From the vaults: Peru 2003

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Trailblazer, Feb 10, 2010.

  1. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    This is a ride report, of sorts. A ride that occurred over a period of 10 days or so back in July of 2003. In Peru.

    The set up
    The story begins in January 2003 when I happened to be vacationing in Cuzco, Peru with my friend, Linda. By chance we ran across Juan Carlos, a Peruvian who was starting up a motorcycle rental company. On a lark I rented his bike at $50 a day and took it out for a couple of days, riding two-up with Linda. I was so enthusiastic about our little adventure that I thought it a grand idea to organize a return trip that summer, made up of my closest motorcycle buddies from Austin, Texas. I was thinking maybe 5-7 guys. Juan Carlos and I made priliminary plans to meet in the capital city, Lima, and lead a 5 day ride to Cuzco.

    Me & Juan Carlos, Cuzco, Peru. January 2003.
    [​IMG]


    Back home in Austin I talked up the idea but after 5 months I only had two buddies show even a modicum of interest. (And in the end…, even they backed out.) But Linda had a friend who wanted to go, a guy named John. He worked at a major computer company, is a gifted guitarist and song writer but possessed only minimal riding experience. Now I didn't know John all that well, but he had one big thing going for him: he was seriously intent on making the trip with me back to Peru..., to “ride motorcycles in the Andes”.

    I worked on an itinerary. July seemed like the time to go partly because of an annual festival being held in Puacartambo that Juan Carlos insisted I see. Partly because that month would place us on dirt roads during the dry season. It was now or never.

    When it came time to plunk down the cash for air fare, John didn’t flinch. My other two friends dropped out. In an effort to get John up to speed, two weeks before departure I loaned him my kick start, street legalized 1995 650cc Kawasaki KLX-R, and told him to put his car in the garage and ride this beast everyday, rain or shine, wherever he went. No matter what. Kick start and all.

    Meanwhile, a plan developed. I wanted to see the rapids of the Pongo de Mainique, in the Amazon basin. We dropped the idea of riding from Lima to Cuzco. We didn't have that much time. John and I would fly into Lima, and from there onto Cuzco to meet Juan Carlos and pick up our motorcycles.

    So we had 3 destinations: Machu Picchu (logico), Paucartambo and the Pongo de Mainique. How to work in Machu Picchu? Because there are no roads to Machu Picchu we would be forced to ride the train, however, once we left Cuzco we didn't want to ever return until the trip was over. We decided to ride the motos from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo, leave our bikes in Ollanta and catch the train from there to Machu Picchu, return back to the bikes via the train and then head across the Sacred Valley to Paucartambo and the festival. And after that, finally head for the lowlands of Quillabamba, Ketini and the Pongo.

    Ready to come along?
    #1
  2. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    Here is the map Juan Carlos supplied me.
    [​IMG]
    #2
  3. jpdude999

    jpdude999 Rider on the Strom

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    Let the good times roll!
    :lurk
    #3
  4. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    Here are a few teaser shots from the spur-of-the-moment rides I made with Linda in Jan 2003. It should be noted that in 2003 I was several years away from a digital SLR camera.

    This was taken at the Qorao (or Corao) mirador, on the road to Pisac. 1st day on the Suzuki DR650. Corao is the name of the town down below.

    [​IMG]

    Its hard to resist these guys. Also the Qorao (Corao) mirador between Cuzco and Pisaq
    [​IMG]

    Small town on Pampa de Anta, between Urubamba and Chinchero
    [​IMG]
    #4
  5. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    OK, just a few shots of Machu Picchu. What's Peru without Machu Picchu?

