Thursday, March 29, 2012

South America Day 18: Colca Canyon to Arequipa

January 2012

Up at 5:30 am to try and see the Condors in one of the biggest canyons in the world.

We arrived at the main viewing point at around 9 am to find most of it covered in cloud/mist. We did get to see the base of the canyon at one stage of clearing, and the special endangered bunny or the Viscacha.

We then did about a 30 minute walk and waited and waited for the cloud cover to clear (as per the below photo).

Disappointed we got back in the bus and headed back to Chivay, along the way we were delighted to find Condors in flight.

We stopped in the town of Chivay for a buffet lunch and a quick walk around before the 4 hour bus trip back to Arequipa.

That night we had dinner at Zig Zag. The best meal we had on our entire trip.  We shared the capaccio of salmon and tuna. DH had the trip of meat (Alpaca, pork and beef) on a hot plate and I had the Alpaca on a plate with blue cheese sauce.

Solar, Arequipa

Qhapaq Nan, Chivay
Zig Zag, Arequipa

Condor siting

Thursday, March 22, 2012

South America Day 17: Arequipa to Colca Canyon

January 2012

Up "late" today at 7:30 am to catch the bus to the Colca Canyon. DH was the only one who managed to catch a glimpse of the volcano peaks that surround Arequipa.

We drove for about 2 hours, stopping to take pictures of the Vicunas.

We then drove for another 1.5 hours, passing over the highest point at 4,915 m (not stopping due to the bad weather). We checked into our hotel before enjoying a buffet lunch, which included BBQ Alpaca.

After lunch we went on a bit of a walk to explore the area.

We decided to visit the hot springs, which were surprisingly good in the rain.

That night we had dinner at a local Andean restaurant, trout for me and chicken with the yellow pepper sauce for DH.

Mama Yachi

Mama Yachi lunch buffet
Mistituris (you could probably find somewhere better)

Chivay Hot Springs

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

South America Day 16: Cusco to Arequipa

January 2012

Spent some time actually in Cusco this morning (besides eating and sleeping!). We visited the Inca Museum. The bottom section is dedicated to pre-Inca civilisation and the upstairs section to the Inca's and their ruins, along with some on the Inca's post Spanish invasion.

We then headed back to the hotel, to catch the bus to the airport, where the plane was delayed.....again.

We checked into our hotel in Arequipa (also known as the White City) about 5 pm and went for a brief city walk in the rain. We went to a very nice dinner, in a old white building (the city has it's name due to the white volcanic stone that was used in it's buildings and also the high number of Spanish inhabitants). We shared a trio of raw fish, I had the salad with prawns and shellfish, while DH had the crispy baked oven pork. This was also the night I got addicted to the local drink - Chi Cha.

Solar, Arequipa

Chi Cha, Arequipa

Museo Inka, Cusco

Sunday, March 18, 2012

South America Day 15: Inca Trail Day 4: Machu Picchu to Cusco

January 2012

Up at 3:45 am (when most were probably just heading home after bringing in the new year) and on the trail by 4:45 am. Waited at the checkpoint for 30 minutes before making our way to the sun gate (about an hour at a brisk pace), all up doing 6 km today.

The view was clouded over so after about 20 minutes we headed down towards Machu Picchu.

We went down and out the main gate to get our passports stamped, then did a 1.5 hour tour of the very impressive complex. We spent about another hour exploring ourselves (the weather never did really clear up, but the view got slightly better) before catching the train back down to the main town.

After a pizza lunch we caught a very nice train, with glass roof to Ollantayambo, driving past more ruins and km82.

We then caught the bus back to Cusco, having dinner at Jacks cafe before heading back to the hotel.

Corihausi, Cusco

Pizza at Hot Springs 2
Jack's Cafe, Cusco

Machu Picchu complex

Friday, March 16, 2012

South America Day 14: Inca Trail Day 3 (the clouded forest)

December 2011

What a way to spend new years eve, walking 16 km on the Inca Trail. Up at 4:45 am and on the track by 6 am. The first 2 hours are straight up, with a nice break at a Inca ruin, Runkurakay, about half way.

We continued on a flattish path, with DH and some others stopping at another Inca ruin and myself and one of the other girls continuing through the clouded forest. This was definitely my favourite part of the whole Inca Trail, the path was moderate (up and down) but it was so peaceful and beautiful.

We stopped for lunch at a peak, where there were Llamas grazing.

We walked another short distance to another Inca ruin, before continuing downhill on unsteady rocks for the remainder of the day (my least favourite part of the trail).

We got to camp around 5 pm, making it a very long day of walking. We were surprised with a cake that the cooks had made at lunch on the trail that day, before celebrating New Years Eve with an early nights sleep.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

South America Day 13: Inca Trail Day 2 (aka Dead Woman's Pass)

December 2011

Woken up at 5 am with coca tea and breakfast at 5:45 am. We left the campsite at 6:15 am and started our walk uphill. The group separated at about 7:30 am, each person setting their own pace, for the accent from 3,300 meters to 4,200 meters. DH and I walked alone at the back of the pack.

We reached the last store on the trail about 9:30 am for a snack break before continuing the accent. The walk up to Dead Woman's Pass is slow but scenic, it means you can also see every step you still have to take in front of you, but I would choose a spot and that would be our next aim, breaking it into manageable chunks.

We made it to the top of Dead Woman's Pass about 12:15 pm to horrifying weather - wet, icy and windy. We took a few pictures and started our decent to much warmer weather.

