Being the luckiest and happiest girl in the Andes!

Trip Start Jan 28, 2005
Trip End Aug 2005

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Thursday, June 9, 2005

Since my last (and another awfully long I'm afraid) instalment, I have digested the guinea pig (actually not as bad as I feared it would be but don't think I'll have it again, so no need to hide your guinea pigs when I come to visit. Unless I am really hungry. And the barbecue is hot.) and walked well over 100 kilometers in 4 days. My thighs are stiff, my bottom aenesathised, my knees are starting to act their age (23..) and my right toenail has turned blue and is predicted to fall off within the next week, I walk slowly like a female John Wayne, I have never in my life been so dusty and dirty, I didn´t see a shower or bar of soap for 5 days. My shoes, oh my shoes stink in the most gruesome and vile manner. And I am simply the luckiest and happiest girl in the Andes.

Before the roosters were even up at a rather ungodly hour we were picked up with our other 6 fellow trekkers (5 Americans and one Scottish lass) by Edgar and Teacher, our guide and cook for the trek and driven on roads that will give anyone palpitations for 4 hours to the base of Salcantay, the highest mountain in this part of the Andes. Towering an impressive 6271 meters over sea level. Think South America, think beaches and men in yellow thongs right? Well, no, not this part of el continente.. Think snow, glaciers and men in wolly hats!

Madeleine and me had already spent 4 days in Cusco making sure we were aclimatised. (Although it is Gringoland Cusco is definitely not a bad place to be for acclimatising, there are lovely lovely cafes, restaurants and bars. Madeleine's birthday was spent in the excellent Fallen Angel) Edgar gave us all coco leaves to chew as we were walking up to prevent altitude sickness. But as we slowly made our way up towards the pass (at 4550 meters) I was wheezing and puffing and my lungs felt as if they were going to burst. Edgar had already warned us that in almost half of the 47 times he's done this trek someone has had to return back to civilication on the first day because of altitude sickness. Stubborn viking as I am, it is NOT going to be me. So I wheeze, walk and puff on. The landscape is barren, not a tree in sight (that'll be the what the 'treeline' signify I suppose..), just rocks, dust, snow and a rather impressive glacier. As we make it to the pass after 3 hours slow and steady walk we are greeted by the magical sound of a flute (Edgar turned out to be an excellent guide and a man of many talents). And the most incredible sight of piles of rocks. The tradition goes that anyone who walks there leaves a rock on top of other rocks for the apus, the mountain spirits, so that we may have a safe passage. In earlier times people did also leave their sandals. Tempted though I was to give the apus my smelly trainers I decided better not, the spirits would most probably become mortally offended by my offering and punish us. I could not have that responsibility for the group. (Although I am sure they would have rather my shoes be left behind and not in camp, especially Madeleine my poor 'tent-mate'..)

Day one of the trek ends after descending from the pass and we set up camp by the river, seeing the top of the snow clad Salcantay and Umantay from our tents. As Angie from Montana (Horray! Montana!!) so beautifully put it ´ah, the view is so much nicer when you pee outdoors.´ Pretty, but bl**dy freezing! And the mules woke me up in the middle of the night. When Edgar the next day at breakfast told us the mules has been uneasy because there was a puma close to the camp, I made a mental note that it was probably a good idea to sleep close to Madeleine the next night for heat and safety. She's a police officer after all, I am sure she could handle a teeny-weeny puma..

Day two was totally awesome (sorry, I just sounded like a 14 year old high school student there!) The barren lunar landscape of day one quickly vanishes as we descend into the Andean cloud forest. We walk amongst orchids and bamboo while hummingbirds and butterflies zigzag around us, and get bitten to bits by the most amazingly irritating mozzies. Even my 40%(YIIIKES!!!!)Deet Jungle spray didn't even work! Teacher cooks us up the most brilliant lunch - all his food was excellent, I am sure we gained pounds although we were burning calories like never before. Day three, again totally awesome. We had a short day (thankfully, as some of us stayed up late, that'll be 11, and polished off a carton of Gato Negro and most of the contents of Edgar's bottle of dark rum..) We end our day's walking in a tiny village called Playa, and have a freeeeezing dip in the river. (Too cold to stay in there long enough to get half clean unfortunately)

The last day of the walking, and we see one of the mountain opposite Macchu Piccu from very early on during the day. I am starting to have problems containing myself, I cannot believe we are so close and that I'll actually get to see it tomorrow. I'm starting to well up already. After a massive long and hard walk up, up and up Edgar detours and takes us to the amazing ruins of Llactapata, directly opposite our final destination. This is what Macchu Piccu must have looked like for Hiram Bingham when he ´discovered´ Macchu Piccu (with a little help from his local friends) in 1911. Overgrown by trees and plants. Just magical. Then, as we come out of the ruins onto an opening we see it for the first time.. Macchu Piccu. There, right in front of us, the buildings to the right and Wayna Piccu to the left. As we're coming to Macchu Piccu from 'the other side' we're seeing it from somewhere most people never do. I start to reach for the Kleenex pack..

