Freedom and Adventure in Peru
Part 2: Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu
Dedicated to the Wild Women who joined me on this exploration of the Andes and Machu Picchu, I honor you all. You are badasses:
Annette, Marlene, Maggie, Gayle, Laura, Rita, Christine, Natalie, Tania, Melanie, Jennifer, Lynn, Carol, Brenda and our guides Disnarda and Lisbet
First let me say that trying to describe this part of the trip is nearly impossible, but I’ll give it my best shot. Freedom and Adventure is an apt title for experiencing first hand the magic of hiking through the Andes and trekking along the Inca (Stairs) Trail. Freedom of spirit and Adventure in trekking were all a big part of this experience. Part 1 had a little bit of overview of this part of the trip, but each day was so completely different, it seems fitting to give it it’s due and break it down a little more. Oh, did I mention I’m a night owl and NOT a morning person? Hmmm, this should be interesting…. keep that in mind as we move forward. Warning, this is a long one but worth the read, you will find out all about poop bags too! Just in case you were wondering.
We left the hotel at 7:00 am to get to the Inca Trailhead at Piscacucho, which is next to the Vilcanota River. We left a little late because some of our porters were traveling from a distance to meet us at the take off point. All the groups set up a gathering point and the porters gather your bags, get packed up, (I made sure to use the bathroom TWICE) and off we go. No gathering would be complete for me without a million pictures of everyone getting ready (the ladies quickly learned that I take A LOT of pictures.) Here we are under the entry sign ready to launch into our grand adventure.
The day was clear, warm, and perfect. Well, for us two Southern California girls in the group, anyway. Annette (my trip partner) and I loved the weather, but some of the ladies from northern Canada just don’t get that kind of heat, so it took some getting used to. We all had a nice sweat going pretty quickly (aren’t you glad you know that?) Up ahead we could see Nevado Veronica mountain peak, which was snowy, and like a giant guardian over us as we made our way along the trail. This part of the trail is very similar to California, with a dry desert type terrain. Once again, our guides Disnarda and Lisbet, with Wild Women Expeditions and Andes Treks and Adventures were the best. Talked us through each step of the way.
We stopped at the ruins of Llactapata took lots of great pictures then stopped for lunch. Before leaving for this trip my doctor informed me that I had frozen shoulder, so my left arm was barely working at this point. Already I was having pain in my upper back and shoulder, so we asked Annette to lead us in some yoga stretching which helped so much. Then, Gayle, a seasoned hiker, shared with us to put our packs on with raised shoulders, tighten the waist band, then lower your shoulders! All this time, I never knew this trick! Brilliant! After that stop, I did not have any serious pain the rest of the trip.
Did I mention the “special tent”? This is where we got to do our business. In buckets. Not too bad the first day, but after that, when your legs are like jello, it’s a little tough to squat! We all survived, yay! I had brought poop bags with me (you have to cart your poop during the day if you have to go on the trail, no leaving it behind, “messes” with the eco-systems) and just so you can sleep tonight, I did not (THANK THE LORD) have to use one on the trail. Whew! Just keeping it real, people. Also, I wore silk sock liners and covered my feet with essential oils each night and got ZERO blisters!
**Side Note on how I obtained the poop bags: I went to REI sporting goods and asked the hottest guy in the store for help. Told him I needed poop bags for the trail. He found me said poop bags and was about to leave. “Oh no”, I said, “I need you to SHOW me how they work, where do you put them and how do you go in them?” He turned bright red, and proceeded to show me the rectangle shape you make with the bag, and then lay the bag on the ground between the legs and try to make it into the bag. Oh, great….. now I have to aim my poop. Super. I then calmly asked him what happens if someone gets a case of diarrhea, we will be in Peru after all. He looked at me and said “Well, then it will be fucking messy.” I almost peed my pants laughing! ***
First night at Huayllabam-ba was a little rough, couldn’t find anything, lots of searching through plastic bags, slip sliding around on the Therm-a-rest all night. The porters leave warm water for everyone to clean up with before teatime. We had a great dinner after some rest time. Once everyone had gone to their tents, I stood outside for a long time. And looked UP. The stars were more beautiful than words can describe, so I soaked in all the power in the sparkling sky of stars. I also meditated that we would all be mindful of our steps, have fun, and be surrounded by magic. I also spent some time asking that healing power be sent out into the world for anyone that might be open to receive. Meditating in a place like this brings me to tears even just thinking about it. I’m such a star child, I felt like I was home.
The next morning we had to get up super early and only had 45 minutes to get ready. This was NOT enough time when you can’t find anything. I felt a little out of sorts (being my first camping experience in years). This was the big trekking day, 4,200 feet of elevation gain up to Warmiwanusqa Pass (Dead Woman’s Pass) straight UP the Inca (stairs) Trail to 13,887 feet elevation (4234m). Getting to the top of this mountain, made us all feel like superwomen and badass to boot! As each of us made it to the top, we were celebrated! While the mileage of this day isn’t a lot, by traversing the mountain it ended up being nearly twice as long (according to fit bit readings, nearly 10 miles total for the day) ha!
As I said, once you go up, you have to come down. And then down some more, all stairs and more stairs. I had the great idea that I would videotape a lot of the trip, however, it quickly became apparent that was NOT going to happen. You have to focus every step of the way. I kept repeating my friend Rodney’s words “be mindful of your steps”. Smart advice and it also helped me stay in the moment.
Remember how much I like taking pictures? Well there are so many flowers, rock formations, puffy clouds, blue sky, and giant mountains; it was like God gave me canvas after canvas to capture. It does feel that personal. We all felt like that. It was wave after wave of gratitude and intense energy that flowed through us all. I think that’s what makes the experience so hard to describe. It fills your soul up so deep there are no words.
