Published: July 30th 2011July 30th 2011
Well it´s been a very long time since I´ve blogged so this is going to be a long one!
I left off in Peru as we were about to head to Cusco. We flew from Lima in a tiny plane (much to my horror) but arrived unscathed in Cusco in the early morning. At 3300 metres above sea level, the altitude hits you right away, I felt like I´d downed a bottle of red after getting off the plane! We spent the next two days aclimatising as we were all feeling pretty horrible from altitude sickness but got to know Cusco as quite a cool city with good restaurants, bars and markets. There are lots of tourists here as it is the gateway to the Inca Trail. Unfortunately I came down with a head cold the day before we were to start the Inca Trail so I wasn´t looking forward to it.
We started the trail very early with a two hour bus ride where we met our guides and porters. We were to carry a day pack with what we needed and the porters were to carry all the cooking equipment, tents and five kilos of our possessions (sleeping bags etc). Day one is meant to be quite easy, lots of up and down hiking but nothing too difficult. You feel quite ashamed when you see the porters carrying at least twenty kilos each and you´re struggling along! The porters run ahead (that´s right, RUN) in order to get to the lunch spot and cook your meal so it´s ready for when you arrive. The food was amazing, they catered for my weird food intolernaces wonderfully and each meal was a feast. At about 5pm or so we arrived at our first campsite which was on a private property of a farmer. The toilets were absoloutely disgusting but better than nothing and after spying two enourmous spiders on the track on the way to the toilet I was happy to get in my tent and go to sleep. We were all so stuffed after hiking all day that we were in bed by 8pm.
The next morning we had a 6am wakeup call to begin day 2 which is known for being the hardest day of the Inca Trail. Unfortunately I woke up with my cold feeling a lot worse so I wasn´t looking forward to it at all! The hiking on this day is only five hours but it´s all uphill until you head Dead Woman´s Pass which is 4200 metres above sea level. I was hit by altitude sickness along with my cold getting worse so getting up to that summit was horrible, in fact the guides almost sent me back (you´re sent back on either a horse or donkey). But I was the last one of the group to get to the summit (where we could hardly breathe) and after lots of photos we headed downhill which was surprisingly difficult. It requires a lot of concerntration as the Incas never laid a flat path, all of the stones are uneven and one wrong footing could have you injured. Once we headed down (happy for more oxygen!) we arrived at our second campsite, completely stuffed.
None of us really slept very well that night due to the altitude so the 5am wakeup call the next morning was quite difficult! Day 3 is meant to be easier though so we were looking forward to the trek. My cold was still in full force but better than the day before, luckily I had some Coderal with me to get me through! The scenery on Day 3 was amazing, but if you have a fear of heights some parts are not so great. I´m very lucky to have understanding friends who would walk on the outside of me during the parts of the track where there was a sheer drop into nothing. Lots of panicking was done by me on Day 3! Once we were done and had arrived at the third and last campsite we were ready for an early night as the next wake up call would be 4am!
The last day requires everyone to begin the trek at 5:30am, but you have to be up and out of your campsite by 4:30am as the porters need to run ahead to catch their train from Machu Picchu. The trek was only three hours so we were looking forward to getting it done! The heights were also an issue that morning which I wasn´t expecting so I was a but over it towards the end. But we finally acended the ´gringo killer´ (an almost vertical staircase) and we arrived at the Sun Gate with all the other exhausted trekkers. The Sun Gate looks out onto Machu Picchu for an amazing view but to be honest, you´re so stuffed from three days of hiking you don´t get to fully appreciate it. We then decended another half an hour to Machu Picchu for a walking tour. Now after three and a half days of hiking, the last thing you want to do it do a walking tour of the ruins but we got through it and then collapsed on the grass for a few hours. The ruins are spectacular and it does make the long hike worth it, but I felt it was more about the hike itself and getting through it. We wondered around for a while for photos and tried to keep away from the clean and freshly showered tourists who had taken the train up as I don´t think we had the best scent after three and half days of hiking and no showers. We then caught a bus down to the nearest town for lunch and the train back.
Arriving in Cusco was fantastic as we could be in our heated rooms with clean clothes and showers, you have no idea how much you appreciate it after doing something like the Inca Trail! I´ve mentioned before we were part of a bigger group that split in two so luckily they had arrived in Cusco that day so we could all catch up for drinks that night. I was too sick to participate but the rest of my group completed what they call the ´24 hour challenge´ which begins at 4am on the last day the trek and then you have to party until 4am the next day.
After a massive sleep (well as good as it can be at altitude) we had a free day in Cusco so we could catch up with our friends from the other group and relax. We then had our final goodbye dinner with everyone as our groups wouldn´t be meeting again. The next day we got ready for an early 6 hour bus ride to Puno where we were to visit Lake Titicaca and have a home stay on one of the islands.
I´m so glad to have completed the Inca Trail, it was bloody hard being sick but you feel an awesome sense of achievement once you´ve done it!
That might be enough for now but the next instalment will be Puno and Bolivia!