A Travellerspoint blog

Machu Picchu

12 Magical Hours

sunny 26 °C

Really, words cannot begin to illustrate Machu Picchu well enough, but I will try. We arrived from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes by day the day before and rested in the overpriced, good for nothing town. In the morning, if you can call it that, Frank and I got out of bed and started up the path the Machu Picchu. We hoped to arrive before the first busses arrived at the top at 545am for the opening of the gates at 600am, so we started at 430am. It was still pitch black out, and we were only guided by a handheld flashlight. Already when we got to the trailhead around 500am, we could see flickers of light like fireflies on the hillside of early trekkers attempting to do the same feat we did, only getting a better start than us. With a wad of coca leaves in our mouths, we did climbed the trail in half the time estimated by the information desk. But when we were only minutes upon getting to the gate when we heard the motors and breaks of the first buses arriving. We couldn't believe it. We were maybe two minutes from beating the barely awake bus travelers. In line, maybe 300 back, we noticed all the laws broken pertaining to maintenance of the archeological ruins, people bringing in food, walking sticks, you name it. We abided by the rules, but for seemingly no reason, and it's a shame we did, because we really could have used food for fuel and water to rehydrate us for the long morning still ahead of us. One of the reasons why we wanted to get out early was to get in line to climb Huayna Picchu, which only allows 400 people into the limited access part. Upon entering, we spead around the slow, unfit, and still stiff visitors to the park and managed to get 9th and 10th in line. As we waited th sun peaked over the mountains around Macchu Picchu. It was stunning, minus the already hundreds of people crowding into the park. It is amazing to think that this is the "off season." When we finally got to pass through the gates to get up to Huayna Picchu, it was a repeat of getting to the gate, we passed the struggling and stiff climbers on our way to joining a pair of Canadians to be the first on top of Huayna Picchu. As we got to the top, the sky started to break. Earlier there was a fog that covered the landscape, but when we arrived to the top, we had a clear view of everything around us. It was magical. Alone on the peak, having scaled the high stairs and boulders, we just sat silently soaking it all in. As the day continued, we friended our Canadian hiking partners, and treked around the rest of Huayna Picchu to see the Temple of the Moon and the Great Cave on the back side. The entire time we were completely alone in the great wilderness on the outskirts of Machu Picchu. It was awesome. But the climb back up to the regular park wasn't. I was dehydrated by that point and it seemed like the stairs never ceased to end. We would finally come down, only to come right back up. Around the outside of Huayna Picchu, the stairs hugged a cliff that had at least a 1000ft fall below. When we got back to Machu Picchu we went straight to the entrance to get drinks in celebration. We had hiked all that there was to hike around Huayna Picchu in 90 minutes, when the estimated time was more than twice that. Again, I felt like a champ. But instead of a free cold beer as my reward, it was a steep price of S/16 a piece. Water was something like S/12. But I needed it, badly. After a nice leisurely break, we hiked but again up to the sun gate where those climbing up the Inca Trail would first see Machu Picchu. It was a stunning sight from there. Frank and I sat for nearly an hour soaking it in in complete silence. From there we travelled back down to see the ruins of Machu Picchu when finally the crowds started to thin. We were there almost of magic hour as the sun set, but had to get back down by foot to make it to our train to Ollantaytambo or else take the $24 bus ride down. We decided to walk. By the end of the day my legs felt like jelly. We walked for twelve hours that day, in a continuous climb and decent. But the experience was worth every burnt calorie and more. I am still shaken by the awesome construction of Machu Picchu in the middle of some of the steepest mountains I have seen.

Posted by kearlkozby 14:34 Archived in Peru Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Climbing High

Ascending three miles above sea level

semi-overcast 2 °C
View Crossing the Equator on kearlkozby's travel map.

