We just returned from a trip of three weeks in Peru. Like almost everyone, before leaving, we have gone crazy to try to fit our budget with the visit of a few places that we considered essential and add to these as much as possible.
This is more than a travel diary, so anyone who is thinking of poetic descriptions of landscapes and adventures, can read it. We wanted to enjoy the nature of a country as different and exotic as Peru. Our trip was divided into three stages that allowed us to include different ecosystems and landscapes, with the essential visit to Machu Picchu as a backdrop.
We divided our trip into three routes, the first one a trek through the Huascaran National Park in the surroundings of Huaraz. The second route was through the jungle of the Amazon region that would also allow us to see the enigmatic Chachapoyas culture. The third route took place on the Inca trail, on the way to Machu Picchu. We previously visited the main archaeological sites in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Two days before the trip an earthquake occurred in the area of the Colca valley that we had planned to visit on our trip. With some anguish and worried about the viability of that part of the trip, we went to the airport two hours in advance to take our flight with scheduled departure at 16:30.
Normally we try to fly with hand luggage but in these vacations in which we were going to face deserts and glaciers it was impossible. So we queue at check-in, checked a giant suitcase and with our cabin bags and backpacks we passed the security check. We killed the time until boarding eating a hamburger and reading the newspaper.
The departure was punctual. For the first time in a long time we take a non-stop direct transoceanic flight. So we dedicated ourselves to enjoy the on-board entertainment system and the two meals that the hostesses gave us during the flight (in addition to take a nap).
Day 1 - Lima
We landed at Jorge Chávez International Airport at Lima with exquisite punctuality at 09:40 local time. We passed the immigration control very quickly. The official gave us the go-ahead and put in our passports an immigration card that jutted out of the passport with obvious risk of getting lost in the next few days.
With our brand new entry stamps planted in the passports, we set out to collect our luggage. While we waited, I went to an ATM, which were going to be used for our first expenses. Fortunately and not without some suspense, our suitcase appeared last.
The first thing we found were some counters with taxi companies authorized by the airport that all have fixed prices. As it was not a matter of taking the first price offered to us, we passed and we found a bunch of taxi drivers. We had read that outside the airport there are less official taxis with cheaper rates. So we took the first one we caught and asked for the price to Miraflores.
We said yes and he tells us to follow him inside to one of the counters that we had despised 5 minutes before. With the face of fools, a lady charged us which was the official price that was marked at these counters and we left with a ticket and with the type to the parking lot. There he put us in a brand new taxi that seemed like a taxi luxury.
What we did not know is that this taxi was going to be the most interesting of all our vacations and that Peruvian taxis are much more tacky in general and cheaper. And so we launched to take the first contact with the terrible traffic of Lima. The airport is located in Callao, which may be the entire Constitutional Province, but it is still a shabby neighborhood of Lima.
Callao is the neighborhood of the Lima port and like all port neighborhoods, it is very authentic with many people, street stalls, and hullabaloo. We were in the middle of the rush hour stuck with hundreds of small private line minibuses that have proliferated everywhere.
Then we crossed by anodyne avenues of the center of Lima until arriving at our hotel after a trip of about 45 minutes. As the next day we had to take a bus to Paracas in the first hour, for that night I had chosen a hotel near the Bus Station. The closest (not the cheapest) was this aparthotel just 600 meters from the station that offered suites with kitchens for a slightly inflated price (it was the most expensive hotel of the entire trip).
Anyway, the room was spacious and clean, with upgradeable furniture but with plasma TV. The 2 double beds were large, the bathroom small, the kitchenette practical and the wifi powerful. The heat pump made a lot of noise and little heat, so we left it off.
Before going up we found that we were not going to be able to eat breakfast since the eatery opened at 7 and the bell informed us that there was another family of Italians who was also going to get up early to catch a bus in the morning. This may now seem like a minor detail but if you keep reading the travel blog you will see the reason.
Without unpacking luggage we went to bed with the idea of falling asleep right away. We had read that in Peru there are dozens of buses to all destinations and at all hours and that there are always places so we had not booked those tickets. Before turning off the light it occurred to me to check the website to confirm the schedules.
With horror I checked that the 7 o'clock was full and in the 7:30 one there were only 4 places left. In the rest of the buses that we took on the trip we never had problems with tickets. Finally, with the visa in hand I went through the very complicated process of buying online on the ipad in which they asked me the name, passport number, email, address and I do not know how much more information about each of the passengers.
After a good 15 minutes I managed to book tickets for the bus at 7:30 with the idea of printing the tickets as soon as we got up (no, they did not have an electronic ticket). With my few remaining forces I put on the alarm clock what I thought was 5:45 in the morning and I abandoned myself to sleep.
Day 2 - Paracas
Due to jet lag we woke up at 5:30 am and it was a good thing because the night before I had made a mistake and had set the alarm at 6:45 instead of 5:45. After a shower I went down to print the tickets at reception although I had to wait. The family of Italians, a couple with their young son, had also got up early. They had won to check out and were discussing with the night concierge the hotel bill.
Around 6:30 we leave the hotel. We headed to the station through some streets of Lima that already showed a feverish activity. The Peruvians get up early! Near the station we began to see the usual landscape of many Peruvian streets. We see a plethora of street vendors of the most varied merchandise and a row of food stalls where the early risers were having breakfast on the way to work.
The bus station, a functional glass building, was crowded with some Peruvians but mostly tourists forming several queues, all with the face of clueless. The station did not have information panels! We have to check in our suitcase like in an airport.
A friendly operator told me that the 7:30 bus would be delayed. So we go to one of the street food stalls (the cafeteria was closed) and have a breakfast based on bad coffee and hard bun. At about 7:45 from the girl announced that our bus was going to leave and there we all headed. Before entering the bus, an operator checked our passports and verified them.
They checked our backpacks, passed it htorugh a metal detector and, once on the bus, another agent recorded us in video. We were surprised by so many security measures but they were the usual ones in all the trips. The bus is magnificent with wider reclining seats almost to the horizontal and a normal area on the top that is really comfortable.
They also have 2 drivers who take turns and a stewardess and they give food and drinks during the whole trip. Paracas is 266 km south of Lima and the journey lasted 3h and a half. In Quechua, the name of Paracas means sand rain since it is common for the wind to provoke violent sandstorms in this area. The main tourist attractions of the town are the Paracas National Reserve (a protected area of the desert) and the Ballestas Islands. Here thousands of birds, penguins, sea lions, dolphins and others live.
At first the bus was submerged in the intense and chaotic Lima traffic while raffling motor vehicles and abundant vendors, and wildlife that takes advantage of every traffic light! But after a few kilometers we crossed the suburbs of Lima, we see an endless succession of one-storey houses, with the usual look of not having been completed. They cover the ground as far as the eye could see ascending the hillsides and forming chaotic neighborhoods with a look very similar to that of the Brazilian favelas.
