Thursday, June 22, 2006

You can't Choose your Travelling Companions when you travel alone

Since I was travelling alone, and the World Expedition/Tambo Tours tents are two-man, as specified in the trek description, some of you were speculating on what kind of tent-partner I might end up with. The nordic blonde goddess was wishful thinking; I ended up with James, who was probably a lot less trouble. A 22 year-old from Birmingham, James defied the conventions of his home crowd by venturing out on this trip, his first big hike. He was a great tent mate, respecting personal space and generally being bright and positive.

Pictured to the right is breakfast on the day of our push to Machupicchu. We´re at Phuyupatamarca Camp on Friday 16 June. In the foreground are the tourists, 11 of us plus Jose, our guide. In the background are the team of porters, whose job is was to scout for and set up a campsite each night, and to transport the tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, chemical toilet, cooking gear and food. New regulations in Machupicchu include maximum party size of 40, and maximum porter load of 20kg. They also state that a maximum of 2,000 people may be on the trail at any one time, ie 500 people entering per day. Two years ago, before regulation, up to 2,000 people were entering the trail daily during peak season. This is the reason that everybody who wants to hike the trail now-a-days needs to apply for a permit, paying around USD30 per day on the trail, and is obliged to hike with a licensed guide. A good thing, really.

At the lower altitudes, locals will approach the camp with stuff to sell. A most welcome surprise on the first day was the appearance of some cold bottles of Cuscuena, the beer brewed in Cuzco, and comprising one of the two industries in the city. The other is a fertiliser factory. Here I am pictured at our first camp at around 3,400 meters: Llulluchapampa camp. My hat is wonderful and warm, made of Llama wool. I found out the next day that even a couple of beers can bring on a special kind of altitude hangover.

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