Saturday, 26 May 2012
Trekking Inca style!
We'd booked the Inca Trail 5 months ago now and it was the one fixed point in our trip...and it was now here. As we stood by the entry check point we couldn't quite believe we were about to start. We were a little nervous, we'll very nervous to be honest, about whether we would be able to complete it, if we had the right kit and whether the huge blister I already had would hold out!!
Day 1 was the easiest day and good training for the rest of the trek. The scenery was beautiful already with high mountains and the Vilicumba river flowing below. We saw the Inca ruins of Hullca Raccay, a hill fort, the incas used as a lookout and the Patallata ruins. We had a friendly local guide called David and a fun group of 16 people. We were lucky with our group as everyone got on and we all had lots of good chats along the way and over food which I think kept us all going. It was quite a international group with Australians, Canadians, Irish, Americans and chilean/swedish! We'd each hired a third of a porter thankfully which meant they carried our sleeping bags, mats and some clothes. The porters really were superhuman, they were small local people known as chuskis, and would carry huge packs of 25kg up the mountain and would often even run. They really were amazing as each time we would get to a lunch or overnight spot the food tent and all the tents had already been set up and they would greet us with a drink. Now the food...where do I start it was some of the best food we'd eaten and was amazing considering it was all prepared on a gas ring at a campsite. We had four courses almost every time and had soups, lasagne, stews you name it. The food definitely kept us going. With day 1's walking over we all chilled out in the campsite and looked at the blanket of stars as we seemed to have some amateur astronomers with us!!
Day 2, the hardest day of the trek and the one that everyone warns you about - especially dead woman's pass. We were lucky though as the weather was dry and sunny again and after a filling brekkie we began the 51/2 hours climb up to the peak of 4,200m. Everyone took it at their own pace. The first section Jonty and I powered up through pretty cloud forests and a bubbling river - I think it was the thought of the second breakfast that spurred us on!! This was the only time we had a second brekkie and it was to give us energy for the remaining climb. There were thousands of steps but they weren't the original steps yet as the incas destroyed the first part of the trail as they didn't want the Spanish conquistadors to find Macchu Picchu. The scenery was spectacular, icy peaks and massive mountains. It was a very tough final push to the top but we surprised ourselves at how much energy we still had and how ok we felt. Our other treks at altitude really must have helped us a lot, thankfully. Some people in our group were suffering, especially one guy who hadn't had time to acclimatise in cusco. But we all made it to the top and celebrated by having a cup of wine and splashing some of it on the ground for Paccha mama (mother earth)-a big tradition in Peru. We then began the long descent down 1000 + steps to our next campsite which was on the valley floor. After another delicious dinner our guide told us a ghost story about the toilet block, being built on a burial ground, and people being pulled out of their beds in the night!! Just what we needed-the upshot was that no one went to the toilet in the night and maybe that was the plan!!
After another fairly good night's sleep in our tent we began day 3 by climbing up to the circular ruins of Runkuray. The inca paving was original here and there was a deep precipice on one side and stunning scenery. Today was the day of Seeing lots of Inca ruins along the way and it was fascinating walking around and imagining what it must have been like to live here or be the look out person there. Unfortunately though people don't know that much about the incas as they destroyed everything when the Spanish arrived. So David didn't have that much he could tell us which was a little bit of a shame as we often wanted to know more. The trek was so pretty today. We descended through cloudforests full of orchids and inca tunnels carved in the rock and then climbed up to the 3rd pass at 3700m. We then made it down the path named the 'gringos killer' but Jonty and I were still in good form and the steps didn't beat us-thankfully. And I truly believe in the power of compeed as my blister wasn't causing me any problems. The final ruins at the base by our camp were really out of something from Indians Jones and there were llamas roaming round the walls!
We couldn't believe that the next day we would be seeing Macchu. Picchu and we were already feeling a bit sad that it was almost over, as this had been a big focus of our trip. We had a fun final evening, finished off with birthday cake, for a fellow trekker, and a song that we'd been asked to make up to thank the porters. Luckily we had a song writer in our group which helped make us sound just about passable. It was then off to bed at 10pm as we were having to be up at 3.30am to get in line for entry to the final part of the trek.
It felt like a little bit of a race this morning as we'd been told that we need to be one of the first groups in line tomorrow to make sure we get to the sun gate for sun rise. Our Group made it to the check point gate for about 4am and then had to queue until it opened at 5.30am. We had done well though as we were the third group in line out of over 30. But it did feel a little surreal and silly as I expect soon people won't go to bed and will just queue there overnight!! We were allowed through and then began the final, exciting hour and a half walk to the sun gate. We all celebrated at the first sight of Macchu Picchu. It was amazing and we had all made it!! We began our descent and then had a guided tour of the site.
What an incredible place to have lived, with the views of the massive mountains all around and it really did just feel magical. We walked all round the site several times trying to take it in. Our favourite spot was at the top of one of the terraces overlooking Macchu Picchu. We must have sat there for hours in the beautiful sunshine and it was there that we rested our feet and really drank in the site below. We really couldn't tear ourselves away. We arrived at 7.30amish and then caught one of the last buses back to the nearby towns at 4.30pm. What a trip!! We eventually made it back to Cusco at about 11.30pm and we were all absolutely exhausted. It had caught up with us!!
Had a lazy day in cusco straight after the inca trail and then the next day, our final day in Peru, we caught a bus to the nearby towns of Pisac. We looked round the local markets then armed with a picnic walked the Pisac inca ruin trail. It was a pretty walk with about 10 inca ruins, terraces and sun temples, to look at along the way. Jonty had a bit of an accident falling into a cactus bush though and had to pull out needles from his shins. Ouchy but he was ok! We celebrated our last night in Peru by having a really fitting 'last supper' of cuy guinea pig. Jonty and I had struggled throughout Ecuador and Peru as to whether we should try it. I wasn't sure as I'd had a guinea pig as a pet, what would George think, but we figured we probably wouldn't get the chance again so we went for it!! It did look pretty grim when it arrived on the platter, with its little face staring out, but it actually tasted quite like duck or game. It didn't have a lot of meat on it and was fairly fatty! Let's just say it was an experience.