Moray, Maras and Ollantaytambo

We visited the following three locations in one day, from Cusco. We were taken by bus to each of them and had official guidance all along the way.

Moray

This is where we saw the first incan-catholic church. To provide a bit of history, when the Spanish invaded the Inca Empire, “they didn’t come with chocolate and wine” (as we were taught the word “conquistador” means). They invaded. They raped and killed. And anywhere there was anything sacred, they forced the Inca people themselves to destroy their own establishments and build catholic churches with the very same stones. So the Incans rebelled, in their own way. Instead of building according to all catholic principles, they introduced Incan signs here and there. And so you can actually find churches that look catholic, but not really.

Another interesting thing we were shown is how the alpaca wool is processed from thread to cloth. They use different plants to color the wool (pics below).

 

Maras

This location is amazing for the salt mines. The extracted salt is exported throughout the whole world. The site is huge (pictures don’t do it justice).

The site is huge (pictures don’t do it justice). Additionally, they have a whole system in place, from incan times, to clean and extract the salt by using small channels with streams of water that evaporates.

 

Ollantaytambo

Now this was epic!

This is in the northern part of the Sacred Valley and the biggest attraction is the Temple Hill or the fortress (in pics below) of the Incan resistance when they got invaded by the Spanish. Lots of steps up, but the view on top is breathtaking. From the top, you can also see on the opposing mountain, the Face of Wiracocha, the highest of the gods (from the side), which was carved into the mountain. Depending on the time of the year, especially around the winter solstice (21st of June), the sun rises from that direction making the view a “godsend” (see what I did there? haha).

This location is where we would later start our Machu Picchu hike.

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Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

A nice, short sum-up of the experience

Machu Picchu, May 2017

Our trek on Machu Picchu. For more information, visit www.inquisitiveclaudia.com

Day 1

The trek started at Ollantaytambo. After the usual pictures at the entrance of the park, we started heading up. This day was considered “easy” because the steepness was … gradual. We stopped a lot at different sites where we got to introduce ourselves to the group, see a few incan ruins and get a nice introduction by our guide. The weather was amazing, sunny and encouraging for the days to come.

The first camp site looked like in the back garden of a local. The pigs, sheep, dogs and even roosters around were promising an early rise. Included in the package was the most amazing night sky I’ve ever seen! A full moon and the whole Milky Way just a short arm’s away.

 

Day 2

The roosters and dogs kept their promise and woke us up even before the 5 am “army” call. We were offered a nice coca tea at the “door” of our tent and were expected to pack up within 45 mins. Before we knew it, we were on our way to what was called the “challenging” day.

5 hours of steps were in store for us. Walking up seemed to never end. To be honest, after Rainbow Mountain, nothing seemed insurmountable anymore. The philosophy of one step after another worked like a charm. Dead Woman’s pass (4200 m) was our aim and, one after another, we conquered even this height. Afterwards, we headed down to the next camp site for another couple of hours.

This time, we were welcomed by a symphony of frog sounds (yuck!). It was also one of the coldest nights I’ve ever slept through in my life. We all literally froze in our sleeping bags, all dressed up and with caps and gloves on. The next morning couldn’t have come faster!

 

Day 3

The third day was labeled “unforgettable”. We had a bit of what our guide called “inca flat” (alternating up and down) and then a lot of stairs down. The nice part was that we were going to go through another pass and also stop on some occasions for other ruins.

The first part was quite pleasant. The second part.. the going down, though? Let me just say my biggest concern for this whole trek had been my Achillean tendons – an injury I had in the past. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that didn’t bother me at all. Instead, my knees slowly started hurting, then they started hurting some more and eventually they failed on me. If I hadn’t had my hiking poles, I probably would have crawled my way into the camp. They even called me the “myriapod” (thanks, Ovi!). “Hang on! Make space! The myriapod is coming!” hahaha.

With this occasion, I feel like I need to thank all the people that had the patience to walk behind me, walk with me, friends, trek buddies, Americans, Canadians and other people I made friends with while I was walking down this super long day for me :D.

