South America…. Flip, dont know where to start!
Well … Santiago de Chile I guess! Santiago is a huuuge city and its a pretty crazy place. It took me a few days to love it, but once it got me that was it!I stayed in Barrio Brasil in a fantastic hostel called La Casa Roja. This was one of the best hostels ive stayed in all year, such a great vibe to it and a huuuge pool out back and a bar where you could chill on a hot afternoon…what more could you ask for!
The first few days i wasnt too fussed, I was a bit overwhelmed by everything, the jet lag from NZ was killing me and I was bed bound a lot! And i didnt really meet anyone that i clicked with´, so spent a lot of time by myself which was a bit daunting after spending 9 months travelling in english speaking countries to suddenly be by yourself in a spanish speaking country... the phrase book was out a lot I can tell you! I decided to leave Santiago city and head to the outer suburbs of Valpraiso and Vina del Mar, and on the Thursday night i was all set to leave on the Friday when 3 of my room mates came back hysterical having been robbed at knife point in Valpraiso. I freaked out after that and decided I didnt want to go by myself, as this wasnt the first story id heard.
Luckily for me this all worked out as Friday was the turning point. I met Niamh…a crazy irish girl who became my partner in crime for the next week! That night was Halloween and me and a couple of lads from the hostel went shopping for costumes. Them South Americans sure do love Halloween, there were loads of shops full of outfits and decorations & streets full of markets! Was fantastic! The lads really went to town and bought a full outfit, i copped out a bit and just bought a giant spider for the grand total of about 1 pound! We sat in the hostel bar that night decked out in our costumes and after a few drinks we headed to a club. The club was really cool, it had a Chilean band on and there was a woman rapping who was really good. I had my first taste of Pisco, which is a truly lethal drink! Me, Niamh and the boys - who were dressed in mexican poncho´s complete with moustache, mini guitar and panpipes…then proceded to take a mini tour of the cities nightspots… must have visited about 5 clubs, was like a whistlestop tour of Santiago! Was a good night though! Next day was very unproductive, managed to crawl to the pool mid afternoon and proceeded to die there for the rest of the day.
Sunday, me, Rachel and Niamh decided to visit one of Santiagos wineries. We went to Concha Y Toro, which is where they produce a wine called Castillo de Diablo (the Devils Cellar) which you may have had in England, as its not bad tasting and rather cheap (which is good!). The winery was very nice and got to try some yummy wines! Was a nice day with the girls, and then Rach went off to New Zealand that night. I was a bit poorly for the next couple of days, not sure what was wrong but spent most of it in bed. Wednesday me and Niamh headed to Vina Del Mar which was nice, and then that night went out for a last dinner with Niamh, Tommy and Sophie ( couple from the hostel) and then back to the bar for some drinks. My taxi picked me up from the hostel at 4am, by 2am i was still in the bar and we came to the conclusion that it wasnt worth me going to bed so i stayed up. By the time i got to the airport i was falling asleep…absolute knightmare! Got to Lima in Peru by midday absolutely knackered! Very grateful that i had booked a private room, so spent the rest of the day asleep!
Lima is an absolutely nuts place. There are no words really! People say dont go there and that its not a nice place, but i quite liked it. Sure it doesnt have the pretty tourist facade that Cuzco has, but it has a charm to it & i enjoyed the time i spent there. I met my GAP tour group on the Saturday night and we went out for our first dinner. Angel our tour guide gave us a brief for the trip, There was 9 of us that were doing the full 26 days, the other 5 were doing only 15 days to La Paz in Bolivia. The next morning we got a flight to Cuzco, once in Cuzco I met Viktoria my room mate. She´s from Germany but lives in NZ and went travelling when she was 18 and hasnt gone home since! She´s really nice and i got on really well with her. Also met 2 english lads who arrived that day, Ross and Alex from Manchester.
Cuzco is really nice, very picturesque and touristy. Me, Vik and Priscilla (an aussie girl who lives in London) wandered off the beaten track a bit though and found some of the local areas, including a market were there was a woman sawing open a goats head… nice! After Cuzco we headed to Ollantaytambo in the sacred valley. This was our first taste of what the landscape of the Inca trail would be like. It was beautiful but intimidating at the same time. I was incredibly nervous about the trail! Ollantaytambo was a great little village built around inca ruins which we explored on the Tuesday afternoon. The ruins date back to the 15th Century and many of the modern day town is built on the pre-existing inca foundations. That night we had dinner and talked about the following day…day 1 of the Inca trail.
