Published: October 20th 2012October 20th 2012
After a day of rest in Arequipa (needed and deserved) I headed to Cusco. My couchsurfing experience began here. A little nervous and excited I arrived at the bus terminal in Cusco. Christian was kind enough to meet me in the terminal at 6am! Once he found me, he had the unfortunate news that he had been called to work as a guide for 8 days. Well I thought it was a hostel for me, but no. He had organized a friend who would be happy to take me, is that ok? Well I thought why not, so next I met Ruben, I had a great first day with him and a couple of other friends. As architecture students I couldn´t have asked for better people to show me Cusco. First day we wandered the city looking at churches and cathedrals, found the company taking me to the Inca trail to check in. I cooked us some yummy pumpkin soup and then the boys took me up to the lookout to see the city lights, truly beautiful. I then had another 3 days before heading off to the Inca trail. My amazing new friends took me to see the local Inca
sights - Saqsaywhaman, temple of the moon and horse riding. Left me to explore the city in my own time, and cared for me when I went ass up and split my shin open and my jeans. I am not sure what I was more sad about a huge hole in my shin or the fact that my jeans were destroyed (now shorts). I visited a lot of the Art museums here and spent a whole day in the Santa Domingo Convent in the gardens which are so peaceful. I will honestly say that if you can escape the touristic element to Cusco it truly is a beautiful city. You can feel the history there as the city is based on Inca foundations.
Before I knew it was time to head off on my Inca trail journey. Friday night was briefing and I met my fellow group members, Angie, Chris, Andrew, Helen, Eoghan (Irish for Owen), Martha, Dan, Sharon, Nick and Fred. Little did I know the connection I would have with these people by the end of the trip. The next morning everyone made it on the early bus trip that began our trip. On the
The celebration of Spring
way we stopped for yummy breakfast of eggs, toast, coffee and bananas. We soon reached Ollyantytambo and after a little more driving it was time to start walking. I have to admit as I watched everyone put on their daypacks I wondered if I had made the right decision carrying my own stuff. However I was committed, I wanted to reach that goal. As we began our first day there was what Victor (our fantastic guide) called Inca flat - undulating terrain needed with an uphill. We had our first break at the final ´normal toilet´we would find on the trek. Here Victor began to explain the farming life of the Incas. They had over 300 types of potatoes and corn. As we trooped on we discovered that the three pommie couple on our trip were honeymooning and had all been married on the same day. An incredible meeting! Our first Inca site was Patallaqta. Here Victor started explaining how the trail was discovered and also to share some of his philosophies on life the stemmed from Inca beliefs. It was an inspiring start to our journey. The next stop was lunch and it was here that we began to
fully appreciate the skills and awesomeness (there is no other word) of our support crew. Fresh lemonade, wash basins, chairs, tables, dining tents and the most incredible food imaginable! All carried by porters in bags, who overtook us every day, packing down and setting up every element to camp. These people were our inspiration. After lunch we had an uphill climb to our campsite. Before we started our guide told me to think about whether or not I thought I could make it through the whole walk with my bag. They said the remainder of the walk should take us an hour. Well this mad me all the more determined to do it, so I gave myself a goal of 45min. Our guides told us that the next section we were to walk at our own speed so they could gain an idea of our group’s ability. So although it was hot, steep and hard I was determined to stay with the lead pack. I did and we managed it in 40min boo yeah! This gave me the confidence for the entire walk. On arrival our tents were set up. We all had a bowl of hot water to wash
in and this was the quality we experienced for the remainder of the trip!
