Cusco and the Inca Trail
We travelled to Cusco by overnight bus from Arequipa which took about 9 hours, it was supposed to be 10 hours but we had a crazy driver (as most of them are!) so we got in early feeling like we had just got off a roller coaster and desperate for a few hours sleep!
Cusco is 3400 metres above sea level so we immediately felt head achy, tired and breathless after taking just a few steps. We were so glad we had allowed a few days to acclimatise before starting the Inca Trail trek on the 18th December.
We spent our few days relaxing, wondering around town, bought some essentials for our trek and popped along to the Peru Treks office for our briefing. Cusco has a lovely main square called Plaza de Armas with colonial arcades surrounding the plaza packed with restaurants and shops. The only slightly annoying thing about the city was that everywhere you went you got pestered by beggers or sellers, they sold anything from dodgy paintings to massages or you could even have your photo taken with a Llama or lamb dressed up! That aside we really liked it there so we decided after our trek we would spend Christmas there recovering rather than head straight off to the much quieter Lake Titicaca as we had origionally planned.
On the morning of being picked up for our trek we slept striaght through our alarm and awoke 2 minutes before the coach pulled up and our guide Willy was knocking on our door....arghhhh!!!!! We have never got ready so fast, not even time to visit the toilet or brush our teeth, thank god we'd packed the night before. Our first stop was a village called Ollantayambo where we bought our walking sticks (which became our life savers!) and more water, we then headed off to (km82) past the village of Chilca at Piscakucho where we had breakfast and this was where we started the trail.
The weather on our first day was beautiful and we only walked from about 10am until 1 o'clock so a nice easy start. We were in a group of 16 (9 Aussie's, 1 Kiwi, 4 English incl us & 2 Koreans) we spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know each other over lunch and a few beers and taking in the surroundings ~ it was stunning. We all had our own 2 man tents which were very small and uncomfortable to sleep in but at least they kept us dry, because from that night until we finished on our 4th day we had constant heavy rain (not even a poncho over a waterproof jacket could keep out this rain!!!)
We were woken every morning at about 5ish to our guides (Willy & Oscar) at our tent door with Coca tea or coffee, we then had about 30 minutes to get ourselves ready and bags packed before breakfast. By about 6.30-7 o'clock we were heading off for a full day of walking up and down mountains. The 2nd and 3rd days were definately the hardest, we walked 12km's on our 2nd day and 15km's on the 3rd. We would spend 2-3 hours at a time climbing steeply to tops of mountains (highest being 4198m), get there and then after a 10 minute breather struggle 2-3 hours back down the other side. We actually found the going down hardest as it was slippery with the rain and my god did your thighs hurt! We all pulled together and had a laugh which really helped because at times it felt like it was never going to end and your legs just wanted to give way. Aside from the sweat, pain and heavy rain we experienced the most amazing views, beautiful rivers, snowcapped mountains and of course archeological sights.
On our last day after a 3.45am start we finally got to the Machu Picchu viewpoint and unfortunately because of the bad weather we couldn't see it, we felt completely gutted but carried on for the next couple of hours until we made it and got some classic photos with it behind us in all it's glory (with us looking like drowned rats!) PHEW....we finally made it and what an achievement!!!
The Inca Trail was not as we envisaged it to be, we found it to be very commercial with much too many people (and we went in the low season!) the weather was horrendous and made it much much harder plus Darren was not well for 2 1/2 days so he struggled along with no energy. All this aside we met some great people, saw some amazing sights and learned a great deal about the Inca history.