Thursday, July 22, 2010

Through the Sun Gate

Hello! This past week has been a pretty exiting one. We spent a few days getting used to the altitude in Cusco then went on to conquer the Inca Trail.

Sunday morning at 4:00AM we gathered our packs and headed to a plaza in Cusco where we would meet the rest of our group and our guide and porters to bus up to KM 82, the place we would start our trek from. We stopped in Ollantaytambo (an tiny agricultural town known for keepĂ­ng traditional Inca traditions such as plowing by foot) for breakfast and to stock up on water and chocolate. Here we were introduced to the type of bathroom facilities that are found on the trail and in the poorer areas of Peru (hugely unsanitary, yet probably cost effective, holes).
The first day was supposed to be an easy day because we were only hiking 14km and the route was quite flat. Day two was a bit more of a challenge. We hiked 16km total over two passes, the highest of which was at 4200m! I could definitely feel the thinner air. The third day we entered into the cloud forest and saw three different Inca ruins. The Inca Trail was used for messangers to run through bringing messages from town to town and for people travelling to Machu Pichu where they would worship the sun, moon, and earth. The Inca people had no written language so the messages were all verbal. Some of the ruins are fortresses which were used to spot invaders from the Amazon or the Spaniards, some are purifying stations or rest stops prior to going to Machu Pichu, and some are full of terraces where food was grown and new crops identified. The most amazing thing to me about the trail is that people RAN on it. We had a group of 14 amazing porters who carried our tents, food, etc. for us. They were a group of Quechua farmers aged 16 to 47 who work as porters in peak tourist season to support their families. They sped through the trail with nothing but sandals on their feet and heavy packs taller than they were on their backs. About 5 years ago, archeologists wanted to find out how fast the Inca people could bring messages across the trail so all the porters had a race. The record was 3 hours and 40 minutes!
We also had a chef on board who whipped up restaurant quality food in the mountains.

Through the Sun Gate we were able to take the postcard picture of Machu Pichu. It was really busy with tourists, so I possibly enjoyed the other Inca sites better! Machu Pichu was never found by the Spaniards when they came and invaded most of the other sites, and it is probably because they had deserted the place and taken everything of value. There were no riches of any sort found in Machu Pichu when it was discovered in 1911.

My time is up. More pictures soon, I hope! We are off to Nicaragua tomorrow, and hanging out again in Lima tonight.

Hope all is fantastic wherever you are.

Shanna and Monica

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