    Wayna Picchu peak overlooking the ruins of Machu Picchu
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Aguas Calientes, jumping off place for Machu Picchu. Also the end of the RR line.
    [​IMG]

    Amenities at the base town of Aguas Calientes, at the "bottom" of Machu Picchu.
    [​IMG]

    The incredible raging Urubamba River at Aguas Calientes. Rainy season, January 2003.
    [​IMG]

    The daily tourist shuffel in Aguas Calilentes. Loading up for the bus ride to Machu Picchu.
    [​IMG]
    #5
  6. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    Thanks for the encouragement jp. Hope you enjoy the ride!
    #6
  7. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Gorgeous! Thanks for busting out the archives! :thumb

    :lurk
    #7
  8. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    You betcha and thanks for all your hard work Sr. GadgetBoy.
    #8
  9. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    After a couple of short day trips riding two-up on Juan Carlos's bike, we decided to take an overnight ride to Quillabamba, located on the same river, the Urubamba, that passes thru the Sacred Valley and Aguas Calientes (at the base of Machu Pichhu).

    From Moras, looking towards Ollantaytambo at one end of the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley is roughly the portion of the Urubamba river (here called the Vilconota) that runs between Pisaq and Ollantaytambo. This section of the river was canalized by the Incas long before the Spaniards arrived, to increase arable land.
    [​IMG]

    Ollantaytambo fuel stop, filling up before making for Abra Málagra.
    [​IMG]

    This formation or place is called Peñas. Climbing towards Abra Málagra, looking back towards the Urubamba Valley and more mountain ranges beyond.
    [​IMG]

    Abra Málagra pass, 14,157' elevation
    [​IMG]

    Family at Málagra pass, 14,157'
    [​IMG]

    Descent from Málagra [​IMG]

    An excerpt from an old email.
    #9
  10. Thorne

    Thorne Sherpa-ing around

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    :clap:clap:clap
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  11. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    Echarate, 25 km from Quillabamba, and the bridge over the Urubamba. Still following the Urubamba.
    [​IMG]

    Chahures, 48 km from Quillabamba. Linda and her cute shoes. We had no riding gear so we did the best we could, wrapping her socks and shoes in plastic.
    [​IMG]

    Jan 5, 2003. The rain slowed down in humid Quillabamba by 11am and we managed to be on the road by noon. We took the "scenic" route home, which was also the long way. The rain caused all the rivers coming off the mountains to rise, so we had to cross lots of streams without bridges, in some of them the water waked up to our thighs. There was one place (Quellouno) where no cars/buses were crossing because the rain had not only made the river high but it had also washed down a ton of gravel. Motorcycles could still cross, however. Linda dismounted and I gave it the gas and charged across amid cheers from the sidelines. There were lots of people and vehicles there, waiting. The police too. Later, we learned that a bus had been swept off the road just there, and rolled down the hill. I guess that's why the police.

    What a mess! Linda being escorted across the washed out road outside of Quellouno. Later we learned a bus had been swept away from this very spot earlier the same day.
    [​IMG]

    High in the Andes after Dark
    Needless to say we got pretty wet and muddy. And we were climbing towards another 14,400 foot pass. The higher we got, the colder it got, plus it was getting later and later in the afternoon (and colder still) and we were a looong way from Cuzco. I couldn't believe the road. Single lane dirt and rock hugging cliffs for hours. It was the coolest motorcycle trip I've EVER taken, and I've done a few. Incredible scenery, lush vegetation, waterfalls coming off the mountains everywhere.

    At one point there was a big waterfall that fell crashing right on the road. There was no way around, you had to drive straight thru it. Now we were totally drenched. Then the chain fell off the bike. We put it back on. It got dark. The headlight was bad. The road was slippery and I couldn't see more than 10 feet ahead. Then fog. What else, I’m asking?

    We were looking for a little town, Manto, we hoped to stop at. We stopped at some houses in the dark (no electricity) and asked directions from some Indians.
    We had passed Manto.
    Well, we'd passed it up without ever seeing it so I guess there wasn't much there.

    The Indians told us it was half an hour more to the next town, Amparaes. We putt-putted on, very slowly to Ampares, feeling my way around blind curves and along abysses.

