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Ollantaytambo

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After the Inca Trail, most of the group headed straight back to Cusco but me and two of my friends stayed overnight in the Sacred Valley in the town of Ollantaytambo. This small town is located in a steep valley surrounded by mountains and Inca ruins. We stayed in the town square and had a rooftop teerace with a view.
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The ruins are close to/part of town.
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Other ruins are all over the hills.
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My friends and I explored the principal ruins site. A major feature was the sun temple, made oif huge slabs of pink granite and thin slabs between to protect from earthquakes. The temple was never completed and huge slabs are lying around.
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There is also an impressive water temple here with water still flowing through it!
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The terraces had cool steps to get fromk one level to the other.
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After 4 days of hard hiking and sleeping outdoors, we were tired and headed back to Cusco early afternoon. We were treated to increadible landscapes.
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Once in Cusco, it was time to drop off laundry and head to a gringo restaurant for fresh mango juice and breakfast for dinner!
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Posted by solorooster 06:56 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Machu Picchu (Day 4 of the Inca Trail)

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We got up at 3 AM to be the first to the gate. We got there at 3:40 and were the first.
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The prize was to wait until the gate opened at 5:30. I played some games of war with Natalie to pass the time as it began to rain outside. At 5:30, the rain tapered to a drizzle and we started hiking briskly in the gray showery dawn with jungle insect sounds around us. To the right was a steep valley and the horn of a train carrying passengers to Aguas Calientes to see Machu Picchu. We hiked for 50 minutes to Intipunku, the sun gate, which would have had our first view of Machu Picchu had it not been fogged in.
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We started hiking down from there and slowly the fog lifted enough to reveal the first views of Machu Picchu.
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However, it was foggy again by the time we got to the main viewpoint. We waited and crowds gathered until finally the fog lifted and revealed the ruins. It was the most spectacular part of the day and the sun and clouds dynamic nature added to the scene.
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After a few minutes there, we had to register through the main gate. Then, we had some more nice views and then our guide gave us a tour of Machu Picchu.
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Macchu Picchu was a religious site used primarily during astronomical occurrences such as the solstices. It was abandoned prior to the Spanish invasion and was not discovered until 1911 when American Hiram Bingham discovered it, though local farmers pointed him to it and thus it was known locally prior to that time. It was for the religious elite of the time. Offerings were made on the 3 main alters and priest drank hallucinogens such as San Pedro and Ayahuasca were drank prior. Black llamas were sacrificed on the water platform. Their beating heart was cut out of the chest and lifted up to the gods. The blood mixed with the water and fertilized the terraces. Other temples included one for the condor, a sundial, and shrines pointed at sacred mountains, such as Wayna Picchu, the jagged peak behind the city

One thing that stunned me about the site is how amazing the mountains and valleys are around it. The mountains are nearly vertical and the valley is thousands of feet below.
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Temple of the Sun
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Temple of the Earth – note the use of natural contours which work with the land and rock formation rather than destroying it and building something of normal square bricks. The brick is designed that way. It is not leaning and is structurally sound.
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Sundial
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Wayna Picchu
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After touring Machu Picchu, we went back to the town of Aguas Calientes, down in the river valley. There we celebrated the accomplishment with the group. Afterwards we took a scenic 2 hour train ride along the deep river valley to Ollantaytambo as it got dark.
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Posted by solorooster 10:52 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Down to the jungle (Inca Trail Day 3)

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I felt much better for day 3 of the Inca Trail. At the campsite, clouds swirled around revealing occasional snowcapped peaks.
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Our easy day started with some mild uphill on a 95 original section of the trail that transitioned more into the jungle from the high altitude grassland.
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We reached a pass between 2 valleys and the clouds swirled rapidly to hide and reveal high mountains and a very deep valley.
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Once we crossed the pass, we came upon the Puyupatamarca temple, an earth temple which faces Machu Picchu mountain.
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Our guide Ruben took the time here to explain the Inca gods and some of their history. The incans believed in many gods until the 9th ruler Pachacuti narrowed it down to three key gods, earth, water, and sun. The Incans chose very carefully where they built temples and oriented them in accordance with solstices and stars. They also had 3 sacred animals, the Condor, Puma, and Snake. There were elements of these animals, these gods, and the geographic regions of the empire in the inca symbol chakana, a two stepped cross with a circle in the middle.

After the break, we climbed down 3000 steps and dropped into the jungle for real. Machu Picchu mountain became visible as we hiked below the cloud forest.
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The next site we stopped at was Intipata, a sun platform with beautiful terraces and views of the mountains and the Urubamba valley. Llamas hung out with us in the sun.
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Another 15 minutes of hiking and we were at the campsite, in midday, for a little r&r time.
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In the evening we took a gentle stroll to Wiñaywayna, a spectacular inca site with a temple to the rainbow. There were 2 waterfalls behind the site. Water still runs through the channels today. The terraces form and amphitheater facing the river valley and snowcapped mountains in the distance.
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Posted by solorooster 07:08 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

A Long Day (Inca Trail Day 2)

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I woke up feeling weak and sick the second morning. My stomach was upset and I couldn’t eat much. It is also the hardest day by far for the trek … 4300 feet of vertical over 10 miles with 2 mountain passes over 13,000 feet.

This was the view from the campsite to start the day.
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The trail today was sheer uphill and we shared the trail with llamas at the beginning.

I didn't have too much energy, so I slowly trudged my way up to 13,800 ft dead woman’s pass, named for the likeness of a formation to a woman's body part, I stopped for air frequently. With the illness, this was probably the hardest 3 hours of hiking I have ever done. At the top, I layed down and Gabe and John took on some weight from my pack to make it easier for me.
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We climbed down 2000 ft to the lunch spot in a beautiful valley, so vertical and green, with clouds forming and dissipating.
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At the bottom I could only lay down, my stomach did not allow me to eat more than one energy bar for lunch. The porters took my pack after lunch and the rest of the hike was easier for me. Here are the porters going by on the way up 13,200 ft dead man’s pass.
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On the way up we went by ruins Runkurakaya.
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Near the pass, snowcapped peaks came out of the clouds, briefly, and were spectacular.
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Then after the pass, in the fog, we got to the Sayaqmarca ruins.
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It rained heavily for the last 20 minutes of the hike down to the campsite. I collapsed into my tent and rested before eating a small supper.

Posted by solorooster 06:20 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

The Start of An Adventure (Inca Trail Day 1)

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We all got up at 3:30 AM to meet at 4AM. Our group’s van then took us to Ollantaytambo for breakfast. Guinea Pig were on display like a fishtank at a seafood restaurant.
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After breakfast, it was an hour to the start point and another hour of getting ready and going through a checkpoint before we were all on the trail. Here is a group shot of the 16 of us.
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This is the view behind us as we crossed the Urubamba River with 5700m Wakay Hullca in the background. The guys dressed in red on the far side of the river were our porters, “The Red Army”, carrying our meals and many of the group members’ supplies.
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The trail started at 9000 feet with arid and desert terrain and went by a small incan trading post site
Hanabamba.
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Then, after climbing, a more major incan site revealed itself, Yastapata.
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After some scary encounters with cows, we stopped for lunch at Wayllabamba.
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Then, we walked 1000 vertical feet steadily uphill to our campsite for the night. The high altitude forest by the streams were really interesting as the branches are twisted and exotic looking.
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Posted by solorooster 06:53 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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