So, after the Amazon, Cuzco was much the same… lots of relaxing and chilling out, a few massages and meeting really cool people at the hostel! Liv and Freddy reappeared, and we hung out with Ronnie and Charlie (two LOVELY Brit chicks) too… was really great to meet so many lovely people there, and to chill out… after one massive night for me, the next day was spent hung over watching The OC in the TV room, and trying to convince myself to get out of my sleeping bag…
Onto the Inca Trail now (as riveting reading about my hangovers is I'm sure!) or as I like to call it, 45km of mental testing…
Let me start off by saying that somehow I managed to avoid all of the altitude problems… not sure how or why, but thank goodness when it came to the Inca Trail… from the moment we first met our guide Javier we should have been able to tell what was going to be in store… I'm pretty sure that my Spanish is better than his English, which is saying a lot… lol. He had the LONGEST way of explaining the simplest things… it was like talking to someone with a really bad stammer… you feel really bad for being impatient with them, but at the same time you're wondering what the point is going to be, and it takes so long to get there you're not sure if you zoned out and missed something really important… lol. Somehow we lucked out again, and it was only me, Matt and Kirbs on the tour, with another French couple. We both had our own guides (their tour was in Spanish) and they were the most lovely people… Really made me wish that I spoke ANY French so that I could talk to them better… it turns out that they live on a vineyard about 30kms from Llyon in France, and invited me to stay with them!!!! SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET! They showed me a picture of the house, and I am DEFINITELY going there once I get back in October… hopefully I can fake liking wine before then!!!
Day one was really beautiful and I was expecting to be a massive walk in the park… funny how cocky always manages to catch up with me! It was mainly flat, with one or two steep uphills, which was good as we found out the three of us were at about the same fitness levels… our guide also started his habit of telling us to have 'open minds' and that there was 'only one more' (despite how long or how many steps was in front of us…) Lunch and dinner was always prepared by our lovely porters, who always came tearing past us on the tracks… it's incredible to see someone twice your age carrying 30kgs come racing past. A great way to kill any illusions of fitness for sure!!! All our meals were served in a big meal tent which had a sheet divider to separate the eating from the cooking area. Kirbs and I claimed vegetarian, and had some AWESOME food which was really nice to have meat free for 4 days! We found ourselves carrying our sleeping mats (they equivalent of sleeping on a cement slab… cold and REALLY uncomfortable) so we each had between 6-8kgs in our packs that we were hiking with between our clothes, water, snacks, sleeping bags and mats… with early starts (the latest wakeup at 6am) and between 6-8hrs of hiking each day we were normally asleepby 9pm (at the absolute latest!!). Kirbs came up with a brilliant idea for insect repellant which makes the bugs stick to you… we decided to rename it insect attractant… not sure how well it would sell though… lol.
Day two was the day everyone says is the hardest. It involves 6.5hours of walking up hill… unfortunately it's not a really nice gentle incline either. The terrain alternates between dirt, gravel and really steep steps… the walking poles we bought in the town we stopped in along the way were essentially solely for this day! By the time we were half way up the hill we were stopping every 5 minutes to catch our breath… I actually checked the time at each stop so I know that's accurate. Luckily we got a porter to carry one of the backpacks up to the camp for us, so we got 15 minutes each of every 45 without a pack. To explain WHY it's such a struggle (if the 6.5 hours wasn't enough for you!) you climb over 1km in altitude over the 8km walk… this means the air is getting thinner the higher you go… so as you're gasping for breath, trying to drag some oxygen in, there's less around you. I think this is that day I talked the least since I've been born, SOLELY cause there wasn't even enough oxygen to complain… lol. The peak of the hill came to 4125m above sea level (none to shabby!) and the lovely French man even came down to get Kirbs' pack when we got about 50 steps from the top. At this point in time I'm pretty sure I would have been throwing up had I had anything substantial in my stomach… lol. After reaching the peak, the view was AMAZING!! Totally worth it, but an absolute killer… the next 2 hours were almost as bad… we dropped back down 600m in altitude over 4km, having the joy of walking down REALLY STEEP stone steps… half the time I was freaking out I was going to trip and break my leg, and the other half I was watching the porters race past me…
Day three Kirbs and I got hysteria… having mentally prepared myself for day two to be the worst, I had no idea what was coming on the third day. I think for NORMAL people it would be ok, but with both Kirbs and I having dodgy knees… Another early start saw us leaving camp for the one hour hike uphill to the first inca ruin of the day. From there we headed up to the second pass (a pass is more commonly known as the TOP OF A MOUNTAIN!!!!) which was another hour of uphill trekking (unfortunately all of us carrying our full packs and mats again…). After the second pass it was 1.5 hours down to camp, where our guide told us we had only another 15 mins of uphill for the rest of the day before having a much more leisurely time of it… you'd think I would have learned how far the truth can be stretched… at lunch I saw the path we were about to be walking, and there was NO WAY it was 15 minutes… maybe 15 in a car, but