We made it to Cusco bright and early and took a nap in the bean bags of our hostel before we could get into our room. That was becoming a common theme. What's the point of an overnight bus if you can't check in until 2pm?
We had two days before our inca trek, so decided to make the most of it. If you didn't know, Peru is pretty famous for good food. For this reason we decided to do a cooking course, though our instructor wanted us to call it a "culinary experience". It was a full day event where we learnt about the history of food in Peru, the types of food and tasted numerous Peruvian dishes. Peru have hundreds of types of potato (I've forgotten the exact number, but there is a lot, also a lot of corn) but there is one specific potato they call something like "daughter in laws tears". This potato is the most bizarre thing ever, it's not round, it looks like potato mace. Allegedly, when a son was to be married, the family would sit this potential wife down, and get her to peel one of these complex potatoes, not with a peeler, but a knife. If they failed to do it perfectly, well, the marriage may not happen... I would ruin it on purpose if the man wasn't to my taste...
We weren't peeling potatoes, luckily. We made ceviche and alpaca lomo saltado. Justine tried to burn the place down when we were cooking the alpaca, but failed. Cooking isn't one of mine or Kim's strong points. But we are good at eating, and the fact we could eat what we made was a good start! After the food, we focussed more on the drinks... Pisco was on the cards, a Peruvian spirit (apparently Chile try to claim it, but it's not theirs). Obviously, we taste tested numerous types of pisco before learning how to make pisco sours and chilcanos. We even convinced our instructor to give us some extra shots before going back to the hostel to kick on. There was a party in the bar going on full swing and before we knew it, we were covered in glow in the dark paint and joining in on the festivities.
Turned into a big night where we ended up at a bar called Mama Africa, I made friends with some Peruvian locals while the girls were otherwise "entertained" (wink wink). We made it back to the hostel near on daylight where we decided it would be a good idea to rest up before starting our 45km Inca Trail trek the following day...
We had a "team meeting" the night before the big trek where we got to meet the rest of the gang. Two kiwis, one belgianite and a New Yorker made up our clan. It was during the meeting that we all realised, we needed hats. So went on a shopping expedition to find some. This resulted in some extreme legionnaire hats being bought. Kimmy got your regular legionnaire, while Sam (one of the kiwis) opted for more of a wide brim legionnaire and Justine went for a safari hat. Everyone looked hot.
The following day, we set off. Day one was rather smooth sailing. We found out that Adam, the New Yorker, was prepared for anything. Snacks, deet, copious water - he was going to be our mama duck. We walked around 10km on day one. Nothing too strenuous, just puffed because of the altitude... That, or our lack of fitness. Can't be sure. It was also the day I lost my sunglasses... Devastated, as it meant I couldn't hide my sweaty face in photos so easily anymore.
Day two, or otherwise known as "total b**** of a day". We spent the entire morning going up hill. A steep hill. Probably better described as a mountain. We were climbing to reach "dead woman's pass", the highest point on the trek at 4600m. It was when we finally made it and were resting that we discovered that English dick heads on daddy's trust fund do the Inca Trail too... As a bloke in his 70s was just about to take the final step to get the top, this young English bloke literally pushed him out of the way to pass before falling on the ground panting. We though "oh no, maybe he's having a heart attack". That was when the English blokes pals appeared, and he started to brag about how quickly he'd made it to the top. We vowed that if we saw him again. We wouldn't let him pass...
Following the uphill, there is of course, the down hill. What I lacked in uphill skills, I made up for going down. Everyone has their skills.
What I have failed to mention thus far (and is important for you to know for day three) is the food. We would have a three course meal for every meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of the porters would dress as a waiter with a little bow tie and everything. And the chef was incredible. The food was amazing. Always after the food, there was a cup of tea "that aids in digestion"... Well, come day three, I think my digestion had a bit too much aiding. I don't want to go into too much detail (I will say there was a cave involved at one stage). But thank you to my wonderful friends Kimmy and Teeny for keeping guard and singing many renditions for "stop right now" and "stop, in the name of love" etc. So no one would stumble across me in my time of need.
Our final night was a festive affair, we thanked all the porters for lugging our gear and had a huge feast, cake and all - how the hell do you make a cake in a tent? Which porter was carrying the oven?
The next morning, we were up at 3.30am, to get ready for our 4.30 departure and a 6km walk to the Sun Gate for sunrise. Everyone was keen to get there, along with the other 200 tourists that were arriving the same day. Some people were in a hurry and would try and push others out of the way... Yes, you may have guessed, the English kid was back. Justine was at the back of the crew when we heard her say ******er approaching", and we knew what the code word meant. So we all set about walking wide, and blocking the path. He squeezed past Justine, hip and shouldered Kim, ran past me when the path was wide enough and nearly knocked over Harriet (kiwi) and Henry (our guide). Harriet didn't take too kindly to it, and yelled out that he was a f***ing idiot. We didn't see him again until we got the the sun gate, a place where you think you will be in awe of the view of Machu Picchu below... It was a foggy day, so we couldn't see anything. So instead, the highlight was Sam and Harriet berating this English kid for being a bit of a dick! Adam had to calm everyone down and offer snacks to get them away. Luckily, that was the last we saw of him.
The walk down was exciting, but at the same time, we were all so exhausted and we had to wait about an hour before we could even see through the fog. Which is apparently quite common that time of year. But it was remarkable, and we couldn't have had a better group. After spending the day marvelling over Machu Picchu and the adventure we had to get there, we went our separate ways. Until the following day when we all hung out again... And Colombia when Harriet met us again and we spent two weeks with her. And New York where Justine caught up with Adam (and I will too when I get there) Just can't get rid of some people...