Machu Picchu – Trek Day 7 – Machu Picchu

…Drum roll please! We made it; and what a day it has been. Up at 4:30, breakfast at 5:00; on the bus and up the hairpin road to Machu Picchu entering the site by 6:30, just before the sun came up.
It is hard to put into words the impact, the drama and the beauty of this archeological wonder, but I’ll try. It really has to be seen to be believed. All the photographs, films and travelogues cannot really replace the experience of stepping into this other world and feeling nothing but total awe at what was achieved by a remarkable civilization hundreds of years ago. They were architects, astronomers, builders, masons, priests and artists of the most sophisticated kind and what they achieved here is quite simply awe-inspiring.
As each new marvel revealed itself around every corner all one could think of was, “How did they do it?” How did they move those massive stones; how could they be so precise so that not even an eyelash could pass between them? As you will see this final day of our trek was a spectacular climax to a never-to-be-forgotten journey of a lifetime. Hopefully the pictures will do justice to our experience and tell the story of the day so that you are able to share it with us: the sunrise striking WaynaPicchu; the Incan terraces rising to incredible heights above us; the shadows of the tombs; the llamas strolling between the ruins; our exhausting climb to the top of WaynaPicchu in the morning and the long, long hike to Intipunku, the Sun Gate, in the afternoon.
Our guide for the morning, Fernando, set the scene for the first two hours telling us the story of Machu Picchu in archeological terms but after that we were on our own and able to explore in our own time and at our own pace. Because we were staying an extra night we had to say goodbye to the wonderful members of our group who returned to Aguas Calientes for lunch in the middle of the day. I will acknowledge them all at the end of the blog because each one them helped to make the week so very special for us. After we had finally reached the Sun Gate around 4:00 pm we headed all the way back down to the entrance, exhausted, exhilarated and very grateful to have had the privilege of being able to spend a day in this wonder of the world.
Enjoy the pictures and I will return with some final thoughts and words of thanks to complete the story…

…As you will have guessed I am writing this back in Vancouver having arrived home safe and sound two days ago. After we left Machu Picchu we returned to Cusco for three more nights and were able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the colorful festivities that lead up to The Festival of The Sun (Inti Raymi) on June 24th. Over the next few days I’ll post some of the pictures of the colorful costumes and the crowds dancing and celebrating in the main square. It was a memorable end to eighteen unforgettable days.
cusco fest i
There are so many people to say thank you to and I hope I don’t leave anyone out. First of all to my wonderful wife and love of my life, Hilde, who has always wanted to see Machu Picchu. It’s thanks to her that this adventure ever happened. Those of you who know her will not be surprised to hear that she was like a young “mountain goat” scampering up those trails with the greatest of ease. She says it’s thanks to thirty years of training in Ron Zalco’s gym here in Vancouver and especially to the wonderful instructors and staff there. I would also like to pay tribute to my wonderful instructor Naomi with whom I have been training for the past four and a half years. Thanks to her and Alex of Better Bodies I survived the toughest physical challenge of my life. Michele of Renshaw Travel in Vancouver created and organized the best adventure one could ever hope for. The magic she worked was seamless from the moment we left to the day we arrived home and we will forever be in her debt.
Condor Travel in Peru looked after us perfectly and special thanks to our guides Elise in Lima and Juan in Cusco and The Sacred Valley. Thanks to them we saw it all! Mountain Lodges of Peru have created what must be the best trekking experience in the world. Heartfelt thanks to our guides Pepe and Carlos and to all the wonderful staff at all the lodges who made us feel so welcome and worked so hard to ensure that we had the most memorable experience possible. Thank you also to our cook who travelled with us and to all the mule drivers who looked after our backpacks every day. Of course, thanks to all of you who have followed us along and sent your love and best wishes. We knew you were out there as our hidden but ever-present cheering section.
Finally, thanks to all the members of our wonderful group, our family in the mountains. We will never forget you all: Rob and Gretchen (who saved my life when I fell out of the jacuzzi, but that’s another story!); Jane and Dave who always had my back; Melanie whose beautiful photos we look forward to seeing; Caroline and Dennis whose 50th birthday was on a day we will all never forget; Mireille (I hope I have spelt that correctly) and Corno who unfortunately were with us for only the first two days but left a lasting memory; and our beautiful Blanca and Karlita whom we miss so much. How lucky we all were to be together to share the best time of our lives.
So what’s next you may well ask? Well, I have lots of ideas and will continue blogging in the coming weeks and months. Check back from time to time and I may just surprise you. Once again our thanks to one and all, family friends and colleagues, and all those of you whom we don’t know but who have been following along. Send me your thoughts if you have a moment and let me know if you have been able to enjoy the journey as much as we have.
And so, with that the machupicchucountdown is officially over…

