Written by Emily
We had been informed during last night's terrifying Inca trek briefing, that today was to be used as a day of training for the grueling physical exertion that was waiting for us just around the corner. Today we were to make out sweet way down to the town of Ollyntaytambo at the foot of the Sacred Valley, with much hiking practice and sight-seeing along the way.
And so, for this reason, the Peru crew were all present and correct in their best hiking gear, waiting in the lobby of the Cusco hotel for the trusty Gap bus to cruise on up. In the meantime, we were introduced to Jose, a jovial Peruvian who would be our guide for the duration of the Inca trek as Ruben would be otherwise engaged at this time. As the Gap bus pulled up a few minutes later, we all climbed aboard with our assorted hiking paraphenalia and newly downsized duffle bags of luggage to take with us on the trek. Rach and I headed of course, straight to the back like school-bus rebels and were instantly followed by Clayton to form quite the lolling crew.
The first stop on our whistle-stop tour to Ollyntaytambo was a small village that I have simply no hope of remembering the name of. Here we were given a demonstration by Jose, featuring some local woman weavers about their craft and colouring the Alpaca wool they used. We were then let loose to cruise around, viewing and purchasing if we so wished. As usual during these free periods, Rach and I decided to do our own sweet thing, and so messed around taking 'hilarious' photos with the llamas, alpacas, mountainous views and a tiny, insanely adorable puppy that just happened to be bowling around.
Another short ride on the Gap bus, and it was time for the start of the good old trek training, around a beautiful sacred ruin. The uphill climbs were a concern, as we were breathless much faster than we had ideally hoped, despite the fact that the terrain was, as Jose kept kindly reminding us, less challenging than the Inca Trail. But we powered through, and eventually completed the trek, much to Jose's relief.
Sooner than we could ever have hoped, it was lunch time. As we drove through what we have come to expect from the outskirts of any town/city/general inhabited area in Peru- miles and miles of roofless buildings, ramshakle shops advertising Inca Cola and general street debris, it's fair to say we did not have huge expectations for the location of lunch itself. What we certainly did not expect was for the Gap bus to turn a corner down a dusty dirt-track and pull up outside the most amazing restaurant complex I have ever encountered.
Huge outdoor pagolas covered tables
full of cheery diners, basking in the sun's rays and surrounded by bountiful and vibrant plant-life. Live pan-pipe tunes were dancing their way about the tranquil atmosphere from a man that would have sent Trevor into a pan-pipe skill provoked rage. In one corner of the lush, emerald lawn was a collection of llamas and alpacas, grazing in a blissful state. There were even a couple of macaw parrots just casually hanging out in a tree nearby. It truly was a utopia, but what made it special for me and Rachel, much more so than the sheer idyllic splendour of the setting, was the large sign that read 'Buffet-All you can eat' hanging by the entrance.
I can honestly say that I have never taken such full advantage of anything before in my life, and so it was with an insanely round stomach that I happily petted the baby alpacas and fed them handfulls of grass. After a while, Jose's shout of 'vamos!' roused us from our blissful post-food stupors and sent us scampering back on board the Gap bus, ready for our next adventure. This happened to be a hearty stop off at an 'Inca Bar'. Once inside this curious bar, we were introduced to a mega Inca beer called 'Chicha'.
The chicha was passed around in a healthy tankard, allowing us all to sample some, after each having poured a little onto the floor as a gift for 'Pachamama' (mother nature). It's fair to say that the chicha did not go down amazingly well, and most was spat back into the provided plastic cups in quite the disrespectful manner. I think