Monday, April 2, 2012

Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu

We knew we were going to do the Jungle Trek option to get to Machu Picchu since Paraguay and we also knew that we didn't have to worry about booking it before hand like the Inca Trail trek to MP. Since the Inca Trail only has a limited amount of people, porters and guides that can be on it at one time it's a little more time sensitive. It's also a hell of a lot more expensive! There are actually many options to get to MP...Inca Trail, Jungle trek, Salkantay trek, taking a train there, taking a train to ollataytambo and walking the trail tracks there. All sorts. The Jungle trek was four days, three nights and we searched a couple places in Cuzco to find a good deal. I wish we could go back and book it again knowing what we know now, but all I can do is pass on the information we gathered to anyone reading this who wants to do the Jungle trek!

***First off, some information for people wanting to do it****
.... most of the agencies in Cuzco will lie. If you want a reputable agency you'll have to pay more. We looked into Lorenzo tours, the guy didn't lie and they never take more than ten people. Unfortunately, they we're out of our budget range so we went to a random company. This is what we were told: that the tour was only people from that agency, that he couldn't lower the price from what it was because he pays his guides a salary instead of commission, that there were 9 other people other than us (6 Brazilians, 2 Aussies and a Brit) and that it would be $200 per person. Not toooo bad. What it actually was is that we were put with a bunch of other people who booked with other different agencies, there were 15 people plus us (11 Argentinians, 3 Swedish and 1 Danish) and that it varied what people payed so the whole thing about paying the guides a salary was bs. The Swedish had paid $250 for their tour which didn't include some stuff we got and the Argentinians paid $140 and included stuff we got. Basically we all paid very different prices for the same exact tour! The tour itself was really good though and I would deff recommend it, but just know that you're gonna get the same tour no matter what so make sure you shop around and get a good deal!!!!  Our tour included 3 breakfast, 3 lunch, 3 dinner (pretty good food too), 3 nights in hostels in our own room, 2 guides, transportation, bike rental, entrance to MP and entrance to Huaynapicchu (there's only 400 tickets sold a day to go up this mountain next to MP!), the train ride back to Ollataytambo and a bus back to cuzco. Pretty good! Loprenzo tours did all the same stuff and ate at all the same places they just had smaller groups and got tshirts, oh and they didn't include transport back from MP!!********

Ok onto the tour!!
The first day was cycling down a twisty, mountain road. The bus picked us up at 7:30 am. We met our guide, Hever (pronounced ever) and we went to load up the bikes. This is when we realized that we had the most obnoxious group of Argentinians on our tour. 7 of them that were all friends acting like 15 years olds and yelling and being annoying and vomiting out the window. The sad thing was they were probably all in their 30s. We had a 3 hour (very noisy) bus ride to the top of the mountain. Then we got our helmets, bikes and nasty wet gloves and bundled up with fleeces and ponchos because it was cold and rainy at the top. Then we started going down. It was pretty fun but I was nervous at first, the last time I rode a bike was in the beginning of my service in Carapegua and I got made fun of because I was wearing a helmet and the high school kids were yelling our the window 'tortuga tortuga' (turtle) and I never rode my bike again! So I had to get comfortable and relax before I could really enjoy riding down a road that was very windy and next to a cliff edge. Then it started to rain very hard, I could barely see (thank goodness I hadn't worn my glasses!) and I was way behind the group because my tire was flat (I didn't know it at the time). I ended up switching bikes with Hever and finally met up with the group when they stopped, as did the rain. Then I was able to keep up with Nick! It took us 3 hours to get to the bottom where we loaded up the bikes on the bus and drove to the town we would be staying in. There was an option to go rafting but no one had signed up so we just hung out and went to bed early.