  • Surprise cake (non-vegan) on the Machu Picchu trek
  • C:\DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR1004.GPR

 

Day 4

The “unique” day. Yeah, we woke up at 3 am, waited in line to enter the Machu Picchu site for 1.5 hrs, walked for another 5 k (in sticks for some of us) and eventually reached the site around 9 am.

The guide walked us for a couple of hours through the ruins, giving us so much interesting information. It was surreal even being there after a 40+ k hike. The funny bit is that you can reach the place by train and bus for a day. So you can imagine there were 2 types of people there: the cleanly dressed, nicely looking and smelling, lipstick-on kind of people. And us: the hobo looking, unwashed and uncombed for 4 days. Us, the ladies, were trying to move our hair from one side to the other, maybe, just maybe, we could look decent for a picture or two.

Eventually, on the account of 0 energy, we all decided to take the bus and head down to Aguas Caliente for the restaurant we were supposed to meet at. Let me just say the lunch there was anything and everything we missed after a hike through the wilderness.

We were also properly certified for our achievement and had the chance to have a warm goodbye from our guide and other members of the group who had the brilliance to book the night in that little mountain village.

The way back to Cusco was long and windy, but, man, can I not emphasize enough that feeling the warm water and the soft sheets over our skins was enough to make all the angels sing hahaha.

 

El finale

I would definitely recommend going through this experience to anyone. I can’t describe enough the landscape, the emotional charge of the places you see. Add on top of that all the amazing people you get to meet and know along the way. There is no comparison to any conventional vacation we have.. Just do it!

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Before another adventure

Yellow! I am starting the Inca Trail trek tomorrow.

For 4 days I will be hiking the Inca’s path through the mountains from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. Again, I went through the challenge of packing my backback with the minimum amount of weight – even though I actually exercised this process a few times in London, just before leaving to Peru. I think I am at the point where I will just have to find out how to do it.. on the trek.

A few details of what’s ahead – based on what I remember from our briefing with the agency:

Day 1 (Easy) – 13 kms

  • pick up from hotel at 5 and drive to Ollantaytambo – and Piscacucho (2600 m)
  • start trek by crossing over the Urubamba river
  • go up to Wayllabamba and camp there (3100 m)

Day 2 (Challenge) – 13 kms

  • Go up towards the first pass, and the highest, Dead Womans’ Pass (4215 m)
  • Then go down towards Pacaymayu where we camp (3500 m)

Day 3 (Unforgetable) – 16 kms

  • Go up towards the second pass Qochapata (3950 m)
  • Then go down to Winay Wayna where we camp (2700 m)

Day 4 (Unique) – 5 kms

  • Wake up at 3 am and hike during the night so that we can reach Machu Picchu gate by early morning
  • Enjoy Machu Picchu for a few hours then head towards Wayna Picchu and/or the hot springs
  • Head back to Ollantaytambo by train and Cusco by bus

This is basically the plan – on paper.

Plan on paper, literally “on paper” 😀

Let’s see how it will pan out.

My concerns right now? Hahaha

  • Have I packed my porter baggage too heavy?
  • Do I have enough warm clothes, especially for the nights? I hate to be cold.. And don’t like being cold when I need to sleep.
  • Do I have too many or too few snacks? Digression alert: My veganism has gone to hell in Peru 😀. I  always gave an example to people that if I were on top of a mountain and was offered eggs or butter as my only options, then I would have that. Well, it happened too many times here. Omlette and pancakes made with eggs have become a breakfast I have every other day. I don’t even want to think where they added butter in stuff. Anyway, another post on my “betrayal” of my lifestyle.
  • Will I be cold at night? (intentional repeat haha)
  • Oh, and need to be careful with how much I eat. Smaller, regular portions work better for me when I exercise – lesson learnt the hard way, especially on the trek to the Rainbow Mountain
  • Oh, and I shouldn’t forget to drink plenty of water – says she as she took another sip from the bottle next to her
  • Anything else I should be concerned about? – yes, even that can be a concern in itself 😀
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