Savage Mountain

Trip Start May 27, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Abu Hausaran, Cusco
What I did
Trekked to Macchu Pichu

Flag of Peru  ,
Thursday, June 23, 2011

So it was the big one. The trek to Machu Picchu. We had a rough idea that we wanted to do the Salkantay trek to MP as it was more about scenery and less about the ruins along the way... (plus we missed the boat with the classic Inca Trail as you have to book that bad boy 6 MONTHS IN ADVANCE - wahh? ) Note: Salkantay means Savage Mountain in Quechua. Savage is about right.

We set off on the Thursday morning of Glastonbury Festy and as noted by me on Facebook it felt like a suitable Glastonbury replacement... we still had the camping, walking and hygiene challenges. No music, but lots of huge mountains, forests, jungles and views that make you do that shiver, you know the 'this is what life is all about' shiver. The 'if I die now, at least I've seen this' feeling. It sounds massively pretentious but its true. So there.

So we set off on a reasonably easy hike on the first day.. walking toward the Salkantay Glacier... too beaut for words, see the photos. That night we camped at the base and it was colder than eating a slushy in the Arctic. We were sleeping in tents WITHIN a bigger tent, wrapped in a fleece inner blanket, a goose down feather sleeping bag, fully clothed with hats and gloves and it was still polar cold. At around 4am I fantasied about setting fire to my sleeping bag for warmth.

At 6am the next morning we set off for the 'hardest day'. Again, the guides and reviews woefully underplayed how hard this day would be (for me anyway :) You climb for around 4 hours first thing (to 4600m), then descend for a further 3 hours before lunch. When you read those words you think, 'bit of climbing, bit of walking down a hill... nah bother'. Not True. Its very very hard... and your knees start hurting in a way you never thought possible until at least your 70's. We (I) managed to hold up things so much that we didn't get in to camp till after dark. Therefore after a total of 12 hours of trekking that day, I slept like an absolutely baby... until we were rudely awoken the next morning by the campsite roaster who decided the sunrise was about 3 hours earlier than scheduled and started crowing at 4am. Cue more fantasies of concussing a Cockerel with my Merrells.

But that said, it is all worth it for the incredible views. In fact I know understand what my friends with babies mean about childbirth. That you quickly forget how hard it is and want another (trek).

Day 3 was easy McPeasy compared to day 2. We walked along a mountainside road for about 4 hours before we got to the camp and then had the afternoon off to snooze and chase chickens.

The son of the campsite owner took a shine to Trevor and kept resting on his fleece and prodding his beard. The next morning Trevor had a game of footy with him (the universal language of football always translates) and was equally matched in talent by a 7 year old :)

Day 4 we (I) wussed out and got the bus down the mountain in the morning instead of climbing a killer mountain, To be fair on me and Trevor, the Aussie trekking with us - Daniel, who had done all of the trek barefoot at about twice the speed of the rest of us decided to take a morning off too. The bus ride down was fun as we had more passengers on board than you would think possible in a small Nissan minibus. In the afternoon we manned up and walked for 3 hours along the train track to Aguas Calientes (where all the fat Americans start their 'trek' :).

Day 5 was the big one. Machu Picchu. I was thoroughly expecting to be underwhelmed as I've seen so many photos and I'm a bit of a cynic. We got there around 6.30am and were given a guided tour. It was very misty/cloudy to start with but as the minutes ticked on the cloud started to lift and as more of the surrounding mountains were revealed the more we lost interest in the guide and started staring open mouthed at the view. Underwhelmed my A*** it was beautiful, better than the Pyramids any day of the week. We spent several hours there after the tourists left (the ones that hadn't walked 100k to get there... losers). Trevor even climbed Machu Picchu mountain... higher than Wayna Picchu (those 'in the know' will know what I'm blithering on about there). For everyone else, MP mountain is quite close to the moon and there is a photo of Trevor standing by the flag looking pleased with himself. In fact he said when he arrived at the top there was a girl primal screaming with pain and exhaustion, Its a big mountain all told. (I got half way up and thought 'sod this I'm going back down for a sunbathe on the terraces with the Llamas :) I'm very impressed with Trevor.

After that epic (to us) trek we spend a couple days sleeping and putting on the weight we'd lost before we hightailed it to Puno now the violent protests had stopped. Puno was to be honest a bit grotty compared to Cusco and man could you feel the anti-tourist feeling... But hey, I'd hate us too :)

We decided as our last excursion in Peru we'd do a homestay on Amantani Island on Lake Titicaca which was 4 hours by boat from Puno (the lake is massive - roughly the size of Wales... see - Big Lake.)

We stayed with a local family, and dealt directly with them (thanks to Lonely Planet for that bit of advice). We stayed in one of their rooms and ate with them. I know this sounds terribly worthy, very 'Angela Rippon in poverty torn Africa' but it is life changing and does make you think about material things. They have very simple accommodation and no heating or electricity. Although their adorable and feisty 8 year old, Cynthia, picked up Angry Birds on my iPhone so quickly I suspected that she secretly owns an iPhone of her own.

After our brief stay we headed back to Puno for our onward travel to Bolivia. A six hour bus journey across the border to La Paz. Hasta Luego Peru. One country down, 10 to go.....

NOTE: We haven't eaten 'Cuy' (iccle furry guinea pig) in the deep fried form. We have however had Guinea Calzone... it was, um, salty.

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Derek on

I'm so glad you enjoyed Machu Picchu... was definitely a fav of ours too ... and now you know why! Trev - Have to say I'm impressed with your climbing ability - props to you. Made it higher than me and Karl Pilkington and your head isn't even close to a ****** orange (Maybe a Mango though).

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