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Peru

The Pilgrimage to Machu Picchu

Our journey along the Inca Trail to the famous Machu Picchu.


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The Inca Trail started nice and early, 7am and we were in our shuttle departing Ollantaytambo. It was D-Day. We were starting the trek that we had planned over six months ago! The track is meant to start at KM82 but luckily for us we had "added value" and needed to walk for another hour or so to get there as the road was closed for maintenance. Our guides opted to take the off the beaten path track where we walked through the forest and tussock grass on the other side of the river out of the dust while the other groups walked along the road through the construction. Our first stop was for our first stamp.

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We had officially made it to be one of 500 people on the trail for that day. Of the 500, 200 of these are hikers and the rest (300) are the support team of porters, chefs and guides. We were told we had an easy first day.

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We only had to reach 2950m where our first camp was and the trail was up and down. We past our first ruin sight called Llachtapata, a site that was a trading port for the Incas as it was near to the jungle as well as the sea.

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Our first camp was Wayllabamba, I would have to say this was our best camp where the toilet was a proper toilet and it didn’t reck from a mile away. We found our tents and were pretty happy.

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That night after dinner we watched the stars before heading to bed for an early night. The next day we had our hardest day as we had to cross the highest point through the Dead Women's Pass. The pass peak is at 4215meters! Altitude is definitely a factor and kicks in at the end of the five hours uphill and the walk was gruelling.

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Our camp that night was back down at 3600m and yet again it was straight down on uneven stone steps. Just before camp I managed to get my ankle caught and fall over. Luckily it wasn’t broken but it played up the rest of the way and to be honest still is in the cold.

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The third day was our longest day, but it was also the most beautiful. We walked over 16km over a few passes along the way so were continuously climbing 300m - 400m up or down . The first was the Runkuracay pass just after the ruins. The ruins were a religious area where couriers stop on the way. We continued up the pass past numerous lakes and then down to our next set of ruins.

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Sayacmarca,this was a fortress stronghold of the incas which also had associations with the gods. Our next site was right near our lunch spot. It was called Phuyupatamarka and was a religious area.

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The place had the most stunning view and looked over to Intipata, a series of terraces that was used to get food for Machu Picchu. The terraces were our final stop for the day before heading to camp for the night.

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We had an early wakeup of 3.30am. The reason for the early wakeup wasn’t for sunrise like we had originally been told but rather so the porters could catch the only train they are allowed to back to Cusco. They are only allowed to catch one train a day at 5.45am. The camps gate opened at 5.30am and we were off. We had 2 hours more hiking to get to Machu Picchu and an hour to get to the famous sun gate. After walking up and down the path and climbing up stairs like a monkey we made it to the sun gate and well…we saw no sun.

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As our guide said it should be called the cloud gate as majority of the time it is cloudy when you come in. We continued along and as we went the fog slowly lifted and we got that moment with Machu Picchu as it unveiled itself. We had gone from 4215m to 2400m where Machu Picchu was. The Peruvian government allows 5000 people into the site daily and sadly if you do the Inca trail you don’t arrive first. By the time we made it down to the site there was already well over 3000 people in the site. By the time we left there was a lot more and to be honest all of the ambience that you look for has vanished and you feel more like you are at a theme park than an ancient ruin site.

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We were lucky as without the amazingness of the Inca Trail and the warning of what we were about to go into I would have felt extremely let down if I had expected that many people there. After stamping ourselves in we went on a tour through the site. We saw the numerous terraces and learnt that the way most people pronounce Machu Picchu they are actually saying old penis. Haha! We learnt that it is thought that approximately 1200 people lived at Machu Picchu. They grew corn and coca but not enough to survive. Hence the terraces we saw the day before. They had no irrigation, it wasn’t needed due to the fog in the morning causing dew.

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There are the symbol of three everywhere which represents the three worlds, gods, living and our ancestors. The sun temple stood at the top and had windows that perfectly aligned with the summer and winter solstice and the sun gate. The Incas worshipped the sun and studied it as they were scared it was going to vanish. The water temple (for the living in the middle) The mummies of the ancestors were kept in the underground temple and were brought out for important events in hopes that they would give advice and knowledge.
The temples were always made nicer with no areas of cracks or mortar needed compared to the normal and even the priests.
The Incas had earthquake protection with certain bricks made to support, level and provide stability.
The roofs of the houses had to be changed yearly and were made with jungle vines and Andean grass. The grass only grows over 3000m so teams would go to get this at certain times of the year.

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The house, thought to be for the king is likely to be for the doctor, it had irrigation and running water as well as grinding areas to crush herbs and medicines. Most of the time the Incas used the terraces as their toilets.
Astonishingly the majority (60%) of the work of the ruins is underground, the foundations were massive to ensure that the temples etc lasted. The incas would get the stones but naturally fracturing them. They would put wood in-between and let it get wet and swell which would fracture the stone, any that wouldn’t would be moved by thousands of people and pulleys to be foundations.

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The Inca’s had a sundial to study the sun. Most of these were destroyed by the Spanish thinking they were using witchcraft!
Why Machu Picchu was abandoned is never really known, it potentially was due to a large epidemic that went through.
The town was built there as a religious centre, that is why the Inca’s trail is a pilgrim walk. The famous Andean cross appears but really it looks like a pyramid. On the 21st of June the sun causes the reflection and the cross is formed. It again has the three sides which reflects the free worlds (symbolised by the condor, puma and snake), work for the community, self and government. The town also has a temple dedicated to Mt Machu Picchu, it was considered the most important mountain in the area and lamas were sacrificed there regularly.
There are obvious signs that the town was abandoned as a lot of the work was only half finished. Interestingly studies have been done and shown that the ruins could crumble in the near future. A wire is in place and if it moves the site will be closed and a cable car will be put overtop of the ruins. It is a crazy thought. It is also because of this that you aren’t allowed to jump on the ruins (a really random thing) or take naked photos…apparently this was a thing at one stage.
We left the ruins early..eager to escape the hoards of people, the swarms of bugs and the heat. It was a 30 minute bus down to the township where we caught the train back. You can tell that everything relates to tourism and the price reflects that. They are definitely Western prices but without the western service.

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Overall I loved the Inca Trail. It was hard work but the views, ruins and scenery were beautiful and worth it. The camps left a lot to be desired and I don’t understand why huts haven’t been built. At the same time if huts were built then a lot of porters would be out of a job. I think the Inca trail is an amazing experience but the trail should be done for the trail not for Machu Picchu at the end.
Don’t go and expect to have that private moment where you can embrace the ruins to yourself and feel like you have discovered something magical because sadly there is likely to be over 1000 other people have that moment with you while they take a selfie with there heels, make-up and clean clothes on who arrived on the train that morning. Don’t get me wrong the ruins are still stunning and are amazing to walk through, especially considering how long ago they were constructed. Enjoy the moment but don’t have your expectations to high.

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Posted by chellebelle 16:13 Archived in Peru Tagged people ruins beautiful hike trail bugs machu picchu inca inka g_adventures Comments (1)

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