Shortly after we left the city we take a bad highway that ran along the sea, leaving on our left a very arid landscape of brown hills with hardly any vegetation. In this desert is where we begin to see the first invasions, the irregular settlements formed by usurping land settlers.
As we reach the outskirts of the town we disembarked and we got in line to claim our bags while we said goodbye to our Italian friends who were going to their hotel. While we queued, some girls offered to make the excursion of the National Reserve in a minivan with a guide. Since the price was what we expected, we accept. After removing hat and sunscreen, we left the suitcases in the station while the girls were still finding more tourists.
Our guide was a young man with scarce indigenous features with his hair pulled back in a ponytail. He wear a multi-pocket explorer's vest and his accent is similar to the Argentine one. He gave us a short introductory speech with several ironic and sarcastic comments and the truth is that the first impression was that we were going to be guided by a pimp. Fortunately, after getting to know him better, we found him to be a good guide.
We ride in the minivan and line the road to the park entrance booth located just 3 km from the town where we pay the entrance ticket to the park. Each guide makes the visit as he pleases. Ours made the first stop of the tourist circuit in the Fossil Field, on the entrance road to the park. This area is the first contact with the desert.
The road is made with salt from the Otuma salt pans, which are on the same road a few kilometers ahead and which we did not visit. It's funny to scrape the supposed asphalt and check that it's white and salty. Our guide plucked some rocks from the shoulder to check it, some of which had the typical cubic crystallizations of sodium chloride. There Luis gave us some notions about the desert climate and a scientific explanation of the lack of rainfall in the area and then let us loose for a while. Right in that area, the soil has thousands of marine fossils since millions of years ago, the area was covered by the sea.
We went back to the minivan and crossed a rugged stretch of desert until we reached our second stop, a hill next to a smallrocky bay next to the Yumaque beach . From the top of the bay you could feel the desolation of the desert landscape in clear contrast with the waves that hit a small sea inlet surrounded by cliffs.
In one of them there was a group of pelicans resting. Then we head towards Lagunillas, a small Pacific inlet that forms a very quiet bay with beaches dominated by seabirds. In its southernmost slope there are several tourist restaurants where we take advantage to eat. In its parking lot there were more pelicans looking for food and on one of its beaches there were penguins on some rocks.
We ate at the restaurant, a nice place, although a bit touristy, where we tried a ceviche and the famous Paracas shells (small scallops with cheese). Here we also tried the sweet Inca Cola that we did not like at all and decided to avoid the rest of the trip. Next to the bay of Lagunillas is the Red Beach, named for the color of its sand and the small cliffs that surround it.
The Cathedral is a rock arch formed by the erosion of the sea. The wind reminded the domes of the cathedrals but as it collapsed in the earthquake, the landscape is now not worth it and we did not visit it. Finally on our return trip we passed the Museum of the National Reserve of Paracas that we did not see either.
The Paracas Reserve is an interesting landscape but we did not think it was spectacular and of course if there is not much time we thought it would be a dispensable visit. The minivan returned us to the bus station. There they offered us the tour of the Ballestas Islands for the next day with the same guide that we booked.
We also take tickets for the next day for the bus to Ica. We wanted to catch the one at 11:10 but there were no tickets left. Fortunately, there were always tickets for all destinations in Peru without the need to book! so they offered us a place in one earlier than 10:40 (there was no more, the next one was already in the afternoon). The girls who sold the tickets were the same ones who assured us that we would not have problems.
Also, they offered us the Ica-Huacachina excursion that included a panoramic visit to Ica, a visit to a Pisco winery, a visit to the Regional Museum and a ride in buggies and sandboarding in the oasis. It seemed a bit expensive but since we were going with the right time we found everything very comfortable and we took it as well.
We also took the opportunity to take the Ica-Nasca bus tickets for the next day. For this there was no problem. We took for the 18:55 one and again the girls told us we would arrive without problems. And with all the homework done, we said goodbye until the next day.
Back at the station we retrieved our bags and walked to our hotel which was barely 500 meters away. The hotel is the typical beach resort with spacious, white and diaphanous rooms with spectacular views of the bay and the sunset. There are the usual services of any beach hotel like swimming pool, sunbeds, and entertainment that survives in winter with Western tourists who visit the natural attractions of Paracas.
The hotel is beautiful, quiet and relaxing. There is a large room and comfortable beds, spacious bathroom and powerful wifi. The only downside was that the beach was a little rickety with many pebbles and with the waters not all crystalline that should be given its proximity to the port of the town. After resting for a while in the hotel and sending whatsapp messages, we enjoyed the sunset and we headed to Paracas town for dinner.
The town of Paracas is in 10 minutes. It has a lively promenade that at that time and in winter was practically deserted, with a lot of restaurants, and a couple of central streets with some more restaurant and ATM but does not give much more of itself. We took the opportunity to replace all the cash we had spent at the station buying bus tickets and excursions.
Throughout the town there are small tourist agencies that offer us the excursion of Islas Ballestas for the next day until well into the night. We dined at the restaurant, a forgettable restaurant on the seafront where they hunted us offering us pisco sour for free.
We walked back to the hotel to rest while we enjoyed a fabulous starry sky with constellations from the southern hemisphere that we had never seen. We see the Southern Cross and the Centauro where we located the famous Alfa Centauri, the closest star to ours located 4.3 light years from the sun. We had never had the opportunity to see them before.
Day 3 - Ballestas Islands
We slept great but again we got up early with the jet lag and at 7 we were having breakfast quietly. In the dining room there were other groups on an organized trip who commented that they had canceled the part of the Colca Valley due to the earthquake since the valley was closed. We had planned to make that trip in 3 days so we got a bit discouraged and started thinking about possible alternatives.
We checked out and at 7:30 we went to look for the same minivan with which we made the reservation. Then we went through other hotels in Paracas to pick up our excursion partners. Finally we all headed to the bus station where we left our bags in our luggage and started the tour commanded by our guide.
The Ballestas Islands are a group of rocky islands that are part of the Paracas National Reserve, located about 9 kilometers from the city of Paracas. It is famous for being an important reservoir of marine fauna, mainly birds such as the guanay, the piquero, the tendril, pelicans, flamingos as well as Humboldt penguins, dolphins and sea lions.
Excursions to the Ballestas Islands leave the port early in the morning, typically at 7:30. It starts early because then it is windy and the sun is too hot for the excursion to be comfortable. The previous day the boats had not been able to leave due to excessive wind. So we did not know if we were going to be able to do the excursion but in any case the port and the sea was going to be congested.
To avoid crowds, our bus took us to the south of the Bay of Paracas to a small jetty in a quiet area of the town with many private houses on the beachfront. There are summer residences of wealthy Peruvians, some of which would not be out of place in Miami or Saint Tropez. In the area there was a small square with a modest monolith.
