Llama's are used natural lawnmowers to keep the the grass down low. They were brought in as animals for a set in a movie a few years ago and were not taken back... so were a welcome addition to the grounds crew.
Carly, Rosie and I opted for another hike... this one back up to the Sungate where the real Inca Trail enters the valley of Manchu Picchu. This is the route the Inca's would have used that comes from Cuzco. This is a very nice view of Manchu Picchu and also is used as one of the equinox points to reveal the winter solstice! Carly almost pushed me off the cliff (so it would appear).
We opted for the side trip which was a climb to the top of the pinnacle mountain next to Manchu Picchu which was called Waynapicchu. It was a fairly difficult and at times, a treacherous ascent but we all completed the journey... at an astonishing pace I might add!
A top the important area known as the sundial. This was a key building constructed to inform the people of the changing seasons through the use of the sundial that was pointed strategically and arranged in a manner to depict the equinoxes when the sun rose between mountains off in the distance.
And an example of how the split stone... they would use the natural cracks in the rocks and wedge wood into the cracks, then soaked the wood. The wood would expand and force the crack open until it broke apart.
The last segment of our Manchu Picchu Trek. This was really a nice gradual stroll along the railway tracks connecting the the two communities. Luckily we were given a blow the train horn as it turned the corner in front of us and sped by. We had ample time to get out of the way but we did admit we were startled.
Along the way there was many colorful butterflies and this large gathering that seemed to be resting in the shade.
We got many glimpses of the top of Manchu Picchu from the backside. Everyone is looking forward to tomorrow's experience on the actual site.
A good start to the day after a magnificent thunderstorm last night... banana crepes with chocolate drizzle. Then we strapped on our backpacks and headed for Hydroelectric at the back of the base of Manchu Picchu. We are told this will be a 3 hour trek... it took us about 2.5 hours.
It started out as a rather a somber walk through the OLD Santa Teresa that was hit by a landslide some 10 or 20 years ago that almost wiped out the whole population of 2000 people. The community seems to be thriving again though... in part to tourism, agriculture and the hot springs.
We came across a small village where there was a couple puppies playing, an inquisitive kitty and a busy flock of chickens scampering about searching for food.
Then a few more minutes up the road we came across this amazing cavern spewing out an enormous amount of water at the base of the mountain. I won't forget the roaring sound this faucet made as it exited the mountain.
We arrived at Hydroelectric and were required to sign in as this was a checkpoint for the Manchu Picchu area. There was also a number of small vendors set up to sell their crafts and food. We stopped for a rest and a long lunch here before venturing off on the last segment to Aquas Caliente.
We travelled by luxury coach overnight from Arequipa to Cuzco... it truly was a luxury bus liner. We were in first class seats that reclined almost horizontally so most of us had a decent night sleep.
Once we arrived in Cusco we were whisked over to the Coyller hostel to repack for the trek. We left most of our luggage here as we were to be trekking for the next 3 days. We rode by mini-van for 7 hours with a couple stretch breaks to take photos and have lunch. Here we grabbed some spectacular photos of our ascent and decent through the pass (Alba Malaga) to a height of 4430m above sea level. At many sections on the road the streams would run across the road making the drive that much more exciting.
The road down the pass, through Santa Maria to Santa Teresa was extremely rough and dusty so we were all quite elated to arrive in Santa Teresa and take a walk down to the natural hot springs. They water was not overly hot but very comfortable... and surprisingly, no sulphur smell.
Here it this the last day of volunteering at the schools. A rather sad moment for everyone, including the real teachers who actually have to start doing some work next week. But seriously, saying goodbye to the kids was difficult. There was a strong connection with some of them... and I will miss them.
The Andean mountains in the region are formed by volcanic activity. The main mountain around Lake Salinas is PichuPichu, meaning mountain with many peaks. El Misti is the other and is closer to Arequipa. The other mountains around Lake Salinas are equally magnificent. Last year one of them erupted and spewed a lot of ash around the area. We couldn't see this mountain today though as it was covered in cloud.
After travelling 3 hours one way, in Land Rovers, over a low maintenance mountain trail, we finally reached our destination... which wasn't what we expected but actually turned out to be awe inspiring. The natural beauty was tremendous. We were at about 4000m, about 300 meters below the snow line. The salt lake in the dry season is almost entirely dry, but we're here during the rainy season which in this case is beneficial in other ways because it brings more wildlife to the area.