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March 26, 2006

Hiking the trail-overview

The hike was pretty much as advertised: long, strenuous, and not for sissies—with incredible views.

Day One: Longish but manageable, gradual uphill climbing, some architectural "constructions" to see.

Day Two: Brutal uphill climbing to a 4198-meter pass called Dead Woman's Pass (which is how I felt getting there), then two hours or more down stone steps of varying heights. Not much to see but vegetation and the trail.

Day Three: Billed as "not as hard" as Day Two (ha), long steady uphill. Great views that were completely obscured by fog and clouds. Cool architectural ruins. RAIN. The ruins are fantastic, the weather: sketchy. It's totally obvious why these people worshipped the sun!

Last Day: Alpine start and mainly downhill hiking, the enjoyment of which is balanced by the screaming of your knees after two days of marching down stairs. Quickly you come upon the Sun Gate and once you see Machu Picchu (and pop some Advil), the pain melts away.

Luckily I had trained hard in Thailand for this by drinking banana shakes and riding around in the back of trucks.

We had a great group of hikers, friendly porters, and a good cook. Lu was finishing seven months of South American travel, her boyfriend Ben had joined her four months ago. This was their last hurrah before returning to the UK. Carlos and Daniella were visual artists and photographers from Chile. Daniella spent days 2-3 sick as a dog from the altitude. Markus from Australia and Moren from Israel were travelling partners auditioning for the part of Entertaining Old Married Couple (though they likely were in their late 20s). Harald was quiet, with experienced travels. Florencia, from Buenos Aires spoke little English, but proved a great hiking partner as the two of us were slower than everyone else. I speak little Spanish, so we complemented each other well, and snapped portraits of each other along the way.

Our guide Marisol hikes the trail weekly, or seven times a month in the high season. She didn't seem winded the entire trip. Neither did Alberto, our #2 guide. Marisol called us all Chicos, the same way in America you'd address a group by starting, "Okay, Guys..." It's intended to be friendly, but actually means, like, little ducklings. Which was sort of appropriate.

Posted by sedda at March 26, 2006 10:59 PM