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illegal camp floods

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Monday 11th November 1985

The trail is now well paved, often wide enough for two to pass, although we barely meet another soul. Laid with a hard white stone, and beautiful views as the trail clings to the edge of the mountain, at one point the trial negotiates a cleft in the rock where the Incas have carved a staircase.

We make it up to the third pass. Tom and Francesca have gone ahead. Chris and Barbara are resting back at Sayajmarca slowed down by a dose of Atahualpa's Revenge. Cloudy at the pass, but while we eat our oranges the clouds part like a curtain and there, a mile below us, is the swirling Urubamba river. The valley is much narrower now, than further upstream where we started the trail.

The stunning scenery continues as we gently descend to the ruins of Phuyupatamarka at the head of another steep valley, about 3.75 miles form the pass. Many terraces turn the steep slopes into productive land, and a chain of baths still with running water. The ruins are being cleared by a team of workmen who spend 3 weeks up here and then one off back in their village. Lovely curvy stone walls, flights of steps and precipitous views. Lunch.
Long flight of steps out of the ruins onto recently uncovered Inca trail and first opened to trekkers this summer, and the best bit of the trail, often 6 feet wide. Two tambos, or small lodges, a tunnel, carved spiral steps, a real Inca highway.
Trail stops suddenly, as if blasted away, at a row of electricity pylons, and we have a steep muddy descent to a hostal in the middle of no where, a white elephant built by the tourist board, already seems to be cracking up. The caretaker, Rosa, and her child, sells us a beer and we slip past to the ruins of Winya Wayna where we camp illegally and in splendid isolation. We fetch water for soup from the base of 150' waterfall.

Posted by 1985 trip 05:44 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

alone & one at a time we enter the Inca Gate of the Sun

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Tuesday 12th November
Its 2am on the Inca Trail, we are camped illegally in some ruins, and it has been raying since we went to bed at dusk. All that rain has been trapped by the Inca walls that surround us and the tent is starting to float - we are awash! Rescue clothes and sleeping bags and tramp soaked back to the hostel under plastic ponchoes and in our underwear. Rosa the caretaker thinks it is hilarious and we sleep on the dining room floor.

Spend a restful day around the hostal and surrounding ruins. There is a grand series of 10 baths, and some houses clustered at the bottom. There is a little windowed courtyard right on the edge, a small ledge can be sat on, feet dangling of a 200m drop to the forest below. Sit and dream of incas past.

Torta and chips at the hostel cooked with great care by Rosa over a primus stove. Then an hours exploration along the side of the mountain through the forest along deteriorating side trail, in places the path has plunged into the void and mossy logs bridge the gap.

In the afternoon we approach the Gate of the Sun that marks the entrance to Macchu Picchu. There are only the 4 of us here and we approach separately at 15 minute intervals to get the first glimpse with the added drama of solo discovery. Its a bit special. Behind the main site, which now has some people wandering about from the posh hotel nearby, rises the jagged peak of Waynu Picchu, the lassoe hook on the saddle of Macchu Picchu, and around which at its foot the mighty Urubamba roars. It is spectacular. We retreat with out exploring further than the view from the trail entrance and camp again. Use ponchoes as aded rain shields over the tents. Enjoy last packet of soup. Rains all night but secure and dry in tent.


Posted by 1985 trip 06:05 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Temple of the Moon, Waynu Picchu, off limits & irresistible

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Wednesday 13th November 1985
Having camped the night before at the Gate of the Sun we are up with the sun, 5.30am. to enter Macchu Picchu several hours before anyone else. At dawn we approached through the mist with swirling views of the ruins as we descend gently along the ancient approach road. We pass the funeral stone apon which they may have prepared and dried the dead. A massive double door jam, and into the ancient town. This ceremonial route is bypassed by the modern approach up the agricultural terraces.
The stonework is so skilful, plastic, fluid, beautiful, of nature. Identify Temple of the Sun with its sundial broken by the spanish, Princess's Palace, main temple, jail house and torture niches and rocky condor. Most of these descriptions are modern fantasy labels I suspect. They mould their stonework, carved fixtures and fittings sometimes in the natural rock sometimes in quarried stone, almost seamless, exploiting natural features where ever possible.

25,000 for a bowl of soup at the ugly luxury hotel next to the ruins, which has spoilt the view from Inktu Pinku.

The others go down to Aqua Calientes for a restorative hot bath. I return to the ruins with an American called Stephen to climb Waynu Picchu. A precipitous little stone trail leads up through the miniature terraces and small platforms. At the top the sun is hot, and we see a tantalising small trail down the north face, we know that way leads to the temple of the Moon. Off limits and irresistible. Ignoring the Peligrosa and No Passe signs we descend the sheer rocky face following tiny carved steps.