    Of course, there was not much in Amparaes, a few lights, some buildings. I found an Indian hotel (kind of like some beds in an extra room in somebody’s house). We had to walk thru a improvised video movie theater to get to the room.

    Humble but appreciated lodging in Amparaes
    [​IMG]

    Poor Linda was so frozen that she began shaking uncontrollably. Her feet were frozen (wet tennis shoes, wet cotton socks plus cold air and wind). She could barely walk and made funny gulping noises when she tried to talk. The owner of the "hotel" jumped to take care of us. He and the unseen women backing him up brought boiling water and plastic tubs to our room. I added cold water until the temperature was tolerable and bathed her feet in it. She was really shaking. I got her out of her wet clothes and into dry long johns, sweaters, wool socks, etc, then put her to bed and piled on the blankets. The owner (Sr Ramos) delivered hot tea in a thermos, then thick hot soup. What an experience.

    Our Amparaes hosts
    [​IMG]
    #11
  12. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    The next morning all was OK, we hoped we didn't pick up any cooties in the bed. Everyone was extremely friendly and we took pictures of the Ramos family.

    Moto maintenance in the courtyard of the Amparaes hostal
    [​IMG]

    Out on the streets, downtown Amparaes. Was last night a dream?
    [​IMG]

    We got on the motorcycle and went on over the pass. Lots of Indians were on the road heading towards Amparaes for Sunday church and drinking. Alpaca grazed on the hillsides.

    I think I see a shortcut. Looking back in the direction of Amparaes.
    [​IMG]

    Still climbing
    [​IMG]

    Abra Amparaes: 14,478' elevation
    [​IMG]

    Looking down the other side of the pass, to the town of Colca at the bottom of the "V" in the Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley)
    [​IMG]

    Civilization in Colca and a well deserved break.
    [​IMG]

    We arrived in warm Cuzco at about noon, a day late. We had missed our morning flight to Lima, we tried to get on the 3:00pm flight but it was "full". They told us the wind was blowing too hard and the 'plane couldn't take on any more weight. Whatever.... So..., anticlimax. We killed the rest of the day in Cuzco. That afternoon it hailed so hard it knocked away chunks of the ancient buildings.

    The July 2003 trip will follow.
    Is anyone out there??
    #12
  13. jpdude999

    jpdude999 Rider on the Strom

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    Oh yes, we're out here!
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    #13
  14. phoenixtoohot

    phoenixtoohot Larry

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    Yes, keep em coming ... great report. :clap :clap :clap :clap
    #14
  15. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    Thanks jpdude and phoenix2hot. I'll get this rev'd up again pronto.
    #15
  16. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    I initially didn't intend to go into the January excursion at all but upon re-examination I have to admit that the pictures from that first trip were probably better than those of the July trip. Plus I found the old emails recording my feelings in the heat of the moment.

    So back home in Austin I talked up the idea of returning to Cuzco to rent motorcycles but after 5 months I only had two buddies show even a modicum of interest. (And in the end…, even they backed out.) But Linda had this friend who wanted to go, a guy named John.

    John worked at a major computer company, is a gifted guitarist and song writer but possessed only minimal riding experience. Now I didn't know John all that well, but he had one big thing going for him: he was seriously intent on making the trip with me back to Peru..., to “ride motorcycles in the Andes”.

    When it came time to plunk down the cash for air fare, John didn’t flinch. My other two friends dropped out. I would be leading a team of two. In an effort to get John up to speed, two weeks before our departure I loaned him my kick start, street-legalized 1995 650cc Kawasaki KLX-R, and told him to put his car in the garage and ride this beast everyday, rain or shine, wherever he went. No matter what. Kick start and all.

    A disclaimer: I lost a couple of rolls of film so words alone will have to convey the first couple of days of the trip with John.