Out of Trujillo, Frank and I ascended into the Peruvian Andes, making our way into Huaraz. Immediately as we got off our night bus we came upon people leading us to hostels and givingus deals for the Santa Cruz trek. We found out fast that the bus terminal was in a new location and quite far off from anyone, so we latched on to one happy Huarazian who directed us to a place to eat. He was offering us an all inclusive trip along the Santa Cruz trek for a whopping $100. He toyed with him getting him down to $80, but ultimately sent him off. We would go up to Punta Union and back for a measley S/120 which was less than half of his offering price. We pulled into Caraz, a pristine little mountain town that reminded me of those in Colorado for the night and found a perfect colonial hostal with someone who helped us plan out our trip up to Punta Union and back so as not to pay a S/65 fee to take the trek. In the morning we got out early to catch a collectivo driven by a hell-bent teenager who sped on the dirt roat past the many points of plunging off the mountain at 90km/hr. Getting out, Frank and I kissed the ground before even taking notice of our surroundings. In front of us was a steep canyon, much to our displeasure, after all climbing at over 3000m high after being at sea level only 35 hours earlier was hellish. It took us awhile, but our youth took over. We cruised through the first camp and off to the second that was recommended for us to stay. But upon getting to French couple going down, they encouraged us to go on farther. Well, what the hell, we made it this far and it's only 2:30. So we kept going... and going... and going... Where was the path anyway? But the scenery was nice. Waterfalls crashing down the steep slopes of mountains seemingly coming from the heavens. We were completely alone with only donkeys and cattle. In front of us were snow capped peaks of over 5000m high. On more than one occation we had to stop and recharge with sugar and some food, leaking already light supply of food supposedly for four days. By the time we saw the tents of others camped at the base of punta union it was 5ish and we were beat. We climbed 20km uphill on limited food. We were already down to just eight fruit and a loaf of bread and some bad andean cheese. I couldn't even sleep at night I was so tired. The morning was very slow coming. At one point I was just impelled to get back outside and stand for a second, and the brilliant stars hung up above. I would have stayed outside, except I was freezing! It had to have been single digits, celcius. Finally the morning did come, and the group camping near us invited us over for mate de coca. It gave us enough of a boost to start early on the hike up to Punta Union, 500m higher than we had slept. We were getting close, at least we hoped, because I was needing to take a break at every switch back to keep my heart from racing like that of a hummingbird's. Then it started to hail on us. I was just about to turn around and go back down. Afterall the pass was not even in sight. But pushed further by looking at a stunning glacier lake, it finally slowed enough to see in front of us. We then saw the sign to signify the top. When we got there, it was not as gratifying with the hail, but every once in a while it would break and the peak ajoining the ridge we topped was in clear view. It was so close, only 1000m higher. I wasn't even thinking about it. I was just proud to say I climbed three miles high in less than three days. Pretty shocking. At 4750m high, or 15675ft, higher than any point in the continental United States, it probably is the highest I will ever be above sea level.

Posted by kearlkozby 20:08 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Ducking into Peru

Crossing the Border

sunny 32 °C

Well what better way to start out my South American trek than a border crossing from Ecuador into Peru? The Ecuador-Peru border was just about all the stress I could cope with. When we got to the border it was like walking into another world, one of toil and blood.

It was something similar to what I have seen for border crossing into Mexico, only I was living in it, actually passing the border. Much more of a real experience than thinking, "oh poor, poor souls," as I pass on by. The first matter of deceit we ran into was a man kindly leading us across the border. As it was my first, I thought, wow it could be great to have a companion to push us across this place, but he lead us into his trap. He lied, just like everyone, all lies. You have to show $200 dollars to the Peruvian checkpoint to get a visa, he said. That can't be. Frank took over, he had much more experience with this sort of thing. He played bad cop with his confrontational English, and I played good cop because that is all I could translate into Spanish. He took us over to his partners in crime who were offering to make currency exchanges. I was glad to have Frank get us through all the lies.

We then came upon a man as we were walking over the bridge into Peru, while still being followed like celebrities by a least three others looking to make money off of us. He offered to be our taxi to get us to the Peruvian checkpoint, in order to get our visas, and then further down the road so we could catch a bus. He was asking a high price but we lowered it down to $10. It was just too good to be true.