At one point where the steps have been carved into the rock face the entire slab has separated and slipped, making the steps an unsettling angle. It is very lush and rocky, small terraces, even here. After some time we reckon we have missed the temple in the undergrowth and decide to push on to the valley below.
Suddenly we find it. A cave, carved, and added to, the rock tidied up by the neatness and precision of the inca. Wall niches and double jams speak of ceremonial grandeur. Spoilt by charcoal graffiti. Finding the cave means we are about half way down to the Urubamba. Scout around for further trail, and realise we will have to return the way we came and it is getting late in the day. Still this will mean we can sign ourselves out properly at the site entrance and get our backpacks back.

Chew on bamboo shoots, like raw runner beans, and drink from epiphytic bromeliads. My legs are wobbly with exhaustion which adds to the vertiginous effects of the steep trail. As we crest the peak the ruins of Macchu Picchu are completely empty. As we climb down from Waynu Picchu we feast on wild strawberries growing on the little terraces. Suddenly an armed guard in uniform starts blowing a whistle and we have to leave the strawberries and eat humble pie and look stupid. The register has already been put to away for the day, unchecked.

Descend by a rocky muddy path in the pouring rain to the valley bottom, a long way, and then along the railway for 2km to Aqua Calientes, having missed the last train. Curious place Aquas Calientes. The single track railway line to Cuzco is the high street, along which cheap restaurants and hostels cluster. We check into dorm at Hostal Machu Picchu, 15000 a night eat like pigs and sleep like we are dead. Phew.

Posted by 1985 trip 06:24 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Cusco train derailed

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Thursday 14th November 1985

Catch the 8.15 train in the morning from Aquas Calientes to Cuzco, 29,000 S 1st Class. Unnecessary extra as the train was virtually empty, because of a landslide further up the line and the trains can't get through. A little later we run into trouble and one set of wheels jumps off the track and are derailed. A guard takes off his shoes and shins up a telegraph pole, connects a phone, and tells the controller. Meanwhile rocks are placed under the train wheels and the train is reversed back onto the tracks. The whole business is very slick, takes about 20 minutes. Well rehearsed.
Guard warning train derailed

Guard warning train derailed

The Urobamba is strange, we are following it upstream gaining height towards Cuzco, but as we go the valley is widening out and the inca terracing becomes more abundant. Grubby locals standing in the rain shepherding their animals.

The bottom rung on my hired rucksack has broken off. Someone on the train advises me the local name for araldite is Soldimix. I help him get the English right on a song he is translating.

Meet the gang at Hotel Suiza. Take back all the hired gear, no hassle about the broken backpack. Total expenses for the Inca Trail about 40 US$. Very few people on the trail.

Posted by 1985 trip 08:13 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Kamikaze Club

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Friday 15th November 1985

Day of rest after the Inca Trail trek. Maria does some shopping. Its time she returned to northern Peru to finish her elective at a little hospital where her brother works. Jessica meets a famous artist who promises to sketch her portrait this evening! Oh Yeah.

Listen to jazz and Rock at the Kamikaze Club. Jessica and yankee Stephen leave for Bolivia tomorrow. English Stephen John and maria leave for Lima tomorrow.

Posted by 1985 trip 08:29 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Rest and write 13 postcards

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Saturday 16th November 1985

Was planning to visit Pisac today, but couldn't summon up the necessary joules. Hang around town and bump into Simon from Tikal and Costa Rica. He plans to earn some mega bucks in silicon valley and doesn't plan to return to the UK. News of a large volcanic eruption near Bogata with 20000 dead. Write 13 postcards and a letter home.

Posted by 1985 trip 08:58 Archived in Peru Comments (0)


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Sunday 17th November 1985

Minibus over the top to the Urobamba valley again and the terracotta roofed village of Pisac. Colourful Sunday market with many visitors, small local feel. All the locals are in their Sunday best. A sombre tuneless brass band marches past.

Steep climb up to the rocky peaks above Pisac. Numerous large terraces and precipitous stairways turrets and aqueducts scattered over the crests. Meet an english couple and share their pineapple. We are booked on the same KLM flight back to europe. beautiful to see how the Incas have used the rocky heights, and used rock faces using them as walls. In a small saddle rests a temple complex with perfect regular stonework, baths and sundial. Cliff face pockmarked by hundreds of graves, some surviving adobe trim, terraces still be worked.

Truck back to Cuzco with indian women through the late afternoon sun and wind, my nose red and peeling. Evening set meal 6000 S.

