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Inca Trail Part 2: to the Cloud Forest

The trail can be seen skirting the flank of this high mountain terrain. I'm well above it where I took this photo.

One of the few spots on the Inca trail where a "new" bridge was installed to compensate for a lost bit of the original trail... felt pretty darn precarious!

After the rather difficult first day and night, the rest of the journey was much easier. That’s not to say it was easy! Up and down we went. Day 2 saw us reach that first summit (in the last post) and then descend a long way to our lunch stop. Our crew, who you’ll meet a bit later in this entry, would always pass us by with their enormous loads of all our tents, camp gear, kitchen stuff, food, etc. and then when we arrived at the lunch stop or our campsite for the night, everything was set up and ready! Now that was luxurious! After lunch and a brief siesta, off we’d go again, and on the 2nd day it was back uphill again towards the 2nd summit, not as high as the first day’s but still over 13,000 feet. To get there we went up a long steep climb of original Inca trail that took us by a place called Runturucay, a round stone outpost that was probably a place to rest over night and a supply depot for travellers on the way to and from Macchu Picchu. Eric sat us down when we reached it and told us about it in his wonderful historiographically aware way–that is to say, he understands that the typical histories we get are often rather distorted and often still controversial. He had a fun tendency to use air quotes whenever the word “discovered” came up with respect to Inca ruins.

Story time at Runturacay.

This is the Inca Trail ascending towards Runturacay.

Runturacay from trail above...

Had to prove I was there!

We weren't moving too fast here either. Super steep, over 12,000 feet!

Climbing to 2nd summit, still a long way to go!

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Inca Trail Part 1

Adriana and I planned our month-long sojourn through Ecuador and Peru around a 4-day  hike on the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, one of those life-long fantasies. It more than lived up to our expectations. We went with Enigma Tours and had Eric as our guide, who was absolutely fantastic. We timed the trip so we’d be on the trail during my 54th birthday, which oddly also coincided this year with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (we knew nothing about it until March 13 when we were back in the world news net).

The first day was definitely the hardest, partly because I only got about 3 hours of sleep before we were awakened at 4 a.m. to be driven from Cuzco to the trailhead at km 82 in the Sacred Valley, a mostly dark bus ride that ended in a wild dawn with glimpses of snow-capped mountains finally emerging from clouds in the morning light.

We were dropped off at a small shack near the Inca Trail head, alongside the raging Urubamba River, which itself bookended our hike.

We had our passports stamped and were on the bridge over the river taking our first tourist shot, the river churning below us loudly.

Here we were with our fellow hikers at the starting point, 3 Aussies, 2 Brits, one other U.S. and us.

It started out great. We had our backpacks, having failed to arrange in time to hire a porter to carry our stuff. We thought we would be able to handle it until our rented sleeping bags were added to our bags whereupon they became much bulkier and heavier. Nevertheless, at the beginning it didn’t seem to be a problem. The first four hours are very gradual and very beautiful as the trail slowly ascends from the river, the sun was out and the weather was lovely.

The first half hour was easy, a very gradual climb into the first valley along the river.

This was the landscape during the first morning.

Similar view

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Inca Stonemasonry in Cuzco

Sacsayhuaman was a vital Incan site on the hill above Cuzco. The stonework here, as well as in the heart of Cuzco, is just astonishing. It was a great place to see the stone masonry up close, and a great preparation for our 4-day hike on the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu.

Adriana stands in the Antisuyo, one of the ancient Incan streets still used today in Cuzco. Note how snugly the stones fit together, a perfect anti-seismic structure.

These giant boulders were shaped by Inca stonemasons to fit together.

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