In fact it was. He of course was no different than anyone else. The only thing that helped him get our attention was a ride to speed our departure of the depressing scene. We first stopped in to get our visas. Constantly worried about our things, I decided that I should keep watch in the car as Frank got the stamps to get us entry into Peru. I was horrified. It was a bad decision on my part. Being alone without an escape or any defenses brought back a little trauma for me. I vowed not to split from Frank's side from that point on. So we pressed forward. But then here comes our driver's ploy. Oh you meant the town of Tumbes, not the border shanty place where you can't find a bus that goes anywhere. Uh, duh! Well that will be $40 for the trip then. Whoa whoa whoa. We argued for twenty minutes in the car as we shuffled at no more than 15km/hr with trucks blowing past us. Even then he was having difficulty staying on the road. Constantly looking back at me to explain how disfortunate he is and the high prices of gas and the problems of the world. Rage welled up inside both of us. He saw it too and tried immediately to play the friend. $20, then. $20. There aren't buses to get to Tumbes, gas is $6/gallon. Everything he said was awash. He was disfortunate, living in that wasteland. I can only wonder what life means to people who live that way on border towns.

As we approached Tumbes, I made conserted efforts to identify any fallacies in the driver's story. Gas was 11.50. Wait, what? Oh nuevo soles. I only thought of that later. That makes gas prices equivalent to the states, at about 3.50, another lie. We don't even care at that point though. We just want to get past the border town, move away from these people. But it doesn't end there. We concede $20 to the man and he double takes. He asked for a different bill, perhaps one more used. Excuse me? Does a new $20 not satisfy you? He says that it is fake, that it doesn't have the glimmer of a real bill. But the water mark is there and so is the plastic strip. Well take it to the bank and prove its worth then. Uh, ok.

We walk into the bank and move to exchange $100 into nuevo soles. But one of the twenties is claimed to be fake. How could that be? He does a water check and the bill rips apart like it was a wet kleenex. A fake $20, with a water mark and a plastic band. I think I will never trust money ever again. We give the haughty driver his $20 worth in soles and tell him to beat it. Now we need to get out of Tumbes. The equivalent to a large Del Rio or like El Paso. I don't like the feel. We get to the bus station but the next bus out of there is a night bus, but the sun is still directly overhead. I feel like each minute that passes in this crummy place is leeching future life out of me. There is a crowd around us now, where ever we walk. We find a minibus willing to take us further south for dirt cheap. That's all we need to hear. We are in it in a matter of seconds, and on the road in minutes. Thank God!

We come upon Mancora, a little beach oasis, that welcomes us the second we stumble out of the minibus. It was well deserved though. Kicking back and soaking in the sun was all we wanted to do for 24 more hours before even considering moving further on in Peru.

Posted by kearlkozby 17:09 Archived in Peru Tagged bus Comments (0)

Last Weekend

Email me if you want to know

storm 26 °C

This past weekend was the longest hours of my life. I don't want to tell everyone what happened in the most impersonal way, but I feel obligated to let anyone know who wants know. And for those willing to wait, I just want to make it known that I am recovering very quickly, faster than I ever thought I could, and I am feeling a lot better now. Things like this don't go away, but I feel like if I can make it through the next week, my travels with my brother will be a lot more comfortable and reassuring.

Posted by kearlkozby 12:57 Archived in Ecuador Tagged events Comments (2)

Birthdays

There are too many of them

sunny 23 °C

I am trying to figure something out. Why is it that everyone in my family in Ecuador seem to have their birthdays on the most inopportune times. In the last week there has been FIVE birthdays.

There is something you should know about birthdays in Ecuador. They drink. A lot. There is no acclaimed alcoholism, and maybe that is because everyone is an alcoholic. So they push you to drink and to drink a lot. Only tonight, I am not in the mood. I got too much to do. It figures that the night is a big one too. The fiftieth birthday of my host mom's boyfriend.

Posted by kearlkozby 14:55 Archived in Ecuador Tagged events Comments (0)

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