Day 2 - I have to day the most pleasant 5am wake up I have ever had. Met with a cup of tea and another bowl of hot water I was a happy girl. After I cleared out of my tent and had breakfast my tent was packed up for me. We had a hearty and filling breakfast as we had two passes to conquer this day. Unfortunately we lost one of our families to vomiting this morning, Chris was really worse for wear and a donkey took him away. I have to say I was proud of Ange (his partner) who held it together through a physically and emotionally tough day to come. We started in beautiful cloud forest. It is like the rainforest without the heat. There were beautiful trees covered in moss, lichen covered rocks, streams, orchids and ferns. We started the climb on dead woman’s path immediately; there was nothing but determination in my mind this morning, lucky as the steps were steep and never ending as they twisted their way through the mountains. Sooner than I thought we
Dead Womans Pass
Made it to the top
reached the halfway point, but don´t have any illusions it was a touch walk to here. The humbling moment was when we realized the local women carried liters of Gatorade and snacks to this point every day to sell like tourists like us. Although the prices were pretty hard, I thought it would be heartless not to buy something and I can honestly say it was the best Gatorade I have tasted. Soon we set off again and the climb began steeper and we were walking now in heath growth at a higher altitude, the cloud forest now a fading memory as the cold winds whipped our backs. However we took it step by step in silence as breathing became hard. Soon our lead pack spotted the pass, and this was the moment we became a family. We all waited until we were together to reach the top of dead woman’s pass, where somehow Ricardo had hot tea and sandwiches waiting for us. I think we all had a mental tear of accomplishment at this point. However we all knew we had another pass to summit. I am not sure though that it was expected to find challenge on the
The incredible sight we woke to on Day three
downhill as some of us did. Here the old farts club was formed, for dodgy knees. Our lunch stop was memorable for after bellies were full, bodies were strewn across the ground as we caught a small amount of rest before taking on the next pass. The second climb was shorter and less steep, still I think after the morning’s effort some of us found it more difficult. The climb to halfway seemed never ending, we all collapsed into the ruins of Runkuraqay as victor explained the use of these checkpoints found along the walk. The wind had truly chilled our bones here and we needed a pick me up before we let. This is where we discovered sniffing alcohol, a small harmless kick in the teeth that gave us the energy to make the remainder of the pass. As we neared the summit we looked back on dead woman’s pass. As we did we heard the first crack of thunder. An ominous and belittling sound as it echoed around the immensity of the mountains we were in. Raincoats and ponchos were donned and soon we were a walking rainbow as the weather enveloped us. At the summit of the
Lamas like good views too
second pass I ate a victory Snickers and I don´t think that that chocolate will ever taste that good again. Next we hit the downhill to camp. Shrouded in mist it was an eerie walk taken slowly as our legs tired and the path became treacherously slippery. This night saw most of us attempting not to fall asleep in our dinners. Needless to say it was an early bed for us.
Day 3 – Today we woke to see what that eerie mist had hidden from us the previous day. Waking we saw the most incredible mountain range, amongst them Salkantay the tallest in Peru. Happiness filled my soul as I looked onto a beautiful day. Unfortunately another of our family became ill in the night and the effort he put in over the next two days was legendary! He managed to troop through the next day with barely a word R.E.S.P.E.C.T! Well Day 3 was defiantly my highlight. It was more or less flat for the first half of the day. Here we enjoyed the amazing views and an incredible variety of plants and animals. I can´t describe the beauty other than to say that our
speed slowed as there were so many things you could not simply pass by. This was followed by 3000 steps down. Much more challenging than you would think, hiking pole I guarantee saved me here although I did join the old farts club at the backJ. Soon we arrived at our final camp. This was a midday day arrival as we had a short day and as we sat down to lunch another amazing occurrence happened. Hail storm! I can say we were all very glad to be under cover as the ice balls pelted down! The afternoon of this day was definitely amazing. After a two hour nap we headed to Wiñaywana. An incredible Inca site, here Victor spent an hour letting us in on many Inca secrets and in such a peaceful setting we all came away with a feeling of awe, peace and happiness.
Day 4 – 3.30 am wake up, pack up and eat. Why? We wanted to be in line early at the entrance to the macho picchu entrance point, an hour from the Sungate. Most of us snoozed as we waited except for Fred. I have never seen someone so excited,
when we finally were let through he ran is waving his arms like he won the lottery. Soon we walking on a crowded path, which made for an awkward toilet stop, getting giggles from most of the group. Unfortunately the clouds began to settle and when we arrived at the sun gate, it was raining. A little disappointing we took in stride and continued on. As we descended on Machu Picchu the clouds parted and we were given stunning views of what we had walked all this way for. Soon enough we had arrived. Victor gave us an unforgettable tour of the site, but by the end of it we were so overwhelmed we needed a good beer and a rest. So we headed to Aguas Calientes. After a great lunch our group was sadly separated. Myself, Helen and Andrew stayed on for Huaynu Picchu the next day and the rest of family got the train back to Cusco.
The next day Helen, Andrew and I had a splendid day. It was a good walk, not as tough as we thought but still a significant climb. At the top we had spectacular views of Machu Picchu and
I made it, pack and all
the surrounding valleys. We had an interesting descent as the stairs seem to somewhat resemble a down climb on a rock face. The afternoon was relaxing coffee and food filled ending to a wonderful experience. On returning to Cusco we had a reunion with Oeghan and Martha for dinner and drinks which bought an end to an amazing trip and unforgettable experience.
There are more photos below