While we waited for our boat we enjoyed on the shore of the local fauna. In the area there was a group of cranes, flamingos, pelicans, cormorants and speedy birds that plummeted into the waters to catch clueless fish called Piqueros. In a few minutes we headed to the pier where we expected a modern boat handled by a young man.
We sit on the left side of the boat to have better views although it does not look bad from any seat. We put on our life vests, we checked that the boat did not move and we apply sunscreen. The boat goes very fast. We had in front of us two girls who looked like Japanese both for their features and for their clothing and because they spoke in Japanese.
The initial route runs through the bay of Paracas by usually calm waters. In this area we see many pelicans that fly over the water parallel to the boat or rest in large groups on the rocky shores. Fortunately that day the sea was calm and the trip was very pleasant although we took a few boats. The first stop is the Candelabro or Trident, a geoglyph (that is a giant drawing engraved on the ground) made on the sandy slope of the north face of the Paracas peninsula.
It measures 180 meters high and is made by lines carved into the rock. The wind continuously cleans the sand that covers it and prevents the drawing from becoming blurred. It is not known what it represents or by whom it was made but the main theory is that it was made by men of the Nasca culture 2500 years ago, the same ones who made the lines and geoglyphs of the Nasca desert. One thinks that it can point to the Crux constellation but like almost everything in Peru everything is possible.
We spent about ten minutes in the area to take photos while attending an endless raft of boats loaded with tourists who were doing the same route as us. Then we head towards the Ballestas Islands to which we arrived after about 15 minutes of crossing. The cold air of the morning and the speed of the boat make the temperature go down in the trip.
The boat collides with the waves and raises water and it is inevitable to get wet a bit. The Ballestas Islands are beautiful islets of a very irregular limestone rock eroded by the sea forming outcrops and stone arches. Simply for that reason they would already be interesting. But its main attraction is that they are crowded with birds.
And when I say crowded is that they are literally covered with birds. And the islands are also literally covered with white bird poop called guano. Historically, guano has been one of the most powerful fertilizers of nature. So for centuries, the guano of the islands has been exploited by Peruvians in the area. Every so often the guano layer of the islands rises, is brought to land and sold at a very good price.
But except for these artificial structures, the rest of the islands are virgin. There are no houses or hotels or other human infrastructure and for this reason birds, penguins, sea lions and other critters frolic in freedom throughout the area.
For about an hour and a half, we took a boat ride through the islands, observing the relaxed life of the sea lions, which seem to be permanently hungry (as our beloved guide showed us), the clumsy movements of the small penguins on the ground.
This part was very short. I would have been a while longer in the area but at about a quarter to 10 we started the trip back. At 10:15 we were back on the jetty and the minivan to the bus. In total the tour lasted about two and a quarter hours, a little less than what the guides say, probably because we had just enough time to catch the bus and our guide wanted to earn another tip.
At the station we retrieved our bags and waited patiently for the usual half hour of delayed Peruvian buses so that our bus at 10:40 left later than 11 and probably at 11:30. The trip to Ica, located just 70 kilometers, normally takes an hour and a half and runs through the usual Peruvian desert through the crowded center of large towns that force to slow down the speed of bus to incredible extremes (hence the low average speed ).
Needless to say that this delay made us a little nervous. We left the suitcases and we rode in another minivan along with a young Brazilian woman and another blonde with a ruddy face from an indeterminate country of northern Europe with the appearance of having smoked a lot marijuana in her youth.
The panoramic visit to Ica consisted of two laps in the bus to the Plaza de Armas of the city that had a colonial house occupied by a bank. It offered in one of its corners the remains of its cathedral, half demolished in the earthquake. We needed to eat something and get money from an ATM because our excursions had ended the little cash we had but the guide told us there was no time and that we would eat in the cellar.
Next, we go to winery. Ica is one of the main places in Peru where pisco is made, the most famous wine in Peru and its wineries are the most famous in the country. The most visited tourist winery is El Viejo Catador but there is another industrial one called Tacama whose wines we saw in all the menus of the Peruvian restaurants.
The winery is on the outskirts of the city in an area with access by a dirt road between crappy houses that did not bode well. Through the streets of Ica, from time to time, we could see the huge dunes that surround the city. The bodega is no more than a street flanked by several restaurants and wine shops that lead to an area where the process of making pisco is explained, all rather shabby.
Pisco is actually a brandy, elaborated by distilling the wine of sweet grapes, usually of Quebranta, Moscatel or Torontel varieties. The process is simlar to that of the elaboration of brandy and cognac, but these are subjected to a prolonged aging in wooden barrels while the pisco does not. Actually it is a way of making useable wine in normal conditions. However pisco is the national drink and a cultural heritage of Peru.
First of all our guide taught us the winepress, the treading area of the grape. Then we went to the fermentation area where there were a few cisterns with a lid, where the must ferments into wine. Next to them were hundreds of ceramic amphoras that were formerly used to store fermented wine (now stored in modern stainless steel tanks).
Finally they showed us a giant still in a concrete pool where the wine is distilled into pisco.The visit lasted just 10 minutes and was quite disappointing as the facilities were old, ugly, industrial and without any charm.
Then we went to one of the many shops in the central street of the winery where they offered us a tasting of the different piscos made in the winery with the obvious intention that we bought all the possible bottles. We sat in a circle and the guide was giving us to try up to 14 different varieties of piscos and their variants (pisco cream, pisco sour, peach pisco, fig pisco).
As we had not eaten we took the precaution not to try them all and not to rush the glasses they offered us. We ended up quite happy, the Brazilian much more pale and the Nordic with the face even more red than 15 minutes before. The fact is that nobody bought anything and the poor girls in the store were left with their mouths open, making accounts of all the expenses they had made in the tasting without having received anything in return.
We went out to the street while the guide was negotiating with them his commission that I imagine would be brief. Across the street we had the famous restaurant but again the guide told us that we were going badly and that we would eat at the museum.
The next visit was the Regional Museum of Ica. Adolfo Bermudez Jenkis is a small archaeological museum focused on the pre-Inca cultures of the Ica and Paracas area. The museum is very modest and although it is newly renovated with the help of the Government of Japan that has financed new showcases and a warehouse to store everything.
The museum has only 4 rooms. The first one is dedicated to the Paracas culture with some textiles of geometric designs that can reach prices of several thousand dollars on the black market. The second room shows mainly ceramics of the Nasca culture. The third exposes artifacts of the Waris and the Incas.
Finally the last room, dedicated to anthropology is the most interesting since it exposes several Inca and pre-Inca mummies, and since they were the first we saw, they gave us quite an impression. In this room are also exposed skulls with trepanations that demonstrate that the pre-Columbian Peruvians had rudimentary knowledge about neurosurgery as well as other curious deformed orm that in many places are described as possible extraterrestrials.
