Big tick for the bucket list...
Trip Start Nov 15, 2012
25Trip End Jul 10, 2013
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They didn't tell us the trek would have us experiencing every kind of emotion possible over a four day timeline. From a serious sense of humour failure on the crazy up hills, to having to hold ourselves up on our walking sticks from fear of falling over in fits of laughter - possibly from gaining oxygen to our brains and lungs again after climbing to 4200m and back down again.
Every being who sets out to do The Inca Trail is doing it for their own personal reason - an achievement, a goal, a pilgrimage, a life long ambition. Whatever their reason it matters not because I'd like to think that each and every person has the same WOW factor when finally reaching the Sun Gate on day four. I'm sure each person has their own story of what it's like too, this is my story on behalf of my mama and Chris.
After three long weeks spent in Buenos Aires we were finally flying to Peru. Dot get me wrong, BA is a wicked city, but three weeks there is far too much time. We got see just about everything we wanted to, as well as spend a weekend with our friends Hannah and Adam which was good fun and a great time buster.
Arrived in Lima a couple of days ahead of mama and spent the time checking out the "City of Kings", as they affectionately refer to it. Friday came soon and I was jumping up and down at the thought of mamas arrival. Finally she arrived by taxi at our hotel where we would stay for the next two nights before flying to Cusco city.
We met up with one of the tour guides from G Adventures, as well as the rest of our group for the week. Our briefing was entertaining, for want of a better word. We were allowed 6kg each of luggage for the trek. This had to include a sleeping bag weighing 2.5kg and for some people a mattress weighing 1kg, leaving us with between 2.5kg and 3.5kg of our own stuff (clothes and toiletries) for four days of trekking. It's quite amazing what one can fit into such a small amount of space - gotta love mini toiletries.
Had a good dinner with the team and headed to bed early as we were up at the crack of dawn to catch to flight the next morning to Cusco. Priority check in at the airport, a quick 45 min flight with magnificent views of the Andes, we landed in Cusco and...stopped breathing! Cusco city sits at a cool 3400m above sea level. This means that everything becomes a lot more slow, walking, breathing, talking, running - ok no running at this level. It's the weirdest feeling on ones body. You do slowly get used to it but at first it's somewhat off putting.
Off to our hotel to book in for one night and then a guided city tour. Beautiful city with loads of old colonial buildings, a great plaza where you get anything from Starbucks to gynnae pig if you so fancy, eeeew! We visited a massive market where they sell cows noses, frogs legs, pigs brains, you name it - the stench is rotten but it's pretty interesting. Another briefing where we met our guide Pedro, who would be the dude for our trek over the next four days, and another reminder of our weight allowance.
Pedro informed us we would be getting our bags weighed the following morning so no sneaky business of more than 6kg's. In fairness it's a rule put down by the Peruvian government so that the porters don't carry more than 25kg's each, and this includes our clothes and then everything needed for the camp sites for four days: tents, gas, food, cutlery, crockery, waste, water etc etc etc.
Another early morning wake up, jumped into our bus, met our second guide Edwin, and headed out towards Ollantaytambo, which is where our trek would begin the following day. Along the way we stopped at a couple of local communities and had the chance to see how these amazing women make the most beautiful blankets, ponchos, jerseys etc from Alpaca and the likes. They showed us how they use different berries, leaves and small insects to get the fabulous colours that make up the garments. It was fascinating.
Arriving in Ollantaytambo we were taken on a tour of the Sacred Valley. Despite the hundreds of steps that we needed to climb to get to the top, we were in awe of the Incan architecture and their astrological genius. Little did we know that this was a good warm up for what was to follow over the next four days.
Bags weighed, team dinner done, a final sleep in a warm and cozy bed, a final shower for the next four days, a 45min drive to the starting post, walking sticks in hands, day packs on back, hiking boots secure, smiles all around...let the INCA TRAIL begin...
Right from the very beginning of the trek it was a fair amount of uphill, not slow gradual climbing but rather a flat bit and then a sudden upward climb. 109,151 steps, 14 085 stairs (and they were STEEP), 73.92km's, long drops all round, hard floors to sleep on and some of us suffering a little more than others, particularly on day 2 where we climbed up to 4200m along a pass known as Dead Women's Pass, we finally made it to Machu Picchu.
Despite the "hardships", the lack of breath and the altitude sickness suffered by some this was THE BEST time of my life, and, I think, one of the best for mama and Chris. we saw the most gorgeous stars at night and the scenery along the trek is breath taking. We were totally spoilt by our outstanding 18 porters and two chefs who carried not only our luggage but also the entire treks necessities for four days.
These guys are incredible, they leave just after you leave the camp site every morning and they pass you along the way - running up and down hill in their flip flops with 25kg's on their backs, some with a little radio in their hands to keep the tunes pumping out along the way. They have breakfast, lunch and dinner set up before you even reach the camp sites and they wake you in the morning with a cup of cocoa tea in your tent...much needed cocoa tea I might add, that stuff is awesome! Our porters even baked us a cake on our final lunch day!!
Our guides Pedro and Edwin were fantastic. Always just ahead or behind you to make sure everybody was ok along the way. Pedro's knowledge and passion of each of the inca sites (incansizes) ;-) was phenomenal. Edwin was a legend, he used to be a porter for seven years, put himself through tourism school and is learning English - what a touching story.
We laughed hysterically on our third day for various reasons and on reaching the Sun Gate on the morning of day four, after waking up at 4am to start our two hour trek, there were tears of happiness, joy, achievement, awe...you name it. No words can quite describe the feeling when reaching that sun gate and then making your way down and into Machu Picchu. Those that have done this will know, those who have not...make a plan!
Not wanting to leave the site of Machu Picchu we reluctantly made our way down by bus into the small town of Aguas Calientes to have lunch with our group and a celebratory drink. A train and 2 hour bus ride later we were back in Cusco...SHOWER TIME!
Our final night was spent with some of our group at a local Irish pub in Cusco, and our friends from or Pachamama and Bolivia trek also joined us. What was meant to be a couple of quiet celebratory drinks with our guides turned into a somewhat crazy fuelled evening/night/morning! We celebrated in style, totally high on life and ended up at a nightclub dancing the night away until 5am...even mama stayed out dancing with us until 3amish and only went home because she didn't like the music anymore hehe.
An unforgettable experience, something which mama has spoken to me about since I was a little girl and it fulfilled every expectation and more. To experience this with two of my most favourite people in the world - my husband and and my mama, I am one lucky girl and I'll never forget it for a moment. Thank you mama, Chris and Machu Picchu you totally rocked my world.
And now it's the last leg of our incredible journey. Mama is back in London again, Chris and I are currently in Florida, a strange and exciting place to be after three months of third world travel.
I am not sure that any of us are the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world...