January 7, 2007 – Machu Picchu to Cusco – The Case of the Disappearing Camera

Submitted by Danny Catt on Wed, 2007/01/17 - 11:54am.

Machu Picchu at Dawn
Machu Picchu at Dawn

I was up at 5am to see if I could get up to Machu Picchu to watch the sun rise… but alas, when I stepped outside and looked up at the peaks above Aguas Calientes the clouds were thick and it was raining heavily. Weather changes though so I decided to make my way up to the site in hopes that the skies would clear.

The fog was thick when I got to the first viewpoint but it was warm and I was comfortable. It is not often you can relax and spend time taking in such a special place so I decided to plop myself down and just take it all in for awhile.

Thick Morning Fog

It was a quiet, calming experience … at least for an hour or so… until the groups of trekkers from the Inca Trail started to arrive. Because of the huge demand to hike the trail, and the damage and overcrowding that was occurring, independent trekking was banned in 2001 and in 2002 new rules were put in place to regulate trail use.

Rules include:
- trail hikers must trek with a registered guide
- group size is limited to 16, with one guide per 10 hikers
- and no more than 500 hikers are permitted to start the trek each day

Hikers on the Inca Trail Arriving at Machu Picchu
Hikers on the Inca Trail Arriving at Machu Picchu

It takes 4 days to do the Inca Trail so there are at any one time (in the height of the busy season from May to August) as many as 2000 hikers doing the trek. Other popular hiking and trekking areas have had to put visitor management strategies in place. In British Columbia for example, if you want to hike the West Coast Trail in Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island, spots are limited so you must pay a fee and book a spot far in advance. The Bowron Lake chain (a very popular canoeing circuit in BC) in Bowron Lake Provincial Park is another example where high demand has necessitated a visitor management strategy.


At Machu Picchu though it certainly makes sense. Not only is it the highest profile archaeological site in South America, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site which means it has international significance. If you want to learn more about World Heritage Sites you can check out the UNESCO website at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/

Here are a few questions for BCIT FWR students to ponder:
1. What does UNESCO stand for?
2. How many World Heritage Sites does Canada have?
3. Do we have a World Heritage Site in British Columbia? If so, what are they (or what is it)?

You can find the answers at the above website, or you can click on a page on the Parks Canada website which also has the information:

The fog eventually lifted and I was treated once again to sunshine and great views of the site. I decided to climb to the top of the peak in behind Machu Picchu, called Huayna Picchu. It is steep… and on a hot day can take a lot out of you… but the view from the top is certainly worth the effort!

I was planning on putting a short video clip here… so keep your eyes on this spot. I am still learning the editing process, so it may take me a bit of time.

Train Back to Cusco

I made it down to Aguas Calientes in time to board my train to Cusco. Peru is an amazing country with diverse landscapes and wildlife, outstanding archaeological sites, and very friendly people but one of the things that the guidebooks tell you is that some partsof Peru are not always safe and to be careful with your property at all times. Lima in particular is famous for robbery and tourists of course are a prime target. Friends back home reminded me to keep my belongings hidden as best as possible but when you have an armful of camera gear it can be tough. I keep a number of key items in my LowePro padded hip pack and I also have an old ratty day pack that I put my camera stuff in when I am traveling in an area that may not be 100% safe.

The views from the train on the way back were as fabulous as those heading towards Machu Picchu. This time though I was going all the way back to Cusco. The train arrived in the outskirts of the city after dark which meant that we could get a wonderful panoramic view of the city at night. In fact due to the steep topography the train has to zigzag its way down into the city train station. This meant that we had the great view of the city for close to half an hour as the train moved slowly downward back and forth, back an forth. I was tempted to try to take a photo of the city with the churches all lit up by floodlights, but the train was moving, the light was way too low, and there was a train window to deal with (you can occasionally get some very nice photos shooting directly through glass… but in this case it would not have worked). So… I decided to just take in the sights and store them in my memory banks rather than on film (or a digital sensor in this case). But… a young traveler decided to offer to take a picture for his female travel companion and as the train zigzagged its way past a perfect view location he slid open the small window above the main window and stuck his friend’s camera outside to avoid the reflection of the glass. And then it happened. In a split second, a body leapt up from beside the tracks and grabbed the camera from his hand. A camera that was not even his!

The thieves must wait outside in the dark, poised and ready for that one opportunity. From outside the train they can see the passengers inside (as the train car is lit up with lights) but the passengers cannot see much of anything outside… just black, other than the lights that light up the city. I have no idea how often this camera-stealing system works… but in this case it did… and a $500 camera was gone in a flash. One of the train staff did say that it has happened a few times before. Lesson for the day? Keep your camera inside a moving train!

