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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Peru by road

Peru by road

Peru definitely surprised me through its beauty of landscapes. Situated in its majority at altitudes of over 2300 m, it is a completely different place. Different flora, different fauna. Different views. Isn’t it amazing how a slight change in heights and we are already on a different “planet”? 🙂

Besides the usual back in forth by bus in between trekking trails, we also did two long-distance travels. One from Arequipa to Puno, the other from Puno to Cusco, each around 6-7 hr drive.

For future reference, the long-distance transport company we used is Cruz del Sur. We were surprised how accommodating their buses were: waiting lounges, VIP seating section, reclining seats, movie screens, meals. They even check you and your baggage in like an airport (!).

More interesting facts about Peru

  • they had a really bad transport infrastructure until they realized tourism was going to make them more money :). So, they started re-doing their road transport infrastructure. I was surprised how great their roads were and especially the heights and remote places one could easily reach by car. Going by train was – and still is – taking double the time than using the road infrastructure today.
  • most of the cities look “unfinished” or poor because of the half-constructed houses. In the majority of cases that happens because people try to avoid paying taxes for their houses.
  • the worst looking city to us was Juliaca – very close to Puno. Its “high-street” was not even asphalted. It was full of people selling food, electronics, and what-not in the middle of the street. Car traffic was hell. Apparently, it is the city used for the black market of products smuggled from Bolivia.
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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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A trekker’s checklist in Peru

I’ve been unpacking for the last day or so and while doing it, I thought it’d be nice to document what I had with me, what was super useful and what was completely useless.

Extremely useful stuff – besides the obvious, like a backpack, hiking boots and windproof jacket:

  • baseball cap and sunglasses: heights actually make the sun shinier and stronger
  • Smartwool socks: they helped with chafing on my Achillean tendon and the cold on some occasions. Gracias a lot of people for the tip!
  • vaseline: helped with chafing on one of my Achillean tendons, I used it once and got over the chafing surprisingly quick for the rest of the trek. Best tip ever! Thanks, Hardeep!
  • self-inflatable mattress: it inflated on its own, which is very useful at +3500 m (you don’t want to pass out inflating your mattress) and it kept things warm and soft on hard ground, while others complained about the foam mattress provided by the trekking company. Gracias, Marton! And when I think about the fact I almost left it at home..
  • 2L water bladder: best size for the weight you carry and it ensured I never forgot to hydrate. Will defo use it in the future!
  • ear plugs: 3M ear plugs are the best. I am a light sleeper, so sleeping in some situations is difficult (nature sounds, airplane engine sounds, honking cars in Peru, everything was covered)
  • trekking poles: I would have not finished Machu Picchu if I didn’t have them. Two is great!
  • money belt: helps keep things close to you and easy to find. Your own marsupial.
  • raffia bag 😀 (Romanians and apparently lots of Peruvians know). A very cheap checkered huge raffia bag – btw, apparently Luis Vuitton has launched a line of items made using raffia haha – that everyone was initially laughing about, but which I used to check in airports a lot of different pieces of luggage. I could group everything in one bag and when the time came, I could take everything out, fold the raffia small and carry everything on my back. Best use ever!

Completely useless for me – although recommended everywhere and maybe in some conditions, they would have been useful:

  • microfiber towels: in hotels you get towels and on treks I used wet and dry wipes
  • sock liners: they made things worse for me with chafing, actually. Plus, it was getting too hot inside my boot
  • windstopper gloves: as expected too expensive and could have lived with normal gloves
  • waterproof overtrousers: didn’t rain at all, but if it did, they would have been useful
  • sleeping bag liner: was recommended for hygiene purposes when the sleeping bag is rented. F**k hygiene when you are freezing cold and tired. You just jump in the sack and hope to survive the night (and trek)! 😀
  • 1L water bottle: if you have a bladder and buy bottled water, you don’t need anything else. Complete waste of weight and space. Left it at the hotel before going on the trek. Used it once at night!
  • Freshette: for whoever doesn’t know, it’s an …uhm “instrument” to help girls pee like boys, standing. Nope, never managed to use it properly. I was born and am defo a lady, no doubts left! 😀

Stuff I utterly missed:

  • knee support: I overestimated my knees while going down “stairs”, especially on the last couple of days of Machu Picchu

Below, my full initial list of items:

Clothes Meds Gear Food Others
Cap Sun block (aftersun) Head lamp Snacks Cash (tips)
Baseball cap/cowboy hat Insect repellant Backpack Chocolate Travel insurance
Hiking boots Immodium Sun shades Energy bars Credit card (Monzo/HSBC)
Towels (micro fiber towel) Antibiotics (???) no Backpack waterproof sack no Seeds Flappy
Fleece tops Plasters (100) Duck tape Primal Joy bars Travel insurance
Trainers Antihistamines Matress (self inflatable) Rehydration powder
 Waterproof jacket  First-aid kit Sleeping bag liner Shower gel
Polyester t-shirts Nausea pills no Sleeping bag rent Tooth paste
Base layers/thermals Ibuprofen Smaller packs of wipes Hand gel (sanitysing)
Smartwool socks Ibuprofen gel Water bottle (1L)  Nail brush (clean with gel)  no
Sock liners Throat lozinges (dry air) !! Water bladder (3 L) Travel shampoo
Windstopper gloves Knee support  no Ear plugs Toilet paper
Flip-flops Vaseline (small on folds and friction points) Wet wipes (pack of 20)
Regular socks Lip balm Garbage plastic bags
Rain coat (with backpack extension) Probiotics for travel Waterproof bags (sealable)
2 pairs of lightwear hiking trousers (zip-off) Water sterilising tablets Trekking poles rent
Down vest Battery pack
 Fleece buff Tooth brush
Waterproof overtrousers Outlet convertors
Shoe laces Shaker no
Freshette (?)
Money belt
gopro battery
 GoPro
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