Archive for April, 2010

Machu Picchu part 2

Day 3-

So day 2 was in the books…we were all very exhausted and pretty beat up. We were told that day 3 was going to be fairly easy, relative to the day before. We had the option of either walking for 1.5 hours to the cable car (to take us across the river) or we could bus there. The main incentive for taking a bus there was to go to the hot springs in Agua Calientes, our next destination (and main hub to MP).

So we decided to take the bus. Along the way I quickly realized how much of a higher chance I have of dying in South America than I would back in the states (living my normal life). The bus swerved along the 15-foot wide muddy path in a hectic fashion, probably less than 7 feet from the edge of a cliff (and inevitable doom). There were a few times when I thought we’d swerve off and that would be the end of it; no more vacation and no more machu picchu…but meh, we survived.

Here is a quick (lame) picture of some of the conditions-

So we got to the cable car…it’s this tiny thing that carts you over the river, powered by two guys pulling you. Some people were freaked out-

We continued to walk along the path…the hiking throughout the day was very soft. The land/road was primarily flat and we weren’t forced to climb up steep hills like the day before.

So we trucked on…The day got shittier as it went on and we walked along the railroad tracks. Our hike lasted about 6 hours, which was fairly soft. We also got to see our first glimpses of MP along the way-

We ended the day in Agua Calientes, where we went to a hot springs (was kindve meh, the water was a bit nasty and it seemed like a swimming pool). I was fairly wiped despite the easy day and wanted to go to sleep early in preparation for the next morning (where we had to get up at 3:30 a.m.)…but that plan went to shit and I didn’t.

Day-4- Machu Picchu-

So we woke up at 3:30 in the fucking morning after 5 hours of sleep…I think we were all in a state of shock, our minds totally fried and incoherent. We stumbled to the main square 5 till 4, ready to start our day. We were told that today was a hard 1.5 hour trek upwards (literally just straight up steep steps). Given our state and the difficulty of the climb, it was fucking brutal.

First two pics of the morning-

The climb was fucking hell…they were very steep and the pace at which we went was brutal. This wasn’t as hard as the second day but it was still fairly intense, and by the time I got up to the entrance I was drenched with sweat. It was around 5:30 when we got there and we waited to get our tickets to waynapicchu, the sister mountain atop Machu Picchu (they only permit a certain # of people each day up this mountain).

I felt fairly proud of our early morning walk. I’d say there were probably 60 of us that did it, and when you contrast that with the thousand or two thousand or w/e that go each day, that’s a proud feat. With that said, I don’t really think that a high % of people would be able to do it to begin with, at least at the pace we were going.

Anyways, we arrived to the entrance of MP around 5:30, got our tickets at 6, and walked up for about 10 minutes to the postcard photo-esque view of Machu Picchu…My first two photos (first wasn’t great)-

We had our tour about an hour later. I sortve wish that there wasn’t as much fog at sunrise, but hey, what can you do? The rest of the day was beautiful. Now, for the barrage of pictures (LOL at my shirt/sweat mark)-

They had these weird llamas walking all over the place-

The tour was alright…our guide wasn’t the best and I felt like we missed a fair amount. The guide that led us for the last 3 days gave us to another dude, which was disappointing. Still, it was interesting to hear some of the history involved with the place.

The location of MP is just incredible…it’s like you’re sitting atop a cloud kingdom. Everywhere you look you’re surrounded by mountains and clouds.

So around 10 a.m. we decided to walk up to waynapicchu, the sister mountain. There were more ruins here, along with a great view of Machu Picchu from atop.

The stairs were kindve a bitch to get up…it was very steep and the conditions were poor (very muddy and slippery).

The top was pretty cool and we were able to get some interesting pictures.

After we were finished we went back down and pretty much laid around. Our bus wasn’t until 9:30 that night and we were already wiped, having been up for probably 8 hours by midday. There really wasn’t much food and I ate some nasty crackers/fruit/and cookies for my lunch…

We went back to Aguas Calientes (walked it back, not sure why I did this) and hung around town for a few hours. Had one last dinner together with the group/went on the train for 1.5 hours and the bus back to Cusco for 2 hours…Stumbled back to the hostel totally wiped and slept.

