sleep was to be had.

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5 thoughts on “Tim and Helene‘s Excellent Inca Adventure

  1. John Reiter

    I am so happy for you both that you were able to get there, one of the truly most beau­ti­ful and mys­te­ri­ous places on earth. Helen, I love read­ing your travel logs.
    John

    Reply

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