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Just back from Peru
#11
More touring the city of Cuzco the second day, we visited some more ruins, town squares and markets.

On the morning of the third day we were picked up at our hotel bur guide and driven to Ollantaytambo which is in the sacred valley.  Along the way were stopped at several ruin, small towns..

We stopped at a salt mine along the way. These salt terraces are fed by an underground salt stream that comes out of mountain. The mine has been in existence since Inca times. Each salt pond is owned and worked by a family who buys in, works the pond and then sells the salt. Some ponds have been in families for centuries and many families own dozens of ponds. There are more than a thousands ponds being worked.

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The next stop was at a ancient greenhouse which the Inca built on a lava field at over 11,000 feet.  The lava kept the crops warm at altitude and alowed them to transplant plants from the jungle (coca plants for example) and have them thrive. Each terrace had a different crop with the jungle plants near the bottom.

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We stopped at several small villages (more ruins) along the way and then stayed in a hotel overnight in Ollantartambo. We toured the ruins at PAKARITAMPU in the monring. Then onto the Inca Trail.

I should mention that we had our own guide for the entire time we were in Cuzco and on the Inca Trail. He took care of everything, hotels, moving luggage, transportation etc. Really first class VIP treatment. The guide had a master's degree in history and knew everything about everything from the history to the flora and fauna along the trail. He was really excellent.

Just a note about the weather. In the jungle the temperature were quite hot and humid until a rain squall came through one night and it got quite cool (in the 50s). It is also cool at night. In Cuzco and along the Inca Trail temps were in the mid 60s and sunny every day. Night time temps were in the mid 30s but didn't seem that cool. Those are pretty much year round temps in Peru. The sun was very hot at altitude but there was a constant breeze with cool air temps. You will see us wearing long sleeves, wide brim hats and neckerchiefs most of the time to prevent sunburn.
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#12
You start the Inca Trail at about 9,000 feet. The first day's hike is 7.8 miles but since we visited and walked some ruin early in the day our total distance was 10.2 miles that day.

Start of the Inca Trail

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The way this works is that you can't go on the trail without a guide. You can carry your own tent/sleeping bags/food but most people hire porters to carry that stuff. We booked through a company that provided the guide, porters, tent/sleeping bags/food. The porters carry everything, set up camp/tents/sleeping bags etc and cook the food. They literally run ahead and set up everything before you arrive in camp each night. They also sett up lunch on the trail. This is the way most people do it.  Groups run up to a maximum of 15 people.  Our group was just my wife and I and the guide. We had 4 porters and a cook who made gourmet food in camp every night. Some of the groups had 20+ porters.

Only 200 hundred hikers are allowed on the trail each day with a total of 500 people, the other 300 being porters allowed.  While you tend to run into other hikers every day we were quite spaced out.

One of the reasons you hike the trail is to see places you can't see anywhere else. There are literally dozens of ruins, villages, and ancient step terraces along the Inca Trail

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You walk most of the day and arrive in camp around 3 pm with your tent and folding chairs waiting for you.  Generally you take a nap for a couple hours, tea time is at 5pm, dinner at 7 and generally to bed at 8:30. You are really tired and wake up call is generally at 5 am.  

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The cook/dining tent.  The small tee-pee grey tent in the background is the portable toilet. Yes they haul a portable toilet on the trail, something my wife appreciated. In some of the campgrounds there is just a hole in the ground to squat over. There are designated campgrounds along the way some even have running water which you can't drink without filtering and boiling.  The porters filled our water bottles each day with filtered/boiled water. 

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Day two is the hardest day on the trail. That's when you climb over 4000 feet in 3 miles. Takes a good 5-6 hours and it is brutally steep the whole way.  The goal is Dead Woman's Pass at 13,970 feet. 

Pretty much stone steps about 18" high the whole way up. No amount of stair stepper workout can prepare you for this. It was brutal. That's a porter carrying a 70lb pack going up.

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More of the stairs...

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View from the top looking back down into the valley we came out of left center of photo. You can see the trail snaking through the center of the photo.

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The only thing worse than climbing up, is climbing back down. The decent is just as steep and with tired legs is brutally treacherous. Another 2.5 hours of walking down 3,000 feet to our campsite.  My knees were aching all night after this.