    And.........
    this is the camera I used

    [​IMG]

    An Olympus XA-2 35mm point-and-shoot. I used to love this camera to death, but its capabilities are limited. It uses 35mm film, the CompactFlash card is there as a reference only. Sorry for the confusion.

    So without further ado, heeeeeeeeeeeerrrrre we go.
    #16
  17. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    July 12, 2003
    Oh my,
    where to begin.

    Here we are in Cuzco, Peru. John and myself. We are barely 24 hrs into the 2 week trip and John’s already whining “When are we going to get to rest?”
    “OK, fine,” I snap, “we can rest if we skip Machu Picchu.”

    We almost missed our flight, of course, arriving at Houston’s IAH (after driving 3½ hrs from Austin) with only 5 minutes to spare before the mandatory cut-off time of 1 hr prior to international flights. I was strip-searched at security (OK, not really, but it felt like it). Already shoeless and beltless it’s “over here sir, stand with your legs apart, now I’m going to pat you down.” Whatever. Then stuck on a plane load of missionaries headed for Iquitos on the Amazon. The cute little girl next to me asked if there was something I wanted her to pray for while she prayed over dinner, as if she had an inside line.
    “No,” I blushed, shrugging my shoulders.
    “No?”, she seemed offended, “nothing?”
    Well, OK, my daughter. You can pray for my daughter.
    “OK. What’s her name?”
    Totally embarrassing, I didn’t know this person from Adam and she’s praying for my daughter, Juanita.

    6 hour flight, non-stop, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. The movie sucked, by the way.

    Near midnight, Juanita’s uncle Miguel picked us up at the Lima airport. Radio blasting. Lima radio stations, for some reason always play the best music on the planet. Talking on cellulars while driving is prohibited in Lima.
    “Does John know that you are taking him up 3 km of altitude,” Miguel keeps asking me.
    “Does he know?”

    Mi primo, Miguel and his son, Michelin
    [​IMG]

    We do the obligatory tour of Miraflores (Lima’s Southern California). Larco Mar super mall. Lima winter, la gaura, 100% humidity, mist, no rain but slick streets. Everyone is wearing grey overcoats with the collar turned up. Grey seems to be Lima’s official color. Discotecs carved out of the side of the cliff overlooking the Pacific. A walking tour of the ancient streets of Barranco, Lima’s Greenwich Village. Lots of kissing in Peru. You have to love it. To bed at 3:00am. John wakes me at 5:30. Its time to go to the airport.

    Miguel’s house is built around a courtyard. John and I are camped out on one side of the house, apart from the family. At 5:45 Miguel is still not up, neither is anyone else for that matter. It’s Saturday morning. 5:45AM Saturday morning and totally dark. Well we have to get to the airport. But we are locked in. We can’t even open the door to the street, its locked. I don’t even know where Miguel’s bedroom is. Oopps, we accidently set off the car alarm in the courtyard. Well, that problem is resolved. Miguel cuts the incredible squealing by remote from the unseen bedroom. And we get to the airport on time.

    Jagged peaks and snow fields bounce outside the window. We’re flying in a 50 passenger Fokker F28. The seats remind me of lawn chairs. We toast ourselves to an Inca Kola breakfast. How do you avoid altitude sickness? Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. We’re doing great. We’ve had 2 hrs of rest and an Inca Kola. Headed for Cuzco 3 kilometers above the surface of the sea. We're good to go. We should be fine.

    Fokker F28 (made in the Netherlands)
    [​IMG]

    Our seat-mate is Mahlina, an East Indian from London, on her 5th month of traveling. She was a patent lawyer in London.
    “I don’t know what I’ll do when I get back to London, but I won’t be a patent lawyer.”

    The landscape turns to arid plateau. Then more mountains. We bank and drop into the Cuzco valley and land.

