Tag Archives: Inca Trail

Inca Trail – To Do Or Not To Do? – Journey In Peru

Deciding to travel to Peru from Ireland or Europe can be a big deal especially as the price of the flight is often quite staggering and especially so during peak season. The lure of Machu Picchu, now a World Wonder and famous UNESCO heritage site of the lost Inca civilisation, captures the imagination to the extent that travellers often sign up for the Inca Trail that leads there without ever having done this type of thing before.

There are some important factors to consider before signing up to undertake some days of trekking in Peru. Firstly, I will outline, I have been to Peru twice and have even lived quite close to the Inca Trail but have not done the hike itself. I had my own reasons for this.

Two important factors to consider are, your fitness level and your adjustment to being at higher altitude than usual.

If you excersise a lot, have good stamina, are used to hiking, especially for long durations then possibly you will be more equipped for spending a couple of days of hiking the Inca Trail. If you have not experienced the thrill of hiking in hills and mountains why not join a group in your local area, who are skilled in guiding you and see if you enjoy the experience. Your expensive holiday should definitely be one that you fully enjoy.

If you have already lived in high altitude environments then you will know your bodies adjustment and reaction to this. If you have not experienced being at high altitude it is very important to educate yourself on the symptoms and effects that can occur. You really don’t know until you go, how this will effect you. It has no bearing on age or fitness level.

Machu Picchu (2430m asl) is actually at a much lower altitude level than cities such as Cuzco and Puno for example. It is best to acclimatise slowly by spending a few days in high altitude before attempting hiking treks that take you further away from access to medical care.

Always heed the signs of altitude sickness and report to your guide if travelling in a group. Guides should be trained in health and safety. Tour companies usually have these saftey guidelines well out-lined for their clients.

Peru is an amazing country with so much to offer. Machu Picchu may be its crowning glory for tourists but there is so much more to discover such as the Amazon area, Lake Titicaca and its floating reed islands and Uros civilisation, Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, Cuzco City once the capital of the Incas and Arequipa’s volcanoes and architecture.

Floating Reed Islands and Uros People on Lake Titicaca

Floating Reed Islands and Uros People on Lake Titicaca

Many people travel solo and do the back-packer thing which can be less luxurious and less expensive, while many others take advantage of an organised tour which take you much more quickly around the vast circuit of treasures in a shorter space of time.

Arequipa Peru Volcano

Arequipa Peru Volcano

Trekking and hiking can be a lot of fun and brings a sense of achievement and opportunity for bonding with fellow trekkers. Whatever you decide, be safe, be well and choose the option that will make your travel experience the most enjoyable for you.

If you do consider trekking the Inca Trail have some consideration for the ones dedicated to carrying your back-pack. This is a service that is provided for travellers within tour groups. I have spoken with one young man who did this work for a while before he studied for the hospitality industry. His recollection of carrying the heavy back-packs of travellers was not the most joyous. So put yourself in the shoes of others and pack as lightly as possible.

Enjoy your trip. If you have enjoyed my blog and this post and found it particularly useful why not repay me by sharing the post or leaving a comment.

© Caroline Cunningham – Author of Wild Star Landing and Journey In Peru

 

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Machu Picchu Strikes A Blow – Journey In Peru

At 4.15am, Henry, in his sleepy state, unlocked the door and wished me well for my trip. I stepped into the darkness and directed myself towards the train station, hushed in silence, passing other moving bodies along the way.

Train To Machu Picchu

Train To Machu Picchu

Train To Machu Picchu - Journey In Peru

Train To Machu Picchu – Journey In Peru

I found my seat in the allotted carriage and watched some other passengers taking photos of each other. I had my packed lunch from the Coffee Tree and my rain coat. A week of unexpected rain had passed but the skies were not yet completely clear.

At last the train began to glide slowly through the flat floor of the valley, with the Urubamba river alongside on the left and neat, green, peaceful fields on the right. The towering mountains draped the scene and somewhere amongst them was the enshrined city of Machu Picchu or ‘MaPi’ as it was affectionately known by local Peruvians.

Early Morning Aguas Calientes Peru

Early Morning Aguas Calientes Peru

I arrived in Machu Picchu town, (also known as Aguas Calientes) at 6a.m. It was much quieter than I had expected, based on my visit the previous year as part of a holiday tour. The air was slightly warmer than that of Ollantaytambo, perhaps due to the lower altitude and jungle terrain. There was a sweet floral perfume in the air and clumps of mist were visible not far above. The mountain was at its closest. Looking upwards you could not detect its beginnings.

Machu Picchu Aguas Calientes Peru

Machu Picchu Aguas Calientes Peru

Without waiting further I crossed a wooden bridge and found the place to purchase my ticket for the mini-bus that would take me to the entrance of the Inca citadel. An elderly Peruvian woman in modest attire boarded and sat near me at the back of the bus. She was solemn in her silence, she too was taking pilgrimage.

