6 Trips to Machu Picchu

We made it! Amy and I reached Machu Picchu after hiking all day long for four days. Huayna Picchu is the peak above my head and the clouds. I climbed it the next day.

It’s been over a month since I last posted because I’ve been busy having fun, traveling and celebrating my 53rd birthday! Amy and I have done six overnight trips since I last wrote in March. Some of the trips were designed as training for the Inca Trail and some were all about having a great time and seeing new places. So while I posted a few things to Facebook, I have been neglecting this website. I have been doing so many things that I haven’t had time to write. It’s still hard to tell you what’s been going on, but here’s an overview of the trips and some pics.

We took 10 overnight trips from Cusco from February 25-May 9th. March was still the rainy season, so we stayed in the lower elevations (under 14,000′) during this month. In April, we started going to higher elevations with hikes over 16,000′ and peaks over 20,000′.

Trip 5 (the other 4 trips were before my last blog) was one of the most beautiful and it was highest trip that we took. We spent a day with the ancient Chari people who showed us how they make yarn out of wool and weave them into socks and sweaters. This sweet girl went to some ruins with us.

Fanny accompanied us to some Incan ruins and posed for this pic.
From Cusco, we went south to the Chari Community for a night. Then we took a long ride up to rainbow mountain. The dirt road was very bumpy and windy and went to over 15,000′. Then we had to climb over a thousand feet to a lookout with a thousand people on top.
Amy and I are overlooking Rainbow mountain that is over 17,000′ high. It’s too bad the sun wasn’t shining on the vertical layers or rock or they would have really popped. This picture does a good job of blocking out the hundreds of people who were on top of the mountain. You can see the steady stream of people coming up on the right.
These two girls dress up in their traditional clothes and get suckers like me to pay them for photos. It took a few shots before I got this one to smile. They ran sure-footedly by me and many others going down the mountain after they got enough money for the day.

The sixth trip we took from Cusco was to Ausangate mountain that towers to 6,384 meters or 20,940′. That’s pretty high so this mountain has some major glaciers on it. We stayed at a lodge in Pacchanta at over 14,000′. It’s pretty cold up there at night, but the hot springs there were superb! Check out this picture of my toes and the mountain.

Hot springs and cold mountains! This place was unbelievable and I’m going to write a blog just about this trip and the alpaca herder and Jesuit priest that we drank some wine with.
The red line shows the six hour bus ride to Tinki. Then we took an hour taxi to Pacchanta where we found a hotel and the hot springs. From there, we hiked the purple line to the foot of Ausangate mountain. The elevation here is extreme and was a great acclimatization for Machu Picchu.
Amy really liked this place and we couldn’t get enough pictures of it. We’d constantly look up at this beauty of a mountain and want to take its picture.

Trip 7 was to the trailhead of the classic Salkantay trek. This trek isn’t regulated like the Inca Trail, so companies are building lodges all along this trek. We stayed at a the trailhead of Soraypampa that enabled us to hike to Lake Humantay and then up to the pass at over 15,000′ in the rain. The rainy season hadn’t quite left the upper elevations in April.

That’s Salkantay mountain from my hammock in the lodge. The lodge was very shoddy and major drafts poured in through long cracks in the particle board walls.
We took a long, winding bus ride to Mollepata (the red and orange lines) and then a 4WD taxi (green line) to the trailhead of the Salkantay Trail where we stayed for 3 nights. This let us hike to the beautiful Lake Humantay that has a deep, glacier green color. The glaciers melt and cascade down cliffs into the lake. The next day we hiked to the pass below Salkantay Peak (see the longer purple line), but it was raining the whole time.
A better picture of Mount Salkantay at sunset.
Lake Humantay was amazing. The color of the lake was more apparent when we hiked on the ridge to our left.
The dappled sunlight makes the lake a variety of colors.

The 8th trip was to the ancient Incan city of Ollantaytambo. This ancient Incan city is the only inhabited one that features the original layout of the city. Massive stones were used throughout the complex. Channels of water run down several of the streets and the old town looks over the ruins that are built into the side of the mountain.

Here’s an example of the rock constructions of the old town. The bush with legs down the alley is a guy carrying a load of brush. There are no cars in this section of town so people have to carry everything in by hand.
These students walk the ancient Incan trails that run through Ollantaytambo. The house we stayed in is above the wall on the right. These are the original Incan walls and one of the many channels of water that run through town can be seen at the right of this path.
Amy is hiking to the Colcas or storage units that the Incas built high above the town of Ollantaytambo. They had massive storage for their corn and potatoes and I pity the laborer who had to haul bushels of corn and potatoes up these steep hills.
We took a private taxi and it only took us 1 hour to get to the ancient city of Ollantaytambo when he took the new road that follows the train tracks.

For my birthday, I wanted to get to some warm weather and some hot springs that are downriver from Machu Picchu. I picked Santa Teresa without knowing what a pain in the ass it would be to get there. We took an excruciating 8 hour bus ride to the small outpost that sits at the convergence of three rivers.

Here’s Amy tempting fate for a cheap thrill. She said she zipped for my birthday. Now that’s love!
On this zip across the rive gorge, they wanted us to hang upside down, so I did.
Santa Teresa is a very remote place and we had to take the worst bus ride yet to get here. This was the only bus ride where I was ready to heave. I did survive the ride to zipline across one of the many gorges – 4 times!

We returned to Cusco for a few days after my birthday expedition and then embarked on our climactic journey to Machu Picchu. I’ll write a whole blog about this 5 day trek, but here are a few pics.

This picture was taken on top of Huayna Picchu that overlooks Machu Picchu. Huayna Picchu means young mountain while Machu Picchu means old mountain. Machu Picchu is the light green colored area above the bushes on the right. The 1,500′ dropoff around Huayna Picchu is amazing and the reason why they built this secure location in the clouds.
The Inca Trail snakes through some of the steepest country I’ve ever been in. The trail went up and down these amazing ridges in endless series of steps. These are some typical ruins behind us.
Our guide Elias is telling us about the ancient ruin of Patallacta that is visible in the valley below us. Here are six of the people traveling with us – two Koreans sushi chefs on the right, two Aussies behind them and two Durango Coloradans on each side of Elias.
The purple line shows where we hiked for four days. The red line is the bus going up and down some switchbacks to the small town of Agua Caliente. The yellow line is the train that follows the deep gorge carved by the Urubamba river.

That’s a recap of what’s been going on. We’ve already been to Lake Titicaca and are now in the city of Arequipa. Tomorrow we leave on another journey to the deepest canyon in the world to see some condors.

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