The Inca Trail and more
05.10.2014 - 16.10.2014 15 °C
This post has taken some time to get finished, as Peru has been pretty full on, and any time I had free I have been trying to catch up on some sleep or have been too tired to get around to writing a post.
Firstly arriving in Lima, I have never seen the traffic system that is Lima. Lanes on the road are suggestion only, indicators are an exception not the norm, and red lights are optional to obey. It's chaos and I love it. Arriving from Quito before meeting the group I would be travelling with around Peru, I spent the afternoon wandering around the Miraflores area of Lima spring food, icecream and coffee at different restaurants/cafés in the area. Keen to try a Pisco Sour (Peruvian cocktail), I ordered one with my lunch. However in a mish-mash of Spanish and English, I somehow was told that I couldn't have a pisco, but would I like something something red (the red was all I could make out from the conversation), to which I was agreeable. The waiter soon after delivered some red liquid to the table, served in a tea cup and saucer. Red wine evidently, but I was a little confused as to why it was served in a tea cup, particularly as it was cold and not a mulled wine served hot. Either way, I didn't ask questions, and it went quite well with my steak, so I was happy enough. Unbeknown to me at the time, but I subsequently found out that day was local government Election Day in Peru. There is a law where alcohol cannot be served for the day before and on the election, to ensure the Peruvian people turn up and vote, and do so sober. Therefore, unable to legally serve me alcohol, the waiter skirted around the rules by serving me wine that looked like I was drinking tea. Brilliant!!
The next morning we flew up to Cusco to start adjusting to the altitude and preparing to hike the Inca trail. After meeting our local guide Roger and after a siesta, we headed out for a lunch of local Peruvian delights. I had Guinea pig bacon and alpaca steak for lunch. Both very tasty! We did a quick tour around Cusco city, and then had a briefing on what to expect for the hike. Before starting the hike though we spent a night in Ollytaytambo in the a Sacred Valley for more time adjusting to the altitude, and also we visited our first couple of Inca ruins during the day, getting in some short practice walks for the upcoming hike.
The following day, we set off on the hike. I was exited yet a bit nervous about how difficult the trek would be at this point. It kind of felt like preparing for a grand final or something as I had been training for a few months to get ready for the trek, and the thought of not making it to the end lingered in the back of my mind.
The next four days is something I will never forget.
The first day was about 11km, and a fairly gentle introduction for what was to come. However the final part of the day was the commencement of the big uphill climb, taking us to our first camping spot which was above 3000m. Walking past where all the other groups were camping wasn't exactly fun, but the next day I was pretty pleased we had chewed a few hundred metres off the climb already.
Day two was tough. We climbed over 1200m in altitude to reach Dead Woman's Pass. It is only a few steps before you feel short of breath at this altitude, so slow and steady was the motto of the day for me. At one point I got fairly light headed and dizzy on the second section of the climb, but after a short rest and a bit of encouragement from Roger that comes off as unintentionally impersonal ("you can do it Lady"), I kept pushing. The feeling of making to the top of the pass was firstly of relief, but then satisfaction of knowing I had made it. After celebrating reaching the peak we had a couple of hours of downhill through cloud and a small bit of rain which made it pretty slippery to get to our camp site for a late lunch and rest for the afternoon.
Day three was the longest day, walking about 16km. The first part was back uphill to the second pass, though not as high as Dead Woman's pass the legs were a bit weary that morning so it was another slow climb up the stairs. We then had about 3000 steps to go back downhill, before going along the undulating track through the cloud forest for the rest of the day. This was the most scenic and beautiful part of the trip, and I really enjoyed day three, especially the parts that wasn't steep uphill climbing.
The final day we woke up at 3:30 so we could get into the last part of the trail as soon as it opened as they close it overnight as people have died trying to get to the sungate in the dark before sunrise. A 6km walk to the sungate, with a killer set of stairs right at the end, we got our first view of Machu Picchu. The weather was perfect, and the view simply spectacular. My words will not do it justice but hopefully some of the photos will capture the beauty of this place, and the feeling of walking the 44km to see this was pretty satisfying at that point. After plenty of photos, we walked down to the ruins and had a snack (a beer and empanada for me even though it was only 8:30am) before Roger took us for a tour of the site.
Following the trek, we made our way back to Cusco for a final dinner as a group, but firstly a hot shower which we had all been looking forward to all day. A few of us kicked on for a few drinks afterwards, and when the bar would only serve us shots for drinks all I probably need to say here is that it was a pretty funny night. The whitewater rafting Niamh and I had planned for the next day didn't eventuate as we only got to bed about 3:30am when we decided at some point we should stay awake for a full 24hrs before going to sleep. It made sense at the time after about 6 tequila shots!
Next on the agenda was a couple of nights in the amazon jungle. At 37 degrees and about 90% humidity, it was a shock to the system after the cool nights on the trail. Whilst it wasn't entirely pleasant in that heat without any electricity or cooling system other than taking a dip in the murky watering hole, we did get to spot some cool wildlife: mostly spiders, frogs and bugs. But we did also see some Caymans (related to crocodiles and alligators) and some copibaras which are basically a giant guinea pig that lives on the banks of the river in the mud.
We departed the jungle and headed back to Lima. The six of us in the amazon crew: Guiness Lady (Niamh) and Lady (myself); the honeymooners/team Canada (Andrew and Kate); and the power couple/MacGyvers (Matt and Kerri) decided to splurge on a nice seafood dinner on our last night together. The ceviche, famous in Lima, exceeded expectations and was superb and a great way to finish off our tour.
If I was asked to choose just one word to describe this part of the holiday and in particular the Inca Trail, I would have to choose 'breathtaking' as it captures both the physical and visual aspects of the trek. Whilst this was a challenge I had set myself as an individual, having an amazing group who are some of the best people I have ever met with me for the journey was a big part of this. Their support, stories, energy and most importantly their humour made this trip what it was. Roger is an unbelievable trek guide; full of knowledge but most importantly passion about his culture. We all started the journey as strangers, but have finished as friends, and I hope we can cross paths again in the future.
Go team Brown Llama!