Machu Picchu – Trek Day 6

…Happy Father’s Day! (Although I know when you’re reading this it will be long gone). An early start at 6:30 for a somewhat unexpected uphill trek for three hours towards the Llactapata Pass at 8,974 feet. Hilde and I left with Carlos together with Blanca and Karla to whom we have become very attached. They both work in the office for Mountain Lodges and have been with us since the beginning. They have hiked with Hilde and myself most days and on this special Sunday I have become their surrogate father for Father’s Day. They have certainly have made the trip that extra bit special and we shall miss them when we go home. The hike started in the shade but as we reached the summit the sun magically lit up the landscape and illuminated a parrot sitting high in the trees enjoying the view of the valley far below. The rest of the group, which left at 7, caught up with us before we reached the Llactapata ruins where we had our first view of Machu Picchu in the distance. I think we all had goose bumps realizing the goal of the last five days was in sight; it was a great moment. On the grass in front of the ruins, with Machu Picchu in the distance, Pepe finished his history of the Incas and described how Hiram Bingham made his remarkable discovery. I had a lovely surprise during his talk when my cell phone suddenly chimed with text messages from Natalia, Alex and Adelyn wishing me Happy Father’s Day; a moment not to be forgotten. After we had all taken our photos we continued downhill stopping for a hot lunch at the observatory before continuing on to the Hydroelectric train station. The descent was long, steep, hot and very slippery but experts as we now are!! we reached the valley floor, crossed a suspension bridge, and made it in good time to catch the train to Aguas Calientes, our final destination at the foot of Machu Picchu. Before the train left we said our goodbyes to Carlos and I presented him with my Black Diamond hiking poles as a way of expressing my heartfelt thanks for his helping me survive the week. The train journey was brief but sitting even for an hour in the rather glamorous vista car was a welcome relief. We arrived at our hotel, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu, which is quite wonderful with beautiful gardens to be explored. Pisco sours all round at six followed by dinner with Blanca and Karla. Then to bed for an early start in the morning at 4:45 to catch the bus to Machu Picchu. The countdown will soon be history…

Machu Picchu – Trek Day 5

…Another glorious day hiking from the Colpa Lodge to the Lucma Lodge at Lucmabamba situated at a very manageable 7000 feet. Before leaving Pepe took us on a tour of Colpa Lodge’s orchid garden, which was a great start to the day. The trek took us down the Santa Teresa River Valley with the sound of the river heard flowing below us. We passed through coffee plantations and banana and avocado orchards. The vegetation was lush and quite different from the vegetation we have been seeing for the past few days high in the mountains. After a picnic break we were met by a small van that took us to the beginning of the Llactapata Inca Trail, which is the original Inca Trail. It was then only a short thirty minute hike to Lucma Lodge. Once again we were greeted by the wonderful Mountain Lodges of Peru staff with cool cloths and cold fresh passion fruit drinks. I can still taste how refreshing it was as I write this. After a wonderful lunch it was Hilde’s highlight, the coffee plantation where the coffee beans were roasted, ground and filtered in front of us; can you smell that delicious aroma? No we didn’t ask for an Americano misto or a decaf latte, but we did buy two bags of beans to bring home to remind us of the day. In the evening we had our final dinner as a group as Carlos leaves us tomorrow. Words of thanks were expressed by all. We have become quite a family. Tomorrow will be our first sighting of Machu Picchu. Hard to believe that after months of anticipation and five days of at times exhausting hiking we’re almost there. I’m sure you’re as excited as we are…


Machu Picchu – Trek Day 4

…still no Internet but the blogging continues undaunted. Today could not have been more perfect; clear blue skies, warm sunshine, no rain, wind or hail! After battling the elements yesterday today was more than we could have hoped for. We left Wayra Lodge after breakfast and trekked downhill above the Salkantay River to arrive at the Colpa Lodge at Colpapampa in the afternoon, having descended from 12,812 feet to 9,414 feet. A picnic break mid-morning was interesting surrounded by the cast of animal farm! Throughout the hike our trail was lined by numerous exotic flowers as you can see. At Colpa Lodge we were welcomed and greeted with a Pachamanca lunch, which is a special Peruvian barbecue of lamb, chicken, beef, guinea pig, potatoes and beans. Once again the genuine warmth and grace of the staff has made us all feel very privileged to be in this beautiful country. Siesta time in the afternoon followed by a therapeutic jacuzzi under the stars, Pepe’s history of the Incas, dinner and bed. The highlight tomorrow for Hilde will be a visit to a coffee plantation where we will roast, grind, filter and drink fresh coffee – can’t wait. Hope you’ll join us…

