Vern: We arrived at Cuzco (Peru´s colonial jewel) at a reasonable time in the morning and made our way to the hostel. We were to start the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 3 days, and the plan was to acclimatise to the altitude and see a few sights before heading off. We started with Qoricancha, a nearby site where an Inca Palace once stood which housed a Sun temple - a room lined in gold and designed to illuminate completely when hit by the sun on the two solstices. Unfortunately, like most of the buildings in Cuzco, the centre of the Inca empire, after the Inca rebellion was finally squashed, most of the palace was torn down and a Dominican Church was built on top of it. Luckily a few walls remained showing off the Inca stonework. Two large paintings highlighted two interesting facts; firstly, the Inca's built and chose important sites which were located on radials beaming out of Qoricancha, and secondly, the Inca astrological signs are not formed by connecting stars with lines, but rather by shapes made by shadows in the Milky Way. We've tried to recognise the llama, snake and condor shapes in the shadows of the Milky Way, but since the shadows are even harder to recognise than constellations we just nodded when they were pointed out.
That night we went to the heavily advertised "highest Irish pub in the world" where we met up with Steve and Lynn, a fun couple that we'd met in Bariloche. We compared notes on Salento, Colombia (they also loved the place) and picked their brains for insights on Bolivia and beyond. They were leaving on the Inca Trail the next day and had their sleeping bags and sleeping mats on them. These were quite bulky and they were getting an extra porter to haul these and a bit more. This sounded like a good idea and we made up our mind to do the same.
The following day my iPhone crashed and I spent the day on the hostel computer restoring it (though I can't get any music back until I return to the UK so my collection of 90s alternative rock is not going to follow us around the world anymore). That night we attended our Inca Trail briefing and met José, our guide, and the other five trekkers. José took us through the walk in more detail than we required and warned us that day two was going to be the toughest and comprised of a four hour climb up to Dead Woman's Pass. Andrea asked about the name and José said it was called this because the silhouetted rocks looked like a woman's profile. This was reassuring (we'd imagined a pile of female hikers' corpses) but I'm sure "Sleeping Womans Pass" or "Sexy Womans Pass" would have sufficed.
The last day before the trail we spent gathering supplies: we felt justified in buying a whole box of chocolate bars, for instant energy, and also picked up some granola bars, for longer term energy, and water bottles. We packed our little daypacks for the hike and locked up our big backpacks in storage at the hostel we were going to stay at after the trail, then went to bed early. We were being picked up at 6am and we were determined to be ready!