Machu Picchu Entrance

Machu Picchu Entrance

My anticipation heighted as the bus rounded the sharp steep bends delivering me to the top of the mountain. Once my passport was checked I made my entrance. I went without the services of a tour guide this time. I decided to explore the path to the Sun Gate ‘Inti Punku’ instead. I passed the signs hailing the work of Hiram Bingham, the explorer credited with exposing the ‘Lost Inca City’ and found the path to Inti Punku.

Along the Inca Path Machu Picchu Peru

Along the Inca Path Machu Picchu Peru

My rain coat kept out the clinging mist as I took care on the stone path which was wet and slippy. Even at close range the glory of Machu Picchu was at this hour unrevealed. I decided not to look behind until I reached Inti Punku, hoping the skies would clear by then. The walk was longer than I had anticipated, at least an hour. I met very few travellers on the path. I stopped sometimes to observe cute little birds, lamas, beautiful orchids and trees.

Llamas at Machu Picchu

Llamas at Machu Picchu

Llamas at Machu Picchu

Llamas at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Flora

Machu Picchu Flora

Birds at Machu Picchu

Birds at Machu Picchu

Mach Picchu Nature and Hertiage

Mach Picchu Nature and Hertiage

At last, in the distance, was the platform of the Sun Gate, the entrance to Machu Picchu for those arriving from the Inca Trail. The path was steeper there so I stopped briefly for a break and to adjust my attire. What happened next was sudden and shocking. I banged my head off a piece of rock jutting out just before me. I’m baffled as to how I didn’t notice it, being so large, but I suppose I had been watching the stones beneath my feet rather than above and my range of vision had been hampered by the hood of my rain jacket.

Mind The Rock - Machu Picchu

Mind The Rock – Machu Picchu

Winding Road to Inca Citadel as seen from Sun Gate

Winding Road to Inca Citadel as seen from Sun Gate

Misty Morning at Machu Picchu - View from Inti Punku

Misty Morning at Machu Picchu – View from Inti Punku

For some minutes I was dazed. Apart from the physical smart of the impact, the emotional hurt that it triggered went far deeper. Every wrong-doing against my being sprang forth with a vengeance to taunt me. How could a sacred mountain, a world wonder, do this to me? After all the trials and tribulations I had come through, this visit was to be the souls caress, a memory to cherish in times of future trials. The Inca’s were regarded as a genius race. Which genius amongst them had considered the placement of this particular rock, which caused me such pain?

I wiped tears from my eyes and grappled with the shock of it. With weaker steps I climbed to the Sun Gate. A guard was standing there, a Peruvian man whose job is it to ensure that people respect the rules of preservation. I was concerned about the blow to my head in case of concussion later on and being conscious of the long walk I would probably make alone back to the citadel. I debated telling the guard about my accident, fearful that, if I needed medical attention I might be stretchered off the mountain and completely miss out on the day’s adventure.

Approaching Machu Picchu Citadel from Inti Punku

Approaching Machu Picchu Citadel from Inti Punku

He must have sensed my apprehension as he approached me and enquired if I was OK. He spoke to me in Spanish. I attempted to tell him about my accident but I didn’t know all the words to describe accurately what had happened. I relied on actions and words that implied ‘sore head’. He didn’t understand me. I got a little upset and had to walk away until my frustration subsided.

Eventually he came and stood beside me once more, He offered me his biscuits and chatted to me. He talked about the Inca Trail and told me he had spotted a bear in this particular spot earlier that year. He asked me where I was from and about my travels and was curious as to how I came to be travelling alone. And most his most curious question of all ‘why aren’t you married?’!!! I

‘Because I’m an artist!’ I replied more indignantly now, getting tired of this question and assumption that being married is some kind of life aim that guarantees eternal bliss. It was not fair to say that being an artist denies a person of the ability to be married. It was perhaps more true to say ‘because I’m a woman and I’m an artist.’

Maybe I am wrong to assume that my sensitivities as a woman were common to other women. Love, in the romantic sense, was something I regarded to be so precious and rare that if I were to find it, my artistic dreams might suffer and since I had not yet developed a healthy trust for the opposite sex, I was doubly wary of wandering into that realm.

Flora at Machu Picchu

Flora at Machu Picchu

Flora at Machu Picchu

Flora at Machu Picchu

I had already been burnt from what I thought would be a simpler option. It did not matter to me if the one I loved was rich or poor so long as love was a mutual devotion. I had risked for the first time ever to see how strong I was in being true to myself and to see if love indeed could be available to me. But love was with-held and to top it all, a Sacred Mountain decided that I needed to learn some additional heart lesson by inflicting further pain upon me.