Posted by 1985 trip 09:02 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Sacsayhuamán fortress

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Monday 18th November 1985

Visit the monumental megalithic fortress of Sacsayhuamán on a hill behind Cuzco, much of the stonework pillaged to build Cuzco. This was the site of a decisive battle between the Spaniards and the Incas. Enormous 300 ton blocks fit perfectly. Three tiers of zigzig walls and remains of towers, the largest stones are at the apices of the zigzags. Land across the plain full of tunnels. Two km further on a limestone outcrop is carved in situ, a cave has been adapted, there are steps altars seating and passages. Most loose stonework pilfered so only the carved solid rock remains. Enigmatic.

Christine form UK moves into the dorm. She has been staying in a remote Indian village eating potatoes. She came out to Peru to teach English a year ago and has stopped now to travel. Two Norwegians tell me of a large tin mine worth visiting near Oruro in Bolivia. Buy a through bus ticket to La Paz, Bolivia for 15,000 S. With Morales Moralitos, a bus company with a poor reputation. Will see what happens.

A lot of rain, anxious about the journey. It is a mountain dirt track as far as Juliaca.

Posted by 1985 trip 09:34 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

exploring Cuzco

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Tuesday 19th November 1985

It is unseasonably wet. Good day for museums. The Cusquena school of painting, examples all over town. Enjoy the anxious look of the apostles in one large last supper. Christ is about to carve the guinea pig. Elsewhere the Virgin Mary, sailing on a cloud, resuscitates a stricken mortal with a well aimed stream of breast milk from her left breast right across the picture and accurately into his mouth. Miraculous.

See what is left of the Sun Temple, rediscovered after the 1952 earthquake under Santo Domingo cathedral. Famous curved wall, a spiral curve that leans inward too. The blocks of the temple fit perfectly all the way through the wall, not just at the exterior.

Good local museum, many Inca artefacts, copper, silver lead, gold and tin. The used an alloy of copper lead and tin. Fabulous weaving and mummies from Paracas. Some have large holes trephined into their skulls during life and healed. Lots of stone lariat weights and stoney 5 pointed clubs and sling shots. They made formidable enemies.

Catch bus for La Paz in the evening. Could be a rough night.

Posted by 1985 trip 09:47 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

buy bundles of Bolivian Pesos

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Wednesday 20th November 1985

Bone shattering night on a bus from Cuzco on unsurfaced mountain roads. Arrive in Juliaca at dawn and the road surface improves, a little.

Border stop at Desquarrdes. Change Soles - Pesos, 100,000-7.5 million. 1.3 million to the dollar as I arrive. It will be 1.4 million a week later. Routine passport stamp. No hassle. Lake Titicaca bathed in sunshine. The alluvial shores are intensely cultivated. Reed boats paddle about the reedy shore line. Small flocks of llamas, sheep and cows are supervised by pear shaped women. Pear shaped in their bowler hats and multilayered voluminous knee length skirts.

Then we head south across the moor like altiplano. On the horizon the snow capped rim of the Andes. The shanty outskirts of La Paz sprawl up onto the altiplano, but there is no sign of la Paz's skyscrapers unti we reach the rim of the giant bowl that La Paz sits in 350 m below. It is a dramatic sight.

No messages from Jessica at Hotel Rosario, which is full. Eventually check into the Turino near Plaza Murnillo for 2.5 million P. Dickensian.

After chicken dinner I walk the streets and bump into Jessica and Barbara who have only just arrived themselves. They have been to Puno, an island on the lake and Copacabana.

Posted by 1985 trip 10:14 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Money changers

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Thursday 21st November 1985

Change money. La Paz's central streets have more money changers than pedestrians, and the old man in restaurant Marilyn will change travellers cheques. Changing money involves counting bundles of pesos, too many to count individually, just count the bundles. Inflation has done terrible things to the Bolivian Peso. While we were in Marilyn's yankee Stephen turned up so we all move to Hotel Rosario and share a room, its very nice at 3 mill pesos each.

Just off plaza Murillo at 3,600 m is a beautiful porticoed old colonial house with an alabaster fountain and its room filled with the works of local artists. See the mummies some with trephined skulls, and impressive stone work at the Tiwanaku museum.

six months ago Bolivia was astoundingly cheap, travelling would just cost pennies. But they have stopped devaluing to try and counteract inflation, so it is more expensive now, but still cheap. Veggie dinner, i million pesos.

Posted by 1985 trip 08:52 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

visit San Pedro prison, La Paz

meet some cocaine smugglers

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Friday 22nd November 1985

Visit the local jail with Jessica and talk to an Englishman and a Canadian who have both done 8 years for cocaine smuggling. It took them about four years to get sentenced and the Englishman's sentence finished a week ago. We talked through the iron bars just like an old fashioned zoo. They can obtain anything they want in prison with cash, steaks, cocaine, pornography. The two we were visiting grabbed everything we had brought as presents, bread, bananas and avocados. They were rough characters, they talked fast, bummed some money, and their eyes were everywhere, afraid to miss something. The Canadian had a hangover. He sculpted little tortoises from stone.

