Mythical & Magical

Inca Trail playlist:
Bathory – Twilight of the Gods
Pagan Altar – Vol. 1
Pagan Altar – The Time Lord EP
Pagan Altar – Mythical & Magical
Judas Priest – Sin After Sin
Judas Priest – Stained Class
Judas Priest – Defenders of the Faith
Judas Priest – Turbo Lover (my dark secret haha)
High Tide – Sea Shanties
Acid – Maniac
Cathedral – The Ethereal Mirror
Saint Vitus – Children of Doom
Spirit Caravan – Last Embrace
Masters Hammer – Ritual
Black Death – Black Death
Sorcerer – Heathens from the North

****

Cuzco, July 1st. Happy Canada day! The company we booked to trek the Inca Trail/Machu Picchu with, Peru Treks, came to pick us up in a bus at our hotel at 6AM. We were to go to the beginning of the Sacred Inca Trail. It was raining pretty hard outside, and on the way, we actually saw SNOW!

Snow on the way to the Inca Trail. It’s the first time we see snow in South America, beside snow-topped mountains! Not a good sign!

Arrived to our destination, our guide made sure we have plastic rain ponchos, coca leaves and plenty of water. We were already acclimatized to the altitude, so we skipped on the coca leaves. We looked like a bunch of idiots with our colourful ponchos, but keeping dry is more important, obviously! This is what I personally looked at the very beginning hahaha:

Myself dressed and equipped for trekking in the rain! It was actually quite comfortable!

Our group. 16 trekkers, two guides and 20 porters (not seen here). We looked like a box of cupcakes haha

We started the trek at around 11AM. To reach the Inca Trail, we had to cross the Urubamba river to the other side:

The bridge of km 82.

The trail itself was pretty flat, with some ascending here and there. Already, we were seeing incredible sceneries with gigantic misty mountains and green valleys:

Beautiful valley

A little bit further and higher, you could see the Urubamba river again

Our guide told us that most Inca sites were made in the shape of sacred animals. The first one we saw, Llactapata, was apparently shaped in a Puma’s foot! He also told us that this site in particular was to guard the commercial Inca Trail (there are two trails – one Sacred and one Commercial, the later one is currently closed to the public after being destroyed by a land slide last year). It was never found by the Spaniards.

Llactapata

Ourselves with our beautiful cupcake suits

Hiking down to Llactapata

Some remaining foundations of Llactapata. These homes were in the rustic style, and were meant for the lower class.

All the tents, food, cooking equipment and some of our belongings were carried on by porters, which were absolutely impressive. They always ran (most often in sandals) in front of us to make sure everything was set up and prepared ahead of us…

A porter (on the left) and a beautiful Sacred Inca Trail scenery with misty mountains. These guys carried up to 25kg of stuff on their back!

When we arrived at our camp, a “restaurant” tent was set up and hot tea was waiting for us! What luxury huh? We were stunned by the absolutely intense food we were prepared everyday.

The table set in the restaurant tent for dinner

Some entrée the cook made for us, consisting of mashed potatoes stuffed with tuna and onions, and topped with a black olive. I don't remember the name of this dish, but it originates from Lima. It was delicious!

Various plates of delicious food served to us. The middle brown thing is Alpaca meat, served with fresh andean mint!

Garden vegetable rice, veggie salad, stuffed chicken, pork with sweet sauce... mmmm

Cake?? We were offered cake! And bananas flambéed in rum! I mean, I never expected to eat such quality food in the wild!!

The nice porters and cook. These guys were the best!

Our table set up for breakfast, on day 2

A beautiful plate of fresh fruits

PANCAKES!

My biggest discovery, food-wise on this trip! This is a breakfast food they were serving up, some sort of quinoa porridge. You just overboil the quinoa, add sugar and it makes a killer, nutritive and comforting morning drink!

Unfortunately, on the second day, our guide woke us up with bad news. Apparently, the unusual rain (it is supposed to be winter/dry season) has turned into snow on the highest point of our path, the Dead Woman’s pass (4400 meters of altitude). There were 60 cm (2 feet) of it, so it was dangerous for us to go through it. The last time it snowed was 6 years ago… Imagine the porters walking into that with their bare feet in sandals! Some other groups were walking back to the beginning, but thankfully our guide took us forward and made us do a detour through a train track. Therefore, instead of doing 11km on the second day, we hiked for 28km! But it was really easy – everything was very flat, and we got to see ruins that normally people don’t see. Beats climbing 1000 meters worth of stairs and then going down 550 meters!

