Peru part 2 - The Inca Trek
After an early morning wake up call in the hotel in Miraflores, 7.30am, we were up and out of the hotel by 9am and on our way to the airport in Lima to catch our flight to Cusco. After the short flught (1 hour) and a lot of turbulance, we arrived at approx 3600m above sea level. The altitude literally took our breath away! We arrived at our next hotal, we are complete nomads at the minute moving from one hostel to another, and our tour guide went through everything about the trek. This was our only chance to escape doing it after he told us exactly how hard it was going to be but after seeing that there was a 69 year old man in our group, we stayed in our seats and tried to mentally prepare for the battle ahead. After the talk we hired our our walking sticks, sleepìng bags and matresses and went for a wander around Cusco to buy some more warm gear for the trek.
The next morning was an even earlier start and we were up and packed and on the coach by 8am. We were only allowed a small duffle bag each weighing no more than 6kg each as the porterss had to carry them the whole of the way. Not surprisingley, mine and Jade´s weighed slightly more but we figured we´d just tip the porters more for carrying them. We were also allowed our small day bags with water food etc in so we trued to make them as light as possible as we´d be carrying them!
The first day of the trip was in and around Cusco visiting local villages, my favourite being Saqsaywaman (pronounced ´Sexywoman´) and we saw lots and lots of llamas. We did a very small walk in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and went to yet another hotel which was close to the starting point for the main trek.
Day 1 of the trek...
Up and ready by 8am again (we were not appreciating these early mornings), we got on our coach to the actual starting point of the trek where we met all the porters who would b making our food and putting up our tents for the next few days. It was then that we found out that not only do they carry everyone´s 6kg duffle bags (there were 16 people in our group) they were also carrying all the euipment which added up to 20kg per porter. Me and Jade felt slightly guilty at this point that our bags were heavier but was too late now!! oops. And even more worse than that was the fact they theye didnt even have proper shoes to do the trek in, they wore sandals!! absolutely crazy. and they bags were strapped to their backs with flimsy pieces of material wrapped around their shoulders, it looked painful. We decided there and then that we could not complain one bit throughout the whole trek after seeing what these poor men had to go through. And for me not to complain was going to be tougher than the actual trek itself!!
Not to leave you all in suspense about the actual trek but the computer i am on seems to be throwing abit of a tantrum at me and it is almost impossible for me to write anything...therefore you will have to wait a few more days for the rest. Sorry!! Photos will come then as well coz Lord only knows what would happen if i trie to upload them now!! I´ll try not to leave it too long. Thanks for all the messages as usual and hope everyone is well and still jealous!! ha ha. Lots of love - Nat xxxx
So, day one of the trek, we set off walking around 9.30 / 10am and walked solidly for a couple of hours until lunch. The porters who were originally behind us as they had all the bags to pack had at this point raced in front to set up tents and a fresh water supply for our lunch. In Peru they seem to have a bit of a thing for trout and so to no ones surprise and because it was still fresh, our first meal was of course trout. For anyone that knows me, the only fish i will eat is birdeye fish fingers and more importantly, chippy fish and so 99 times out of one hundred, i would not have even thought about touching never mind eating that fish. But today was different, 1. I was hungry, 2. I didnt know what the next meal would be, llama for all we knew and 3. I felt really mean that the porters had carried all this food and I was going to put it to waste. So you will all be proud of me when i say i ate it. Well not all of it but i had a good four bites and it was horrible so i think i did pretty well. Doesn´t mean i will be eating it again in a hurry though. After a cup of coca tea (supposed to help with the high altitude and not illegal in anyway althought it is the stuff they use to make cocaine) we were off again for round 2.
After dinner we walked for a few more hours to our campsite for the night picking up a stary dog along the way who followed us all the way there. Again, the porters had all ran ahead after packing up the lunch tents etc and were there to give us a round of applause when we got there!! Puts you to shame when you see what they do though. Around 5pm we all ate popcorn and crackers and then they made us tea around 7pm. The toilets were not a pretty sight (a hole in the floor) and they smelt what i imagine rotting trout mixed with turd smelt like. Not nice but squat we did. Day one we walked approx 8km and we were knakered with only a small % being uphill. Then we found out that that was just a very small warm up for day 2 where we would attempt to walk 15km all uphill climbing 1200metres. A nice thought whilst we went to asleep in our tents.
The nightmare becomes a reality. Another stupidly early wake up call and a bowl of porridge (well sludge) and we were off. And they were not kidding when they said it would be hard. Especially when it is absolutely boiling at 7am and we still had another 4 hours to go. Baby small steps and a lot of panting was on the menu that day and the puppy from the day before was still there with us. Think he enjoyed the attention and food from all the tour groups. Somehow, i managed to stay at the front of the group for the majority of the time leaving behind the 69 year old man at the back. After a few stops to revive each other and to stock up on M & M´s for the sugar boost, we were on the home straight. We had already climbed 750m and only had 450m. Sounded a lot better at the time but looking back, dont know how we managed. We were all covered in insect repellant, sun cream and sweat and the breathing was getting louder and louder. So after a lo-hot of puffing and panting and sweating and swearing, we made it to the top. 4215m high at the top of the mountain. Never one to shy away from a bit of competition although i told myself that it wasnt a game and everybody wins (yeah right) i was second out of the group to the top beaten by a Norweigan girl 2 mins earlier. But then we found out that we had actually done the climb an hour quicker than average so then i felt like a winner again. Jade was minutes after and then everyone else followed not long after that.
