April 14, 2014

Lost in the Andes

IncaTrail (1 of 1)I’m sure Macchu Picchu is on every travelers bucket list, it definitely had been on mine for a while. This year I decided to jump the gun and hike the 4 day inca trail through the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforest to the incredible site of Macchu Picchu. Getting a reservation was a little tough, they only allow 200 permits each day for tourists (to preserve the trails), but I was able to get a spot in the end of march since it’s still in the raining season. Which is a bit of a gamble really, you risk to hike the 28 miles (45km) in pouring rain each day and not see anything through the “Andes fog”. That said I consider myself very lucky with only getting rain for 5 hours on the second day, and be dry for most of the hike.

The tour guides had given names for each day starting with the first day as the “easy” one. 14km through a steady uphill on around 2700m was a nice and relatively gentle start on the journey. The second day was considered “The Challenge”, climbing over 1000m to the highest point on the route through Dead womans pass which is a solid 4200m above sea level. I didn’t really expect beforehand how the oxygen level at this altitude would affect me, but I will say this: It is hard. Things I normally would do with ease get’s immediately difficult and I start breathing like a pig making every step a small victory. At this point I was chewing coca leaves and potato ash just like the locals, this wonder plant helps relieve headaches, wounds and sores but also boost your performance. And is very much illegal in the states…

The third day was the “Unforgettable” day leading us through several incredible inca ruins. All playing an important role of the Inca empire and each having a connection to the site of Macchu Picchu. I was very impressed by the ruins of Winay Wayna, a farming town a couple hours away from Macchu Picchu that was situated in this amazing setting high up in the mountain side next to a waterfall and a view I would kill for to wake up to every morning.

4th and last day was the “Unique day”. Well, getting up at 3.30am was definitely unique, but being only a couple hours away from the final destination helped a little bit. We entered around 6am through the Sun Gate, which is the first point of entry where we are able to see Macchu Picchu. That is, if there is no fog. Which it definitely was. Although it gave it a very mystique ambience, it wasn’t exactly the picture perfect post card that most people know of. Luckily it cleared up throughout the day and I got to spend the rest of the day in great weather and a ton of tourists. Which was a very strange feeling, coming down from the mountains after 4 days of hiking and then suddenly starting to mingle with all these clean shaven, well perfumed tourists that just seemed to happen to be there, taking a couple of pics before heading out again to the next destination. After Macchu Picchu I headed down to Aguas Calientes for a well deserved lunch buffet and incredible cheap Pisco Sours, before heading back to the airport and the hustle and bustle of NYC.

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