So, we walked past Llactapata, crossed an eucalyptus forest and reached Qorihuayrachina and its beautiful terraces:

Qorihuayrachina and the Urubamba river

Along the way we saw many colorful flowers and incredibly green vegetation. The ecosystem was changing; we were hiking through what they call the “cloud forest” or high jungle:

Some yellow flowers.

A very colorful flower with a fly on top!

For lunch, we stopped at the ruins of Torontoy, which were again in incredible condition. They were a resting place for the Inca – who, in exchange for a night’s rest, had to give an offering (coca leaves, rocks, food, etc).

An entrance in Torontoy. Notice the big stone at the top of the doorway - it was placed there as a sign of importance.

Offering "shelves" in the walls of a temple in Torontoy

And the following we thought was really cool! This is where they put mummies of important members of their communities. The person was mummified in a fetal position and placed in the walls with several useful objects for them to use in the afterlife. They were mummified in a fetal position because they were supposed to be reborn as fetuses, obviously!

Mummy wall in Torontoy

After lunch, we still had 16 km to do. Fortunately, the rain finally stopped and we were able to remove our ponchos!

François hiking next to the train track

Some ancient staircase carved in a large rock

An orchid in the cloud forest

Urubamba rapids, in the cloud forest. Notice the strange rock formations at the back, due to erosion!

We arrived at our camp at around 5PM. Since we walked so much (48km in total), we were allowed to sleep in until 7AM the next day! Another total luxury! And the assistant guide came to wake us up with a steaming cup of tea:

Myself in the tent, half awake, with some coca tea

We ate breakfast, then quickly visited the ruins of Chachabamba since it was raining again. This place was once again a resting place for the traveling Inca. The construction of the houses made me think a little of old Canadian houses, or even houses found in Brittany (France)!

Chachabamba home

José (assistant guide), François, myself and Percy (our guide!) in the ruins of Chachabamba

After that, we proceeded to walk in the mountains. The path goes up, and the nature itself transforms into a rainforest ecosystem.

A porter with an incredible scenery once again

To enter your mountain
Go into your mountainside
To enter one’s mountainside
Will take its man

Who enters his mountain
With or without sword in hand
Who enters his mountainside
He will learn

The mountainside

A path through the rainforest

A beautiful natural rainforest waterfall

Some flower from the rainforest

Some other strange flowers

We were ascending many stairs to eventually reach our last camp, located near the ruins of Winayhuayna, in a lush mountain:

Winayhuayna in the very distance

Another ancient staircase in the rainforest

After a good 2 hours of hiking, we reached Winayhuayna – well, at least the gates of it. The view was absolutely mind blowing! I had to take a photo, which turned out to be more than epic:

Invoking the sun god Inti, in the Andes

Waiting for us was also a strange bug…

Some sort of small scarab?

After about 30 minutes more, we arrived at the living complex of the ruins. There, we found the same old Canadian style houses:

Some houses. Notice the door on the right, its opening has two rows of blocks. It means that on the other side is a temple or a very sacred place.

Some ceremonial baths that were still active!

A very happy François!

Winay Wayna living complex

Another view of Winay Wayna, with some terraces

There was an optional trail we could take to visit even more ruins. Of course, we took it – and so we ascended again many many stairs…

The view along the way

Percy, our guide

Some terraces, once again. These were build for growing food to bring to Machu Picchu.

I liked Percy's hat so much, that I had to steal it haha

Another view of the valley, near dusk.

Our camp for the night. The tents were really comfortable!

Next morning, we had to wake up at 4AM in order to walk the final two hours to Machu Picchu. We were heading to Inti Punku, the sun gate, in order to see the sun rise on the magnificient sanctuary…

Preparing ourselves to leave at the early hours of the morning

We arrived at the Sun Gate a few hours later, but we unfortunately couldn’t see the sunrise as everything was completely white with mist!!!

Us, waiting at the sun gate for the mist to clear out

After waiting for a good half hour, the mist eventually cleared out enough for us to see something…

View of Wayna Picchu, from the sun gate! This mountain is right next to Machu Picchu (which is hidden by clouds on the left). Apparently, Machu Picchu is supposed to be shaped like a condor.

After this, we did another hour of hiking (this one was probably the hardest of all the hike – it was non-stop ascending on huge rocky staircases!) and we finally reached our goal….

Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu, surrounded by Wayna Picchu and other beautiful mountains. I left this photo in high res in case anyone wants to use it for whatever reason...

Two very happy hikers!

To view Machu Picchu like this, for the first time, shrouded in all of its mystery, was quite something. In fact, it really felt like we were on a movie set; everything looked so out of this world! We were absolutely stoked!!!

Stepping inside the sanctuary was like a dream… the ruins were still in very good condition (again, the Spaniards never found this place when they conquered Peru) and it even surpassed my expectations. The surrounding mountains made it even more magical…

Inside Machu Picchu

The temple of water, a large room with a fountain, where they worshipped water!

Committing fashion crime in Machu Picchu. I had to, I swear! My feet were covered in nasty penny-sized blisters.

The temple of the sun, located in the heart of the sanctuary. Notice the beautiful stonework, it took up to three weeks to polish each stone!

A strange fly hanging out on the ruins

A cave named "The Royal Tomb"... although no mummies were ever found there!

Some more stonework, around the temple. Everything was made so precisely...

This is how the roof was attached to the homes - using ropes

Residential complex

The royalty sector (at the right)

Another double-walled door, which warns that the other room is a sacred place.

We even saw a chinchilla on the site! It wasn’t very scared, we could go close to him and it wouldn’t move at all!

Chinchilla!

Located on the center of the sanctuary is the plaza:

Walls of the plaza. Unfortunately, water has greatly destroyed that wall over the years.

Room of the Three Windows (although you only see two!), a place dedicated to Inti, the sun god

The Intihuatana stone, which is arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. To those who remember "Les Cités d'Or", there is an episode where you see this very stone! It is also located directly in the center of magnetic fields. Apparently, if you touch the stone, you will feel some kind of strange energy. The small carving on the right points to a mountain:

One of the many sacred mountains protecting Machu Picchu

What impressed me about Machu Picchu is that the architecture is in perfect harmony with nature. Sometimes the Inca would leave rocks on purpose in honor to pachamama, or construct terraces along the curves of the mountain. 550 years later, it still looks stunning.

Rocks left on the site. They carved stones for the houses and temples from them.

A wall following the curve of the mountain. You will notice that there are often three things (three "windows/shelves" in this case). It is an important number in Incan symbology - it means the snake (underworld), puma (overworld) and condor (cosmos).

A condor shaped rock. There was another cave and some kind of secret passage underneight it.

Some homes

Rustic-style foundations

And finally, the sun came out, in order for us to fully appreciate the ruins…

Inti!

After our guide finished showing us around, I collapsed from tiredness and did a magnetic siesta on the main plaza’s park.

Siesta time

That’s it for our intense and inspiring adventure in the Andes… It was a great trip, and as you could see, seeing Machu Picchu was only the cherry on top!

Right now, we are have just arrived in Lima, having traveled 20 hours from Cuzco. The ride was comfortable, but they played a really annoying Korean tv series called “Escalera al Cielo” for 15 hours! Arghhh, pure torture!

In any case, we are getting prepared for our gig with Condenados, Reino Ermitaño and Cobra on the 16th. If you are in town, don’t miss this – it promises to be one hell of an event!

Cauchemar/Condenados en Lima!

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6 responses to “Mythical & Magical

  • Mario

    Bienvenidos a Lima! se ve que la pasaron muy bien en Cuzco, las fotos están muy buenas.

  • Véro

    Ah, Machu Picchu… TROP HOT! J’ai eu un petit frisson en voyant la belle photo (merci pour le nouveau wallpaper!), je peux juste imaginer ce que tu as ressenti en le voyant en personne.

    • Yannick Marchand

      Absolument incroyable! Quelle aventure épique! Les photos sont magnifiques! Esti que j’aimerais etre un oiseau et venir vous rejoindre! 🙂

  • Jimmy

    Again all the beautiful photos together with the tour commentary, both Fantastic!
    As is the noisy playlist (great selection).

    And finally, all the best to you and François for the 16th July gig!!!

  • Matt Green

    i always look forward to the next instalment of your travelog- you seem to be having an amazing experience, something which most dream of but never achieve- your writing is funny, fresh and engaging and the photos make everything come alive

    i, for one, hope you both continue travelling for the rest of your lives so that i can continue reading this blog!- stay heavy!

  • Daniela Zappi

    Hello I noticed your site, i can provide names for your flowers and also for the ‘some entree made with mash potato’. Are your images high res?

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