    My man in Cuzco, Juan Carlos, has not failed us. He is at the airport to pick us up in his 4×4 Toyota Hilux double cab pick-up with buddy Christopher. We find hotel lodging with a friend of his, we take Mahlina up to San Blas to her hotel. We go for a spin in the mountains overlooking Cuzco. OK, down to business. Return to the hotel lobby for a 2 hr conferencia about our planned motorcycle route over the next 2 weeks, detail by detail. We will be renting bikes from Juan Carlos and he makes his pitch for taking a guide with us. A guide that is also a mechanic, in case something should go wrong with one of the bikes. The guide would be Chris and he obviously knows the territory.

    Mechanic? We don’t need no stinkin’ mechanic. I bring down my tool kit from our room upstairs, they look it over, impressed. They nod and take notes on what I’m lacking.

    “You have everything,” Chris finally declares.
    “Now all you need is a pilot.”
    “I.., am the pilot,” I assure him with a polite smile.

    We passed the test. They agree. We are on our own, if we so choose. In the end we agree to take Chris with us to Paucartambo because the festival there will be so huge that lodging is flat out impossible. Chris tells us we will be camping in a tent in the middle of town (?). And he can help us watch our things. We agree. Chris will go with us to Paucartambo only. Everything is go.

    Watch for the next installment from Machu Picchu. It is so cold in this Internet cafe that I’m shaking. Got to go.
    #17
  18. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    Sunday July 13, 2003 Wasting no time

    Wake up call at 5am. We have spent last night fine tuning our packing: everything we'll need for the next 12 days into a day pack! I allowed myself one pair of jeans for the duration. Into the mix you must add cold weather clothes, jungle clothes, tools, sleeping bags. We did pretty good.

    Juan Carlos picked us up at 5:30. It was still dark. We were suited up in full cold weather gear. Long johns, windbreaker, wind pants, parka. At his shop we started the bikes cold. Last minute instructions shouted to the gringos over the sweet sound of motos running with good, clean engines.
    "Milton, don't forget the choke. Don't drive with the choke closed."
    "It's ok Juan Carlos, don't worry. I'll be fine."


    We pushed off at 6am for a gentle 2 hour cruse on asphalt. The countryside was frozen. Frost covers everything. There was a full teamed soccer game taking place up at the ruins of Sacshawaman, on frost covered field, incredibly at 6am. It was barely daylight. The breaking sun illuminated rolling snow covered mountains as we crossed the pass between Cuzco and Pisac.

    Great bundles of dried corn stalks trotted along the roadside totally obscuring the Indian within. Fodder for the domestic animals. Pig town Corao is frozen white with frost. Stoic Indian women draped in panchos stand by the road looking... frozen. We are so bundled and puffed-up we could roll off a cliff unscathed.

    Descent to Pisac and the Sacred Valley, the air warms noticeably but our hands are still cold. We are still in the morning shadow of the mountains. The piles of corn stalks get bigger and bigger until they almost obliterate flatbed trucks. Men are carrying huge wooden plows on their shoulders. Agriculture in full swing. Plowing fields with the wooden plows pulled by cows. Harvesting wheat by hand. The traffic is light.

    Destination: Ollantaytambo. We arrive at 8am. (Try pronouncing that one. Let's just call it Ollanta from here on, that's oh-YAHN-tah.) It seems that the road from Ollanta proper to the train station has suffered since I last saw it. A huge chunk of it has sloughed off into the river. Pedestrian traffic only these days, except for a couple of motos weaving among the rocks and berms of dirt pushing against gobs of people coming, I suppose, from the train from Machu Picchu.

    Wendy Weeks' El Albergue inn at the train station is full but at a hotel next door we find alternate lodging for tomorrow night and a place to stash the bikes until then. $24 for a room with private bath. A quick breakfast and we board the train bound for Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.
    Ya-hoo!


