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Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

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Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

I thought it a good idea to post this review as it was difficult to find much about this before we went. The Quarry Trail is an alternative offered by Intrepid Tours if there are no more Inca Trail permits available. Hopefully this will be useful to anyone considering this option.

First of all, if you are worried that this won't be a fantastic experience compared to the 'classic' Inca Trail, then don't be! We were really disappointed we couldn't get permits and the way Intrepid sells this option as a second prize is really misleading. The trail was by far the highlight of our time in Peru, and from talking to others we met who had done the 'classic' trail, much better in a number of ways.

Pros:

Isolation. Myself and my partner were the only people undertaking the tour and we found ourselves the only 'gringos' as far as the eye could see (and probably further). We visited several Inca sites along the way and had them all to ourselves -- the only other people we encountered were local villagers going about their daily lives. After spending time in bustling Cusco this was fantastic.

The scenery. From start to finish the trail had spectacular views. The second night camp site was a highlight, waking up to the view of Mount Veronika above and the sacred valley below. If you are interested in photography (as I am) you'll be very happy. Again, the lack of other trekkers meant we could take our time with the views with no disturbance. Here is a small selection of shots along the way: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23250291@N03/sets/72157629690217988/

Intrepid staff. Our guide Yieber (Jeffersen) was the best guide we've had on any trip before. He even met up with us on his day off in Cusco to help us buy sandles, books and pens for the children we met (and carried them up the next time he went). The rest of the team (Ballentine, Emilio and Adrian) were also outstanding. Just like the classic tour, great food, morning coffee, the works. Intrepid seems to look after their staff very well.

Banyos. We heard some horror stories of toilets on the 'classic' trail. On the Quarry trail the team set up a little portable toilet tent at each camp site.

Quechuan village encounters. Our longest day happened on a Sunday and we came across several local children playing in their villages. Our chef supplied us with heaps of fruit every morning which was handy for us to give out. One one occasion we were invited into one of their homes which was a fantastic and eye opening experience.

Physically challenging. Being competitive people, we worried the trek would not be as challenging as the 'classic' trail. Hard to compare without having done it, but we found this trail to be challenging while not being overwhelming. It goes higher (4500m) so the altitude plays a part in adding some extra difficulty.

Staying in Aguas Calientes. I thought this part of the tour was a bit of a cop-out at first, but in the end really glad we stayed here the night before hitting Machu Picchu for hot showers and a good nights sleep. We saw heaps of broken people finishing the 'classic' trail heading straight for the busses and skipping the site altogether.

Cons:

No hiking through cloud forests. While the scenery of the Quarry Trail was spectacular, it wasn't as varied as you'd find on the 'classic' trail.

Not seeing the sun rise over Machu Picchu. I can imagine this would be a fantastic sight and great feeling at the end of your trek. You do get up there early if you catch the first bus, but still, probably not quite the same.

That's it! Hopefully helpful to future trekkers wanting to know a little more about this option. If you're on the fence, then go, you won't regret it.

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Brisbane
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1. Re: Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

The images link gets a little lost in my long-winded review. I think it's the best review of all, and much quicker to digest!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23250291@N03/sets/72157629690217988/

Edited: 12 May 2012, 06:18
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2. Re: Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

hi david, i enjoyed your review and the photos, but if it doesn't offend you, i would suggest that standard photos are better for this type of thing than HDR because it gives you a more realistic idea of the scenery you will be seeing.

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3. Re: Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

Sounds like you had a wonderful trek. Great review. This will help lots of forum members who find the Inca Trail is not available to them. This definitely looks like a great alternative.

And MARVELOUS photos! I don't know what "HDR" means, but these photos are excellent -- National Geographic magazine quality (IMO).

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4. Re: Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

No offense taken, I think that's a good idea. I've added in some more shots straight out of the camera (with some sharpening and auto curves in photoshop) to balance it out. The HDR ones are all captioned as such, if not, it's a regular image.

To explain High Dynamic Range (HDR) -- it's a process of combining different exposures of the same shot to increase the range of what you see in the image.

So, for instance, many of the shots I took on the trek had really bright skies combined with hills in shadow. The original image portrays the hillside to be near black as it tries to expose for the sun (even though in real life your eye can manage to balance it out). The opposite also applies if you try to expose for the hill -- the sky then becomes blown out whites.

HDR balances the image created by allowing the hill to be overexposed and the sky to be underexposed. It also has a tendency to boost the colour saturation and contrast making it look 'hyper real'.

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5. Re: Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

Thanks for the great review. I'm going with out-adventures and just found out that the permits were sold out for my date. One of the options is to take this trail which sounds wonderful.

Did you take a tripod with you? Wondering how you got 5 exposure HDRs without suffering handshake.

Also did you take your own equipment or rent from someone like borrow lenses.com. I'm debating on taking my own (expensive) DSLR, etc.

Edited: 05 February 2013, 19:22
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6. Re: Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

No tripod, everything shot in RAW so I generated the different exposures from them.

I brought the tripod with me but in the end left it behind for the trek. If I did it again I'd stick to the same decision. I'm guessing the resulting HDRs have probably less of a dynamic range but I was worried about having to stop to get the tripod ready, shoot and then pack up. I've also heard that tripods are banned in Machu Picchu, so if you did bring one I'd leave it behind for that part of the trip.

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7. Re: Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

Thanks for the review. I'm leaving later this month and it was great to learn more about the Quarry trail through intrepid. I was wondering, what camera gear to you take on the Quarry trail you travel with on the hike. A couple of lenses can get heavy after while and i'd love a recommendation regarding what to pack.

Thanks, Judy

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8. Re: Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

I had a Canon EF-S 10-22mm (reasonably heavy) and a 50mm (very light). In the end really didn't use the 50mm much. I'd recommend as wide a lens as you have would be the essential one to pack!

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9. Re: Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

Hi there

Thanks for that review I'm in a similar boat with my tour having sold out of the classic trail permits. I just booked the quarry trail and I think I made the right decision going from your experience.

Cheers boni

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10. Re: Review of Intrepid's Quarry Trail (Rafqa to Ollantaytambo)

Hi there

Thanks for that review I'm in a similar boat with my tour having sold out of the classic trail permits. I just booked the quarry trail and I think I made the right decision going from your experience.

Cheers boni