It turns out that both the Inca nobles and the pre-Incas liked to deform the skulls as a sign of their status. To do this, they placed their babies in a kind of crib with their heads held by harnesses that crushed the skull to an elongated shape. This was done during the first months of life in such a way that when the children's cranial bones were welded, the deformity became permanent.
In the museum one of these cradles and the torture instruments that were used with the babies are shown. All the museums in Peru are full of skulls like that and the matter is documented by the chroniclers so we are going to throw a thick veil on the theory of the extraterrestrials. Outside the museum, a crappy model of Nazca lines can be seen from the top of some stairs.
Of course in the museum the guide also did not give us permission to eat. The Huacachina lagoon is an oasis located five kilometers west of the city of Ica, in the middle of the Pacific coastal desert. It has a lagoon of green waters emerged by the outcrop of underground streams surrounded by an abundant vegetation composed of palm trees, eucalyptus and huarangos (carob trees). The lagoon is surrounded by very high sand dunes that give the place an overwhelming beauty. The oasis is a resting place for migratory birds that pass through this region.
The legend is very beautiful. They say that there was once a beautiful maiden named Huacca China fell in love with a young warrior. One day the young man went to fight in a battle and after some time the beautiful maid received the bad news that her lover had died. The beautiful maiden suffered and cried every day remembering her beloved.
One day, the maid saw through the hand mirror she had, that a young man was watching him. When the young man in the mirror tried to approach, the maiden fled from him and began to run, but in her attempt to escape released the mirror. This fell and broke giving rise to a lagoon, the same that today is known as the Huacachina. Then the dresses that covered her also fell, forming the dunes (hills).
The waters of the lagoon had medicinal properties and this place became a well-known spa. Houses and hotels were built. A boardwalk was built around the lagoon. Changing rooms were put on for bathers, and the road that linked it to Ica was even paved.
Our guide told us that in the past around Ica there were up to 4 lagoons, all of them similar, but the overexploitation of the aquifers dried them. Now it is only preserved but its level gradually decreases and it has to be artificially filled with water from wells. The use of its waters for irrigation is now prohibited since the oasis is the main tourist attraction of the region. However, its waters have lost their properties and the emerald green color of the lagoon is now rather turbid green.
The fact is that our van left us in a small village agency that surrounds the lagoon where we finally got half an hour of rest to see the lagoon and try to eat something. We ate something fast in one of the many bars on the boardwalk of the lagoon, we took more money in a cashier because we were already peeling and took a quick walk through the lagoon although we did not have time to go around completely.
The lagoon was full of tourists, mostly Peruvians with family or couples who had come to enjoy the good weather and the views. Some even dared to climb the huge dunes to enjoy the scenery. In the non-urbanized areas, the sand of the dunes went down to the very edge of the lagoon in an oasis of film.
However, not everything was idyllic. The water of the lagoon was stagnant in some areas and it smelled bad. The town is quite ugly and the traffic through the streets of Huacachina is deadly with permanent traffic jams. We had read that the oasis was an overly touristy place with inflated prices, crowded with people and that the lagoon was dirty and neglected so we had decided not to spend the night in Huacachina.
However, overall the lagoon seemed a wonderful place, a bit expensive and dirty, yes, but a beautiful place and especially with a lot of atmosphere and entertainment where we would not have cared to spend the night. The buggy rides are scheduled in the afternoon to enjoy the dunes without much heat and after sunset in the desert.
So, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon we went back to the agency where there was already a brand new yellow buggy waiting for us. Inside there were already two couples and 3 children who were from Barcelona and they looked horrified when they saw that they still had to accommodate 3 more tourists in the car.
They complained a bit and put a garlic face but finally they turned out to be very nice and great travel companions. A little tight, we put some miserable belts and went to the desert. Our driver was a thick and dark Peruvianwearing mirror glasses and a baseball cap turned upside down.
First we ascended from the lagoon to the top of the first dune and from there the landscape was wonderful: an immense sea of dunes stretched in all directions as far as the eye could see in a topical film desert image, much prettier than the that the desert of Paracas offered us.
Our plump driver started smoothly taking the buggy along easy tracks between the dunes. The buggy engine made a hellish noise as it jumped through the irregularities of the ground pulling little shouts of enthusiasm from its passengers. But the level was gradually rising.
The fat fool hurled himself at full speed against a wall of a dune making a 180 degree turn while the buggy was almost vertical and then down the slope of the dune at full speed and chain a tremendous jump on the sand to a meter high as in a dangerously real roller coaster. Uncle gave us all kinds of wiggles, turns and jumps during his good 30-40 minutes while we shouted and hit each other at every turn.
We made a couple of stops along the way. The first to see the landscape from the top of a dune. By the way, the wind was very strong and the sand was hitting our skin like millions of small splinters and getting into all the nooks and crannies of our body and the camera.
And the second to do sandboarding is the fine way to call to throw ourself on a dune board below. We stopped on a fairly high dune and with a very vertical drop, took out three boards similar to snowboarding with a strap to grab them and asked for volunteers. Of course the children fought to throw themselves first and I was the only adult who dared to try it.
As it is short, the children were thrown several times sitting, lying and even on their backs. They wanted to stand up but our plump friend prevented it, since that is precisely what is defined as doing the goat and what causes the accidents of sandboarding. I threw myself twice because I had to go back up the dune and it cost an egg and also because it was getting dark and we had to enjoy the show.
The sunset over the dunes was a sublime and beautiful moment that the camera can barely reflect. Once the sun was up, the sandboarding was over and we started back to the oasis with another wobbly path through dunes and hillsides. As we knew what was going on and we had adrenaline levels all over, we started to provoke the corpulent driver who got stung (not that he needed a lot of encouragement) and he hit us an extra helping of twists and turns until he started to pain throughout the body of tension and shock (and of course the tip was earned).
Finally we stopped at the top of one of the dunes that dominated the oasis to enjoy the view of the lagoon with the reddish tones of the sunset.
We were all super-excited with so many emotions, started sandboarding without a board and tumbling down the slope. In total the walk had lasted less than two hours and we had a great time, not only because of the desert landscape at sunset, which is beautiful, but above all because of the brutal experience with the buggy, which we thought was better than a park.
We went down to the agency, recovered our backpacks and they moved us to the Nasca land terminal where we arrived at a quarter to 7, with 15 minutes of spare time to catch the bus. We took out the luggage of consignment to deliver them again in the same counter so that they mounted them in our bus. However, as usual, our bus arrived 45 minutes late.