    At the entrance of the Machu Picchu ruins we were met by this gentleman. I loved his face and dignity and struck a conversation with him. He was from Cusco. You can see the Urubamba River behind him far below as it snakes thru its tight canyon.
    [​IMG]
    Antonio Garay of Cuzco


    It was weird seeing Machu Picchu in full sunlight. It was full of clouds and rain the last time I was here. [​IMG]

    The mystics were out in full force. This one guide was really full of shit. He was having his group throw coca leaves to the 4 cardinal directions, and doing little spiritual ceremonies. There is this big flat rock up in the ceremonial section, that's just lying there in the middle of an open space. My understanding is that this rock was being transported, or moved, when the job was interrupted by the Spanish conquest and the rock was just abandoned in the middle of the job. This one full-of-shit guide was getting the tourists to lie down stretched out on top of the rock, to feel the vibrations, the energy, or whatever. And they were buying it, piling on 2 and 3 at a time! I think there was some attempted healing going on. This guide had a white beard and a gnome's pointy hat and he took himself way too seriously.

    We're staying at Gringo Bill's in Aguas Calientes. There is an advertisement on the wall in the lobby recommending the San Pedro Center of Meditation and Enlightenment. San Pedro is the local mescaline cactus. "Take a trip with us and never be the same" the ad reads. We were thinking they would be great tour guides. You know, we'll show you things you've never seen before, that kind of thing. Anyway, tried to find the web site, but alas, it may have all been a joke.
    #18
  19. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    The lay of the land
    [​IMG]
    #19
  20. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

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    Hiking the Inca Trail
    Monday, July 14, 2003

    Jeeze, its taken me 40 min to find a machine that works and get online. Don’t know how much of this kind of fun I can stand.

    Today was a good day. We went hiking. But first things first.

    Yesterday, Sunday we stashed our bikes in Ollantaytambo and took the train to Aguas Calientes, a small town at the base of Machu Picchu . Aguas is on the Urubamba river at the bottom of a tight canyon with sheer cliffs for walls. It’s winter time here in Peru and winter in the Andes means the dry season. The days are noticeably shorter. It gets dark at 6pm.

    We changed plans today. Instead of leaving back to Ollanyta on the afternoon train as planned, and spending the night in Ollanta, we decided to stay another night in Aguas and catch the 6am “backpacker” train in the morning.

    Train fare pricing is weird.
    From Aguas Calientes to Cuzco is $35.
    If you disembark at Ollantatambo, the half-way point, it still costs you $34. They do this because Ollanta is connected to Cuzco by road, as well as railroad line, and people have the tendency to get off the train in Ollanta and take a fast bus ride the rest of the way back to Cuzco, cutting into RR profits.
    But……. except…. the early morning “backpacker” train to Ollanta is only $11!
    Making this change in plans gave us all day today to hike.

    Quote of the day: “He’s a tour guide, John, what the fu©k does he know?”

    We hiked the Inca trail backwards to Wiñay Wayna (WEE-nyaii WHY-nah). The Inca Trail is a 4-5 day trek over 3 passes 9000′, 13000′, and 12000′, bringing you to Machu Picchu the hard way. I have yet to do it. (It may already be too late for me.) But it is a very popular thing to do here, and they have porters and guides that do everything for you save move your feet. (You still have to top a 1300′ pass 2 days into the thing.) However, today, we did see a Indian porter carrying a large woman up a long flight of Inca stairs up the side of a steep hill. Almost as an afterthought, at the suggestion of her husband actually, she fished into her purse and gave the Indian a few coins. We remembered the incident when we ourselves were huffing and puffing up the same stairs a little later. But I’m getting’ way ahead of myself.

    So we took the $4.50 bus ride up to the Machu Picchu ruins, paid $20 entrance fee, plus $5 extra (exit fee?) for the privilege of walking to Wiñay Wayna. Our itinerary was cleared by radio. And so, instead of arriving at Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, we left Machu Picchu via the trail. (Seems I’m forever doing things backwards.)

