PERU & INCA TRAIL
In 1987 I spent 3 months in Peru with my friend Sav. We went to experience Peruvian life and culture and to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We had made no plans for anywhere to stay. We decided on the airplane to go with the first tout that approached us on our arrival at the airport in Lima.
We ended up on the 7th floor of a tower block with a bed of sorts but no furniture and no Agua Calientes.
After passing out and recovering from the journey we hit the streets.
The time we spent in the Peru coincided with a fair amount of civil unrest (no change there) .The Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) Maoist Guerilla group were on the rampage and there was the usual political chaos and social unrest. We watched the President Alan Garcia make a speech to the masses from the balcony of the presidential palace, an unforgettable experience.
We needed some local currency, the Inti.
All of the banks were on strike so all money exchanges were done on the streets by touts, By asking around we figured that the going rate was 12.500 Intis for $100 and we approached a tout to do that deal. With thick wads of bank notes woven between fingers, he counted us out the cash in exchange for our dollars and we found a small side street café to divi up the total between us. When we counted it out we discovered to our dismay that he had short changed us by almost 50%, a common trick played on naive jet lagged tourists. We needed to wise up but it went from bad to worse. On leaving the café and just walking down the street wondering what to do next my watch was snatched from my wrist, never to be seen again. Sav had his trousers with $300 in the pockets stolen at the beach and a woman standing behind me in a queue at a post office put her hands in my trouser pockets trying to plunder what she could find. And still no Agua Calientes!
Our time in Lima before we moved up country was a steep learning curve.
We made a plan to toughen ourselves up, physically and mentally, before taking on the 5 day trek to Machu Pichu. We chose at random a town in the high Andeas to use as base camp for a trek up a small mountain. That place was Huaraz and we took the bus to this busy mountain town surrounded by magnificent snowy peaks.
The Circus was in town and there was a carnival atmosphere.
We set about making the preparations for our trek which was to take us into the high Andes. We had no real idea of where we were heading. It turned out to be a tough but fantastic 5 days in the most stunning landscape and wildlife.
After a few days rest in Huaraz we headed back to Lima for a few days and then flew up to Cusco to begin our preparations to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Cusco itself is a fascinating place. The Inca sacred sites with their impressive stone masonry bear testament to their hard work, skill and creativity.
The train from Cusco zig-zags out of the city to a high pass and then lets the breaks off. It careers down the Urubamba river valley until Kilometer 88 where a suspension bridge crosses the river and the trail begins.
The first thing we encountered was a serious disagreement on the far side of the bridge between local villagers which turned into a brawl. We politely skirted around the fracas and moved on to locate a reasonable camp site for our first night on the trail. The following morning we got on with it and by the end of a hard day had got over our first objective, the 13,680 ft Warmiwanusqa pass.
From then on the trek was always demanding but full of interest with small Inca settlements all of the way.
We finally reached the magnificent ancient city of Machu Pichu via the “gate of the Sun” on the 5th day.
After congratulating ourselves and taking a few photos we descended in triumph down to the railhead town of Agua Calienties for a well earned rest and at last some Agua Calienties.