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A small stone shrine at the top looking down the back side trail. You can just see the campground where we're headed (small white dot over the top of the shrine. If you look carefully you can see the trail (faint white line) leading back up to the second pass which is the second gap in the mountain from the left hand side of the photo.

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#13
Day 3 on the trail isn't as brutal but you have to climb two passes. The first pass is just over 12,000 feet and the second over 11,000 feet. It's basically just up and down, up and down. Very little horizontal hiking.  The first pass is just as steep as Dead Woman's Pass (DWP) but not as long 2.5 hours instead of 5 hours. The second pass is another 2 hours.

The notch in the mountains top/center is DWP which we came over and you can sort of see the trail (green line in some cases) on the way down.  The white area near the center of the photo is where we spent the night.  This photo was taken near the top of the second pass. You can see the ruins of a Incan fortress in the lower left hand corner.

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Another view of the fortress and our campsite/ruins just above and beyond it. Better view of the trail coming down from DWP and back up the second pass, though the campsite is a couple miles and a couple thousand feet below and beyond the fortress. It just looks closer due to the telephoto camera lens.

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Another fortress on the back side of the second pass.

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Did I mention that there are wild Llamas and Alpaca everywhere along the trail?

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They are quite tame though they tend to spit and kick if you get too close.

That's Machu Picchu mountain (dark shape) in the center. The white spot just to the right of it is the town in the valley below MP. This photo was taken from our last campsite. It's 6-7 miles away from Machu Picchu.

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This is where we had lunch the last day on the trail.

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Day 4-We were up at 5 am the last day to see the sunrise but it was pretty foggy so we didn't see the sun. About a 6 hour hike to the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu.  The white ziggly line is the road leading up from the town. The only way to get to MP is by bus up the road or walk, like we did.  MP is the clearing in the center of the photo. Still about 1.5 miles away at this point but it's all down hill from there.

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WE MADE IT!

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I can't tell you how proud I am of my wife for going on this trip and sticking in there. She is not typically the rough camping type but she hung in there and never once complained though it was brutal at time. She's no spring chicken and there were people a lot younger than us who turned back. All the conditioning and working out, walking etc paid off. We could never have done it otherwise.

Never once was breathing an issue. We were breathing hard going up DWP but we never lost our breath. Never had a problem with the altitude. I suffered from previous knee and ankle injuries after some hard climbs but my legs never gave out and were never particularly tired except going down the backside of DWP which was a brutal decent.

That night we spent at a very nice hotel in town. We were up the next morning at 4:30 am to catch the first bus back up to Machu Picchu to see the sunrise. It was too overcast to see the sun but we spent the rest of the morning touring the Lost City of the Incas with our guide. We returned to town around noon, ate lunch and boarded a 3pm train back to Cuzco. It's about 3.5 hours back by train. Accomdations were already set up at a hotel in Cuzco where we spent the night. We were up the next day for our flight from Cuzco to Lima 1.5 hours, then Lima to Miami 5.5 hours, then Miami back to Detroit about 3+ hours. That didn't include the layovers in Lima and Miami.
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#14
If you don't mind me asking. how expensive was that trip ?
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#15
(09-16-2018, 10:05 AM)Scout Wrote: If you don't mind me asking. how expensive was that trip ?

Our total cost was about $4500/person including airfare, most meals and tips.  We booked through a company called Adventure Life.

https://www.adventure-life.com/peru

We combined the Amazon rainforest Tambopata Research Center 4 day tour with the 10 day Inca Trail tour. We figured that as long as we were going to be in Peru anyway and were unlikely to return we would add the Amazon rainforest (my wife was a biologist). While the Inca Trail was a quest the rainforest was the highlight of the tour. We could have skipped the Inca Trail and just gone to Machu Picchu and had a great trip.

https://www.adventure-life.com/peru/tour...inca-trail

https://www.adventure-life.com/peru/tour...xploration

You can pick and chose what tours you go on.
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#16
Clothes, Equipment and Miscl stuff....

We tried to pack light for this trip even though we were going to be gone for two week.  I wore a pair of jeans while traveling  but packed only two other pair of pants, both were lightweight, quick drying synthetic zip off hiking pants.  I washed them in the shower/sink every couple days except when on the trail.  I also only took 4 synthetic, quick drying shirts, two short sleeve, two long sleeve.  Again, I washed them in the shower/sink.  I also took a long sleeve flannel shirt which I wore in the cool mornings and evening. I wore the flannel every day. I did buy a long sleeve synthetic quick drying safari shirt on clearance at the Amazon lodge.