During that time I took a walk around the station that bustled with activity, with street food stalls, hurried pedestrians and the usual chaotic traffic of every Peruvian city. At a food stand, we buy hamburgers for dinner at a ridiculous price. At last we had been able to choose seats in a bus and we sat in the front row of the second floor with the entire windshield for us to enjoy the trip even though it was already dark.
Nasca is 145 kilometers from Ica and the trip lasted about 2 hours. We arrived in Nasca around 9:30. Our hotel was about 600 meters from the station so we raffled the many taxi drivers who offered their services and in 10 minutes we arrived at our destination after finding that the town of Nasca was quite ugly.
The hotel was quite good. Our room was a triple with comfortable beds and a very acceptable bathroom. The wifi signal was quite bad and we had to go down to reception to communicate or surf (they offered wifi on payment). The common areas were nice and the cafe passable. It was a superior hotel to the average of what we saw in Peru.
It was also very well located on Bolognesi street which is full of restaurants and nightlife (even too much because we saw some group of young people with suspicious looks and the occasional girl in the street. The hotel staff was very friendly, like everyone in Peru.
As we had more or less dined in the bus and it was late, we went directly to the room. We showered and we went to bed after a day full of emotions that we had loved!
Day 4 - Cusco
We woke up at an indecent hour. We did the check out, left our bags in the hotel lockers and we sat down to wait in the hall for the arrival of our guides. At 5 o'clock in the morning with British punctuality (not Peruvian) a minivan appeared at the door with our guide, the driver and the girl.
We took a walk through an empty Cusco until we reached a shop where they stopped for a few minutes. We said goodbye to the girl and after a while we set off towards Ollantaytambo. During the trip I stayed awake watching the sun rise. A little before 7 o'clock we arrived at Ollantaytambo.
In the square the activity was feverish. All the expeditions of the day to the Inca Trail were in full preparation. There were hundreds of porters, each dressed in the colors of their agencies, who were either having breakfast in street stalls or preparing material while tourists took advantage of breakfast and shopping.
We bought the water we were going to take, a bag of coca leaves and ponchos in case it rained. On the second floor we had a hearty breakfast while we watched the activity throughout the square. As we had time we went around the town. At 7:30 we ride again in the minivan and set out on a dirt track through farms and corn fields until we reach the famous kilometer 82, the starting point of the Inca Trail, in about 30 minutes.
At this point there is a train stop and four houses next to the mighty Vilcanota. In one of them we got off and in our backyard we were waiting for our porters who were packing the equipment in their daffours. They greeted us with shyness and a certain curiosity.
We took the opportunity to give us the sun protection and to organize our backpacks while they had just placed the supplies we had brought. When we were ready, we put our backpacks and started the walk. The first thing we did was to cross the tracks and pass under a wooden sign that welcomed us and marks the informal start of the road where we took some pictures accordingly.
There was also a man with a camera and a backpack that we thought was another hiker who took several pictures of us. Days later we would discover that he was a professional photographer who lived by selling these photos to tourists. At the river level was the control post that gives access to the Inca Trail next to a metal bridge that crossed the river.
There we waited a while for our porters to arrive. But as they took a long time, other groups were arriving, all of them much more numerous than ours with their respective carriers' bearers and they were ahead of us. There we began to make contact with the 200 westerners with whom we were going to share these 4 days of adventure. The majority were groups of young Americans and an average age of between 20 and 30 years although there were also many Europeans and some South American.
While we waited we saw how a small flock of donkeys loaded with sacks crossed the bridge in the opposite direction to ours. As they did not come and it was getting late we decided to pass the control. The process of entering the trail is a bit tedious since we have to present our passport and the officials have to fill their things in the computer and check that everything is correct and seal the permits.
So despite having reached the first control, we ended up leaving the last. We crossed the bridge and started walking along the left margin of Vilcanota. The first two kilometers of walking was a pleasant walk with a slight rise parallel to the river by a rocky landscape dotted by fields of cultivation of the inhabitants of the area and in the shade of large snows while we crossed with farmers who transported goods on donkey back oblivious to the tourists of the trail.
We took advantage of these first kilometers to be intimate with our guide who was already giving us explanations of the flora of the area and what we would expect later. We were struck by a fungus that covered a cactus on the path. It was a cochineal that crushed on his hand, extracting a natural reddish dye that the Incas used to dye their clothes. A few minutes later our sweaty porters beat us well-deserved applause from their customers because they carried at a devilish rhythm some bulky sacks that jutted out over their heads.
A little later we started to cross with improvised stalls selling chicha to the porters that locals ride to get some suns. Chicha is an alcoholic beverage from the fermented corn that they make right there in their homes. The symbol that chicha was sold there is a stick with a plastic bag swollen at its end.
And is that the porters sweat a lot but prefer to replenish liquids drinking this Inca beer that must have many more electrolytes than the Gatorade. About 3 kilometers from the exit we saw on the other side of the river the ruins of an old Inca tambo called Salapunku with their respective colcas on the mountainside and it is that on the other side there was another Inca road where intact Inca tombs had recently been discovered.
Further on the Vilcanota River makes a meander and turns to the north while the road continues straight to the west and begins to ascend. We made a brief stop at another of the area's booths-bars to rest and drink water in the shade of an avocado tree. From this point the path began a climb up the side of a mountain where we started to pant and sweat for the first time on the road while climbing the hill at a good pace trying not to look like loose ones. Our guide followed us a few meters away while I imagine he was laughing inside our efforts.
Halfway up we had no choice but to stop breathing and there gave us a small lecture on how to climb the Inca Trail. He told us that we were climbing like Europeans in a hurry and that at this altitude it was a mistake. We had to take small steps and breathe once between steps, even taking a short break. The idea was to adapt the rhythm to the road and not let us dominate the urge to climb. Thus the rate of ascension would be slower but we would not exhaust ourselves and we would not have to stop so much to recover the breath.
We did the rest of the climb walking like we were recovering from a stroke while we were being overtaken by young Americans in a hurry and of course the porters who climbed like motorcycles. But what would be our surprise when we saw that this way we did not have to stop while the tourists who came before us stopped to rest much more frequently and the result was that we reached the top at the same time! And hardly tired! We had learned to climb to Peruvian rhythm and so we decided to do the rest of the trail.
As we climbed the landscape changed, the terrain was very dry, there were hardly any trees and above all we saw bushes and cactus, especially agaves. From the highest point of the ascent about 6 kilometers from the exit we could see from a platform the ruins of Patallacta or Llactapata that had remained at river level , 100 meters below and to which we do not go down. Patallacta is an ancient Inca town located on the right bank of the Vilcanota at the confluence of this one with the Kusichaka River.
It is a village made up of 112 residential buildings built with stones joined with mud mortar and a ceremonial center next to the river called Pulpituyoq as well as an agricultural sector with dozens of terraces that went down to the river. The town was destroyed by Manco Inca in his flight from Cusco and here Hiram Bingham passed on his way to the discovery of Machu Picchu.
