The Road Ahead : February 2013
QUEENSLAND'S LARGEST CLUB FEB/MAR 2013 THE ROAD AHEAD 31 IN CUZCO, PERU, the Inca stones seem so supple you might swear they were woven. These massive, interlocking blocks so impressed the Spanish Conquistadors, who invaded in 1533, that they built their own grand palaces on top of the existing Inca platforms. Cuzco locals, however, still joke, 'Foundations by the Incas, other bits by the Incapables'. World Heritage basilicas and Spanish convents flank Cuzco's central Plaza de Armas, while in the surrounding cobblestoned streets we find plenty of irreverent bars, cafes and clubs. But an early night is in order, because tomorrow we hit the fabled Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The Urubamba River rattles and hums like the sound of its own name as we begin our four-day hike. With porters to carry the heavier gear on the 43 km track, our group spreads out along the trail, ducking through forests and crossing alpine pastures. Above us, the 5860 metre peak of La Veronica keeps watch like a silent, snow-veiled nun. Quechua Indians skim past, seemingly unburdened by the huge bundles they carry; meanwhile I reap the consequences of lazing aboard trains, coaches and couches. We reach our first set of ruins, Patallacta, with its unmistakable Inca masonry, then keep climbing until our first campsite, Wayllabamba village, at 3000 metres altitude, comes into welcome view. Day two is the big one. We start early, heading ever upwards. Behind us, the valley is a wedge of air driven into the earth while the spires of the Cordillera Vilcabamba loom above us. It's exhilarating, breathless work --- every 50 metres we pause to suck in more oxygen --- but after three hours we reach the dramatic Abra de Huarmihuañusca --- 'Dead MAIN IMAGE: MACHU PICCHU. MACHU PICCHU FROM A DISTANCE. WALKING THE INCA TRAIL. CUZCO, LLAMAS PROLIFERATE THE TRAIL. Writer John in the footsteps of the Conquistadors on one of the world's great treks.