The next day we were up early and at breakfast by 6am. This day was all about hiking in the jungle for 7 hours to get to the next town we would sleep in. We started hiking in the rain but I had a feeling it would go, and it did about an hour in. The hike was pretty hard, and it was humid and the sand flies were all bitey, but it was very pretty. Along the way we stopped at a couple peoples houses who were taking advantage of all these gringos hiking through and selling soda and water. At one house they had a pet capuchin who was on a short lead jumpin all over the place, really hyper. We felt bad for him after seeing the capuchins in la senda verde. He really wanted to play with Nick and he was really cute but the people totally just had him out for the tourists. At another house we rested at they had skins of 2 coati's and a jaguar. It was really hard for me to see that especially after volunteering to help the animals. The jaguar was really tough because it's not like there are many left. The guy had shot it 5 months before because it had left the reserve and had killed some livestock. He was trying to sell the skin.
After hiking up the hill for hours we arrived on one of the Incan trais. Not theee Inca trail that people hike on to MP but another one. It was on the side of the mountain, it's amazing to think they used to run around these trails like nothing...they must have been so buff! It was beautiful. We had some lunch after that and hiked along a river which we then had to cross on a cable car which was pretty awesome. We ended the hike at some hot springs that were so much nicer than the ones in Uyuni!
Third day was zip lining in the morning. Only 5 of us did it out of our group and it was awesome. $35 to do 6 zip lines. It was like flying! I really enjoyed it. Then we met up with our group for lunch and started our walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes, the town on the bottom of Machu Picchu. That was a beautiful walk in the valley with the mountains around us. Once in awhile a train would go by and we managed to squish some coins on the track. After about three hours of walking we got to Aguas Calliented, I wasn't sure what to expect from this town but it was nicer than I thought...pretty much made for tourists. We made sure to go to bed early that night because we had a 4am wake up the next day for MP!
Day four..Machu Picchu!!
Tooo early wakeup!!! We had a packed breakfast to take with us and we headed out into the darkness (we forgot the flashlight) and got to the main gait at 4:50am. Time to start the climb up to the top! There are two options, take a bus up the hill or walk up about 1000 or something trains. We chose the stairs...and it was one of the hardest things EVER! think about being on a very uneven stairmaster for an hour! and I had to keep up with people who had a flashlight for the first 20 minutes before the light of dawn showed up so I was rushing and it was high altitude! When there was light it was much better because I could go at my own pace. Nick was like a freakin Olympic athlete running up the stairs and finishing waaay before me, not even out of breath. Once at the top we met up with the other half of the group who took the bus and we had an hour tour with Hever who told us the history of the Incas and showed us some of MP but not a lot. At 7am ..i got to hike up more stairs!!! Up we went on hauynapicchu to the top to see the classic view of MP. Another breathless stairmaster climb for me but this time a little steeper but it was worth it for the view you get at the top. There are also some other ruins up there, not sure what they were. We went back and explored the rest of MP which was really amazing of course. We didn't take a full tour so not sure what everything was but we still enjoyed it...except that there were so many ppl everywhere! I couldn't imagine what it's like at high tourist season! At 1pm we were pretty tired and hungry and the prices of food up there were just unreasonable so we hiked back down the stairs. It was quicker, of course, but my knees were hurting in a bad way by the end. The worst part was we had no where to go, just had to wait for our train that we thought was at 6:30...until we found out it was at 9:30!!! What were we going to do for half a day all tired and stinky! Well, we walked around looking for cheap ice cream, we had lunch, we sat at a coffee shop twice, we waited at the train station to see if we could get on the 6:30 train, we browsed the tourist stuff a bit, and we went back and waited at the train station. So Tired! After the train we still had to take a van from Ollataytambo so we'd be rollin into Cuzco at 1am! We were really nervous there would be no van for us since the rest of our group was on the 6:30 train but amazingly there was and just as amazing the was that the hostel let us in that late! The next day we didn't get out of bed.
Other than all that waiting for the train it was a great trip.

*pics out of order!!*

view of road the bus goes up to MP. Taken from Hauynapicchu.

The jaguar skin

The hot springs. very welcome at the end of a long day

zip lining!

walkin along the train tracks

I got stuck in a tight spot at the train passed by!

view of where MP is from traintracks!

Aguas Callientes

waiting at 4:50am for the gates to the stairs to open

At the top of the stairs

Me arriving!

mountains around MP

there it is

Hever givin us a history lesson

Huaynapicchu we're goin up there!

View from HP down onto MP

Temple of the sun

steps going back down

woohoo we did it!

the capuchin on the hike

Hever teachin us about coco plants

Jungle path

Inca trail

cable car across river

hot springs

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