The terraces next to the river are built following an undulating path that resembles a snake in the usual Inca symbolism whose head was the ceremonial center of Pulpituyoq. Dominating the town by the side of the Inca Trail there is a small fortress called Willkaraqay whose remains we visited. These were several buildings built in pirka style (unpolished stone and mortar) spread over three levels and surrounded by a wall that served to control the trail and protect travelers. The views from the fortress were overwhelming.
From Willkaraquay down a narrow path to a viewpoint over Patallacta and the Kusichaka river canyon but we did not go down. From Willkaraqay began a small descent through the Kusichaka Valley through a very interesting sector. In this area of the road every few meters you could see remains of ceramics and even some human bone. It turns out that the road passed an old Inca cemetery, some of whose looted tombs could still be seen on the walls of the hills on both sides of the road:
The pieces of pottery that we found were vast. For this area there are many bromeliads , a plant of the pineapple family that you will probably know about the Garden section of the Leroy Merlin , with long green leaves and red flowers. The bromeliad grows on the stone walls of this area and as Victor is one of the favorite foods of the Andean bear.
The next section of the trail runs along the left bank of the Kusichaka River, an area with a lot of vegetation and very leafy. In this area there are several farms that offer drinks to tourists and chicha to the porters and in one of them our sherpas were waiting for us with the store-mounted diner and the food prepared while they received us with undeserved applause.
When we booked the Inca Trail we thought that we would be given basic foods such as sandwiches or tortillas or things like that and that we would eat them sitting by the stones. What we did not imagine was that the meals on the Inca Trail were going to be seated at a table, sheltered by a camp, with metal dishes and with dessert. And on top the dishes were of a quality superior to that of many restaurants.
When we saw the dining room beautifully planted and with a table and 4 chairs around it with tablecloth, plates and cutlery we were stunned. The porters offered us hot water to clean us and a little uncomfortable for so much luxury in the middle of the field we sat down to eat with the guide.
For starters they offered us a fresh garlic bread that was deadly and that we quickly devoured since we had breakfasted centuries ago. Then we were served a cream of asparagus a little salty but warm and tasty and second lomo saltado with potatoes. A true delicacies. Victor offered us tea, which is what they like to drink with food, but we settle for water. The tent-dining room was divided in two by a canvas that separated the dining room from the kitchen area where the porters also ate.
After this meal we rested a bit while our tireless porters dismantled the camp and packed it again. We took the opportunity to visit the little farm that had running water and electricity but it was a real shack where a family lived with two children and three dogs. They offered us drinks and although we did not need them we bought a bottle of water.
After a couple of kilometers of a slight rise later we crossed to the other side of the river by a metallic bridge. We arrived at Wuayllabamba, located at 3000 meters of height, and that was going to be our camp. The truth is that we were not at all tired.
Wuayllabamba is the largest camp on the Inca Trail and is composed of several camping areas arranged along 3 kilometers. Actually Wuayllabamba is the name of a town, the last inhabited on the way up to the port of Warmiwañusca, and the different camping areas are the courtyards of the houses of the villagers who in compensation take advantage to sell drinks and chicha to the campers.
The houses of the village are all plastered in brown tones and with relief decorations of Inca motifs that give a certain decorative unity to the village-camp. We were lucky in the cast but at that time we did not see it that way since we still had to walk a couple of kilometers more but already on a road with a very steep slope, with many stair areas, for which we had to use at the discretion of the Inca technique of climbing small steps measured with breathing and that showed us for the first time the true hardness of the Inca Trail. This final stretch of 2 kilometers left us exhausted.
On the way, we passed through village lords who climbed the slopes as if they were plains and with pigs that came down the path with merchandise. On the climb we passed the Huayllabamba trout fish farm. In the area, a dirty-faced boy played with me and was allowed to take the picture without asking for a tip. Halfway up we stopped at the Control Post of Wuayllabamba, a modest green building built with the collaboration of the government of Finland where we waited a while.
Finally we arrived at our camp, a small meadow where our Sherpas had already set up tents to sleep and the tent-dining room and where they received us with warm and undeserved applause that in turn we gave back for the effort made. We rested for a while and they offered us a snack in the dining room with tea and butter and aguaymanto jam with toast that tasted like glory.
The house of our guests was on the side of the meadow and was a modest house without any decoration. On another side of the meadow there was a booth with services and a shower, of course without hot water, which we decided not to use. We also did not see our guests since they did not leave their house or receive us all night.
But after a while it was time for us to have dinner while the sun was hiding behind the huge mountains that were next to us. The dinner took place on the same stage and with the same paraphernalia as the food and they treated us with a vegetable soup and trout fillets bathed in garlic accompanied by more garlic bread and a bottle of white wine!
And to end dessert they offered us a shot of pisco, in case we did not go to sleep well after the walk and the wine. The dinner was very animated with a friendly conversation with our guide about our respective lives as we listened to the noise and laughter of our porters on the other side of the canvas that separated us from their world.
And without much else to do, at 9 they sent us to sleep at the camp. Although we had set up two camps, we decided to sleep together in one and leave the other for the backpacks. This was also thanks to the porters because at least one of them could sleep in the camp that offered more shelter in the cold night than the dining room where the rest slept.
The night in the camp turned out to be an experience because we did not have much habit of sleeping in camps and everything was new for us. Finally we got organized, undressed between laughter and get into the bags and improvise pillows with the clothes that we had removed. After a while of reading we fell exhausted after a very long day, intense and exhausting.
Day 5 - Inca Trail
We woke up at 6 o'clock. The night had been the coldest of all since the camp was very high but with the accumulated fatigue and our thermal bags we did not find out. But stretching and grooming cost us a lot. Again with all the layers put on we went to breakfast, this time without porridge and at 7 we were running leaving behind the porters dismantling the camps.
Low clouds curled around the mountains filtered sunlight and formed a phantasmagorical landscape. Today the day was going to be long since the stage was 16 kilometers. The first 2 kilometers are very steep climb, like the previous day, by the usual footpath of Inca steps. Fortunately we were fresh and rested but the fatigue was already making a dent in the legs. After a few minutes of climbing and we were left over clothes and stopped to give us sun protection and anti-mosquito. In this stretch was where more mosquitoes noticed.
After a little over 1 kilometer of walking, we reach the ruins of Runkurakay at 3760 meters. It is a semi-circular construction in the shape of a tumi (Inca ceremonial knife), with a central square with rooms around it with the usual trapezoidal windows, built in the pirka style and which served as a tambo on the Inca road although some scholars believe it was a center of healing.
But the best of the site is its location, since it is located on a ledge with tremendous views of the valley and surrounded by dense vegetation and mountains with perpetual clouds wherever you direct your gaze. We spent about 20 minutes enjoying the landscape and explanations of the guide and we resumed our way. From the top, the location of Runkurakay is much more impressive.
