Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Machu Picchu via the 'other' Route

By R.B. Moreno

This summer I'm traveling and writing in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia along with my sister, who has just finished Peace Corps service in Paraguay. Today we reached Nasca, on the southern coast of Peru, and tomorrow morning we'll take a flight over those geoglyphs I remember from a dusty guide book as a boy. Among other figures, Nasca's lines depict a monkey, a killer whale, a spider, a pelican, a hummingbird, hundreds of mysterious geometric forms, and something resembling an astronaut. Our favorite caption from tonight's preview show, at the local planetarium: "lines intersecting other lines, for no apparent reason."

Four Days Along the Salkantay

Above you'll find some 60 photographs from last weekend's trek to Machu Picchu via the "other" route, the Incan Salkantay trail, which crosses a mountain pass at 15,092 feet. Another member of our group about my age and height was wearing a heart monitor, and he says he burned about 4,000 calories the first day. We were both chewing lots of coca leaves to help with the altitude, per the advice of our guide. It's hard to say what effect coca has on stamina, but scaling slopes with numb, green lips must have done something great for Incan runners who once used the trail to relay messages -- at a pace of more than 12 miles an hour.

Postscript (Jan. 26, 2010) -- With mass evacuations underway and the world focused on survivors emerging from collapsed buildings in Port-au-Prince two weeks after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook Haiti's capital, a similar scene -- involving tourists -- is unfolding in Machu Picchu. More from ABC News:
Landslides were triggered after the Vilcanota and Urubamba rivers in the Andean province of Cusco burst their banks over the weekend, triggering dozens of landslides and severing the only rail line linking the city of Cusco with Machu Picchu, train operator PeruRail said in a statement today.
The government has declared a state of emergency in Machu Picchu and the surrounding areas.
Peru's Tourism Minister Martin Perez said in statement today that 60 tourists had already been airlifted to Cusco, with priority given to the elderly, people with health issues, pregnant women and small children. Another 300 were evacuated from the Inca Trail and driven by bus to Ollantaytambo.

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