Wednesday, November 12, 2014

10/29 - Approach to Machu Picchu

Today we get our first views of Machu Picchu. I am totally looking forward to that. Dalmiro had warned us that today would be the hardest day of hiking on the trip. Rivalling Salkantay Pass, as we had to climb 1900' or so, cross Llactapata Pass and then descend 2900' down to the Aobamba River in the valley on the other side. That and it was going to be hot and very humid as we were in deeper jungle than yesterday.
So I tried not to eat too much for breakfast (full tummy + hiking + heat = Unhappy Hedgehog). Our coffee we ordered yesterday showed up right on time this morning. Huzzah we have local Peruvian beans to bring home.
Another shot of the typical breakfast buffet, with 3 juices and 3 yogurts. You could also order eggs any way you wanted them with whatever you wanted (cheese, bacon, tomatoes,etc). I had coffee and eggs this morning.
Part of the group waiting for Dalmiro to pay the porters. (Left to Right) Christian, Mark, Lisa, Tom, and Carol.
Our luggage had to be carried by porters the last bit of yesterday and all the way to the train today as no pack animals are allowed on the Inca Trail. This is in an effort to preserve it. Local farmers can have their livestock on the Inca Trail as needed.
Looking back, the silver roof is the coffee plantation we visited yesterday.
Even though it was partly cloudy, Dalmiro was right. The day got hot and humid very quickly. Don't Doubt Dalmiro.

 Becca looking down into the valley, about half way up our climb to Llactapata Pass.
Yet another unusual Orchid that Dalmiro pointed out.
Resting at a clearing in Llactapata Pass. 5 Inca trails converge in this clearing.
Hurrah! Heading downhill after our break in the clearing.
Our very first view of Machu Picchu! It was down a side trail and it was unfortunately pretty hazy but there it is!
This is the symbol for ruins. Llaqtapata Pass was named after the ruins found here. Some of the ruins have been restored. Restored in that the jungle growth has been removed and the walls rebuilt.

The restored walls of Llaqtapata.
A couple of examples of ruins that the jungle has overtaken at the same site.

Dalmiro looking through the main door of the ruin. Note the shape of the doorway and the channel running beyond it.
The channel points straight to Machu Picchu.
Standing in the doorway and looking down the trench at Machu Picchu.
I'm still enthralled with the doorway and the building technique, the rest of the group has already gathered at the plateau edge to stare at Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu from the plateau edge.

Our group gathering to leave and head down trail to where our lunch awaits.
Another jungle covered wall as we head for lunch.

Llacqtapata Lodge - Not a lodge in the Mountain Lodges of Peru chain. An independant that is setup to cater to trekkers. They have a field for people to camp, a toilet that is 1 Sol and food to sell them. 
Everyone getting ready for lunch. You can see the camping field in the background and the toilet through the gate and on the right.
And this is the dining hall.
Inside the dining hall.
An example of the type of appetizer we would get with lunch. Avocados, peas, carrots and fava beans with some local cheese on top. Main dish was fish and dessert was a fruit cup.

The view of Machu Picchu from Llaqtapata Lodge. It is clearing up a little but still hazy.

Machu Picchu is over Becca's head in the distance.

 Dalmiro tells us there is 98 switchbacks between Llaqtapata Lodge and the Aobamba River. He has that playful look in his eyes, so suspicious we check with Lis and she confirms. 98 switchbacks, yay.

Becca, Lisa and Christian checking out the view on our way down after lunch. This is before the switchbacks start.

View of a waterfall in the distance from a switchback, we'll go right by there.
Local farmer has a lot of beehives. They give a decent idea of the slope of the hill which is why there are so many switchbacks.

Bananas growing along  the trail.
Suspension bridge over the Aobamba River.
Dalmiro and Becca checking out the suspension bridge while waiting for the rest of our group.
Becca crossing the suspension bridge.
Butterfly resting on Becca's shoulder while she's resting on a log waiting for the rest of the group to cross the suspension bridge.
Waterfall we've been seeing in the distance from it's base.
The group nearing the Hydroelectric. It has been this exposed and sunny since crossing the suspension bridge and it is hot.
Dalmiro provides documentation for our entry to the Hydroelectric while we mill around.
This announcement is due to a large number of tourists taking naked selfies at Machu Picchu. Who knew that was a thing?
After getting waved through we hike into the Hydroelectric area and there are military personnel everywhere. It takes about another 10 minutes to come to a train station in the middle of the complex. Very unusual. Now I keep calling it the Hydroelectric. It's not a dam. What they did was dig a tunnel through the mountain and diverted part of the river into the tunnel. At this end there are 2 massive pipes that come out the side of the mountain and the water pushes down through the pipes turning massive turbines. Generating 91 MWs of electricity. The water then flows back into the river. Actually the waterfall we walked by is the overflow release when there is too much water for the pipes to handle. Pretty ingenious. I didn't take any pictures of the pipes up close due to the security.
A sign at the train station.
Waiting for the train to arrive. (Front to back) Tom, Lis, Katie and Sue. Sue still wasn't fully recovered and hiked the 0.5mi back to the road this morning and was driven here. She's been waiting for us for hours.
Our train arrives.
We are sitting in the tourist car. It is very comfortable and has A/C which feels AWESOME after the heat and humidity. The rest of the cars are not this nice apparently.
Christian and Dalmiro figuring out which seat is Christians. 
Becca enjoying the A/C while we wait to leave.
The group gathers in the Aguas Calientes train station. Our hotel in town Inkaterra Hotel, has sent someone to guide us to the hotel and some porters to take our luggage.
Following our guide to the hotel.
Inkaterra Hotel has a complex that is acres large. They don't have rooms per se, they have apartments. They also have two restaurateurs on grounds, 3 hot tubs and a pool, an Orchid Garden, gift shop, private zoo with Spectacled Bears (native to the Andes but listed as Vulnerable and not very common), a lounge, several bar areas and sitting areas. It is quite the place. You need a map to get around

Photos of our apartment, our luggage was waiting for us in the room as usual.

The Inkaterra Cafe, one of the two restaurants, it is situated with views of the river.
The lounge area where Tea Time is served.
After checking in we took advantage of the 3 hot tubs, each a different temperature, before our evening briefing and dinner. Dalmiro told us that we'd have a late start tomorrow so we're planning on exploring Agua Calientes before we leave for Machu Picchu.