For another 500 meters we continue climbing painfully up the stairs panting for the lack of air typical of the almost 4000 meters we were. In the final part of the climb we came across two small glacial lakes surrounded by brown vegetation that reflected the surrounding mountains like a mirror. Finally we reached the port at 3850 meters high where we stopped for a while to rest. This point brought us a lot of happiness since from here to Machu Picchu, the whole way was already downhill.
And after a while we started the descent, first going through a small tunnel that went under huge rocks. And then down stairs, down stairs and down stairs. Little by little the vegetation was changing, we saw more trees and plants appeared greener and more humid. We were approaching the jungle. After approximately 1.5 kilometers of walking we can see the ruins of Sayaqmarca located at 3600 meters high.
These ruins were the largest and most important we had visited so far. This archaeological complex was discovered in 1915 by Hiran Bingham himself but was not explored until 1940. Sayacmarca means inaccessible town in Quechua and lives up to its name since it is a small citadel built on a ledge on top of a small hill. The buildings are raised on the edge of the ledge overlooking a precipice.
Access to the complex is difficult. You have to climb a narrow stone staircase built on the side of the mountain that saves a drop of about 50 meters. The crossing with other tourists in the climb or descent is the only tricky point of the ladder and is a perfect training for the climb to Huayna Picchu.
We leave the backpacks down to avoid climbing with weight and to avoid colliding with other tourists.
Sayaqmarca consists of a housing complex and a temple dedicated to the sun organized around several squares at different levels. The temple of the sun has a huge stone monolith integrated into its walls. Many doors and windows had holes drilled in their sides as hinges to hold the pieces of wood that closed them.
The city has a water channel system that collects it from a stream in the nearby mountain and distributes it throughout the city ending in fountains and in an area of ceremonial baths. The view from the citadel is majestic. In front of it there are other smaller ruins of a barracks that served as accommodation for the soldiers who looked after the city and the road.
After a while of rest and an excessively long explanation of Victor about the history of the Incas we Confused descended again the narrow stairway, we recovered our backpacks (miraculously intact) and continued the descent. This section of the road was beautiful. The area was already completely jungle vegetation, with very dense trees, with lichens, mosses, ferns, lianas, bamboo and exotic flowers.
We passed the barracks we had seen from the citadel (which is not visited) and continue descending, always by stairs or very irregular ramps built with stones without roughing. This type of road was dusting our knees and the soles of our feet and we began to wonder if the descent would be worse than the climb on the Inca Trail.
Finally, after another kilometer of walking, we arrive at Chaquiqocha Camp which is where you spend the second day if you go with the suicide agencies. In fact there were still camps to be dismantled and many porters who were still collecting. We took the opportunity to use the services and eat some snacks and after a while we resumed the march.
The road from here continues descending, at times by ramps and others by stairs. The trail goes down the mountain slope, sometimes on platforms built by the Incas to settle the terrain and other times through small tunnels dug into the rock. From time to time the road passes by stone platforms with stairs that served as guard posts on the road.
The view of the surrounding mountains was wonderful. A spectacle of green vegetation bathed in mist that produced beautiful prints. Occasionally we could see in the distance the Vilcanota river to which we were approaching again. Finally after another 3 kilometers of walking we reached the Phuypatamarka camp located at 3650 meters high next to the ruins of the same name.
There our porters were waiting for us, who had overtaken us while we were visiting some of the ruins with the assembled dining tent, the bucket of hot wate and the comforting applause of recognition for the effort. From the camp the city of Aguas Calientes could be glimpsed at the bottom of the valley. For this reason, this camp was the first point of the route where a mobile signal was taken from the village's antennas, so we took advantage of this to send a soothing sms to our families while the guides spent a long time talking with theirs.
We had traveled almost 7 kilometers and we were hungry. The delicacies that we had prepared were a pasta soup and chicken fillets breaded with rice, cooked potato and a delicious spicy yucca puree. Unfortunately there was no garlic bread! From the camp we could also see in the distance the mountain of Machu Picchu, a peak more than the many that could be seen from that camp. No wonder it went unnoticed for centuries.
Without time for the after-dinner, we resumed our way down steep stairs that led to the nearby ruins of Phuyupatamarka. Phuyupatamarca means in Quechua "Place above the clouds" because when the fog of the jungle rises the city seems to be "floating" above the clouds. Located at an altitude of 3670 meters, this place is a complex structure of terraces and retaining walls erected on a steep slope of the mountain.
At the bottom of the terraces there are several water channels that communicate several fountains for ceremonial baths. On the top and behind them are built some curved and twisted walls around two small squares. Throughout the structure there are bridges and stairs that connect the buildings with observation platforms.
We continue the descent of the mountain with a cloudy and humid sky for a new section with a lot of slope saved by stairs. The porters came down here practically running with an evident risk of breaking their chin. Some series of steps were carved in huge rocks buried in the ground. We see a rock shaped like a puma head that the Incas considered sacred.
On the way there was a shelter under a huge rock where the Incas had built a small shelter or tambo. Further down we came across the remains of another tambo. The stairs in some sections were spiraling covered with jungle vegetation. We also crossed another tunnel carved into the rock.
The landscape of jungle-covered mountains and the Vilcanota River in the background was overwhelming. Next to the river was the line of the Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo railway. After about 4 kilometers we arrive at the last ruins of the day. Intipata is a large set of multiple Inca terraces located at an altitude of 2,840 m. They follow the curves of the mountain forming a beautiful landscape.
We enter at the top. Around the road were dozens of stone buildings covered by vegetation and is that the city that used these terraces of culture still permenece without digging. From Intipata a majestic landscape can be glimpsed. Looking down you could see the river with another area of Inca platforms next to a small train stop. This is the place where the porters take the train back to Cusco on the last day of the journey.
In the lower part of the terraced complex there were rectangular buildings, probably colcas. And in the lower part, the remains of a temple. Also below was the Winaywayna camp where we were going to spend the night. Between the terraces a flock of llamas grazed there put up by the government that is in charge to maintain the weeds at bay.
When we left Intipata, the guard of the ruins was picking up the flames to take them to a corral in Winaywayna so they followed us down the stairs always keeping a prudent distance and composing a very funny picture. We passed the temple, on the way to the camp. From below, the platforms surrounded by jungle were spectacular.
Finally we walked the scarce kilometer that separated us from the camp. Winaywayna is a very long camp with several camping areas distributed along the road that descends towards Intipunku. We got the first one so we did not have to walk much but we were just away from the bathrooms. To reach them you had to go down a good distance. The camp was under construction and in fact they were building other bathrooms in the upper area next to our camp.
