Currently in Cuzco for one more night-we were planning on leaving for Puno today but as thinmgs happen we are gonna have one more night and then get an early bus in the morning- it´ll be our last stop in Peru before heading onto Bolivia- still uncertain as to whether we will see Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side or not...
So the trek... We were picked up at 5.10 in the morning and then after collecting the other trekkers made our way to Calca, which was our last stop in civilisation for a bit, stocking up on Coca leaves in the market to help the effects of altitude sickness. After Calca, the bus took us on to Quishuarani, where we started our first ascent. Ten minutes in, poor Chris was breathless and not surprisingly had no energy as hadn´t eaten for almost 3 days- due to a funny tummy. (Zoe had been down to the pharmacy the previous day to get extra meds for the medi-kit and so we were well-equipped)... After trying to soldier on, Americo (the assistant guide at the back of the trekkers) whistled for a horse from the small community we had just left. Everybody had long since passed and because Zoe had stayed behind with Mr Sick, the comment from Chris ´just catch everyone up´ really didn´t sit too well when climbing at altitude, (about 3700 metres at this point) everybody had a 15 minute head start and she was trying to ´catch everyone up´ at th top of the first pass. Memories of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo came flooding back.. Chris spent the first couple of days getting friendly with his emergency horse - whilst the other 11 trekkers plodded onwards and upwards over peaks to Cuncani (where we camped for our first night) and then onto Huacawasi and Ipsaycocha Lake where we set up camp on the second night. AT which point Coca leaves had long since been a necessity-they are the plant from which cocaine is made - but all Peruvians insist it is not like drug which is made from it,( our guide extensively explained the differences and what is added to make cocaine and that the Coca leaf is a sacred plant here in Peru. Giving it to locals that we passed is a highly appreciated offering) our guide phrased as merely like a cup of coffee to keep you going, and they get very defensive when it referred to as an illegal substance in other countries. The farmers that work from 4 or 5am up the mountains and have no food or water, chew on Coca leaves and it stops them suffering from altitude sickness or dehydration... Most people, including Chris chewed on the leaves and said they felt it doing some good, Zoe only felt a difference when having some jammed in between her teeth and cheek and took ibruprofen for a sore head... Maybe western and herbal shouldn´t be mixed.
The third pass was the most difficult after lunch camp on the second day, Chris did little bits of walking but mainly stayed on-horse for all of the up bits but walked down with the others down to camp. The staff were fantastic and over half way, on the second night after an amzing dinner - really this guy created veggie and non veggie dishes, totally impressive dishes in the middle of nowhere, our cook had even made a Happy Trail Cake! That night we were camping in -5 to -10 temperatures, bloody freezing!
After Ipsaycoccha, we left for our teck to Patacancha - after two days of 7 hour trekking upwards at altitude, it was nice to be walking easily down from 4700metres to the little village where we were supposed to met by a bus to take us an hour and a half to the nearest railways line. No telephone and no bus meant we had to walk a further 2 or more hours through Willoq and passed more Llamas, people harvesting corn until we came to our bus, a few hours late due to people felling trees over the road near Ollantaytambo- where we ate lunch and then got the train to Aguas Calientes that night.
The extra hours trekking at midday sun meant that we all had extra sunburn and extra aching calves. After an hour and a half on the train, all shattered, we then got off to walk to our hostel for the night, arriving at 10pm... Up at 4.45am to have something to eat and then on to get one of the first buses to Machu Picchu... An awesome day where our guide from the trek explained more about the Incan Culture and history.
It was fairly easy to imagine what it might have been like as on the trail we came across remote farming families that invited us into their houses that are almost exactly how they would have been all those many of years ago... Walking up and down more steps arou the sacred site just wasn´t enough for the 12 of us, we just didn´t want the trekking to end and the group, Chris too (feeling better at this point after being prescribed amoxycillin by camp nurse Zoe a couple of days prior ) decided to climb to the big mountain beside Machu Picchu (the one in all the photos) up Huayna Picchu (young mountain´) -from which we got a different view of the sacred ruins, only a mere 2,720 metres (8,900 ft) above sea level, a piece of cake in comparison the the previous days. Well worth it! We spent the afternoon back down the valley in Aguas Calientes, ate our fill and then some of us headed to the hotsprings whilst the others checked ou the markets... must say, the hot springs seemed to do Zoe´s aches and pains and Chris´s horse burns some good! Later that evening we got the train back to Ollantaytambo and then onto a bus, over 3 hours later arriving back into Cuzco... woo! Exhausted after writing that. And also after so much walking.. Off to Puno tomorrow, roll on Lake Titicaca!