Machu Picchu, Peru

Inca Trail Trek - 2009 (aka "Always Take the Green Taxis")

Ok, well, “never” is a really long time. I managed to stay away from Peru for all of four years before returning, this time with my brother and Todd Kinnick to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. A fairly innocent itinerary one might think. What could possibly go wrong?!?

In preparation for the trip, we all read the various guidebooks and recommendations to help us during our stay in this interesting and beautiful and impoverished country. One of the first things you read in said books is that you should only take the GREEN taxis upon arrival in Lima. The others run the risk of being a bit more sinister and opportunistic. Well, having been there before, I was somewhat (over) confident and managed, within minutes of our midnight arrival in Lima, to get us entangled with a less than reputable “taxi service.”

After a lengthy drive through the worst sections of Lima, I suppose to encourage us to be more amenable to their demands, and repeated requests for significant sums of money (totaling thousands of US dollars) from our less than hospitable hosts (i.e. kidnappers), which included several stops at various ATM machines (which fortunately, or unfortunately, wouldn’t work for me), we finally got a game-plan together. We could actually reach our duffle bags in the back of the car (fortunately, it was a hatch-back, which may have been our saving grace). At the next stop sign, we grabbed our duffles as Mike threw what was roughly $100 cash in small US bills into the front seat and we jumped out of the car and onto the street.

However, it was now 2am on the tough streets of Lima with lots of gear in-hand. Just how I drew it up in advance. This was certainly not the most secure I have felt during all of my travels.

Mercifully, a real taxi pulled around the corner within minutes and thankfully delivered us where we needed to be, for which that driver received a handsome tip. Sorry again about that one, bro. At least the trip was memorable! Green taxis… always take the green taxis.

Todd was already in Peru after finishing several weeks of Doctors Without Borders-type work and met us later that morning. Groggily, we flew to Cusco and completed our final preparations for the 4-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu. After a delicious dinner of cuy, the Peruvian delicacy otherwise known as guinea pig, washed down by the local Cusqueña beer, we went back to the hotel for our final night’s rest in a bed for a while.

Unfortunately, later that night, Mike came down with a dreaded case of the Peruvian green-apple-quick-steps, even though he was the only one who did not eat the cuy delicacy. Perhaps, the Incan gods frowned upon his choice of entree. However, he was undeterred and somehow managed to power through the entire 26-mile, multi-day trek despite the obvious, lingering discomfort. He certainly earned my utmost respect and appreciation for enduring that misery the entire trip.

Hopefully, after the taxi incident, that travel illness, and our climb of Mont Blanc du Tacul in Chamonix many years before, he will still want to travel with me… I’ll bet it will take more than that to scare him off though. He’s one tough hombre.

So, despite some sleepless nights, mostly for Mike, we enjoyed beautiful scenery and historic ruins all along the way to our ultimate destination, Machu Picchu. We stayed in some incredible camps like Wayllabamba, Phuyupatamarca, and Pacaymayo, while crossing a couple of major passes topping out as high as 14,200’ including Warmiwañuska Pass (Dead Woman’s Pass) and Runcuracay Pass.

All told, we gained and lost nearly 10,000’ of elevation and covered over 26 miles before arriving at Inti Punku (the famous Sun Gate), which marks the entrance and final descent to Machu Picchu. We spent an entire day exploring the site and ruins and made a quick ascent of Huayana Picchu, the peak that serves as the backdrop to Machu Picchu in the photo on the right. It was a great and
memorable trip, especially for those of us feeling 100%.