From Cusco we set out on a four day hike through the Sacred Valley; a trek that is both intense and in tents. We were accompanied by seven mules that carried all the equipment, the food and our stuff. The rest of the expedition team consisted of two guides, two cooks, two helpers and three cowboys for the mules and the ’emergency horse’ (a horse used to transfer injured or ill people, which also has had basic CPR and first aid training I believe) and of course seven other tourists.
The first day started with a bus ride to Pisac, where we visited the ruins of an Inca citadel. After another small bus ride we got out to load the mules and the walking started. We walked about twelve kilometers through the valley and ended in Cancha Cancha, an isolated community in the Andes mountains. This village is very traditional and is self sustaining without any electricity. We could visit a hut of the locals where the guinea pigs run around freely indoors. We set up camp between the llamas and slept in tents under the beautiful starlit sky. The guide explained us some constellations, but I don’t remember the ‘Llama-constellation’ from my astronomy classes in the Maritime Academy.
The second day consisted of more walking through the valley (fourteen kilometers this time), climbing all the way up to about 4700m meters height for a beautiful view of a gletsjer and the valley, followed by a descent back down to another village where we spent the second night.
The third day we could choose another hike or take a shortcut and spent more time in the volcanic hot springs that was programmed later on. Of course we chose the short cut and spent a few hours relaxing, followed by a bus ride to Ollantaytambo, another Inca city but which is still inhabited. The Incan history can be seen and felt throughout the city and it has some original ruins just outside the centre. After dinner we took the train to Aguas Calientes, where all the tourists stay the night to visit Machu Picchu in the morning.
We left the hotel at 4:30 in the morning to go to the bus stop that would take us to Machu Picchu. There was already a long line of a hundred people or so waiting and thirty minutes later the line stretched as far as the eye could see (even though the first bus only leaves at 5:30). It’s really crazy: about 5000 people visit the site every day and they all want to be first to take pictures. Machu Picchu itself was an amazing sight: a city high up in a beautiful location surrounded by the mountains. Because it was never found by the Spaniards and just abandoned, it’s still quite intact. We got a whole tour around the ruins and then walked a long road to the ‘Sun Gate’ to get a nice distant view from the whole site.
We walked down from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes (where I saw the coolest statue ever) and later on took the train and bus back to our hostel where we fell asleep exhausted.