After our 4am wake-up call and holding the group up as we failed to emerge on time, we were all surprised to find our 45 minute flight to Cusco had an hour stopover in a random town. The flight was possibly the most disorganised we have ever taken, with stewardesses checking boarding passes 3 times despite already being in our seats and flying the first part of the journey.
Arriving in Cusco and driving down cobbled one-way streets, we could almost have been in Spain apart from the stray dogs, beggars and people ducking to avoid being hit by our bus in such narrow lanes. Arriving at the hotel, a villa-type house with a communal garden, we were offered coca tea which is becoming a common occurence as it relieves altitude sickness (which, we are pleased to say, we have not yet experienced). After finding that the main attractions of the city consisted of 13 churches we asked our tour leader to recommend just one as we are becoming slightly churched-out. Both in a state of overtiredness, we wondered around the town headed for the main church, built on Inca ruins of the Temple of the Sun with an accompanying pointless museum with horrendous english translations (even Emma noticed the spelling errors!). The highlight of our day however was noticing that an exhibition was taking place and curious as always, we wondered upstairs to find pictures of the sun and earth consummating their relationship in very graphic positions! In hysterics (because we are so mature) we had to contain ourselves or at least try as we watched a very arty hippy dancing to music in front of the images - but not entirely sure why when we were her only spectators!
After wondering through the church gardens as the sun shone, we enjoyed a more laid back day exploring some Peruvian markets and Emma bartering with a Peruvian midget before being cut short by Laura´s screams, convinced a pigeon had flown overhead and opened its bowels down the inside of her top! Emma left satisfied with her ring for 15 soles (3 pounds) instead of the original 50 and Laura left feeling more at ease after Emma had publicly examined her cleavage to find water had dripped from the roof.
To our excitement we noticed a side street with some Hebrew writing and following the trail, were led to an Israeli cafe! Both craving the tasty-looking hummus displayed in the window, we did not bother to look at the menu and went inside enthusiastically. Emma wanting to practise her Ivrit realised it may not be possible considering the only waiter was Peruvian and much to her disbelief the hummus had run out! Being Shabbus Laura felt it necessary to have a big bowl of chicken soup before heading back to the hotel to meet our Inca Trail guide Nancy for an introductory briefing.
After watching Notting Hill in the couch bar with dinner and being annoyed at how long the food took meaning we missed Shel´s call, we did not look forward to the task of packing a duffel bag with a maximum of 6 kilos including sleeping bag and mattress for the Inca Trail. After running up and down the stairs to weigh and re-weigh and re-re-weigh our bags we both decided 7 kilos would be adequate and if there is a problem we will simply tip the porter or bat our eyelids suggesting our fragile bodies cannot withstand -5 degrees without several hundred layers of clothing. (it´s a shame the sleeping bags we have lugged from home are not warm enough and we have to hire heavier ones!)
After a disturbed nights sleep thanks to Emma dreaming that Laura was sleeptalking, resulting in her shouting every couple of hours "Laura shhhh, be quiet, stop talking etc" and waking Laura up by flying onto her bed after misjudging the position of her rucksack en route to the bathroom, Laura was not in the best of moods this morning! Scoffing a scrambled egg sandwich whilst trying to carry our bags downstairs left an interesting trail of egg through the hotel! We boarded the coach, precariously balancing our bags on the roof convinced they would fall on the journey, heading to Pisaq passing Saqsaywaman, an Incan cemetery and Temple site, before stopping for an hour visiting a "Gap" community project called Ccaccaccollo. Gap, the company we are touring with have set up a scheme to give back to the local community. They originally trained 15 women to weave, dye and make clothing in order to support their families and become teachers to the rest of the 500-strong community. Astonished at how much work goes into just one scarf, we all felt terrible that at the markets we had been so stingy over additional 20p´s and therefore bought nothing as we were too ashamed to barter! Some of the group including Emma played football with the little children of the community, Emma disappointed Laura would not get involved due to her "I hate children, especially dirty ones" mentality!
Leaving the children behind we arrived at Pisaq, an archeological site with beautiful scenery but the long explanation after the 3 minute hike did not hold our attention as we were more interested in taking pictures of the views. Wondering around yet another Peruvian market we looked forward to doing something new - visiting a chicheria (where they produce Chicha - a corn-fermented beer in several flavours). We played a traditional game of Sabbo, where two teams throw gold coins into small holes on a board for different points. The other team disappointed that they lost (oblivious to Laura and Jason´s cheating tactics and Emma´s competative sporting streak) hung their heads in shame but soon perked up after the beer tasting.
Last stop of the day and the last destination before the Inca Trail is Ollyantaytambo which is where we are now and the most touristy place we have visited so far. We were given an insight into the intensity of the Inca Trail´s second day as we climbed up steep steps to the peak of the original Inca Temple of the Sun laughing as rotund Americans huffed and puffed their way to the top! Passing the distinctive keeno hikers, who have blatantly waited their whole lives for the Inca Trail, we realised how soon our adventure begins and look forward to the challenge of climbing Machu Picchu on Wednesday in time for sunrise.
Think of us pushing our physical limits for the next four days and be grateful you have showers, beds and cars! Hopefully our next blog on Thursday will detail our achievements, that is if we make it to the bottom in one piece!