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Salkantay Trail to Macchu Picchu

Posted April 13th, 2017 at 12:20 PM by Gile na Gile

Just a few pics from a recent trip to Peru ...

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Local weavers working Alpaca wool into some truly magnificent creations. One was using what looked like a small bone to balance the cloth. When asked what it was exactly she said it was the "bone of a tourist" who refused to buy anything! Cue mini-stampede to the market stalls ...

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Photo shy alpacas .. grrr!

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At Cristo Blanco (3,700m) with a great view over Cusco city. The purpose of this trek was simply to acclimatise to the high altitude which strikes its victims indiscriminately. Without rhyme or reason the fittest would fall to nausea, cramps and headaches.

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Think this is at Freddy's coffee plantation .. if so, we're all perked up after our delicious Barbie. None more so than our 'four horsemen of the apocalypse' - the guys who had our backs on the whole trail ready to take our packs or even lift us onto a mule when things got rough. Gracia, mes amigos!! (Cheers to Raj for the inspired 'cheese' moment'.)

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At Soraypampa - the trail head of the Salkantay trek. After a fine trout and veggie filler prepared by our ever resourceful cooks we hike to Soyrococha base camp at the foot of the snow-capped Salkantay peak. A magnificent spectacle, but at 4,600m it is brass monkeys and between the cold (-5 to -8) and altitude sickness few of us got a wink that night.

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Our highest point - 4,600m.
[Heaving buckets time]
Someone said this was as high as the Swiss Matterhorn tho I'll have to check.

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Our most insanely cool enterprise .....Ziplining in the Andes!

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I'm thinking 'this is actually ridiculously high',,,

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Our awesome tour guide Edgar Tito Peralda gives us the low down on Machu Picchu. Combines a great passion for Incan culture with a deep knowledge of Peruvian history. The perfect guide; with a wicked sense of humour to boot. Cheers, senor Edgar!

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The most beautiful place on earth - bar none.

Up at 5am in Aguas Calientes to catch the first bus which left every ten minutes thereafter packed with tourists. A Japanese study found an annual subsidence rate of 2cm from all the traffic but as yet there appears no signs of 'business' slowing down. Good for us, bad for the future, methinks. As an example, Intiwatana - the famous Machu Picchu sundial which tracks the solstices and equinoxes. In Quechua the word means "hitching post of the sun". Back in the 90's the Fujimori government, to bail itself out of a debt crisis, scandalously laid plans to privitise the entire Machu Piccu site but Intiwatana inadvertently saved the day. During the filming of a beer commercial in 2000 a crane head dropped on the ancient granite monument taking a chip out of one its corners. The resultant public outrage led to the government quickly shelving plans to hock off their priceless Incan national heritage.
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  1. Old Comment
    Von Ranke's Avatar
    Great pics Gile and thanks for sharing. I would love to go there, but the dodgy knees rule it out unfortunately. You look like you had a great time up in the summit of the Gods. Has anyone ever told you that you are the double of your fellow countryman Shane Lowrie?

    Posted April 17th, 2017 at 03:50 PM by Von Ranke Von Ranke is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Gile na Gile's Avatar
    Cheers Von
    Incredible place. Sheer wizardry of the Inca to carve out a mountain top retreat like that. Ok, we did it the hard way hiking and camping (for which I'm still suffering!) but its pretty user-friendly insofar as a dodgy knee shouldn't prevent you getting up there. Coaches drop everybody to the site after which there's little climbing involved. I was in a complete heap as tendonitis flared up after a week's trekking but still managed to get around the Machu Picchu site - even Lowry could do it!!
    Posted April 18th, 2017 at 10:54 PM by Gile na Gile Gile na Gile is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Star's Avatar
    This is amazing, Gile! I'm so glad you shared these pictures. You guys reached some pretty awesome elevation, kudos to you. What a trek. What was your favorite part of the trip? Or is that an impossible question? If the photo views of Macchu Picchu are absolutely mind-bogglingly beautiful, the experience of being there in person has to be within a hair's breadth of heaven itself.
    Posted April 19th, 2017 at 09:30 AM by Star Star is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Gile na Gile's Avatar
    Simply stunning Star
    As hoped and expected Machu Picchu tops the lot; beyond words, just breath-taking. The site itself is enormous; we all got lost in our own explorations within the hour. Kind of day you wished would never end. After devouring a whole shelf of Incan studies before we set off this was always going to be a Nirvana moment. To which end, can't speak highly enough of our trek guide Edgar; native Quechua speaker, fluent in English - so passionate about his culture; an absolute goldmine of observations. Had him plagued the whole week with a barrage of questions.

