Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Inca Trail - Cusco, Peru

A photograph of Sayacmarka taken on the 3rd day of the Inca Trail in Peru
Sayacmarka (Day 3) - Inca Trail, Peru

Peru was the first stop on our trip to South America. We had decided not to spend much time in Lima and headed up to the old Inca capital, Cusco, instead. The main attraction in Cusco for us was the Inca trail. We had two days in Cusco to acclimatise to the altitude before starting off on the trek.

Lots more photographs inside.

A photograph of Wayllabamba taken on day 1 of the Inca Trail in Peru
Wayllabamba (Day 1) - Inca Trail, Peru

The actual hike starts on the banks of the Urubamba river at a place called Piskacucho, about 3 hours away from Cusco. A 5.30am start gets you to the Piskacucho at around 10.00am after a break for breakfast. We met up with the team of Chasquis at the entrance to the walk, got our passports stamped and started off.

A photograph of the Urubamba River taken on Day 1 of the Inca Trail in Peru
The Urubamba River (Day 1) - Inca Trail, Peru



We were quite fortunate to have a really good group of 15 to travel with. Everyone was easy going and there weren't any horror stories to report. Listening to some of the experiences that Fred, our guide, had been through on previous tours, we were quite relived! Evenings around the dinner table were always entertaining and went on pretty late by "Inca trail" standards.

A photograph of the Inca Trail winding through the valley taken on Day 1 of the Inca Trail in Peru
The trail winding through a valley (Day 1) - Inca Trail, Peru

The tour leader assigned to our group was an archeologist named Fred who also worked with the University in Cusco. Ceasar, the "second in command" was easy going and very passionate about the history of the area and the environment. Between the two of them they were able to keep everyone in good spirits throughout the trip.

A photograph of some ruins near Wayllabamba taken on day 1 of the Inca Trail in Peru
Ruins near Wayllabamba (Day 1) - Inca Trail, Peru

The first day of the walk was relatively easy going. Although the day's walk was an ascent, the slope was gradual and not too tough. We followed the Urubamba river for most of the day and we also came across the ruins at Wayllabamba. The trail led us through a couple of small villages where there were small shops selling drinks and food for travellers.

A photograph of dead Womans Pass taken on Day 2 of the Inca Trail in Peru
Dead Woman's Pass (Day 2) - Inca Trail, Peru

The second day was a different story. We had two steep climbs to complete and, at 4215m Dead Woman's pass was also the highest point of the trail. The altitude took its toll on us on both climbs and we constantly found ourselves gasping for air. Chewing coca leaves and drinking lots of water helped a bit but it was good to actually descend.

A photograph of dead Womans Pass taken on Day 2 of the Inca Trail in Peru
The descent from Dead Woman's pass (Day 2) - Inca Trail, Peru

Each day we came across a number of Inca ruins and Fred was able to give us a short lecture on either the place we were at or the Inca empire. We learned that the Incas were able to produce penicillin and an antibiotic by fermenting corn and other herbs that were found in the area. They were also said to have performed brain surgery and blood transfusions.

A photograph of a small lake taken on day 2 of the Inca Trail in Peru
A small lake (Day 2) - Inca Trail, Peru

The Chasquis continued to amaze us each day. Once we left the camp site in the morning, they would pack up the entire campsite, overtake us on the trail, cook a 3 course meal and wait for us to arrive at our lunch stop. After lunch they would pack up again, overtake us and have the camp site ready for the night and cook us another 3 course meal for dinner. They even baked us a cake on the last day! Each of them would carry massive packs that would weigh over 30 Kg each. In February when the trail is closed, the Chasquis from all the tour companies race each other from the start of the Inca trail to the center of Machu Picchu. The record, established around 6 years ago, is 3 hours and 48 minutes with the slowest chasqui completing it in 5 hours. We took 4 days to hike the same distance!

A photograph of Sayacmarka taken on day 3 of the Inca Trail in Peru
Sayacmarka (Day 3) - Inca Trail, Peru

I was a bit disappointed to not take my tripod on the trip. I had a pack which weighed about 10 kg on my back and I figured I could do without an additional 2.5kg! I wanted to photograph the night sky as well as take some panoramic shots. The night sky was obviously out of the question without the tripod but I was still able to take some panoramic photographs.

A photograph of Sayacmarka taken on day 3 of the Inca Trail in Peru
Sayacmarka (Day 3) - Inca Trail, Peru

I took the 5D with the 24-105mm lens and the 7D with the 50mm lens on the hike. Most of the photographs were taken with the 5D. I also had a circular polariser on the 24-105. I had a couple of
graduated ND filters with me as well but didn't get an opportunity to use them.


 Winaywayna (Day 3) - Inca Trail, Peru

A photograph of Runquracay taken on day 2 of the Inca Trail in Peru
Runquracay (Day 2) - Inca Trail, Peru

A photograph of Dead Womans Pass taken on Day 2 of the Inca Trail in Peru
Dead Woman's Pass (Day 2) - Inca Trail, Peru





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