Get higher, baby
Trip Start Jan 28, 2011
19Trip End Apr 29, 2011
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He scared us about the trip very thoroughly and professionally. We were ready! 3.45am the next day, we stumbled out into a minibus for the first leg- a 4 hour drive on what was apparently a road, though seemed to be a series of small rivers with rocks in. Getting stuck in the river on the edge of a cliff kept us awake- especially Manuel the driver.
After a brief stop for coca tea for us and giant plates of rice and eggs for our guides, and to buy gifts of bread and pencils for local children, we arrived at the start of the trek. Whereupon it immediately started to rain. Lots. In the great tradition of British holidays, we sat in the car for a bit to wait for the men with horses to arrive.
Then we were off- uphill, for the rest of the day. The first morning was essentially altitude training, plus fording a river with no shoes on. VERY cold.
Another couple of hours of climbing took us to 4200m and our camp for the night (pre-erected by Pablo and family, obv). It was FREEZING, and still wet, but (and this is still strange for us) not at all windy. Quick change into thermals for dinner (of which there was masses- we are struggling with the double carb concept), bed at 7.30pm, shattered. Rock and roll.
Note: zipped-together sleeping bags plus single sleeping mats. Doesn't really work.
A lazy 6am start for Day 2 (coca tea in bed, courtesy of Pablo), preparing us for 6 hours walking before lunch and 2 after. First thing was more climbing, yay! Impressed John by managing to get to the top of the pass (4600m) in 90mins. Double carb and coca now doing the business. Rain and sleet all the way up, then, for a bit of variety, a brief flurry of snow at the top. John a bit disappointed that we didn't get as excited as some Australians about the snow.
Then the snow cleared, and we finally could see the view down to the lakes. Absolutely stunning, and all the more impressive for suddenly appearing.
By lunchtime, the sun had come out! More amazing scenery, and a switch from ponchos to sun cream/glasses. We descended to 3220m to Pallata, and our second night campsite- which doubled as the local football pitch and bull-grazing paddock. Wet.
Final day was archeology day, starting at 5.30am (love the coca tea and pancakes), we walked down past lots of inca terraces for growing crops and medicinal plants, and the small inca settlement of Puma Maccha (Puma Town. No sign of Courtney Cox).
Next stop, the tourist train to Agua Calientes, the base for Machu Picchu. Full of noisy gringos- a bit of a shock to the system having seen only 4 other tourists in the last 3 days. Met up with the 2 Australian girls from our tour. Hot shower, alpaca for dinner (interrupted briefly by a mudslide evacuation test- for us this just involved the power going off for a bit).
Up at 3.30 again the next day (I'd like to say we're getting good at this, but it would be a lie) to queue in the dark and rain for an hour (yes really- this is the only way to get on the first 5 buses of tourists going to Machu Picchu and hence get the ticket to climb the big hill above it).
First views of Machu Picchu- intermittent. Was quite cool that different bits of it kept emerging through the cloud though.
We spent another few hours exploring, and finally getting some clearer views (and photos).
Left Machu Picchu (having got our passport stamps) at about 1.30, back to Agua Calientes for a lunch of Cuy (guinea pig) next to the roaring river, quick dip in the (frankly a bit rubbish) hot pools, then back onto the Venga train/replacement bus to Cusco by 10pm, followed by a day that consisted entirely of sleeping and pancake-eating.