Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New trip, new country.....Peru

The hike in Scandinavia was awesome, even with the troubles. I would do it again for sure. It also helped prepare me for my next adventure....hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru. This is a long post with lots of pictures - so hope you have a few minutes :).

A brochure of our four day hike that illustrates the distance and elevation

This trip would be different. We were a private group of friends and friends of friends. There were nine of us and all of a sudden I became the most experienced backpacker. First though, I had to get there. I had one night in Sweden before I boarded my 6am flight in a town up north, Kiruna. Land in Stockholm and hustle to my connection after rebooking luggage.  9am departure from Stockholm to Newark. Had about two hours in the US before boarding my flight to Lima, Peru. I arrived in Peru at 10pm the same day, just a few time zones go the west. Long day :). 

My friend Mary was there already and I met her at the hotel. She done a bit of exploring the day before and the next day we hit up the mall for a new water bottle (I left mine at security in Sweden accidentally), did some much needed laundry, had amazing ceviche and other local food at lunch and some churros con chocolate later in the day. It was really nice. The next morning we flew to Cuzco where the rest of our party had gone directly during the night and early morning. 

Ceviche and tacu tacu (rice and bean dish with seafood) for lunch
Paragliding along the coast in the cloudy weather of Lima (we just watched)

We had a couple days to explore Cuzco and acclimate to the altitude. We did a tour of the Sacred Valley and saw Inca ruins, I went to Sunday mass at the cathedral, we did some last minute shopping and gear check. It was weird going from the least experienced person (Sweden) to the only person who had done a multiple day hike. I shared my knowledge learned and maybe too much in some areas (bathrooms in the backcountry). 
Narrow streets of Cuzco 
Traditional dish of guineapig, which was pretty good (they brought it back cut up and sans head)
Cathedral in Cuzco 
We visited and fed grass to llamas and alpacas on the way to the ruins
Our guide for the day showing us how to get the animals to pose for a picture with us (I can't remember which were alpacas v llamas)
They demonstrated how their wool was used to make things 
Our group at one of the ruin sites
Our guide showing us how potatoes are harvested and dried for the winter - after being out overnight, you can squeeze them like a sponge to remove the water
Here's a local lady who uses her feet to squish the water out 

We did a final group dinner, packed and were ready for our 4am pickup the next morning. However I started to get a sore throat and very tired that night. I didn't sleep well and by morning was with a sore throat, congested and very tired. The guide looked at me and said sinus infection...we will stop at the pharmacy. We did and I got amoxicillin pills in a very quick and cheap transaction. I got better with each day and was thankful for the stop. I think I may have had a fever that broke on the second night as I almost passed out hiking the last bit of that day, had no interest in anything but crawling into my sleeping bag and woke up soaked in sweat in the middle of the night when it was maybe 35-40 degrees out. 

It was a four day hike - very different from Sweden. We hiked two to three times the distance, much higher elevations, carried little weight and did no work. There were like twenty porters that came with our group of nine and two guides. These porters are amazing. They practically run up and down the mountains with as much as 60lbs on their backs....and these are Peruvian men who don't have a very large stature. They may do 70 trips in a year! They were amazing and always had a smile. It was fun to see them pass us on the trail, laughing and joking around. The chef was pretty top notch as well. We had soup and hot drinks with every meal. There was chicken and beef, rice and quinoa, potatoes and even a birthday cake. The spread each day and night was very impressive, especially after what we had cooked in Sweden. 
Porters getting their packs ready and carrying a bunch of our stuff too
Brian and Mary ready to go
We stopped for an early break and the porters passed on by
All of them in a train
The cook's portion of the tent
Our jumping picture at the highest point, which I think is Dead Woman's Pass
I made it!!
Another view from our third day

A couple people in our group got altitude sickness too, one really bad. I don't know how he made it because he had no food in him. The second guide stayed with him and carried his stuff but I can't imagine the mental strength to continue with the physical efforts. On our last day we were up at like 3am to get an early spot in line for the entrance to the trail of the Sun Gate.  Our group was second. I've never hiked so fast and I maybe kept up for the first hour. Then I needed to shed some clothes and catch my breath and they were gone. I think I will always just be the slow hiker. But I made it, crawling up a rock wall halfway through, using my hands, and ultimately reaching the Sun Gate to see......clouds. Lol. We could see some of Machu Picchu but it wasn't the picturesque sunny view on the postcard. We didn't care though - we did it and the view was perfect for us! We spent the morning touring Machu Picchu. It was so impressive and amazing to think what they accomplished and then were pretty much wiped out as a civilization. 
Cloudy view of Machu Picchu 
Our group - we made it!! And the clouds are starting to clear a little
One of our guides, Edy, as we toured Machu Picchu 
The structure were built without mortar, perfectly carved blocks stacked up - so impressive
Our group
Machu Picchu 
Aerial view of Machu Picchu from the mountain next door 
The mountain next door is on the right, I only made it halfway; two people went all the way and it gets crazy steep and scary

The next day we took the train back to Cuzco and I said goodbye to everyone because I was staying a few more days. I took a day tour to see another Inca ruin as well as some old salt mines. I also took a cooking class and spent more time exploring Cuzco. I had an extra day in Lima and went to the Cathedral and explored in that area. Then the long trip home. 
The specks you see on the upper rings are the tourists - they think this was used for Ag research 
You can just see the steps that are built into the sides as long stones sticking out
Me at the salt mines, all done by hand and mostly used as a tourist attraction now
The local families in town each own several of the mines and earn money from them. They are fed by a small spring from the mountain that is 70% salinated (so I was told, as compared to the ocean at ~20% salination). 
A local artist I bought a picture from - one of the birds
The chef from my cooking class
Grinding my own quinoa flour for the soup we made 
Lomo saltado! A beef tenderloin dish with tomatoes and onions over fries. 
A mural in Cuzco 
Inside the Lima cathedral - bamboo is at the base of the structure to help protect against earthquakes
Outside the Lima cathedral
An archway into one of the 'tombs' in the cathedral - not my best side but gives some perspective on size
Skulls found under the altar

It was a great trip - one of those bucket list items. I loved the Peruvian food! I also dusted off my Spanish skills and was pretty comfortable in my ability to get around, though a little rusty. Definitely built confidence for any future trips to Spanish speaking countries. 

No comments:

Post a Comment