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Submitted by Les Willis (not verified) on Wed, 2007/01/17 - 3:36pm.

Wow, that's a very patient thief. Or people sticking their heads out of a train are very common. You must have been travelling very slowly. Lucky you didn't have the D200 pointed out the window Danny! You'd have leapt off the train after it ;) Keep the great stories coming.


Submitted by Pikake on Wed, 2007/01/17 - 6:23pm.

When I read the heading - I thought "not the D200!" Unfortunate for the other guy (or rather his girlfriend), but I was glad it wasn't yours!!

You are taking the necessary precautions, and we do have to be cautious, but we can't let it impede our time there, or our opportunities to meet wonderful people.

Looking forward to your next story (this headline sounded like a Hardy Boys mystery!).



Submitted by Laura (not verified) on Thu, 2007/01/18 - 5:26pm.
This is so much fun watching your travels and seeing where you go next. I just downloaded Google Earth onto my map...now I'm really hooked. 

Thanks for sharing your amazing stories and your photos are so beautiful. Sorry to hear about the camera. I had something similar happen to me in Puerto Valharta and once it was stolen (in my case $$), I told my friend that I was with that I didn't want to mention the theft again on our trip. You know what, I completely even forgot that it happened by the end of my trip and I had a great time for the rest of my travels. 

So put it outta mind.  :-)

I look forward to reading more about your travels. A photo of the worldly traveller would be nice as well.

Take care,
Submitted by Danny Catt on Thu, 2007/02/08 - 6:50am.

Sorry for much delayed reply to your hello! I am now in Argentina... and taking some time to update and catch up with correspondence. I was lucky that the stolen camera was not mine! ... I am still clicking away and will add more photos soon. I hope you are well... and look forward from hearing from you again soon! How are things in your neck of the woods?

Cheers, Danny :)

Submitted by mile (not verified) on Mon, 2007/01/22 - 5:18am.

Hi Danny!

I m reading your wonderful history about my country! the pics of the mountain and forest are very beautiful! and this is more special for me, because make me fell very happy that your students or different people can Know a bit of Peru and our history..Hope more people visit Perù and they share yours experiencies with the others too!!..I think the world is really short! and is good the people, different languaje, different raze, different religion, or different culture can learn one each other and make the world a better place for living!..thank u for your friendship!!


Lima Peru

Submitted by Danny Catt on Thu, 2007/02/08 - 6:53am.

Hello from Argentina! And I apologize for taking so long to reply to your very kind note! The journey down the coast of Chile went well... and now I am in Buenos Aires. We are very pleased with the number of people who are clicking on the website... and I hope those that do will learn a bit about your fabulous country. Thanks for your very kind words... and I look forward to hearing from you again soon!

Cheers amiga!


Submitted by darcy (not verified) on Tue, 2007/01/23 - 11:11am.
Gotta watch for the thieves for sure. Wish you had told me you were going, I would have tagged along.  It is raining, raining, raining here in Burnaby. Darcy
Submitted by Barb & Dave Todd, Calgary, AB (not verified) on Sat, 2007/02/10 - 4:42pm.

Met on B.W.Adventure trip - Island Roamer - Queen Charlottes - June 2001 (Neil, Kitty and you). 

Enjoying your diaries, photos are remarkable, experiences amazing.  What a life you lead!  Your Papa certainly prepared you well for such adventures.

We leave on a two-week holiday in Ecuador (Quito briefly); Galapagos Islands (Celebrity Xpedition/zodiacs); Peru = Lima/Cuzco (Koricancha, Fortress of Sacsayhuaman; Qenko; Puca Pucara and Tampu Machay; Sacred Valley (market of Pisaq, Ollantaytambo fortress ruins); Machu Picchu; Lima.  A trip to the Antarctic/South Georgia Island/Falkland Islands might be on our agenda Jan. 2008.  We're following you!   

Understand to prevent altitude sickness, two helps are: rest for three hours and drink coca tea (to reduce swelling in tissues) before exertion.  We'll try both and see if that helps when we arrive in Cuzco.

I think Catttrax2 reports prepared by the students in BCIT's FWR are fantastic resources!  Bravo people!

Cheers from Calgary, Alberta!  Stay safe and well, Danny.


Submitted by Kirsten (not verified) on Mon, 2007/02/19 - 4:51pm.

As the others, I was worried for your camera.... and for our loss if it was!!

Glad to see the pics and it's great that I get to see all these places as if I were travellign the, myself.

 Take care.