Flora at Machu Picchu

Flora at Machu Picchu

I spared the guard of my reasoning. His life was obviously a lot simpler than this, he certainly seemed content. It was best to preserve his condition.

Wild Star Landing - Journey In Peru

Wild Star Landing – Journey In Peru

The forest cloud wafted in snake like fashion above and around the citadel below. I didn’t get a clear photograph after all of that. I was keen to return to the heart of it and continue my exploration of the temples and houses and astronomy sites.

MaPi - Machu Picchu Peru

MaPi – Machu Picchu Peru

Machu Picchu Peru

Machu Picchu Peru

The sun never managed to completely wipe away the mist that day and as the ground was wet, it was necessary to keep moving. I stayed as long as possible soaking up the stillness and awesomeness of the depth of the valley below and the towering peaks that surrounded the citadel at close range.

Author Of Wild Star Landing

Author Of Wild Star Landing

Machu Picchu Peru

Machu Picchu Peru

We parted company. Despite the blow, I was grateful for the opportunity to return a second time to this spiritual place which I carry within me. And the lesson? Being too careful with my feet caused me not to look up to see the rock that was waiting for me. Or maybe I accredited too much perfection to the Inca race. They were human after all. And I got over it eventually.

Temple Of The Sun - Machu Picchu

Temple Of The Sun – Machu Picchu

Temple Of The Sun - Machu Picchu

Temple Of The Sun – Machu Picchu

Journey In Peru - Wild Star Landing

Journey In Peru – Wild Star Landing

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Best Travel Blog (Personal) 2015 Irish Blog Awards

Best Travel Blog (Personal) 2015 Irish Blog Awards

 

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Train To Machu Picchu – Journey In Peru

Imagine, I spent three whole days in Ollantaytambo, Peru, before I ventured in the direction of the train station. Why this is significant? Ollantaytambo lives forever in the shadow of its majestic neighbour Machu Picchu. This sacred and wonder-world attraction is often the only thing that outsiders know Peru to be famous for.

Train to Machu Picchu - Train Station Ollantaytambo Peru

Train to Machu Picchu – Train Station Ollantaytambo Peru

Ollantaytambo is really in the heart of the Sacred Valley of Cuzco. It is a World Heritage Site itself, having almost as many fantastic Inca ruins as Machu Picchu with an awesome setting but just not in that elevated peak setting in which Machu Picchu finds itself.

 

 

 

The most curious thing for me about Ollantaytambo was the fact that here you could meet people from the Nations of the Earth mingling with the people of an emerging modern Peru and the people of a more ancient Inca Peru. Peruvians and International travelers alike have one thing on their minds……get the train to Machu Picchu.

I knew all this of course, I had visited the year before and stayed only one night in this pretty town before taking that exciting train journey. Of course  I was filled with anticipation of the fact that I would most likely visit a second time, but for now I couldn’t say when that trip should be made. I was saving it for later.

Patacancha River Ollantataytambo Train Station

Patacancha River Ollantataytambo Train Station

So, having exhausted my wanderings around other parts of the town, I made my way down that road in the direction of the train station. It was a quiet time of the day. Most people get the train very early in the morning, as early as 4am…that way they get to see Machu Picchu in its dawning glory, spend the day there and get a late train home. Otherwise, people are going later in the evening, staying over night in Aguas Calientes (sometimes also called Machu Picchu Town) and getting up at the crack of dawn to visit the ruins.  Others are planning to get off the train at Kilometer 88 in order to start the Inca Trail.

It was 2pm or thereabouts so it was much quieter at that time. I tried to contain myself, so many memories came flooding back. I was filled with double feelings…my own and those of Kitty Clinch the character in my novel which was inspired by this very trip. As I stared at the tracks I envisaged Kitty queuing in the heat, both excited and nervous about her trip to this heavenly place. I remembered the anticipation I had myself….to see this magical place with my own two eyes…it was the thing on everyone’s mind that day.

Peru Rail...train to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo Peru

Peru Rail…train to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo Peru

And now….it was so quiet here…I could be fooling myself….I had no ticket to go there…I had no plan when to go…I sort of hoped I wouldn’t be going there alone. I guess I am romantic. It was so quiet, just the wind gathering some momento as it does here in the afternoons in July. A few independent travelers hanging about looking not half excited enough.

I sat for a while feeling a little empty, like I was missing something. Then when I had enough of that, I made my way back to the main thorough-fare of the town. No point reminiscing, a new tale was underway, a new adventure. It was still hard to believe that here I was …. I made this decision…I bought the ticket…I got on the plane. I made it happen. I needed to make the most of my time here.

 

If you like my story please consider following my blog I promise to share my travel tales with you. If you like to share your memories of getting the train to Machu Picchu, please leave your comments below.

Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing Blog.