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Published: January 5th 2015
What is better than seeing one of the wonders of the world?
Seeing one of the wonders of the world after trekking for four days, despite your doctor telling you to cancel your trip due to you having whooping cough and pneumonia a month before boarding the plane to Peru!
The altitude sickness had eased a little after two days acclimatising in Cusco but my head still felt like it was getting squashed like a grape. Doing my shoe laces up got me out of breath more than a hard session at the gym. I’m usually very active in England, going to the gym almost every day, but being ill and being at altitude meant I had the fitness levels of an obese person with angina.
We met the other people in our group who we’d be trekking with, a German couple. They were both trekking pros, this was Nikki and I’s first trek.
I hoped we wouldn’t hold them up and frustrate them with our lack of experience and ‘lung issues’
The first thing our guide said when he saw me
was “Big muscles. You will find this difficult”
“Why?” I asked
Muscle tissues require oxygenated blood to work, the more muscle tissue you have, the more oxygen you need and at altitude there is not a lot of oxygen.
So for those of you counting:
-I had whooping cough and pneumonia not long before going to Peru
-I had terrible altitude sickness
-I had no experience of trekking
-My body composition is going to make trekking even more difficult
Could anything else go wrong?
Whenever I book a trip I research various things ranging from safety, public holidays in that country (I learnt that lesson the hard way after going to China during their national holiday), to location of attractions I want to visit and weather, amongst other things.
I booked the trek during October for
numerous reasons. It was outside of peak season, we would reach Machu Picchu on Nikki’s 30th
birthday and it was a month before rainy season.
Rainy season came early!
I got talking to the guide to ask if there was anything he would recommend as the pills I had bought had little effect and the coca leaves didn’t seem to do anything.
“Coca is having no effect?” he said.
“No” I replied.
“How much are you having?” he asked.
I pulled out about 5 or 6 leaves and he began laughing. He then got a handful out and told me to chew on all of what he had in his hand. I could barely fit it all in my mouth. Coca leaves taste disgusting and they are SO dry there is nothing you can do to avoid them sticking to the sides of your mouth. After chewing for a while they began to soften slightly.
You are supposed to put them in the side of your cheek, like a chipmunk storing food. I kept
swapping between chewing and holding them in my cheek, after a while my mouth started to go numb, it had officially kicked in and my altitude sickness was gone.
The effects last an hour or two before you need some more in your mouth. In total Nikki and I bought about five huge bags of coca leaves and at every stop we drank coca tea with our food and snacks.
There are some steep climbs during the trek and as I was still very aware my lungs were damaged I decided to dose up on coca. By ‘dose up’ I mean as soon as I’ve finished chewing some coca leaves and I’ve got everything I can out of them I spit them out and put some more in my mouth and just keep doing this on repeat the whole time.
At one point I was walking/climbing at such a fast pace I was sweating. It wasn’t raining and the sun was out a little so I decided to take my top off as I was so hot. With each step I took I had a tempo in my head, the tempo
got faster, my steps started to become leaps. I began chanting “Coca, coca, coca” in my head. When we reached our designated stop for a rest I was still full of energy and as I looked around everyone else was dressed for winter. One person had a coat, scarf and gloves on and I was stood with my top off!
Maybe it was time to cut down on the coca leaves a bit.
Throughout the trek you pass numerous ruins and some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen. There are two options for seeing Machu Picchu, trek or train. You can do various lengths of treks from two to four days. Personally I do not know why anyone would go to Machu Picchu and not trek, unless you are physically unable to, it is part of the whole experience of Machu Picchu, regardless of if you enjoy camping or not.
Sleeping in a tent was a new experience for me, not one I overly enjoyed, especially as I woke up in puddles of rain on more than one occasion. When we woke up on our final morning it
was Nikki’s 30th
.I had mentioned it to everyone from day 1, the guide had obviously mentioned it to the cooks who tailored our meals for the week so that they had enough ingredients to bake a cake for Nikki for her birthday breakfast. Apparently they had been up all night baking it as they obviously didn’t have a proper oven.
After Nikki’s mini birthday celebration we got ready quickly and made sure we were the first people in line for the final part of the trek before we finally got to Machu Picchu. We literally ran the last portion of the trek so that we were the first people to see Machu Picchu at the gate of the sun. It would have been a lot more special if the view wasn’t obstructed by clouds lol.
By the time we actually got to Machu Picchu the ‘non trek’ people had already arrived on the train and got there before us. The clouds began to disperse and our view of the most amazing ruins got more beautiful by the second. The only wonder of the world I haven’t seen is the Taj Mahal but of all
of the others, Machu Picchu is the most stunning to actually see.
The whole complex was a lot bigger than I anticipated, although there were a lot of people there it didn’t feel like there was as everyone was so spread out, that I of course with the exception of the spot in which people get ‘the shot’ of Mach Picchu that everyone gets. There is an actual queue to take your picture from that one amazing place.
After four days of trekking and a day of exploring Machu Picchu I was very much looking forward to the train journey back down to sit by a pool with some food in the sun.
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