Machu Picchu Adventure
Abby and I found ourselves with some days to spare before her work started and while I'm between projects. Since we aren't able to get into out permanent apartment there wasn't a lot of settling we could do. So we decided to take a stab at our Peru Adventure list and see if we could fit in a little adventure. Machu Picchu was the top of the list so we cobbled together a last minute trip. We weren't able to get a spot for the Inca Trail (spots on the trail are limited by the government and sell out many months in advance for the high season) so we opted for the Lares Trek to the Sacred Valley. We booked that trek as well as a hike to Rainbow Mountain with Llama Path, a tour company with a reputation for treating their porters well including building a house for employees and families to use and providing a school in the community for employee and local children.
Day 1 Saturday: Lima -> Cusco
Cusco (or Cuzco) is the historical capitol of Peru from Incan times. At 11,000 feet of elevation we wanted to get a couple days to acclimate to the elevation before we did any serious hiking on Monday. Cusco is a pretty easy 1 hour flight from Lima and the flight itself offers some breathtaking views.
We stayed at Second Home Cusco (which lived up to it's wonderful online reviews) for the first two nights. Wilbur the driver sent by Second Home Cusco picked us up from the airport and deftly navigated the insane traffic to get us to our hotel quickly. Our room was neat and quaint, once we got past the entry that afforded only 5ft of clearance. We both exceeded the clearance a couple times and got a good knock to the noggin to help us remember to duck next time.
We took the afternoon to explore Cusco a little on our own and find some yummy tapas at Cicciolino. We have been very successful at finding really great food!
Day 2, Sunday: Cusco
Sunday afternoon we took a nice walking tour of Cusco learning about the "Puma City" Incan and Spanish history. The mix of cultures on display in the architecture (Spanish built directly on top of Incan structures, plus more modern repairs to buildings destroyed by earthquakes).
Day 3, Monday: Cusco -> Pumahuanca -> Callorumiyoc -> Puyok
Lares Trek Day 1! We met with the rest of our group and guide in Cusco to hop a Llama Path bus to Pumahuanca. We were lucky to have a wonderful group to hike and trek with. A young couple from Boston and a pair of friends from England. A couple hour bus ride found us on a small gravel road where we'd start our hike. But first breakfast! I can't overemphasize how well fed we were on the hike!
It was great to get started hiking and the trail was fairly gradual and extremely beautiful. Starting elevation was around 10,000ft. Hiking and eating were the order of the day until we made it to Puyok (14,000ft) where camp was set up for us. The stars were amazing! The crisp, cold, thin air made for a beautiful view of more stars than I've ever been able to see.
Day 4, Tuesday: Puyok -> Sicllakasa pass -> Yanacocha -> Cunkani -> Lares
Lares Trek Day 2! We got an early start so that we could make it to the hot springs in the evening rather than lunch the following day. This is also the peak of our trek, at 15,850ft. Past the pass the landscape really changed and the hiking changed from uphill to a faster downhill.
Day 5, Wednesday: Lares -> Ollantaytambo -> Aguas Callientes
Lares Trek Day 3! Most of the hiking done we transferred to busses and trains for the day. The morning taking a bus to Ollantaytambo where we had time to walk around and see the city before hoping on a train to Aguas Callientes where we had a hotel night at Hotel Santuario Machupicchu and dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Day 6, Thursday: Aguas Callientes -> Machu Picchu -> Cusco
After a brief but nice tour of Machu Picchu ruins with our guide Gary, we took a hike up Machu Picchu mountain. This was the first hiking of the week that Abby and I did apart from our impromptu group of friends on the trek. Machu Picchu mountain was a good challenge, steep and narrow most of the way with precipitous drop offs beside the stone stairs that made up the trail in many places. The view from the top made it all worth it.
After the high of visiting Machu Picchu the afternoon came down to making our way back to Cusco via train and bus again.
Our new hotel was Illa Hotel where we had a nice and comfortable room which we took full advantage of the shower, even skipping dinner to catch a few extra minutes of sleep before our next day's adventures.
Day 7, Friday: Cusco -> Rainbow Mountain -> Cusco
Rainbow Mountain is about 3 hours from Cusco and getting an early start is recommended so we met our guide and the llama Path bus at 4am. I mostly slept ("continued my dreams", according to my guide) through the bumpy, winding bus ride but I did get some great views from the cliff-side road that brought us to Winicunca.
We picked up a horseman (as a safety back-up) at the bottom and he followed us to about the 2/3 point where horses became prohibited. The view from the top was amazing, spectacular views in literally every direction.
Day 8, Saturday: Cusco -> Lima
The adventure mostly over we still had some excitement left as our plane tickets back to Lima were not confirmed. We did end up sorting the ticket situation out (junk mail folder strikes again) and once back in Lima we collapsed into bed to rest up from our epic vacation before starting some real work next week!