The trekking company we went with (the excellent tough expensive United Mice) drive their trekkers up to Macchu Piccu from the campsite early in the morning on the 5th day. I am sorry, but if I have walked over 100km to get there, you expect me to get a bus? A BUS???? Thank you, but firmly NO thank you! So we set the alarm early and start getting up at 3:30. An hour and a bit later we've had coffee and Teacher´s packed breakfast, we (Angie, Carol from Scotland, Madeleine and me) start walking the stairs up and up and up. It's tiring, we're sweating a la sauna, although it's chilly and the sun is not up yet. It feels like it's bend after bend and the stairs will never finish. ´Oh, we must get getting close´ Carol said after 50 minutes of sweaty walking. Then she looked over my shoulder and gasped ´THERE IT IS!!´ I turn around and there is is.. Right behind me is the most amazing site I have ever seen.

It was a little over 6 o'clock in the morning when we walked into Macchu Piccu. I know it was not me being bloody tired or my painful blue toenail that is about to fall off. As I saw the ruins and Wayna Pichu as the backdrop I started to well up, my bottom lip was shaking and before I knew it I burst into tears. I had to sit down, I didn't get very far into the ruins, I just had to sit for a while and look at this beautiful sight before me and tell myself what a lucky, lucky girl I am. How on earth did I manage to get myself here? To Macchu Piccu. I am finally at Macchu Piccu, I have dreamt of doing this for so long. I pinch my arm hard (which almost makes me cry more), I am here for real. Just amazing and just wonderful. How incredibly lucky, lucky I am.

Knowing myself relatively well by now, I had told the trekking company I wanted to stay an extra night in Aguas Calientes so I can have one more day at Macchu Piccu (the story of my life eh? Oh, I'll just sleep another 10 minutes, oh, I'll just stay another day..) Madeleine heads back to Cusco that night as she's got a train to catch the next day so we wave goodbye at the train tracks. It was very strange that all of a sudden that she wasn't there anymore. It felt like she'd gone to the loo and been gone an awful long time (that'll be the mayo). We work out our paths are crossing in around 10 days, so we arrange to hook up again then which will be just great. She's just a wonderful girl, has been great travel company and we've had some great chats and brilliant laughs. Two Pisco sours in Nasca!

I spend the night at a great eco lodge called Rupa Wasi in Aguas Calientes with Angie, we go to the hot springs to relax our muscles and have a rather good trout dinner. Then the next day I head back to Macchu Piccu again, having not had enough punishment I decide to trek to the top of Wayna Piccu.. Impressively it took me only 39 minutes (including breathing and photo breaks) and the view is just.. AH! Will I ever tire of Macchu Piccu? Then, rather than catching the bus back down, I decide to walk down.. Great for my exhausted knees..

Back in wonderful Cusco I had some shopping to do and some catching up to do. After almost 4 months of living in sensible clothing, such as cargo pants and the most unflattering trekking pants (that do turn into shorts by a zipper, oh, how chic...) I simply HAD to get some jeans. And not just any pair of jeans. Jeans South American style. żDoes my bum look big in this? Does it ever.. ĦJ.Lo eat your heart out! My bum has never looked bigger. Then for the catching up to do first I caught up with the rest of the group from the trek for one (well, a few) pisco sours, then, to my liver's dismay, I hooked up with Bryan and Sjoerd (aka King Harald and Queen Sonja) from Ecuador for two nights of rum and disco. After a few hedonistic days with them I´ve headed to Urubamba in the Sacred Valley where I'm staying for a few days of doing nothing in a hammock. I've come with tall, dark and handsome company, but I've sworn and crossed my heart not to tell you about that. So I'd better end here then, eh?

***** BREAKING NEWS *****

Remember Amma, the hugging guru who wanted my email address in India almost 4 months ago? Lo and behold, the other day there was an email in my inbox! The guru will be in Norway later this year, would I like to attend????
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