We got into Cuzco on zero hours of sleep, after pulling an all nighter in the Lima airport (which was actually really fun, tried out a peruvian cigar, watched Train Spotting with Zach and Noah). We checked into our hostel at about 9 in the morning, then went to a briefing about our trek to Machu Picchu at a place near by. After drinking a lot of Coca tea (which is probably the best drink ever invented) we walked around the city for a while, taking in the sights and checking out the sweet market places strewn around the winding, undulating city streets. We had some food, packed our bags, watched a little of the pats win on monday night football, and went to sleep.
The next morning we woke up at around 5:30, had some breakfast, and took a 1.5 hr bus ride to the start of the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu. The first day of hiking wasnt very eventful, it was about 11 KM of hiking and was not that challenging, not too steep or anything. I carried about a 25 lb pack with all my clothes, my camera, my ipod, etc. etc. for the trip, which was damn heavy enough, but it was just amazing what our porters could do, carrying twice that much and going twice as fast, these guys were amazing. After we got to our camp site and changed into some cleaner clothes we had a pickup soccer game against the porters with the 6 guys from our group, which was awesome. The porters and our guide absolutely dominated our pathetic equipo de gringos, but it was really fun playing soccer in the middle of a gigantic valley at about 10,000 ft. That night, the stars were just ridiculous, you could see uncountable numbers of them and you could distinctly make out the milky way. I went to sleep very early, bundled up in all sorts of layers.
We woke up the next morning at 6 and started hiking at around 7:30 to start the hardest day of the hike, up to Dead Woman´s Pass. Which was at about 13,700ft. It took me about 3 and a little bit hours to make it up to the pass, but unfortunetly it was raining and we were in the middle of a cloud, so the visibility was poor. The last 500 ft or so up were ridiculously hard, not only because they were so steep but also because it was almost impossible to breath right at the altitude. If you want a more detailed accounting of the basic trail go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inca_Trail#Inca_trail_to_Machu_Picchu which gives a really good outline of the whole trek. After making it to the pass, a couple of minutes after John and Liz, I started the descent down the other side in the rain. The way was pretty long and slippery and I rolled my ankle pretty bad on the way down. I got into camp at a little before noon, so it was a short day, but really hard.
The next day, yesterday, was definitely my favorite of the hike. I have to note now that throught the trip I have been taking significant advantage of the Peruvian tradition of chewing Coca leaves. It is an aquired taste but the effect it gives you is like caffiene but less jittery, more focused, helps with altitude, and keeps you very focused. Needless to say, there was seldom a time on the trail when I didnt have a fat wad of Coca in my mouth. Anyway, the next day there were two passes, but neither of them were at long or as hard as Dead Woman´s. On the first ascent I got ahead of the group and forgot to stop at a small incan ruins we were supposed to wait at. While I missed the ruins, I got the pass about 30-40 minutes ahead of the group and was able to explore around the pass and take pictures of people as they came up the steep pass. We then went down into a valley and then back up to another pass. Zach, Noah, and I got out in front of the group again and walked together over some of the most beautiful trail in the world, up to the second pass. After we had lunch at the top of the second pass, we started a long downhill to our final campsite. I gotta say, the downhill may have been worse than the uphill that day, 4,000 knee-punishing stairs. At the very end of the day though we got to a really sweet inca sight called Intipata where we hung out for a while before heading into the campsite.
This morning we woke up at 3:50 to head to Machu Picchu. We left at 4:20 and watched the sunrise at a pretty sweet incan ruin called Winaywayna, then headed out on the trail to Machu Picchu. Zach and I were so excited we practically ran the 4 or so kilometers to Intiunku, or the sun gate in Quechua. The view of Machu Pichu and Wayna Pichu from the sun gate is just dramatic, you finish a decent sized uphill (and if you are like zach and I you are booking it), and you turn the corner and you see these massive ruins sprawled out below you, it was magnificent. After getting to the Sun Gate, we decended as a group into the city of Machu Picchu, along the side of Machu Picchu the mountain. Machu Picchu is pretty incredible, and it is hard to describe very well all of the city, but we stayed there a couple hours, took a tour with our awesome guide, Reuben, and I journaled and sketched my surroundings for about an hour or so. We then took the bus down to Aguas Calientes, where I am now waiting to take the train back to Cuzco and a hot shower.
Tomorrow our flight leaves for Lima at 7:55 AM and we begin our epic journey which ends in Kunming, China on October 27th. I´ll probably be able to access email pretty easily once im there, so hopefully ill post again soon.