After a rest at the top, the next leg was all the way down and with no toilets at the top of the mountain and no where to hide for a squat, my bladder took some serious battering as we went all the way back down the hill again in less than half the time it took to get up. At lo and behold at the bottom of the hill at our next campsite were the porters waiting with dinks and snacks for us. It was unreal. You wouldn´t believe it was possible if you saw what they had to carry and how quickly they manage to do it with a hint of a short breath. Granted they smelt of sweat but you can forgive them for that...just.
This was the final big day and was a mixture of uphill, downhill and flat. Aparently its all about the beautiful scenery and amazing orchids that Peru has to offer but when you´ve almost walked 40km in 2 1/2days, another mountain and another flower is the last thing you´re bothered about. Pancakes for breakfast and I was in heaven and ready to go. The calves were abit sore but you cant complain when you´re not carrying 20kg on your back in your flip flops. In complete contrast to day one and 2 when the sun was at its hottest, day three brought rain on and off all day so the ponchos came out and we looked like the crowd at a wet wimbledon day except we had walking sticks and no strawberries. if only. the porters were good but not that good.
Day 3 wasnt very exciting as we were all pretty tired and drenched. Not the most fun we´ve ever had but still not one to complain we got through it to the final campsite where we got the worst news possible. As opposed to catching the 4 hour train from Machu Picchu back to Cusco, the trains were goin on strike. With no other way to get back to Cusco, we were told that we had to walk for another 3 hours on the actual train track and then get a 7 hour bus. Just what we needed when we were soaking wet and aching in muscles i never knew i had. There was hope though as it was not a definite strike and we would find out in the morning. To top things off that night, it didnt stop raining all night. Not once. Not even for a second. Me and Jade were lucky that ours was one of the tents that didnt leak unlike some of the others. Funny for us, not so much for them.
Final day we were woken with a cup of coca tea and a torchlight. (it was 4am and the sun was yet to come out). We got ready in the rain and waited for the news about the train. Our worst fear was realised. They were definitely on strike meaning we would definitely have to do three extra hours walking.
As we queued at the entrance to the walk down to Machu Picchu, the main gate of the sun (or something along those lines) we spotted the puppy! Still with us 3 later. We think he´d been cheating on us by sleeping with another group and then slinking back to us in the morning but we forgave him anyway.
After a short walk (2 hours...this is now classed as a short walk when you´ve been through what we had), we finally arrived at Machu Picchu. In the rain. Great. Could see a thing coz of the clouds but after a while they did clear up and we managed to get some photos of some sorry looking people (me and Jade) looking extremely tired and fed-up. After a tour of the ruins which were amazing by the way but we decided that the hightlight of the trip was the actual trek itself and Machu Picchu is just a very small blob of icing on the top of the fairy cake, we went for lunch in a town called Aguas Calientes (translated as ´hot springs´). One thing we were looking forward to was the hot springs but because of the train strike, we didnt have time. Of course we didnt, only people without our crap luck would have time for that. So we set off down the train track for the 3 hour walk. About half an hour into the walk, I started to feel abit sick. Not the tummy sort of sick but the bladder sort of sick. But we decided to soldier on. Not for long though and as soon as there was a gap in the group, i had to make the unfortunate decision to bush it. It had to be done, i was getting the sweats and feeling dizzy. No details will be mentioned but thank god for babywipes and antibacterial hand gel. So i was good to go and we carried on. But not for long. Then Jade started to feel ill and then i did again. By this point we were well behind our group so we figured we could do the bush trick again. So we did. Not so funny at the time and a bit gross but when you´re in the middle of nowhere with only a train track in front of you, its amazing what you´ll let yourself do. We carried on walking for a few mins until i realised that id left my walking stick in the bushes! disaster. So i ran back as quick as possible, past another group of trekkers and retrieved the stick. Phew.
The rest of the walk went smoothly as were our bottoms from the baby wipes. We made it to the bus in time and we got on. Then it was that i realised i had gotten about 30 insect bites. My arm was pretty gross and i looked like i had leprosy, not that i know what that looks like but i can imagine something like my arm. Baring in mind that i had only had one the whole trek, i was pretty angry with myself for not putting spray on when doing what we described as the train trek. But the show must go on and it did.
A couple of hours into the bus drive and we kept seeing what we thought were landslides on various parts of the road. Not only until we´d seen about 10 of them did we realise that this was also because of the train strike. The locals had blockaded the road with massive boulders and rocks. Seeing the driver dodging rocks on the edge of the mountain side and in the dark was not something i would like to repeat. Managin to almost get all the way to the end of the main road, we came to a blockade we just could not pass and when locas began throwin rocks on front of the bus, we turned round and had to take the other longer bumpier route. Anyway, we made it back to hotel 11 hours after fisrt setting off on the train track and everone and bags were still in tact. we got straight in bed and slept like porters would do after 4 days carrying 20kg bags.
Sorry for the long read but it all had to be in there for the trek to be done justice. Will update photos soon and the next step of the trip as i need to go catch a train. (hopefully not one on strike) ha.
Lots of love and will be in touch soon, abit manic at the minute so sorry if ive not replied yet. Nat - xxxxx