Our last group dinner at Panchita was mindblowingly awesome. Such great food and even greater serving portions. Bliss! Fantastic food & company, what more could you want?
Welcome to the jungle.
After a 4 hour flight delay in a tiny, over-crammed Cusco airport, we had finally made it to Puerto Maldonado. Then began the journey of busing through lots of potholes and obstacles to get to the Amazon basin, scoffing our packed lunch on the way. Seeing as our flight was held up, we ended up voyaging by boat to our ecolodge in the dark and didn’t arrive until night. It was a bit disconcerting sitting in a boat in the dark & seeing flashing lights (I have heard stories of guerrillas hiding out in the jungle) & being told to turn off our lights… Though it turns out that this was so the driver didn’t get confused with directions. Managed to get there in one piece & the ecolodge is sweet. Listening to the sounds of the jungle is calming & we have mosquito nets to protect us when we sleep. Heading out to the lake the day after was an unforgettable experience… Haven’t seen many animals but lots of mozzies. Practically walking through swarms of them. That and being over ankle high treading water. Guess they call it a rainforest for a reason.
Cusco is a beautiful city, touristy, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Went horse riding around Sacsayhuaman which was awesome & provided a great view of the city. Had a superbly tender alpaca tenderloin steak & got to see fireworks walking back from dinner. There are a lot of religious festivities around town. Also went on a shopping spree & purchased a charango (a gift from me to me for completing the Inca trail).
The final day! Woke up at 4am to set off at about 4:30am… thank goodness for headtorches. Most useful item brought on this trip. Arrived at the checkpoint at about 5:30, joined the queue and waited to begin the trek… to the Sun Gate. After another 45 minutes we had arrived at Machu Picchu. Hooray! Photos don’t do the place justice. After regrouping, having a bite to eat at the cafe, and most importantly, using REAL SITTING DOWN FLUSHING TOILETS (elating/liberating as heck), we began our guided tour, learning about the history and some theories as to the purpose of Machu Picchu. Fascinating. A lot of speculation and theorising, but one thing for sure is that the Incas were very forward and progressive in their thinking. What do you think was the function of Machu Picchu during the time of the Incan empire?
After spending a good couple of hours exploring the site (and really just chilling out, it was hot), we caught the bus to Aguas Calientes. Couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the entire bus ride back. Definite feeling of elation and accomplishment. I had just done the Inca trail (42km) and made it to Machu Picchu. I think I enjoyed the actual trail more than anything but seeing Machu Picchu was the cherry on top of a very high cake. I don’t whether it was the sheer detail, architecture and beauty of the place or whether it was because it signified the end (probably a culmination of both factors) but it was pure bliss. Simple as that. Best cooks, guides, porters, and company. Huge thankyou to everyone. Loved it. Exceeded and went beyond my expectations.
Rain. Lots of rain. We were told that today was the day to whip out cameras – pretty much a photographer’s dream with the picturesque and unbelievable scenery. Obviously we were told this prior to the bucketload of rain. The weather gods had been very kind to us up until this point, so rain was bound to happen sometime or another. It started pouring during the night, unfortunately our tent had a leak and I woke up with a faceful of water, soaked from head to toe. I remained in my soggy state for the remainder of the day. I really wish I brought rain pants (I don’t care how daggy they look [in hindsight]). And waterproof gloves. They are essential. Luckily, a very kind member of our Inca trail family lent me his (clean) socks to replace my soaked-through gloves. Genius. Today was the toughest day for me, physically and mentally. The majority of today was spent walking downhill (very, very steep steps). We were walking in the rain for 10-11 hours (including lunch stops). I kept envisioning myself slipping, falling and breaking my neck, thus not making it to Machu Picchu. My lower-body (quads in particular) were feeling it too. Can’t say I loved this day of the trail but glad that I made it safely (albeit very slowly).
…And so the dreaded day 2 begins! We were told and had heard that day 2 is reputable for being the toughest… I had feared the worst and couldn’t even begin to imagine what lied ahead. Turns out it was nowhere near as bad as I had thought. Most of the group spread out and walked at their own pace. Couldn’t have made it without my walking sticks, seriously. It was like walking with another pair of legs. To those of you who do it, get them get them GET THEM (age is irrelevant, I have the knees of an arthritic 80-year-old woman). Special mention to our friend Marilyn, who conquered Dead Woman’s Pass without even breaking a sweat (at 58 years young if you don’t mind)! Absolute machine. Was great to see her jovial face greeting me as I finally made it up the pass. I survived! As did the rest of our awesome group. A lot of walking uphill at high altitude, but it was worth it. My favourite day of the trail by far.
And so it begins! Said goodbye and wished those who were doing the Lares trek good luck. After a 45-minute bus ride from Ollantaytambo, we arrived at Km82 , the starting point of our trek. With nerves, anticipation, and excitement rising, we were off! No turning back now. We met our guides, Pedro and Jesus, and were joined by a couple from another G Adventures tour. We were reassuringly informed that the first day is the easiest day of the trek – agreed. We were walking a good 6-7ish hours (including lunch and stops along the way). The food was impressive and the toilets were not but hey, it’s all part of the experience! We had our own private campsite for the night with a beautiful view of the mountains.