even then… lol. I hit my stash of vitamin B which gave me a massive burst of energy and helped me power it through up to the top (almost an hour later). I felt like I'd finally hit my stride, and was really enjoying the walk. From there we had another 4 hours of hiking to make it to camp… 4 hours walking down REALLY steep steps… next to cliff faces for some parts… remember when I mentioned my new found fear of heights?? The last hour and a half of Kirbs and I crawling along at snails pace, we both got a fit of the giggles (I like to call it hysteria seeing as it lasted for so long!!!) when Kirbs cracked it and decided she didn't want to go any further… the apparent 'short cut' we'd been sent on took so long we were convinced that we were in some C grade horror movie where our organs were going to be harvested… this suspicion was confirmed by remembering our guides constant advice to 'prepare your organs' and the 3 course meals 3 times a day to fatten us up! It was one of the most mentally exhausting things to convince yourself to keep going, knowing that there was no alternative but being exhausted… the best site in the world was Matt waiting 5 mins from camp holding cold drinks… by this time we were dreaming of sleeping in real beds, showering and FINALLY feeling human again…
Day four we made it to Machu Picchu!!!! With a VERY early start to the day we mentally prepared for only 2 hours of hiking. The view from the sandgate was amazing, although there was so much fog and cloud cover. The ruins appeared periodically throughout the fog making it appear really mystical. My favourite part of the hike would have to be the 20 steps our guide warned us about… the reason it was my favourite was that the steps were pretty much just cut straight into the cliff face, so it was much more like rock climbing, and a nice change from the sameness of the past 3 days…, After 3 days of only 200 people at the most about (and even then very spread out!) it was a real shock to the system to see so many people around the ruins… it actually kind of ruined the experience a little to know that you've trekked through 45 km, have accumulated numerous blisters, been up since 4am, and not showered for 4 days, and to see people who've just gotten off the train complaining about the number of steps… don't get me wrong, if I got the train I would have been complaining too, but when you're that mentally and physically exhausted, you just feel like taking your shoes off and shoving one of your stinking socks down their throat so you can have some peace… bless HIS socks, that almost happened to our guide… his long and drawn out explanations of EVERYTHING that we saw managed to kill a lot of the experience too… and there was just no way to make him quicker. The more you said you understood, or agreed or nodded the more her repeated himself… after 4 hours of this, we were all so broken spirited that we jumped on the bus to Aguas Callientes, where Matt ordered guinea pig (cuy) off the menu… it was one of the funniest things I've seen watching Matt trying not to throw up as he tried to peel back the skin… after taking a tiny piece of meat off the leg (?) Matt decided he preferred the pizza. Kirbs and I tried a slither as well. Not really anything that special to be honest… from there we met Javier to say our goodbyes over a Machu Picchu drink (layered grenadine, crema de menthe, pisco and orange juice which we got in trouble for mixing as your supposed to drink it through the straw by pulling it through the layers with each mouthful). From there we began the next trek to try to find the hot springs,,, this was the first day we felt any stiffness is our legs, and really killed our ability to walk like normal people. It would be fair to say that we were hobbling… lol. The hot springs were beautiful, and most have helped in some way cause the stiffness was greatly reduced by the next day. From there it was a train and a mini bus back to Cuzco where I could barely keep my eyes open… was nice to make it back to Loki for one more night… until 3:30am when a couple in the dorm came home and decided to have REALLY loud sex… nice…. Lol.
After some many days with early starts I was wide awake by 6am… our last day in Cuzco, and for some reason Kirbs and I just couldn't contact each other. We pulled into the airport at the same time, and from there we headed to the last stop of our trip together as we flew into Lima… Now, Lima is nothing like I expected it was going to be, and I REALLY miss the beautiful streets of Cuzco. Lima just can't compare…at the airport we managed to get a SWEET ride to the hostel which is one of 4 with the same name… the rooms are really lovely and quite nice, and I've splurged out to get myself a private room before the next leg of the trip. Last night we just had a quite night at one of the Flying Dog hostels with Fi, Alex and Andrew who are all in transit here. As always with those ones, it ended up being a late one getting back home to the hostel escourted by my body guards at 4:30am…
Chilling out with Alex, Fi and Andrew before they fly out today to head off their respective ways… Will definitely be catching up with my two crazy Brits, and seeing them for some more fun times in the UK. I will definitely be making the most of my unemployment! Today is a bit of a sad day, as we realized at breakfast it's my last day in South America! I've been really lucky to meet such amazing people on my trip, and to have such an awesome travel person as Kirbs. In 7 weeks not even one argument, and we still haven't run out of things to talk about. I can only hope that this signals good times ahead for the rest of my travelling.
Thanks Kirbs for an amazing experience and some great memories. Love you lots chica!!!! I'm going to miss you from here on.
Thanks everyone back home for you message posts, texts and emails. Love and miss you all lots too!
Time for me to get ready to do some posting back home!