In addition I had a nylon jacket (which I wore once), a fleece jacket which I never wore, a light weight down vest, which I wore once in the morning. The idea being to layer up during the cold mornings and evenings while on the trail.  I took 4 pairs of synthetic, quick drying underwear. I wore one pair, washed and hung to dry every night. I actually only needed two pair. One to wear while the other dried.  I also took a pair of synthetic light weight Head running gloves which I never wore.  I took 4 pairs of synthetic/wool blend hiking socks, and a pair of 30  Degree brand synthetic/wool blend long underwear to wear as pajamas at night (bought at Costco).

Surprisingly, many Peruvians wear down jackets most of the time even though the climate is so temperate. My wife brought a very lightweight down jacket for use on the trail and never wore it, r preferring her medium weight fleece most of the time in the mornings and evenings. We both had knit watch caps to wear in cold weather but never wore them. The weather just never got that cold.

I wore my Merrell mid height hikers on the trail and a pair of closed toed Keen sandals the rest of the time.  Of course I had my Henschal hat.

You were only allowed 14 lbs of stuff/gear to take on the trail since the porters have to carry it.  You have to carry your own water, rain gear, jackets, cameras etc, etc.  I was able to cut my gear down to about 12 lbs for the porters but put some of my wife's stuff in my duffel since she was over the limit (women have a lot of extraneous stuff).   I carried my back pack with a three liter water bladder, rain gear (never used) jackets, coats, change of clothes, FAK, extra socks, camera, trail food/snacks, etc.

When not hiking I had a water bottle which I filled from the Grayl water filter frequently during the day. We used the filter every day since you only drink bottled, or in our case filtered water in Peru. The Grayl water filter proved to be a great deal. Instead of buying bottled water I could just get water out of the tap in the hotels (which you normally don't drink from). You drink a lot of water at altitude and on vacation. It probably paid for itself several times over by not having to buy water.

For snacks I carried almonds and beef jerky brought from home as I was still trying to stay keto.  They provided fruit, snack bars, raisins, candy etc everyday on the trail for snacks but I didn't eat any of it.  The also filled your water at lunch and every morning.

The tent we were provided was a three person pack tent, I don't remember the make but it was big enough for the two of us. They also provide inflatable sleeping pads (very comfortable), mummy sleeping bags with liners and inflatable pillows. The bags were rated to 20 degrees and were plenty warm. I took the liner out of mine the second night as I was too warm.  Even though it got down into the 30s at night neither my wife of I were ever cold sleeping.

Of course we had our hiking poles. They were invaluable on this very rough and treacherous trail.  There were people on the trail without them, I don't know how they did it.  For us old guys, poles were essential. There was one set of stairs near the Sun Gate at the end of the hike called "The Gringo Killer". It was so steep you had to climb it on all fours like a ladder.

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On the trail meals were provided and the were all very good and plentiful. I was trying to stay on keto so didn't eat the rice, potatoes, bread and pasta that was served but the cook went out of his way to accommodate my diet though sometimes I had to cheat to get anything to eat. The cook didn't really understand about what had carbs and what didn't but he gave it a good try.

I'll add more info as I think of it of if any of you have any questions.

Edited to add....

We went on several early morning and night time hikes in the Amazon and was up before first light and after dark while on the Inca trail and used our headlamps. My son had given me a Black Diamond Spot (300 lumens) headlamp for Christmas and I bought my wife another for the trip. They are amazingly bright and lit up the whole jungle. By far they were the brightest of any headlamp anyone including the guides were using. I had to actually turn mine down (variable brightness) a couple times because it was so bright. They have a dimmer switch for use like in a tent where you don't need the bright spotlight. They worked really, really well.

We each took inflatable pillows since we didn't know they were provided. They weighed a couple ounces and rolled up into a small package. I used mine as I liked the added height while sleeping on my side, my wife didn't use hers. We also took down blankets we had picked up a Costco. They are light weight and compress down pretty small. They were intended to add warmth to the sleeping bags just in case but we never used them as the bags were warm enough at night. We did however use them to take our afternoon naps. The afternoons were cool inside the tent but not cool enough to crawl into your sleeping bag. We would pop the blankets out and cover ourselves. They worked well for that.
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