Campground on night two was at 11,850 feet (3,613m). And there were frogs, VERY LOUD frogs, at that elevation! They liked to serenade us all night long. Thankfully I had brought some earplugs or sleep would have been impossible. We were up before dawn the next day and off we went! Using the special tent in this spot at night was a bit of a challenge as we were on terraces. Thank goodness I was gifted a mini flashlight by one of the ladies! What I still can’t get over is climbing up into the high jungle; it is filled with lush vegetation at such a high altitude.
Woke up before the wake up tea! Before dawn! (Who AM I?) There’s not much to do after dinner, so everyone goes to bed really early. Super hard for me to get used to, but kind of settled into the new routine. Day 3 we climbed back up to 13,038 feet (3,975m) for the third peak. Evidently, “gradual incline” means something completely different in Peru than it does in the USA or Canada! More straight up stairs, stairs and more stairs, so funny! We visited Runkurakay ruins which had spectacular views of the Andes, then back “down” to Sayaqmarka ruins, through a cool rock tunnel. There were flowers and orchids galore. The orchids are mostly miniature so the guides were very patient and pointed them out to us along the path. Once we landed at our campground for the 3rd night, we were at Phuyopatamarka (City above the Clouds) which was at 12,067 feet (3,679m). On this day it was not a City above the Clouds, it was shrouded in mist.
Three llamas were cruising around the campground and even decided to stop and leave us a welcome pee and poo right outside our eating tent. Picture this: Llama butt facing our eating tent, all while we were having our afternoon snack and hot chocolate, letting loose right there! The others couldn’t be left out so joined in on the tourist taunting. It was so funny! Gayle, Annette, and I went on a little hike up a ridge to see these giant stones, it was very adventurous climbing and very misty, but got to see the big painted stones before the mist covered them again. That night, I got up to use the “special tent” in the middle of the night and the mist opened! I received a gift of stars that was not blocked by mountains and it was spectacular! Once again, third night in a row, had the opportunity to meditate under the stars, send love to mother Earth, the Universe, and receive love back. Also, did meditations for the rest of our trek and sent lots of love out to all the beings on our planet. This practice fills the heart with gratitude and peace. Try it, you’ll like it!
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The next day we woke to more mist, so we did not get to see the Salcantay peak. This fourth hiking day is all downhill, or downstairs through the cloud forest. Since it was damp, I decided to make it all about the flowers and took my time taking pictures and doing short meditations along with way. Having short chats with the women along the way each day was nice as well. Got to know each one a little bit and am so appreciative of that experience. I liked walking in the quiet mist and then we got to a big set of ruins and the steps were SO steep! It looked like we were walking down into the abyss. Total descent for the day was 3,772 feet or (1,150m).
Finally, we reached the Sun Gate, which would bring us into Machu Picchu from the east side. However, still misty, so no view, just the abyss of mist in which to stare and stare and hope clears up. Went to the side and prayed like a wild woman that I am that the powers that be lift that shit up and let us see Machu Picchu PLEASE! It worked, the mist lifted as we worked our way down the mountain and we were able to get some shots of the ruins and Huayna Picchu. Standing there looking at what the Incas built on the side of very steep mountains, in alignment with the milky way, the stars, sun, and mountains, our breath was taken away. We could only stand there in wonder and awe and say “awmuetiful”. Awesome, amazing, and beautiful, all in my new favorite word!
We stayed the night at Waman Hotel in Aguas Calientes, which had hot showers, cold water to drink, tea bar, and a delightful dinner! We were so happy to sleep on a regular bed and charge all of our devices and cameras. Most of the ladies got their pisco sour at the bar before dinner and enjoyed the local flavor. I couldn’t sleep, so I walked around town for a while, got my touristy Peru t-shirt, talked to a few locals, and enjoyed the town. There are lots of restaurants and hostels for backpackers, and massage joints (real massage places) everywhere for the weary hikers. It rained most of the night, so did A LOT of praying and posted on social media for my friends to pray like crazy for clear weather the next day. We all spent a lot of time and energy to get there, so I felt perfectly in alignment to ASK the universe for sunlight. It granted the wish and we were all very grateful.
Up at 5am to pack up, eat breakfast and head to the bus to take us back up to Machu Picchu to catch the early entry and sunrise above the place. The biggest gift was seeing blue skies and no rain! Yay! Driving up the mountain, we could see the Andes looming over the valley as the excitement built up. Once we got into the site, our guides took us around to teach us about how Machu Picchu was built, the significance of the different areas, and the way the Incas built everything in connection to nature. After a 3 hour tour, bathroom break, and snack, 5 of us headed to Huayna Picchu (or is called Waynupicchu) for the ascent up the mountain.
This mountain is not for the faint of heart, it is straight up, all stairs, very tiny stairs, sheer drop offs towards the top and big boulders at the top that you have to hop to and back to get around on the peak. I went around the backside to videotape the final ascent and boy is that the way to go. Thankfully I love being up high, so it was a thrill for me. We all enjoyed it and took lots of pictures and videos. Since it was a clear day, we could see Machu Picchu below along with being surrounded 360 degrees by the towering Andes Mountains. Peace flooded my body and the energy of the ancestors filled me up and sent me on my way with a happy heart.
Thank you for sharing the ride! Love and Peace,
Donna, The Healing Hiker ™
Join me for more on this exciting adventure coming soon! Be sure to also check out my Guide to Freedom and Adventure Course available now here:
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© 2016 Donna Reina www.donnareina.com The Healing Hiker™All Rights Reserved. Pictures are my own and may be used only with written permission.
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