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Published: July 27th 2011
Cusco has a very friendly and relaxed vibe. The cobbled streets, pretty architecture and numerous squares make for a very picturesque city. We checked into a really nice hostel with a friendly owner and looked forward to the days ahead in this city. We arrived late in the day, but had enough time to enjoy an evening in the city and tuck into some local cuisine (soup and Alpaca with rice).
To help with the acclimatisation and in preparation for our trek, we decided to take a walk up to Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “sexy woman”) an Incan fortress high above Cusco, and on to the statue of Christ which overlooks the city. En-route, along the cobbled stairs that lead up from the city, we meet a grumpy, toothless lady with a Llama who blocked the route and insisted we had a picture in return for 10p before we could continue - of course, Kev bartered with her to get this bargain price!
After lots of rice dishes, we fancied something different to eat and are ashamed to admit we went to KFC. Again, our lack of Spanish got us into an interesting situation when Kev mimed out his desire for
‘Chicken Breast’ not Leg in his Original Combo meal.
On our second day in the city we found ourselves amongst a children’s festival, where all the local children dress in traditional Peruvian outfits. We found a bench in the central square, Plaza de Armas, from where we could watch the festivities. It was all very colourful and really cute to watch, and the numerous street sellers that approached us kept us amused. Some sold really useful things like Alpaca wool hats, scarves and gloves (which are a necessity at night when it can get really cold), whilst others offered to polish our canvas walking shoes, or tried to sell us screwdrivers or a metre of string.
The next day we had an early start and were picked up and transferred to the start of the Inca Trail. We stopped for breakfast on the way and tucked into egg rolls and banana pancakes to help raise our energy levels. Kev bought a walking stick with a knitted handle for the equivalent of 60p which he was very proud of, and which later proved very useful on the long uphill sections of the trek.
We queued for sometime to
enter the trail with our porters, each of whom was carrying at least 20Kg on their backs, some wearing just sandals and not using backpacks (instead tying the contents up in a large cloth around their shoulders). Our porters ranged from 24 - 62 years old and were amazingly fit. Instead of paying for a porter to carry our possessions for the 4 days, Kev acted as our porter and carried his big rucksack along the route, whilst Cat opted to carry her day sack (full of chocolate, Ritz biscuits and our first aid kit).
The first day of the trek was relatively straightforward without too many steep climbs. We stopped for lunch at the halfway point where the porters had run on ahead to put up a little tent and set a table (in the middle of a turkey farm) for our group of 7. We never went hungry over the 4 days. Each meal consisted of 3 courses, and everyday we got a little snack pack to take with us on the walk. They served up lots of traditional Peruvian food, but fortunately Guinea Pig didn’t make it on to the menu (it is saved for special
occasions). However, at one of the resting points on a small farm, we saw a room full of Guinea pigs and a big pot being prepared on an open fire oven. Perhaps to distract them from their impending fate, they also had a small telly in the corner to keep them entertained!
Each night we stayed at a different campsite along the route. Again, the porters would run on ahead to prepare the camp and every evening we’d find them waiting for us with a drink and snacks. Never before had we stayed on campsites with such spectacular views when you unzip the tent door in the morning. Likewise, the toilets also had the best views when looking out (through the broken doors!), but probably one of the worst views ever if you looked backwards. Non-flushing holes in the ground had clearly proven a bit of a challenge for some previous guests!!! Kev and I however, are proud to say we quickly mastered the art of peeing/pooping into a hole in the ground (whilst holding our breath!).
The second day of trekking was described as ‘Challenging’ on the route map. It is mostly uphill and involves some steep,
unrelenting climbs, in particular up to ‘Dead woman’s pass’. We are assured that the name relates to the boob-like mountain at the top of the pass, and not to the fact that the climb has killed a few women in its time (much to Cat’s relief). To help with the uphill sections and to distract Cat from her burning legs, we turn to our iPods, in particular Lady GaGa and the Killers to help set the pace. We may have looked a bit daft walking/dancing up the mountains (particularly when Kev used his 60p walking stick as a twirling baton), but the approach really seemed to work.
Along the 45Km route, we saw lots of Inca ruins and terraces. Day 3 was particularly rich in ruins to explore and walk around. It was the longest day of walking (over 8 hours), but was mostly downhill and took us through areas of Cloud Jungle and new terrain.
The final day started with a 3am start in pitch-black and pouring rain so we could be one of the first groups at the check point into the last section of the Inca Trail. The early start and fast paced walking (guided
by our head torches) meant that we were first to the Sun Gate, an Inca construction from where we could sit and watch the sun rise over the mountains and see Machu Picchu emerge through the cloud and mist. It was quite spectacular to watch and gave us a real sense of achievement to know that we had made it!
The rest of the morning was spent exploring Machu Picchu’s different areas, temples and tombs. It seems that there is still a lot they do not know about the history of this magical place, but the construction of the buildings and the precarious location of the city perched on the mountain top are amazing to see. At around 11am, the site becomes crowded with tourists arriving from Cusco by train, so we make our exit and head to the town. In town we head to the thermal spa to soothe our aching legs and share the murky pools with the locals before heading to the train station. The train ride home allows us to retrace some of our route and take in some new sights along the way. It was a lovely way to end our truly memorable trip
to Machu Picchu.
Tot: 1.121s; Tpl: 0.096s; cc: 11; qc: 49; dbt: 0.0332s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb