Monday, April 25, 2011

Fast Forward >>

Turns out, I have way more pictures than time/fast enough computers to post. So, I thought one of my last posts will just be a series of pictures, in chronological order to catch up from Huanchaco (2 weeks ago) to now (post-Machu Picchu!).


The two pointy things on the left are reed boats or caballitos de totora. They have been used by fishermen in Huanchaco for over one thousand years!

Adios, Huanchaco!

The little oasis of Huacachina is behind us. It is literally in the middle of all the sand dunes. More sand than I´ve ever seen in my life.

My hair sure looks like I´ve been riding up and down and over dunes with a crazy old Peruvian man as the driver who loved to make me yelp at the top of a dune as we rolled down on our way to attempt sandboarding.

We went on a wine tour to 2 wineries, one artesenal and one industrial. We tried a handful of wines as well as the national alcohol, pisco, which is a white brandy made from grapes.

After busing from Huanchaco to Huacachina, we took the longest bus I´ve ever been on to Cusco. It was supposed to be 18 hours but ended up being 21+ because our bus broke down 2 hours outside of Cusco. Yay us! At least it was daylight. After 2.5 days acclimating to Cusco´s elevation of just shy of 11,000 feet, we departed on our 4 day/3 night jungle trek to Machu Picchu. This is not to be confused with the original Inca Trek along the 44 kilometers of restored trail that costs $500-800 to do. In Huacachina, an Aussie recommended Lorenzo´s Expeditions as the best jungle trek experience by far. So much so, that other trekkers in other groups, recommended doing Lorenzo´s tour instead of their own. It was also recommended by Lonely Planet. We had to see for ourselves and opted for a more backpacker budget friendly trek through Lorenzo´s, than the original Inca Trek. Our adventure there went as so:

Day 1 - Breakfast at Lorenzo´s house. Three hour van ride up through the Sacred Valley to the top of Abra Malaga at 4,350 meters or just over 14,000 feet. Downhill mountain biking from there, switchback after switchback, descending from the clouds to a view of the Urubamba River winding below.

Apologies for the blurriness. My baby camera is on her last leg I think. Anyways, this is the getup we all wore, motorbike helmet, shin/knee & elbow/forearm pads, cycling gloves and reflective vest. They had us quite freaked out. At least, the guides spared the horror stories of tourists biking downhill until after we did it.

After biking for 3 or so hours, we reached a point where the government no longer allows bikes due to construction. From there, we took the van an hour to the tiny town of Santa Maria to spend the night.

Day 2 - I woke up feeling fairly sick with a headache, stomacheache and extreme tiredness. Nevertheless, we headed to the river to start our 2 hour white water rafting trip. It was quite a blast, no one was thrown in and our guide was awesome. Unfortunately, no pictures. Afterwards, we hiked nearly the rest of the day for around 5 hours, nearly half uphill, into the jungle, more or less to another small town of Santa Theresa. Cue the mosquitoes.

Oh, we did stop at a house to rest, see this little guy and learn about the agriculture in the jungle.

Day 3 - Still felt quite crummy, and uber tired, but not as bad as the day before. We headed to do a canopy tour, zip lining over the trees with Cola de Mono. I would highly recommend this, as it consists of 2500 meters (7000+ feet) of cables, split into 6 sections. The longest one is about 1,200 feet and the highest is just below 500 feet off the ground! It was a blast. Unfortunately, only one person took pictures since she didn´t want to go and I don´t have any copies yet. Then, we hiked more flat trails all the way to Aguas Calientes, the only town to stay in before going to Machu Picchu.

Day 4 - I woke up at 4am to wait in line to catch one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu at 5:30am. I had company (most of the girls in our group) while the boys hiked up the 1,869 steps to the control center where they admit you to the archeological site. We all met up at the top and waited for our guide. Toured the incredible ruins. In the spirit of minimizing the number of photos for this post, I´ll just share one of the architecture that is stunning.

Look at that! How on earth is it not or has it not fallen yet? Incredible. The Incas used lots of natural features of the mountains such as this one. It is estimated that nearly 10,000 people contributed to building the city of Machu Picchu. It was how they paid their taxes. I was shocked at the tiniest of details in how the rocks fit together. They were perfectionists, and had learned from generations and conqured peoples before them. 

Had to put some 3 goggles on in Blazer gear at one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Maybe we´ll be on TV next season. Fingers crossed!

My very own, postcard picture of Machu Picchu. I did not google image this one. :) The bigger mountain you see is actually not Machu Picchu, but Wayna Picchu, meaning ´´Young Mountain´´ in Quechua. The mountain Machu Picchu (´´Old Mountain´´) is behind me and not nearly as well known as the view seen here. The ruins of the city are called Machu Picchu to the world today, but that is only because the American Hiram Bigam (Yale professor in early 1900s) called it that when he ´´discovered´´ these ruins. No one knows the original name of the city which is fascinating. 

And let´s see. We stayed until mid afternoon before heading back to Aguas Calientes. The next day (last Friday) we rode the train back to Ollantaymbo (2 hours), then took a taxi back to Cusco (1.5 hours).

Tomorrow morning, I fly to Lima. Then, Wednesday morning, my adventure comes to an end when I fly back to Portland. I am quite ready to be home!

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