    But the highlight? - Quaffing a few cold beers watching the Andean sunset after a sweaty 10 hour hike down from the Salkantay peak - now that was a 'real' heaven.
    Posted April 19th, 2017 at 04:03 PM by Gile na Gile Gile na Gile is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Solidaire's Avatar
    "The bone of a tourist" hahaha, that was hilarious

    Thanks for sharing Gile, to be honest I was anticipating your impressions from this trip, I remember reading about your plans to go to the Andes some months ago, but then I forgot to check your blog. Thanks again, this is one of my most dreamt of destinations (this and Thibet). Sadly, lack of time, and lately of money too, keep postponing them further into the future.

    How were the locals? The culture? The cuisine? What made you think "wow, this is definitely a very different continent and culture altogether"?

    Also, Gile, why don't you make a forum thread about your trip, the people and country you visited? It would make a fresh interlude from all those recent hate threads, and we would be able to submit you to an endless barrage of questions.
    Posted June 4th, 2017 at 05:40 AM by Solidaire Solidaire is offline
  6. Old Comment
    Gile na Gile's Avatar
    Yes Solidaire, her deadpan expression was priceless.

    Also a reminder to what extent so many Peruvians (particularly indigenous) are dependent on tourism; she may have been joking but the whole purpose of this type of stop off in our itinerary was to support local industry and I was amazed how "tight" some of our group were. Humming and hawing over sploshing out a mere tenner for a magnificent hand-woven alpaca blanket!!

    She simply made a pre-emptive strike on our stinginess. Personally, I couldn't buy enough of the stuff. I even got a separate alpaca carrier bag just to store it all. The economy is all about tourism in the highlands around Cusco so I figure if your going to shell out 3 or 4 grand for flights and accommodation you may as well be prepared to go some way towards redistributing the largesse to the local street hawkers - who as far as I could see made up the bulk of workers - especially the more creative ones. I bought a bunch of oil paintings, hand-carved statuettes, CDs from local musicians and the like. It's a mere truism to say the physical poverty is cruel at times to behold and we ARE self-evidently rolling in it by comparison; so be selective if you must ... but don't be niggardly.

    As far as 'cuisine' goes, as an unrepentant carnivore, I have to recommend the delicious highland guinea pig which generally arrives on the plate whole and skewered (paws, head and whiskers included -the full monty). If you can get over that (a big IF for some i'll warrant).... your in for a treat. Hard to describe the taste; a texture somewhere between chicken and steak but genuinely scrumptious. Locals in Cusco were fond of dissing the lowland guinea pigs (as found in Lima) whose meat bred in low altitudes is apparently far inferior. Sure enough, this is reflected in the price .. easily the most expensive fare on offer; twice the cost of a good sirloin for instance.

    Hope you get out there some day Solidaire; you'd be in your element and like myself I'm guessing, utterly absorbed in the sights and sounds, not to mention the clash of cultures played out daily on the tourist trail (lowland Spanish vs. highland Quechua). The struggle over "heritage" is not merely an Irish fixation as I constantly found out. As to prepping, Duolingo do a (free) Latin American Spanish course which is great to brush up on the basics while a 'good taster' to get the adventurous juices flowing would be The Conquest of the Incas' by John Hemmings - a brilliantly insightful and nuanced account which is sympathetic to natīve and conquistadore alike.

    Make the time, you'll never regret it.
    Posted June 29th, 2017 at 03:42 AM by Gile na Gile Gile na Gile is offline
    Updated June 29th, 2017 at 03:52 AM by Gile na Gile
  7. Old Comment
    Solidaire's Avatar
    Thank you Gile, people often find trips expensive, and some indeed are. But what you get in return! An investment that lasts a lifetime. I know how you feel after such an experience, an elation that lasts for months, and never really goes away, surfacing each time memory does its thing.

    Greetings from a fellow amateur (wannabe) explorer.
    Posted July 3rd, 2017 at 11:16 AM by Solidaire Solidaire is offline

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