After the short trip to Copacabana (Bolivia) we went back to Puno. After a very cheap (local bus) bus ride back to Puno, we had to find a hostel. Unfortunately the first two hostels we full due to a local festival. Finally we ended up at hotel Zurit. Good place to stay, they had cable tv, so we watch many movies and chilled out for a few days. On the 30th May we had planned a tour to the floating islands, called Uros and to Isla Taquile. We went with a boat to these both islands. The Uros people built these floating islands to protect themselves against the Inka's. The islands are made of bamboo. Nowadays it is more a tourist attraction, as many tourist visit these small islands. We brought balloons for the kids. In the beginning there were 5 kids, but after the first few ballons more kids showed up. We gave at least 40 ballons away. After this session, we went with the boat to Isla Taquile. We met a Dutch couple from Haarlem (Marijn and Sara), and it was nice to speak with people from the same city we are. As we were sitting outside we missed the information session of our guide Nestor. The information session was quit important, or I must say we figured that later out. When we arrived at the island, we went with the 4 of us for a quick lunch. Suddenly we saw that the guide was leaving with the rest of the group, so we finished our lunch and tried to get hold of them. But no luck, we couldn't find them anymore. So we went back to the boat, but boat was gone as well. We have been informed by locals that the boat went to the other side of the islands, luckily for us we could take another boat to catch our boat on the other side.... We made it in time and of course I got a little bit mad on the guide. Okay anyway the island tour was not our best and amazing tour.
The 31st May was the day we went with the bus (7hours) to Cusco. The main capital of the Inca's. We arrived around 4pm and went straight to our hostel, recommend by the lonely planet. We had a nice room, and even hot water 24 hours. After a good night rest, we went the next day to Iglesia de Santo Domingo. The church is most famous as the site of Qorikancha. There are remains of a Inca temple inside the cloister. Check out Wikipedia for more information about this site. After this we went to a charmingly modest museum - Inka Museum. This is really the best museum about the whole Inca's history. This was more then enough cultural stuff for one day, so we went to the travel agency to complete our booking for the Inka Jungle Trail. After booking this, we went back and met Tony and Kirsty (our Galapagos friends). And it was even more a surprise that they were sitting in the same hostel as us. To catch up, we went out for dinner.
The next day we went with the 4 of us to Saqsaywaman (sexy woman). This is an immense ruin of both religious and military significance and is most impressive in the area of Cuzco. Saqsaywaman feels huge but today's structure is only 20% of the total it was. The Spaniards tore down many walls and used the blocks to build their own houses in Cuzco, leaving the largest and most impressive rocks. The site is composed of three different areas, the most striking being the magnificent three/tiered zigzag fortifications. One stone is even 300tons, check out the pictures. Cuzco is built in the shape of a Puma, Saqsaywaman is the head of the Puma. On the 3rd June we done the Sacred Valley tour. We visited two different ruins. In Pisac an Ollantaytambo. The last one has a spectacular huge steep teracces. There is a finely worked ceremonial center at the top of the terracing. Even you could see two Inca faces in the mountains, amazing view!! On the way back we visited the little town Chinchero, were we bought some souvenirs for back home.
5th June the starting day of our Inka Jungle Trail tour of total 4 days 3 nights. We were picked up at 0730am and met the rest of the group. 7 people in total, 1 from America (Justin), couple from Canada (Crispin and Sara), and a couple of United Kingdom (Dan and Tara). We went up with the bus and bikes to the highest point of the Abra Malaga mountain 4350meters. This was our starting point. We went down and had to bike for 71 kilometers to the little village Santa Maria. It was an amazing mountain biking ride, best views ever on the Salkantay mountain, Veronica mountain and the jungle. We arrived Santa Maria (1430meters) around 4pm. After the bike ride we played some soccer with the locals, had diner and went to bed around 9pm. Next day the alarm went of at 0630am, time for breakfast and we started hiking/walking at 0730am. First a easy road but soon it changed to the real Inka path. Short and steep walking way trough the jungle and little tiny villages. We had amazing views on the mountains. The temperature was high, around 28 degrees. So a lot of water was welcome. In total we walked for 8 hours, to finish in Santa Teresa. This night we slept in tents. Before we had to lay down on the ground we first went all to the hot springs of Santa Teresa. That was really perfect after this long walk, and to clean a little bit. After the nice water we had diner and finished the night with a campfire.
Day 3, start at 0800am, easy walk over an unpaved route which later changed into the railroad... we walk next to the Rio Vilcanota. It was a nice walk and we could already see some ruines on top of the Machu Picchu. Even it look sometimes a short distance, we even had to walk for total 7 hours, to finally finish in Aguas Calients Pueblo, this is the village before Machu Picchu. We stayed the night in a hostel, had dinner with the group and went all to bed around 8pm, because day 4 was the real day.
8th June, we started our walk at 0400am. The reason was that we had to walk all the way up on a very steep staircase, and only the first 400 people are allowed to go up the Wayna Picchu. In the dark we went up and within an hour we reached with our group the entrance gate of Machu Picchu as number 3. At 6am the doors went open, and we were the first visitors of that day.... That feeling that you´re the first is amazing... it was still quite dark and cold. Machu Picchu in one word AMAZING. We went to the next gate to collect our Wayna Picchu ticket, we got number 3 and 4. At 0700am our tour started with a guide. He explained a lot about the history of Machu Picchu, the discovery of Hiram Bingham, could to have a guide, very interesting. After the tour it was time for me to climb up the Wayna Picchu. From this mountain you have the best view over the Machu Picchu Ruins. It took me 40 minutes to climb up the steep stairs... the view was amazing. Only 400 people per day are allowed, and I was one of them... so cool. I shot a lot of pictures, which you can check out. I can continue talking about this, but do please check out the pictures and wikipedia for more information.
After this, we went back with a train and taxi to Cuzco, to relax for a few days. At the moment I´m writing this story we are waiting on Lima airport, for our flight to Panama and Manaus (Brazil). We had so much fun, and special thanks to our Inka Jungle Trail group.... Still having a hang/over of our party night in Cuzco....
Emile and Iris