All in all, a fantastic trip. Very physically and mentally taxing but totally worth it. I think alot of my group shared the same sentiment in that the actual journey itself was just as memorable as Machu Picchu itself.

I’m heading to Puno, Peru today, planning on going to Lake Titicaca, one of the largest and highest-elevated lakes in the world. It’s also right on the border of Bolivia, where I’ll be headed next.

I’ve spent like 3 weeks in Peru…I’ve grown to really enjoy it. I probably am going to have to slightly pick up the pace on other countries (and probably will, given that I won’t have to wait a week for a Brazilian VISA or anything else like that)…but yeah, looking forward to the rest of my journey.

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Machu Picchu part 1

Not sure if I can get this all in one post so I think I’ll break it up.

I decided to do the Inca Jungle hike, which was a 4-day/3-night hike/bike combo. I would have liked to do the fabled ‘Inca Trail’ trek (the most well known hike to Machu Picchu (MP)) but the trail has been backed up for months in booking due to the mud slides.

For those who aren’t familiar with MP, here is the wiki- HERE

Anyways, my friend decided to do another trek, the Salkantay (sp?), which was a 5-day/4-night hike. My guide told me that it was harder than the one I took…he said that in rankings of difficulty it was:

-some one I never heard of (nor can remember)
-Salkantay
-Inca Trail
-Inca Jungle
-Lares Trek

For some of the main treks to MP.

Day 1-

Anyways, the first day was just all biking, primarily down hill. It was fairly soft all around…we bussed to the top of a mountain, something like 4000 meters (m) up, with the plan to bike down for maybe 6 hours. The bikes were a bit ghetto but whatever…the weather was really nice, though, everyone was dressed in long sleeved shirts/jeans…I whispered “pussies” as I wore shorts and a t-shirt, chuckling to myself at how these people thought this was “cold” weather.

My group consisted of 12 people, which was rather large…usually these trips are 6-8 people but due to people signing up with agencies (with no other sign ups), they just melded all of us together in one super group (I think that these agencies just sell the contract to other companies). Our group was very diverse, with 4 South Africans, 2 Dutch, 2 Germans, 2 Americans, and 1 English/1 Welsh (we were later joined by 2 Canucks).

Anyways, I was able to get some cool pictures- the scenery on this trip was absolutely incredible throughout.

Anyways, yeah, biking was awesome. The first bit was very smooth, as the road was all asphalt/paved. It was very relaxing capturing the scenery, great weather, and going down at a pretty fast pace.

The second part of the biking trip was much different. We went over dirt roads, many of them very unkempt. The ‘danger’ factor was significantly increased, especially given the narrow roads/oncoming trucks/poor equipment. With that said, it was still very fun…the biking was very bumpy and more ‘extreme’. I was hauling ass and followed our guide too closely, eating huge shit when he braked suddenly.

We ended around 3 p.m., which sucked given how early it was…We killed a few hours eating and drinking at the tiny town (Santa Maria) and prepared for the next day.

Day 2-

We woke up early, something like 5:30 a.m., ready to go by 6 a.m. We were to do 28km that day with a mix of both flat/inclined road/trail.

It was pretty tough…I think it’s the longest I’ve walked in a day. It started fairly flat but we would wind in and out of the mountain through steep trails and valleys.

I’m glad I packed fairly light…many people packed a ton of shit and ended up paying for it huge during the hikes. Like day 1, the scenery was just incredible…walking in the jungle along the narrow paths while observing hidden ruins…just great. The weather was pretty awesome as well.

So around 12 noon we stopped in a tiny mountain town…there were dozens of these tiny villages that are supported by tourists going through. They could also charge $2-$3 a water bottle as well because frankly, we’re going to pay for it.

They had these weird chained animals-

We continued to hike. This was a really long day and we went up some steep trails. Here is one where the trail was fairly soft and showed some of the group-

So those are some shots of some of the basic trails…those were pretty nice compared to some of the rest.