Machu Picchu -2 Trek Day 3

…well, we made it as you can see. How to describe our nine hour hike through rain, hail, snow and wind (sounds like a painting by Turner): unforgettable, challenging, painful (at times), breathtaking (literally), and undoubtedly the hardest physical experience of our lives. But we wouldn’t have missed it for world. When we reached the Salkantay Pass at 15,213 feet and formed a circle I think we all felt a real sense of personal achievement, I know I did. However I have to thank Carlos who stayed with me at the back of the pack and gave me some of his home made medicine to inhale to help my breathing; I couldn’t have done it without him. After our great group photo it was downhill all the way, and will be until Machu Picchu; hooray! The lunch tent appeared in the mist like a wonderful mirage and after lunch a further one and a half hours brought us to The Wayra Lodge, jacuzzi, dinner and bed. Not before we had celebrated Dennis’s 50th birthday, a day that he will never forget. I know you won’t be reading this for a day or two as we have no WiFi once again, but I’ll keep on posting although the countdown title will have to end as I clearly got the number of days wrong way back when I started. Now it will be the Trek Day number until we reach our destination. Thanks for all your positive thoughts and good wishes…

Machu Picchu -3 Trek Day 2

…After an early breakfast we set out in the rain on a two and a half hour hike to Humantay Lake situated at 14000 feet below Mount Humantay. In spite of the conditions, as the pictures show, it was worth the struggle, which it certainly was at times. We picnicked by the turquoise water of the lake before returning to the Lodge for lunch; I’ll vote for downhill any day! The afternoon was highlighted with jacuzzi time outside in the rain accompanied with a round of Pisco Sours, which we then had instruction on how to make before dinner. Just remember 3 1 1; three parts Pisco to one part each of fresh lime juice and cocktail syrup, plus half an egg white all blended together with ice…cheers! The staff here at the lodge have been wonderful and we shall miss them when we leave at 7am tomorrow morning for the most challenging day of the trek, hiking to the Salkantay Pass at 15,213 feet and descending to the Wayra Lodge at Wayraccmachay. More tomorrow – I hope!…

Machu Picchu -4 Trek Day 1

…and so after a seven o’clock start day one of our trek begins; Cusco to Soraypampa.  We have a great group as you can see from the photo taken at our first stop at Quillarumiyuq, meaning moon stone, en route to the beginning of the trail at Marcoccasa.  “We happy few” (a little Bard on the the Peak for Christopher) set off on a four hour hike excited, a little anxious but knowing we are in for the experience of a lifetime. Our senior guide is Pepe and his assistant Carlos. How lucky we are to have them lead us. The first hour was very challenging climbing it seemed at an angle of 70 degrees. Fortunately the remainder was very do-able with the trail lined by alpine flowers all the way. It was a welcome site arriving at the Salkantay Lodge situated at 12,690 feet with a feeling of relief and achievement. Refreshments awaited, and then a wonderful dinner of fresh trout, stargazing with Pepe; and so to bed. Wi Fi is very hit and miss so I don’t expect this will be posted for a day or two. Hopefully you will have faith and still be there…

Machu Picchu -5 Cusco


…This morning we toured Cuzco and its surrounding archeological sites with our guide Juan who has been with us these past four days. We began at the spring shrine of Tambo Machay at nearly 3800 meters, but with all of our training there was no cause for allama 🙂 A party of kindergarten children was also visiting and looked so smart in their uniforms. Next we visited the magnificent ceremonial centre of Sacsayhuaman thought to be a sanctuary and temple to the sun. I hope the photos do justice to this amazing site. We ended our morning tour in Cuzco with visits to the cathedral and finally Qoricancha at Santa Domingo, The Temple of the Sun. Tonight we meet the other members of our group who we will be hiking with. The hike is organize by Mountain Lodges of Peru and if you visit their website you will see a description of our next six days together with a map of the trail: I’m not sure how successful the blogging will be, but at least you will be able to follow our journey day by day. Hope to post again soon. Thanks for joining us…

Machu Picchu -6 The Sacred Valley

4BC1D470-4059-4478-B21C-4682C1E99F51.png…Today was our final day in the Sacred Valley, which we spent in Pisac. All our training paid off as we hiked from the Inca ruins high above the town to end up at the colorful Sunday market and lunch at Donna Clorinda’s lovely local restaurant. The avocado salad was simply the best! We left the valley bathed in the late afternoon sun and some unforgettable “sacred” memories…


Machu Picchu -7 The Sacred Valley

…Another day full of remarkable sights and images. The terraced Inca crop circles at Moray date back to the 13th century, each level with its own microclimate. Then on to the pre-Incan salineras or salt pans at Maras, which create a stunning abstract landscape. Something for the studio when we´re home. We then hiked down to the valley, pausing to enjoy the beauty of the Urubamba river before lunch and a quite afternoon to help acclimatize to the altitude. On to Pisac and Cusco tomorrow before meeting our hiking group on Monday evening. It´s getting closer!…