It took us about 2 hours to reach camp, all downhill, the last 30 minutes in pouring rain. But we were glad for lunch  (soup, stuffed chicken with pasta bake and mashed sweet potato) and a nap at 3,600 meters.

All in all we walked 10 km (6 km up and 4 km down), acceded 900 meters and descended 600 meters. Definitely the toughest day of the whole trail.

Monday, March 12, 2012

South America Day 12: Ollantaytambo to km82 Inca Trail

December 2011

We left Ollantaytambo by bus in the mist and arrived at km82 of the Inca Trail at 9:30 am. We organised our packs and walked to the checkpoint, to show our passports and get on our way.

You start at an altitude of approx. 2,650 m and progress to your first camp, about 12 km away at 3,000 m. We walked for about 3 hours, stopping for snacks and drinks along a moderate to easy track.

We stopped at Patallaqta Inca site view point before stopping for lunch. Like I said in the previous post, we did the Inca Trail with g adventures and our lunch today (as everyday) was set up in a large tent (and it poured during lunch so we were very glad to be out of the elements) and we enjoyed soup, and fish with rice.

We continued on our walk at about 2:30 pm to the next checkpoint, and then onto our campsite (the last km was the most difficult today).

We set up our things (our tents were already put up for us) and we enjoyed dinner in our tent (chicken soup and chicken stir fry) before heading off to sleep, with the upcoming Dead Woman's Pass in our dreams...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The lowdown on the Inca Trail

I struggled to find a lot of information online about other peoples preparation and experience on the Inca Trail. Sure there's comments here and there about it being the hardest thing that people have done, but nothing too useful. So here's my attempt at giving you something useful...

Guides/Tour Operators

You cannot do the Inca Trail as an independent hiker. That said you can get a guide, so it's just you and the guide. We did it with g adventures. You can choose to do the Inca Trail as part of a larger tour of Peru or you can do it for Inca Trail only. Either way you end up in a group.

Some operators pay their porters poorly and basically skirt around the rules. Many operators don't they do the right thing. Make sure the operator you are choosing belongs to the second group, and remember porters aren't your pack horses, they are people, many older than many of the hikers, weight limits are there for their safety, don't abuse those weight limits, or hire porters outside the system i.e. along the trail.


In Australia there is no where to train at altitude, definitely not at 4,200 m! So the basis of our training was cardiovascular fitness and leg strength (for all those steps). About a year before we did the Inca Trail I had not exercised in over 4 years, so I started out slow, but for 9 months of the year our training plan was:

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Run
Wednesday - Walk
Thursday - Run
Friday - Rest
Saturday - Cross Training - weights, cardio and stretching
Sunday - Every second Sunday we did a hike, we started off on easy 5 km, and worked towards difficult tracks of 8 to 12 km

The last month prior we had a lot of rain so I cut out the running/walk mid-week and did stair climbing in the hotel I was staying at (10 flights up, 10 flights down for 30 min total, working up to 1 hr total by the end).

We also did the Bay of Fires Walk in Tasmania in April 2011 and this gave us a great point to assess where we needed to improve or learn e.g. we started training on our Sunday walks with weights in our packs


Pack as light as possible. At the end of the hike you will smell, you will be dirty and it will be obvious at Machu Picchu who did the trail and who came on the train/bus. g adventures supplied the tents, basic sleeping mattresses (air ones were extra and worth the cost) and all food.
  • Good hiking boots with ankle support are a must, it seems obvious but they should be worn i
  • A good goretex jacket - keeps the wind off and keeps you dry
  • Thermals - it will get cold overnight
  • Gloves and beanie - I couldn't figure it out at first but I was glad I brought them
  • Fleece jumper
  • Fresh socks
  • Hiking poles (we also rented these through g adventures)
  • A cover for your pack (something I missed and used a poncho instead)
  • Water container for 1.5L (I should have brought a hydration pouch for my pack)
  • Camera
On the Trail

The best advice I stole from an ex-Australian marathon runner (sorry can't remember which of the Steve's), which was along the lines of when your running a marathon and struggling to keep going, choose a point on the horizon and aim for there. That's basically what I did on day 2 (which is the toughest), going up that hill to Dead Woman's Pass I chose a point and walked to it, then stopping for a breath or a drink or simply choosing my next spot on the horizon (or the next corner).

Basically take it slow and steady at your own pace, don't rush, don't push yourself to keep up with the group, just keep going.

Enjoy the time at Dead Woman's Pass. The weather was crappy for us. It was cold, it was raining, we were tired, but I wish we had spent more time appreciating where we were.

Enjoy Machu Picchu. You walked 45km, the weather may be bad when you get there, the view from the Sun gate might be non-existent, but at the end of the day your there once, enjoy it and don't go back to town too early.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

South America Day 11: Cusco to Ollantaytambo

December 2011

We were up with the church bells and off at 7:30 am heading towards Caccaccollo. This is a small town where the town is based on farming and traditional weaving.

From here we drove to Pisac, to see the Inca ruins, which are some of the finest and largest in the area.

After stopping for lunch, we arrived at Ollantaytambo and the spectacular Inca ruins there.

We checked into our hotel, brought snacks for the Inca trail starting tomorrow and after a rest headed out for dinner, this time at Blue Puppy. I had the beef quesadillas and DH had the avocado and bacon wrap.

Tika Wasi Valley, Ollantaytambo

Inca Coffee Shop, Ollantaytambo for milkshakes and snacks
Blue Puppy, Ollantaytambo

Caccaccollo to pick up some truly hand woven items
Pisac Ruins
Ollantaytambo Ruins