We got into the hostel in Santa Theresa around 4 or so, tired as all hell. Everyone smelled like ass and was super hungry. We were happy to hear that the next day had few hard climbs and most of it was flat land hiking. We also only had to do around 20km or so until we arrived in Agua Calientes, the main base town for MP.

Sorry this is so long…Day 3 and 4 (MP) coming tomorrow (or later today, depending on how motivated I am).

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Cuzco

So we traveled from Nazca to Cuzco shortly after. The ride to Cuzco was a surprisingly easy 15 hour bus ride through the mountains. Cuzco was much different than the other parts of Peru (at least from what we’ve seen thus far) in that it is heavily mountainous, with a chillier weather base than, say, Lima.

The buses were really ballin…our seats reclined nearly the entire way and the bus served food and movies throughout the night. Our first day we pretty much just bummed around, walking around the various parts of Cuzco (at least in the region where we’re at). There are alot of cool markets nearby and it’s fun to shop or browse.

We changed hostels the day after. The one we’re currently at is much more popular and has alot of younger people.The last few dayshave been pretty chill overall…I’m still getting used to the different altitude here. It’s definitely had a slight effect on my overall cardio (which was poor to begin with) but hopefully it’ll get better.

Food wise, I’m still searching for good Western food. Peruvian food is good as well, but I just miss some American dishes. Maybe it’s because I’m used to it, I dunno. I think I may have OD-ed on some of this peruvian food though (in that all of it is comprised of chicken/rice/veggies (and you can interchange fish/potatoes with that)). I guess I’m expecting too much (in that I just wish someone could make a decent burger or pizza or something). A few days ago I claimed I would have paid $100 for any one of the listed:

2 IHOP meals, a large meatlovers from old chicago, a pound burger with fries, a gigantic helping of spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread.

Yesterday we shopped around for different Machu Picchu deals…everyone and their grandma has a tourist/travel company, all of them offering pretty much the same thing. Along the same vein, the shops and markets all sell the same old crap as well. It’s hard to imagine how all of them survive…I guess MP is just that big (as a tourist hotspot). We decided we’re probably just going to book through our hostel. It’s maybe $15 more than some of the other places but whatever…it’s convenient.

We also flirted with the idea of doing a multi-day rafting tour, but probably will end up not doing it…just based on time issues. Probably going to head out of Cuzco after MP (or just do a day trip with rafting or something).

So yeah…I guess this post is just a short update of what I’ve been up to the last few days…I’m quite excited for MP, where I’ll be taking a 4 day/3 night hike up to it. They say it’s pretty light hiking so I’m not too worried…I’ve decided to do the biking/adventure trip, the Inca Jungle trek.

Here are some pictures-

So yeah…Cuzco is pretty cool. Going to go to Machu Picchu the day after tomorrow, so pumped. Next update will be then…

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Huacachina and Nazca

Alright so we went from Lima to Huacachina, took about 5 hours or so. Hung out in Lima, cleared our Visas for Brazil, got into Huacachina at night.

Huacachina is about 5 minutes from Ica, the main city. Really, it’s just a hub for other places (I’ve heard Ica kindve blows dick). Anyways the main thing to do in Huac is sand boarding/riding on the sand buggies (sp?). The place we stayed at was pretty nice, had a large pool…overall, Huac is pretty tiny though and it’s sortve a quick stop in the grand scheme of things.

Sand boarding and buggy riding were fucking awesome…the buggies were totally crazy, driving along the dunes was so awesome…it was like a roller coaster. The dunes went on for miles, some were really tall as well.

I fucking sucked when it came to sandboarding…my friend and group mates were better than I, maybe because they knew some snowboarding or something…with that said, my friend called sand boarding “way different than snow boarding” so who knows.

I have some videos that I want to upload later on as well, videos of the riding/the overall landscape/etc…I’ll have to wait until I have better internet though.

Me running up a huge dune-

Pic of the Sand buggie things-

I sucked ass at sandboarding so I went on my stomach…it’s pussier but whatever. You end up hauling huge ass when you go down like this.

So that was fun. We took a bus to Nazca after showering. There was a ton of sand in our shoes.

Nazca is a very small town known for the Nazca Lines, huge lines drawn into the land for unknown purposes.

