|Thanks John for that seamless crossover. So, an overnight bus from Arequipa to Cuzco somehow left me with a lot of gas. I was doing burps that tasted like egg. Sulphuric, right? Icky.
I headed straight for bed while the others went out to discover the joys of Cuzco. They found a fabulously set city and an Irish pub, which would become a bit of a fav. But all up, a bit of a lowkey preparation for the Inca Trail.I was still egg burping when we were picked up way early on the first of the four-day trail. At our breakfast stop I raced down to a farmacia and the lady got me a bottle of bright pink alkaline liquid. I downed it there in front of a queue of people holding pieces of paper as the farmacia was also a thriving photocopying place. The liquid worked wonders and I was cured just in time.
So to the Inca Trail. My lordy, what an adventure. Whether you’re making your way with a spring in your step or heaving slowly up and up, convinced that the path can´t go any higher, yet it turns another corner and rises the same amount again, the surroundings are always truly amazing. Hoooge mountains to look out across to or close-up views of orchids or busy little (and never before seen) hummingbirds. It was hard work with lots of sweating (and no showers) but it was really ace to find your own pace and keep on keep on going.
We were a group of seven, us four plus Peter the Pom and mother and son Betty and Toby from Maine, USA.
Our guide was Juvenal and there were 13 porters and a cook. The porters were mostly no more than shoulder height, with legs that were surely pure muscle. They carried big loads on their backs and raced ahead on the path to prepare our lunch or evening tents. On the first day we were all a bit horrified by the grandiosity (that´ll do as a word) of our meals. When we arrived at the lunch spot a tent with table and chairs was awaiting us and we were served a delicious three-course meal. The porters buzzed around making sure everything was ok and we couldn´t help feel a little like colonists, set apart, overfed and generally living the good life. By the next day, though, these guilty feelings had pretty much disappeared and we couldn´t wait to plonk ourselves at the table and devour what was set before us. Here are some pics (soory they are mostly sideways):
There had been a landslide across the path right near the Sun Gate, so each day we had to walk a bit further than normal and on the third day we left the trail and walked along the train line to the town of Aguas Calientes, where we stayed the night in a hotel and got the bus the next morning to Machu Pichu.
Machu Pichu. As we rounded the corner from the entry gate we caught the first glimpses of this little city: stone terracwa and bases of palaces and general hubbub houses. Amid quiet gasps were coos to the resident llamas — they were obviously unaffected by the reams of tourists. We sat and obediently listened to good ol’ Jube recount the mysteries of Machu Pichu while the sun began to rise over the place. Photos were taken and then we were left to our own devices.
Maryanne and I were quite happy with the idea of leisurely lapping up the atmosphere of the place but everyone else seemed taken with the idea of climbing the mountain nearby to get an overall view of the site. More climbing, you’ve gotta be f%#king kidding yelled our thigh muscles, but we all signed up and headed up those fabulously upright stone steps. A few curses here or there, but it was definitely worth it. A picture-postcard view of the Inca city was had, leaving us all warmly chuffed.
And with lunch in Aguas Calientes had, we bid adieu to our tour group, but, hey not to our newfound mountaineering skills. The next day we fabulous four decided to climb another nearby mountain, Putukusi, and this time with no guide. After asking directions, we headed along the railway track to the sign to the mountain. Next to the sign was a big sign stating that it was prohibited to enter. We figured we couldn’t understand the sign properly and headed in. It was a single track site shrouded in plantlife. It felt quite isolated and the Indiana Jones feelings returned. Soon we realised why the prohibited sign was up. A portion of the track was obliterated by a landslide. Quite significant given the Machu Pichu sitch. We surveyed and decided it was ok to go on. Soon we were met by a makeshift (nay sturdy!) ladder. Done. Then another, twice the size. Then one that was friggen’ fuckin’ hooooge (huge).
This climb was proving to be very exciting indeed. One of the ladders had a V-shaped tree trunk across it so you had to wedge yourself through the branch while stepping up a couple of steps. Danger Danger, what fun. After about half a dozen ladder experiences, the shrubbery changed and we climbed up amongst large rocks somewhat reminiscent of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Doo doo doooo. The path kept going up and up and our mood began to turn cranky. Just in time the top was reached and there was had the other, magnificent view of our old friend Machu Pichu. Twas all worth it. We love you Machu Pichu! We had the whole climb to ourselves and the view felt intimate. We lay on rocks, soaking in our luck, gobbling chocolate, fruit and water.
Then another couple popped up, gasping for air. We knew it was our time to head down and face those ladders. As we headed down thunder started and added some urgency to our descent. We slid our way down and made it just in time for the train to Cuzco.
As Cuzco is in a valley the train needs to zig zag it’s way into town, heading one way, then making its way back a bit, then heading the same way again…Cuzco is as pretty as night as it is in the day. And so, we rested ourselves and the next night we were up for a party. Well, we had some dinner with wine, a couple of canned guinness and some of us thought that was a party. As we headed home, Maura and Maryanne decided to rap on the door of a place emanating music. Racy girls, John and I thought, leaving them to it, but a few paces on we decided to check on things. What we found was a little shop with a couple of guys and our girls sipping merrily on beer. We were in, and there was only one place to head — back into town to the clubs. And man were they pumping! We found our possie and got on down, t’was the first boogy in ages and it felt great. A mixture of fab indie and grin-and-bear-it tunes were played but the clubs were jammed and twas super fun. But geez, those fellas were heart broken when the girls bid their adieus…
The next day we were all feeling a little quiet and headed for Cuzco’s perfect fix: bars with free movies (in exchange for a bought drink, even the beloved coca tea). Weary muscles and minds meant easy satisfaction and there was another day gone.