This day we were very tired. But it is also the most Inca day. After a stopover and the usual snack in a while it was night and they called us to dinner with semolina soup and noodles with mushrooms accompanied by a bottle of red wine. And for dessert, the big surprise. Our chef had prepared a fantastic sponge cake with chocolate and meringue in the middle of the jungle, without an oven and with the supplies that he had left! It was very good but we could only try one piece because dinner had been very filling.
After the dinner we made the farewell ceremony because the next day the porters did not come to Machu Pichhu but in the first hour they go down to the river to catch at the very first hour the only train that supports porters and that takes them to Ollantaytambo. It could also be called the tip ceremony because it is a matter of saying goodbye and thanking the services provided to our sherpas.
And after the ceremony we went to sleep soon. However, in the nearby shops the farewell-tip ceremonies went on for a long time amidst laughter, applause and ethic ovations. That night it was very warm and it was that we had gone down more than 1000 meters of height and we were in the jungle area, almost we were left over to the sack.
Day 6 - Machu Picchu
This was the day of the great early morning and the day of the visit to Machu Picchu. We wake up in the middle of the night at 4 in the morning. The reason for this is to have time to have breakfast and to travel the five kilometers that separate us from the Sun Gate and from there to see the sunrise over the ruins of Machu Picchu.
Our guide knew perfectly this circumstance and gave us 30 more minutes of sleep but after 4 the activity in the camp was of such magnitude that we do not need the usual rooster to wake us up at the time. And from 4 o'clock all the teams were feverishly dismantling the camps and collecting their belongings while they hurried their customers, without much consideration, since the tip was already given.
Anyway, we woke up before the time. We washed, drink coca tea and have breakfast in the camp in the light of the lanterns in a zen environment of hurried porters, stressed customers and noise in general. Our team was the last to set up camp. This allowed us to stay alone in the middle of the night on the mountain and enjoy peace in a few minutes of the night sky.
But finally we said goodbye to our porters, who rushed running as if possessed downhill to arrive in time to catch the train. All but one. In each group there remained a porter who is in charge of receiving the inspection of the authorities. It turns out that all the garbage generated in the previous days must be delivered the last day to the agents of the trail and must reach a minimum weight per client to avoid receiving a fine.
This ensures that the different gangs do not leave garbage lying on the road. This carrier, unhurriedly, then calmly goes down and takes the train in the afternoon. The fact is that we went down through the camp in the darkness illuminated by our headlights until we reach the checkpoint of departure from the camp that did not open until 5:30 in the morning!
When the control booth opened, we still had to wait our turn for another 15 minutes. Finally our papers were sealed and we went out on the road while the dawn light struggled to break through the vegetation. The almost 5 kilometers that separate the Intipunku camp or Sun Gate are similar to those of the previous days. The path is practically flat, with some climbs, of course, with stairs, and crosses an area with a very dense jungle vegetation.
One of these climbs is a ladder so steep that you practically have to climb it on all fours to avoid falling and that's why it receives the descriptive name of the Monkey Ladder. From the trail we had at all times views of the Vilcanota River and the train track parallel to it at the bottom of the valley. Above us was a thick layer of fog that left beautiful prints while trying to rise on the mountains.
Finally, after an hour's walk we reached the Sun Gate or Intipunku which was a control post on the top of the mountain of Machu Picchu from where the Incas who came along the road had the first vision of the citadel. It is called Sun Gate because during the summer solstice, the sun appeared over the Inca city precisely at this point.
There was an official who was in charge of controlling that those who came from the road could pass and that no one who climbed from the citadel could in turn enter the road so it is also the official end point of the Inca Trail. We could not stop feeling a certain sorrow for the adventure that we were culminating.
But the main attraction of this place is that from the 2745 meters of height of this viewpoint you can enjoy a wonderful view over the ruins of Machu Picchu. Unfortunately the thick fog had not lifted and what we had was a fantastic view on a huge bank of fog that hid the entire valley. However, the atmosphere was festive.
All the groups with whom we had shared the road were sitting around talking animatedly, re-breakfast and ultimately making time waiting for a meteorological miracle that allowed us to feel like the ancient Incas when they arrived in the city. But the miracle did not happen. After waiting half an hour, and with the schedule that we had just, we had no choice but to undertake the descent to the ruins if we wanted to complete all the activities scheduled for that day.
The last kilometer and a half of the Inca Trail is a slow descent to Machu Picchu by a path a little wider than we had enjoyed until then. During the descent we began to run into the early-morning tourists who had already entered the ruins and who were ascending the road to Intipunku.
And the contrast between them and us was palpable. Our appearance left no doubt. After days without showering, sleeping in tents, combing without a mirror and walking 44 kilometers, we wore an adventurous look, yes, but sadly and hygienically debatable. But that aspect was what identified us as the lucky adventurers who had completed the deed of the Inca Trail.
I could not feel a certain pride at feeling the envious glances of many of them when understanding where we came from. At that moment of first contact with normality after days of adventure in the middle of nature I also noticed something strange. There was a romantic nostalgia for what we had lived and an undeniable sadness for the end of the experience and the return to a reality of conventional tourists, mobile phones with coverage, buses,
In the way down we visited a small temple for pilgrims who came to the citadel with a huge sacred stone offering with carved shelves. A little further down there was another temple dedicated to the PachaMama, a small construction around a huge diamond-shaped stone with a beautiful black streaks. From this last sanctuary the first constructions of Machu Picchu began to be seen but unfortunately still wrapped in the fog.
The panorama of the surrounding mountains was not much better. And after walking our last 200 meters of Inca trail, finally, we arrived at Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail has been the greatest adventure of our lives.
It is not only a spectacular trekking through mountains of more than 3000 meters high, visiting ruins with centuries of existence, walking through moors of high mountain and leafy jungles and treading with our feet the same roads that the Inca emperors used centuries ago when they visited Machu Picchu. It is a perfect way to get in touch with the mysterious Inca world and its spiritual way of life. For that alone, it would be worth it.
It is also an interior path. First of all because it is a personal challenge that one submits to, a challenge that forces you to make an effort and give the best to finish it and that brings out all the good or bad that you have inside. Also because it is a very spiritual experience in full contact with the power of nature and with Inca mysticism.
Finally, it is a very intense social experience in which you get in touch with both the porters, the proud descendants of those Incas who built the road, and with travelers from all over the world who share with you the enthusiasm and pride of being doing this planned activity So long in advance and longing. The moments of camaraderie shared with all of them along the way are not easily forgotten.
Finally, it is a path that does not end in Machu Picchu but grows once it is finished. There the tiredness and the small practical inconveniences of the day to day prevent you from realizing full of everything that you are living. Only when you return from the trip and sit in the comfort of your home to see the pictures or write things like this diary is when you are really able to appreciate the intensity of the experience and its value.
It is an experience that we will remember all our life with nostalgia and affection.