The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu, Peru

This time it was up at 3.45am to be picked up by our bus - already on board were our Guide Joseph, our cook Victor and assistant cook Manuel and our travelling companion - Olin, a califormian - very fit and ready to rock!  An hour or so into the journey we stopped at Calca which was already buzzing with people and bought Coca leaves in the market - these were to give to locals along the way.  Off again, climbing higher until we got to our starting place - Quishuarani - a tiny village where we met our horse 'driver' Carlos and had breakfast.  You can be forgiven for thinking that we dropped into a local cafe for breakfast - no - this was alfresco dining - a table and stools were off loaded from the bus and the cook got to work - we were served with a variety of breads, pancakes and jams with coffee or tea.  When in  Rome.....I had coca tea - the 'Red Bull' of Peru - just to get me going up the mountain with a zing! We were entertained by a couple of local children and a family trying to corale a herd of unruly llamas! 

                                         Al-fresco Breakfast at Quishuarani                                    Unruly llamas and (below) local boys                                                       So, full of food and raring to go, with our bags packed on the horses, we set off on the first leg of our trek.  Zig-zagging up, Joseph made us stop every 10 minutes or so for a minute to catch our breath.  Our target that morning was to cross the Quishuarani pass (4200m).  Olin was wearing very unusual footwear - usually runs in them he said but couldn't quite manage the run up the mountain!  At one of our stops we had a talk from Joseph about coca leaves and the drug trade etc but also about how the Andeans believe that the mountains and the Sun are Gods.  And so we thanked them:  3 coca leaves - representing the puma, snake and condor, held up to the various mountains and as we blow through them we say 'Sulpikie' - Quenchuan for thank you.  Then we put our leaves on a rock and covered them with small rock.............. Well the rain stayed off and we made the pass in good time!  (Maybe Joseph was having a bit of a chuckle to himself watching these gringos blowing through coca leave!)

                                                     Olin's feet                                                          Saying Sulpikie to the mountains!                                                               Matt & Jean at the Quishuarani Pass                             Views over to Cuncani - our first night's camp

The way down to our lunch spot was a bit easier going - although not so easy on the rocks for Olin's feet!  We had been overtaken by the cooks and horses so we had a very nice surprise waiting for us when we arrived for lunch.  Camp was already set up by a waterfall - the cook's tent, a dining tent and a toilet tent!  To our amazement, our cook was making a 2 course lunch which was served to us (after we had washed our hands in the bowls provided of course) in our dining tent whilst the heavens opened outside - Corn soup; chicken, avocado salad, rice and veg - very yummy!

          Almost at lunch stop                      Cook's tent, Dining tent and toilet tent!       A hand washing bowl each             


Our 'Sulpiki' to the mountains and the Sun must've worked - after lunch the rain stopped just as we were preparing to set off again.  The walk in the sunshine in the afternoon was a 'walk in the park' and lo and behold as we arrived at Cuncani (3780m) there were our tents set up again - and a local lady selling, not only her handicraft work but bottles of beer - how cool is that!                                                                                                                                                                                                            Local woman spinning (met along the way)                               Our first night's camp at Cuncani                        

So we had happy hour with popcorn followed by another yummy meal and then bed at 8pm! We had put on all our thermals, socks. gloves and hats and had inner linings to our sleeping bags so were cozy warm - in fact Matt had a panic attack in the night when he got too hot and struggled to get off some of the clothes!  we were woken up at 6am with tent service of a cuppa (colca tea) followed by full breakfast of eggs and porridge. With Sirihuarani in the background and the sun shining we were off again on our climb over the Pumahuanca Pass (4600m) - once we had steered around the llama pack!

             Start of 2nd day                               Llama pack blocking path               On the up with Sirihuarani in background 

It was hard going and as we got higher the clouds started to get blacker until we finally had to put on our rain gear - it had started to snow.  We stopped and had our talk from Joseph - this time about Andean religion - how the sun, moon and mountains are Gods, the Puma represents strength, the snake - knowledge, the condor - a messenger, and the river - life.  The whole thing put together is Pachamama  Matt was in fine fettle and marched ahead - reaching the top way before us.  Jean struggled with breathing and Olin just struggled with his feet!  We kept seeing the cross at the top but we must've had tide against us as we never seemed to get there.  But once we did reach it - what a feeling - on top of the world at 4600m.

           Talk time on the way up                The blue dwarf struggles on...                  Matt in fine fettle way ahead              


It was comparatively easy again on the way down to our lunch stop - passing 'paper trees' and coming into a very windy valley.  Once again our lunch awaited us!  It was only another couple of hours before we reached our stop for the night.

                                    Yep we'd been right at the top of that!                            Sunny but breezy stop for lunch

Our 3rd day's trekking was rather tame - mainly down through a valley to high Urubamba.  We came across ruins of an Inca 'Tambo' (resting place) which would have been inhabited by an important family and who would rule over the local farmers.  The Inca version of a 'Travel-lodge' - it would have been kept stocked with food for passing travelers.  We reached our lunch destination with climbs over rocks and through waterfalls and arrived to the aroma of chips being cooked in the open air! Today we were alfresco dining as we had a bus then a train to catch to get to Aqua Calientes.

         Down through the valley                               Inca Travelodge                        Open air cooking chips

We left High Urubamba in a great rush after lunch as the bus couldn't make it up the rocky path so everything had to be cleaned and dried and packed away and carried down to the bus.  We watched from the comfort of our camping seats!   Unfortunately, whilst doing a 3 point (or was it 7) turn, the bus got stuck across the narrow path with one of the back wheels up in the air - just what we needed when we had a train to catch!  Much pushing and shoving later, we got the bus freed and off we went at rocket speed.....We reached Ollantaytambo just as the guard was blowing his whistle and fell into our seats to enjoy the one and half hour journey to Aquas Calientes (the town of Machu Picchu).  Great train with viewing panels in the roof so we could see the mountains and Inca ruins on the way.  The terrain changed as we got down into the high jungle and we wound our way along the Urubamba river until we finally reached our destination at 2410m.


      High jungle scenery on the Train to Aqua Calientes          The train line goes right through the town

We spent the night in a 4 star hotel - great to have a bed and a shower!  Not much to the town of Aqua Calientes (we didn't visit the Hot spring but Olin did and was a bit disappointed) except for lots of tourists.  OK so I've gone on so much here about the Lares trek that I'd better give you a break and do a separate Flotsam about the final day of our trek which culminated in the visit to Machu Pichu!




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