Overall it was pretty cool, though, nothing totally extreme or out of this world. I think my friend and I shared the same opinion in that it was cool (and probably essential while in Peru), but probably is dwarfed in comparison to something like Machu Picchu (on the cool scale). It was a bit difficult to see some of the lines and I definitely didn’t take good pictures of all of them.

Some pics-

Anyways, that recaps the last few days. I’m really excited to go to Cuzco, seems like there’s a ton to do there. Lots of hikes/rafting/rock climbing…I’m still on the fence of whether to do this insane 360 foot bungee jump…so we’ll see. 15 hour bus ride in a bit here though…fml.

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South America Notes part 1

Some Notes on S.A. from a backpacking perspective-

-when doing sand boarding/buggies (and you have contacts) wear your glasses or sunglasses…the sand makes it hell. This can sortve apply for the beach as well, though, taking your glasses on and off when you want to go into the water is a bitch.

-Bring caribeaners if you have any. They are useful for attaching your shoes or other items to your bag. Bringing some locks of various sizes is nice too for lockers or zippers.

-Take into account purchases and other items that might take up room in your bag…don’t pack your bag to the max before the trip. Allow yourself some flexibility while traveling.

-Do some research on your gear. Make sure you have solid backpacks, bags, clothing, shoes, and other things for the trip. I have my main backpack (46L) and a regular backpack for a carry on (with buses)…I carry all my clothes/shoes/climbing stuff in my big bag and my passport/netbook/books in my smaller. I think having the extra bag is very beneficial.

-Learn some Spanish. Learn the basic verbs and some basic vocabulary before coming down. My sample size is tiny (Peru), but I imagine that knowing some will help a ton.

-This much should be obvious but putting your most used things at the top of the bag helps alot. I put my athletic shorts, toiletries, and shoes at the top (or put my shoes in the caribeaner outside).

-Buy ziplock bags, preferably the ones that have the locking zipper at the top. These help a ton with regards to toiletries or other items.

-Don’t worry about locking in all information about future destinations right away (before the trip). You learn much more from word of mouth in the hostels or locals…they will give you advice on where to go and what to do/how much time you should commit/etc.

-Try to dive into as many of the cultural events as possible. Try the national dish(es), go to the local sporting events, do some of the touristy things. I hope to both see a futbol (or soccer) match as well as try to see some brazilian jujitsu while in Brazil (watching a grappling tourney would be cool). I attempted to dance salsa while in peru and failed horribly. I’m probably still missing quite a few things in Peru and I’m going to regret it when I leave.

-Take into account all the extra exercise you will probably do. While you will (most likely) lose weight, it’s important to take into account the extra calories your body is using (and to not forget to eat). And as I’m typing this I’ve skipped lunch and will have a late dinner after an exhausting day….fml. So eat well and eat plenty (and obviously mix your diet well).

-The internet typically blows for internet poker. While it’s probably pretty decent maybe 80% of the time, there will be instances in which it just cuts off completely, rebounding when the disconnect protection has run its course.

-Don’t be an idiot and leave your belongings loose…always be alert and keep an eye on your shit. What I like to do while walking is move my arm back and forth, gently slapping my wallet each time. Having a money belt can be useful too.

-With that said, I generally keep my stuff pretty loose while in the hostel. Maybe I’m a bit too trusting, and I do use lockers to hide valuables. In my experience with hostels (in a general sense), most of the people are pretty trust worthy (or at least seem so) and I haven’t really been too scared of my stuff being stolen. By the end this opinion might change though.

-Not all toilets are going to have toilet paper…it’s just a fact. So either bring your own toilet paper (I like to bring my bag with me to most all bathrooms where toilet paper factor is unknown) OR do what I like to do- get your own wipes. People hand out loose leaflets of paper all the time, usually for promotion of a business. In Thailand, my roomies and I would always collect these leaflets and just use them for TP. I know it sounds kindve gross but it is smaller than a toilet paper and leaflets can be attained anywhere. So yeah…be prepared.

That’s all for now…I’m sure there will be many more notes such as these throughout the trip (as I continue to think and experience more stuff).

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