Inca trail day 1…. God it was sooo hot! I cursed myself for picking the height of summer to do the trek in! An hour bus journey from the hostel and we made it to Km 82 and the start of the hike. Once we had past through the control checkpoint we were off. We saw the porters ladened up with all of our gear. Each of us was allowed to pack a bag with 6kg of things in and then porters would carry between 20-30kg each along the trail each day…the same trail as we did. You would see them running past us - each day they would arrive before us and have tents set up and dinner prepared, it was absolutely crazy! So back to day 1… this wasnt too bad, it was only a 13km hike and although parts were steep it was a walk in the park compared to what was ahead of us! We got to camp that night and met all of the porters and the cook properly. We had dinner as a group, played a couple of card games and then went to bed pretty early as we had an early start the next day.
Day 2 - up at 5.30 am. God this day almost killed me! 10km hike, but the first 5hrs were all uphill, and i mean uphill! It was relentless, everytime you thought you´d got to the top you turned a corner and there was more uphill. I ended up breaking down as i didnt think i was going to make it. I struggled a lot with the altitude too, finding it difficult to catch my breath. And when i started to get upset i started to hyperventilate which was awful. Once we reached the top of Dead Womans pass, some 4600m above sea level we´d made it, the hardest point of the trek. The rest of the day was down hill from then. It took another 2hrs to reach camp, it was downhill though which i was grateful for! Although the steps downhill were lethal as they were so large and were cobblestones, and it had been raining so much they were slippy. Thank god i had my walking sticks!! I was so relieved to make it to camp! I went straight to my tent to rest and chilled out for the rest of the day.
Day 3 - I got up an hour earlier than the others with another girl to start hiking at 6am so we could get a head start on the others. Today was the longest hike 16km, but I found it much better than yesterday because i was in a better frame of mind. 2.5hrs uphill was the worst of it, i nearly disposed of our helper Enrique over a cliff who was neither use nor ornament…. His idea of motivation was to say come on keep going we still have another 6hrs to go … not helping!! And then to chase that with you may not actually see Machu Picchu tommorrow because of the weather! The group caught up with us at the high pass but i managed to stay with them for the rest of the day and I walked with Ida one of the norwegian girls. It was nice to walk with the group as the previous days id mostly been by myself. Ida and I did a detour towards the end of the day that went via some inca ruins. It took us really high and overlooked Machu Picchu mountain from the back. The view was spectacular, and we sat there in silence enjoying the view for about 45 mins. When we finally stood up i could bearly walk as my calves had tightened up!
Day 4 - Final Day! Up at 3.30am! Started walking in the dark which was interesting! Few stumbles but made it to the control point for 4.30 am. We were the 2nd group queueing up so we were happy. They normally open the gate at about 5.30 but for some reason they opened it at 5.10 and once we had our passports checked we were off on the final 6kms of the trek. It was everyman for himself and people were really moving. I managed to stay right at the front for the majority, I think my legs were just on autopilot by this point! But then there came some hills and i dropped behind a bit! We made it to the sungate though were we saw our first views of machu picchu and it was breathtaking. And this might sound really cliche, but i dont care…suddenly the whole trek seemed worth it! And i kind of forgot how much the previous 3 days had killed me! We took it easy getting down to Machu Picchu itself. I was in no rush to leave the mountainside to be honest. It was so quiet up there and the views were phenomenal. Once we got to MP itself though Juan, our tourguide gave us a tour and explained all the different sites, which i wont bore you with… but it definitely lived up to expectations and is the highlight of my year! And the trek itself, a big personal achievement for me!
That night alter hobbling back to the hotel and a long long shower and afternoon siesta! We hit the town. It was supposed to be dinner and a couple of drinks and i had promised that there would most definitely be no dancing as i could bearly walk let alone anything else! Hmmmm, yes well! A couple of Pisco´s (my south american weapon of choice!) and i was practically doing a routine!
To be continued…