That night went to a 'Jazz Club'. Expensive little place with more waiters than customers, like a revamped mayfair pub. Music on a synthesiser, and disappointing. Spent 5 mill each on a shared Chilean red wine. It was good. Tasted better the next night when we bought three bottles on the market for 6 mill the lot.

Posted by 1985 trip 09:02 Archived in Bolivia Tagged san la prison pedro paz cocaine Comments (1)

try to go skiing, but my pesos not accepted on mountain top

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Saturday 23rd November 1985

Jessica up early to catch the ferrobus to Potosi.

I go to Club Andino for a minibus up mountian Chacaltaya for 10 million. Superb journey across the altiplano and then start ascent up a narrow rocky road aiming for 5,300m. Unfortunately the ski shop at the top did not like my money - 'falso' and I couldn't ski. Visibility was very poor anyway.

Back in town meet Jessica and Stephen again, the ferrobus was full. So we all have a meal in a bar, pass off my falsoes and drink the chilean wine. Stephen and Jessica plan to catch the sunday morning train, I will try to go skiing again and follow on the night bus.

Posted by 1985 trip 09:13 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

skiing at 17,785 ft

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Sunday 24th November 1985

La Paz is pretty in its dramatic super bowl location. Clean and quiet. The streets are filled with indian ladies sitting on a pile of skirts with their produce spread around them on the pavement, fruit, meat, herbs, coca leaves, toiletries, jumpers, medicines, magic ingredients.

In the centre of town old cafes serve capuchin, cafe con leche, mate de coca/manzanilla/herbia/anis and cake. Set meal usually 1 mill or less, a la carte 3 mill or more. Catch Club Andino bus again. Half way up Chacaltaya it is obvious more snow has fallen in the night. Trying to round a sharp bend the bus slides backwards and stops with its back wheels on the edge of doom and the rear seats sticking well out over the drop. The bus driver is wearing a crash helmet. We all get out and start walking. Driver puts snow chains on the wheels, drives slowly on the snow, cautiously negotiating the hair pin bends. We get back on, lots of nervous laughter. We are now in the clouds with a foot of snow on the rocky road. We cannot go on. We walk again in small groups, the air is thin and walking is slow. Visibility is poor. Hard work. My alpaca wooly hat crackles and writhes on my scalp with static from the clouds.

Refreshed by mate de coca and a lay down. Breathing has an abnormal rhythm. There is a fire in the grate but the building is unfinished. Hire skis for 10$ and set off into the white. The is one run on the glacier, which opened in 1930. (The 17000 year old glacier has since melted). A long cable rattles round the mountain on car wheel pulleys. It goes in and out of a large wooden house, the original lodge, perched on a bluff above the glacier, powered by a car engine. The cable is moving quite fast and you have to hook on it with a bent piece of iron attached to a rope round your waist. There is no level land so you stand with one ski at right angles and the other pointing up the slope in readiness. A violent jerk and away you go for a long steep pull. Have to avoid hooking onto the cable at a splice. At each car wheel pulley I derail the cable, lots of Spanish from the man behind who skilfully hooks it back again as he goes past.

No moguls, not piste, plenty of snow, few skiers and stunning views of lake Titicaca miles below when the clouds break. Meet a 'blanco boliviano' is third generation Bolivian of irish descent, came over the build the railway. On one run a meet Pete a medical student from the Radcliffe Oxford on his elective. He tells me Bolivians have a high incidence of gall bladder cancer. Pete and companion came up by taxi. They built and photographed what they claimed was the world's highest snowman. His friend has been in Bolivia for nine months painting.

Noone seems to know how many are expected on the bus down. Some ski part of the way. In the event we leave without the cook and her family who only catch the bus by sending the boy after the bus on skis. The locals are bare legged from the knees with only thin shoes. No hope of the 6pm coach to
Potosi as I am still up the mountain. Back to the Turino and a noisy night. The rooms have canvas ceilings.

Posted by 1985 trip 09:20 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

tres por cien

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Monday 25th November 1985

The steamer across lake Titicaca is no longer steaming.

Try to change travellers cheques to cash with the old man in the restaurant at Marilyns but he is not very accurate with his time keeping and I miss him. If you make an appointment in latin america you have to specify whether it is local time or english time, ie on time or 2 hours later.

Market prices: mangoes, sweet limes, apples, advocates, pears all about 4 -6 million pesos a kilo. Bread rolls ' tres por cien' according to the cries of the street vendors.

Get the 6pm bus to Potosi 13 mill leaves at 7 (local time) An old snub nosed mercedes bus bedecked with colourful lights and crosses. Take a sleeping pill to try and numb out the hifi.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:25 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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