Machu Picchu Experience
11.03.2008 - 11.08.2008 60 °F
Ellen, Fredi, and Pat at the start of the 4 day Inca Trail trek.
I knew that hiking the Inca Trail was going to be a great time, but I didn't imagine how special the experience would be for me. Trekking on a trail built by Incan architects more than 500 years ago (way ahead of their time) for Incan royalty to travel, was enough to get me excited about the hike. I also found it interesting/ironic that a huge part of the region's economy is based on the work of an empire destroyed by conquistadors who are still a major influence in South American culture. Today's Andinos give thanks to the Incas by carrying on their traditions, Quechua language and culture. The trail itself meanders through old Peruvian ranches, ancient Incan ruins and spectacular mountainous scenery. The ranches are still farmed by Andinos using oxen to plow irrigation channels for their crop. On our hike, we saw these methods being passed down to a new generation of Andinos, as a young girl copied her mother picking weeds out in the field.
Andino Woman and daughter at one of our rest stops.
Old fashion plowing.
I backpacked with my 2nd cousins (in Latin American culture they are considered my aunts) Pat and Ellen who are two of the most fun, outgoing & friendly travelers to be with. We met many other trekkers all who are always friendly and many Peruvian locals all who are incredibly kind.
This was luxury backpacking! All of our heavy stuff was carried by porters. All we had to carry was enough water, snacks and rain gear for the day's hike. The porters are absolutely incredible. They carried all of the heavy stuff in huge, makeshift backpacks, and with just sandals on their feet, they ran up and over 14,000 foot mountain passes. The lifestyle of a porter is grueling but they do it with a smile on their face. After a 4 day trek they return home to wash their belongings, leave their 300 soles ($100 US, tip included!) earnings with their family and then get in line in the town center to get hired for the next trek. As if the trek wasn't enough, they play soccer for hours while waiting to get hired!
Ellen with Quintin, one of our porters. Salkantay (15025 ft) in the background.
Porter tending to his foot.
We began the trek by giving our group a name. Since we knew we wouldn't see the results of the election for a few days after the election, we decided to name our team El Camino para Obama (a.k.a The walk for Obama). People we met from all over the world were rooting for Obama. It was apparent that this election was important not only to us in the U.S., but to people in other countries too. On Nov. 6 (2 days after the election results were announced), at one of the most stunningly beautiful spots on the trek, Phuyupatamarka, our guide Fredi had enough cell phone coverage to call his friend to find out what happened. We nervously waited, finally hearing him say two wonderful words "¡Obama Ganado!" (Obama won!).
We cheered so loudly in celebration that others in the area caught on and joined us. Everyone was overwhelmed with emotion from the news and the amazing scenery. It was such a magical moment! On our way back from Machu Picchu to the base town of Cusco our taxi driver put it best, "Espero que Obama resuelve muchos de los problemas que enfrentan en los EE.UU. y los que nos enfrentamos en el mundo (I hope Obama helps to solve many of the problems you face in the US and we face in the world.)" He was expressing hope rather than doubt... what a nice change from the last 8 years! All I could say was, "Mi tambien, mi tambien." (Me too, me too)
Just after we found out Obama had won at Phuyupatamarka.
The view from Phuyupatamarka.
Another view from Phuyupatamarka with the original Inca Trail. Salkantay (15025 ft) in the background.
Machu Picchu reveals itself through the clouds on the way down from the Sun Gate.
Descending into Machu Picchu
(see the photo gallery for more pictures from the trek)