Machu Picchu (Inca Jungle Trail)

July 10, 2008 - Cusco, Peru

Well sean to answer your last comment I'm in Lima at the moment and i've once again fallen behind with my blog I know but here is my entry for my trip to Machu Picchu from two weeks ago:

On our arrival back in cusco we decided we better contact the agency we where due to do the official Inca Trail with and after a problem spinning around in a taxi finding there office in cusco whilst at the same time they just happened to call at our hostel to talk to us we finally caught up with one of there staff only to be informed that they had over booked and the government agency that regulates the (commerical) Inca Trail hadn't issued them with licences so we could no do the trek... luckily enough they refunded our deposit fully and we then just booked an alternative Inca Jungle trail that involved mountain biking, treking and finished up with a visit to Machu Picchu for sunrise on the last day (plus it was less than half the price of the official Inca Trail so it was good for the wallet as well which is always good - so although I was dissappointed not to be doing the Inca trail - i would still get to see Machu Picchu)

We started the 4 day and 3 night trek with a 6 hour downhill mountain bike descent on gravel road similar to that of the death road outside la Paz in bolivia on bikes with poor suspension. The bike I started with had problems with the back brakes and the chain came off if put in top gear so I wasn't the happiest with it and I came off the bike at a fast corner when my back brakes didn't slow me down enough but I avoided injury by hopping out of the saddle in time... but as I thought to myself at the time lucky I didn't have a similar crash whilst on the death road might have been a bit more of a problem. So I asked the guide for a change of bike and got a much faster one which was good as myself, Niall and Shane tore down the road competitively in a kind of unspoken race ahead of the rest of our group - I pulled away from the other two only to crash off at another corner (luckily unscathed again) this time it was completely my own fault - taking the corner way too fast.

That night we stayed in a hostel in a small town called Santa Maria on the edge of the jungle - plenty of mosquitos (and me with a cloud of insect repellent around me) (also the fact we stayed in hostels meant it was a bit more comfort than the camping of the Inca trail - but it kinda felt like cheating to me but think shane was much happier by that fact).

Our next day we hiked for around 10 hours through the jungle along by the Urubamba river getting to see pineapples, bananas, citrus fruit and avocados all growing wildly in the jungle - and plenty of big spiders as well. Part of the hike during the day took us along an Inca Trail (not the commercial Inca Trail) as our guides explained to that the Inca trails where used by the Chaski (the Inca messengers/post men) these trails joined up each of the Inca cities - the official Inca Trail runs along part of the ancient trail from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Also our guide explained how referring to the Inca people as Incas is in fact incorrect as this was solely the name of the ruling class and kings and the people where Quechuan and they spoke Quechuan which is still widely spoken to this day.

The next day we headed towards the town of Aguas Calientes which is located in the valley beside Machu Picchu and is the base for tourists going to see the ruins. In the afternoon we climbed a mountain on the other side of the valley (called Wayna Potoquosi - not sure how its spelled) to get a look across and this was where we got some serious power climbing in - I made it to top second behind a young german fella in our group. It was beautiful weather and views where fantastic with a lesser spotted view of Machu Picchu from across the other side of the valley.

The next morning we got up early at 4.30am to climb to Machu Picchu for sunrise - we made it up fairly quickly passing out some of the slower members of our group who had left at 4am. When we reached the top we had the option of climbing up Wayna Picchu (the mountain behind machu Picchu) only 400 hundred people are aloud to climb it each day so we queued up to climb it and try and make it up to the top before sunrise - they opened the gates to it at 7am and the sunrise was due at 20 past so we had to leg it up to the top and we just about made it on perfect time to see the last of the shadows clear from the site and before the hordes of the day visitors came to clutter the site (and believe me there was hordes of visitors that day and some of them paying to stay in the lodge right beside Machu Picchu where accomodation is 750 us dollars per night...) I even noticed some tourists dolled up to the nines with high heels and all and us all smelly and bit krusty after the 4 day trek. But getting back from my tangent the views from the top of Wayna Picchu (which means Young Peak or young mountain in quechuan and btw Machu Picchu means old peak or old mountain) where amazing and definitely it was the highlight of the few days for me.

Later when we went back down to the ruins we got a guided tour around the site to some of the more important aspects/temples of the site - alot is not known about the ruins and there is just some theories on why it was left and also what certain temples mean or where used for... our guide said the reason why the Incas left the city was to keep it from being destroyed by the spainish but we heard a number of different stories from other tourists whose guides had said other reasons including flu epidemic, it was struck by lightning which was seen as a curse on the place from the gods, flight to Ollyatamba the city that was the last stand of the Incas - so you can take your pick - i.e. no one is completely sure. But also the name of the city is not even known but is named after the mountain behind it (i.e. Machu Picchu). One thing is for sure though the local guides don't like Hiriam Bingham the American who conducted the archaeological excavation of the sight and who removed all the artefacts he found back to Yale University in the States - the local guides mightened have alot of love for him but he did make the place famous.

The trek was good and we had good banter with some of the others members of our group including two 16 year old lads Gabriel and Andreas (twins) from san francisco who where there with there parents and hung out with us for the few days and also and Irish American fella from Boston called Christian. The guides seemed sound to start with but turned out to be chancers (they tried to rip a few of the group off with the train tickets at the end of the trip back to cusco - including myself shane and niall by saying we had no tickets back and would have to stay in aguas calientes for another 2 days but we started to kick up such a fuss he said he was joking and gave us the tickets - a few of the others weren't so lucky initially and only when they threatened to get police involved did the guides tune change and hand over the tickets - total chancers and this was after getting a good tip from us)

We headed back to Cusco to chill out eat good food and sample some of the nightlife after the physical excertion of the trek - and I had a ball in cusco its a great town although its very touristy so was just hanging around with other backpackers for the few days really.


2 Comments

Dimitri:
May 15, 2009
Hi,

Thanks for the nice read of your MP adventure. I am planning to do the Jungle Trek with biking too, and wondered if you would share the company you went with and if you would recomend others to use them as well. I was sorry to hear the bikes were not that good. Did you hear of any other companies that offer this same trip and were they said to be better/worse?

Thanks for any advise you can give me.

Dimitri
Brian:
May 28, 2009
Hi dimitri,
Glad you enjoyed reading my travel blog sorry I can't remember the name of the tour company/agency we booked it with - we just booked when were in cusco and shopped around for a good price - from my understanding of it there is numerous agencies selling the tour but only one or two tour companies that run it (which we found out from talking to other people on our group some of whom had paid upto 50% more than us for the same tour) we paid 160 US$ for it which was fairly good price considering that included transport and entry to machu picchu - but was definitely no frills and the guides where chancers (but friendly)

Hope this helps (sorry for delay in replying)

Brian
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