    Machu Picchu was magnificent today. Somehow better than yesterday. The sun was bright, the colors vivid, the sky partly cloudy and blue. We looked down on it for the last time this trip and marched up the old Inca highway, which is a paved trail of sorts, paved by the Inca, usually about 5-6′ wide and paved with stones, a lot of the time with an Inca retaining wall running alongside.

    One hour along gently climbing trail, took us to Intipunka (Inca Gate) ruins at a pass, where we had one more magnificent last, look back at Machu Picchu below and behind, except now we were level with the peak of Wayna Picchu and we could see all to the high mountains in the distance. I felt like I was seeing Machu Picchu for the very first time.

    [​IMG]
    Machu Picchu ruins and Wayna Picchu peak from Intipunka, the Sun Gate

    Outstanding. A quick lunch. Met some French travelers with a Peruvian adventure guide. Then Eric Jones, a young missionary, a ‘Bama Boy, been on the gridiron a few times, loved to talk football, a real people person. Over the other side of the ridge we plunged into cloud forest stuff. The trail overgrown with trees filled with epiphytes, bromeliads, lianas and moss hugged vertical cliffs. Vivid green moss lined the cool trail. Occasional glimpses of snow capped Bonanta and Veronica across the valley. I’ll have to say, I’m sure it was inconceivable to the Inca that they could ever be conquered. This was a work of art.

    Another 1½ hours brought us to a European-style mountain hostal. The building was slightly run down, but they were serving beer inside. The place was moderately full of trekkers. There was a community of tents set up, a full restaurant, signs advertising beds for rent. We were asked if we needed porters. At one of the tent cities I noticed all of the campers looked Peruvian.
    “Are they all guides,” I asked one of them nearby?
    He looked at me with sudden scorn.
    Guides? No, amigo, they are porters (as in, you dumb ass).

    So we’d picked this destination, because it had a straight down exit trail that connected to the Urubamba river and RR track below, both of which lead back to Aguas Calientes. But there were also ruins of Wiñay Wayna, and oh my, when they finally came into sight we were shocked by their size. Hidden in a fold between two ridges, with a waterfall, the terraces stretched around like a huge amphitheater. The buildings in remarkably good condition.

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    The Urubamba 1600′ below, snow capped Bonanta and Veronica peaks beyond. [​IMG]

    About 10 other people poked around the hillside, in reverent silence. Or maybe we just never knew what language to speak to each other. Anyway, no one spoke. We were all filled with wonder and mystery. Why? How? No foo-foo mystics needed here. We had our own mysticism, thank you.

    1½ hours is far too little time to spend here. It was after 4:00, the sun was behind the mountains, time to go, we never got over to the waterfall. A tour guide told us that it was quite impossible to descend at this hour, and that is what prompted the quote of the day, "He's a tour guide, John, what the fuck does he know?" followed by ”If you want to know the real truth about something, you gotta ask a porter.”

    Headed down a trail, John asks “is this the trail down?” I dunno John, does it look like the trail down? Anyway, 1 hour of zigzaging 1600′ down unexciting power-line trail to the hydroelectric plant below. Unexciting except for the weird vegetation (we ain’t in Kansas anymore). John was leading when near the river at the bottom we suddenly came upon 8 men with machetes. Startled, he nearly stumbled backwards.
    “It’s OK John, just act like you know what you’re doing. Keep going.”

    They were Peruvian hard-hats, hydroelectric line-men I reckoned, and just as surprised to see us, I must say. The hydroelectric plant is built right beneath another ruins site. In fact we could see 3-4 ruins sites scattered up the ridge above us. There was a pedestrian suspension bridge across the Urubamba but with a locked gate. We waited with the hardhats for the key to appear.

    “Now what would we’ve done if we hadn’t met up with these guys?” John wanted to know.
    I dunno John.
    Things have a way of working themselves out.

    2½ mile walk home in growing darkness along the RR track and the Urubamba. Great meal in town.
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