The hardest thing I´ve ever done..

Posted on January 28, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

..but probably the most rewarding.
* This post is dedicated to all the people that are currently stranded in Machu Picchu, on the Inca Trail and in Aguas Calientes, and to those that have lost their lives in the current storms and floods in the area *
So we arrived in Cusco, at an altitude of 3300 metres for 3 days (more on Cusco in a later post). We were there primarily to acclimatize to the altitude before attempting the Inca Trail, by far the most challenging part of our trip, at least for me. For those of you not familiar the Inca Trail is what it sounds like; a trail or path through the Andes that leads to Machu Picchu, one of the wonders of the world. The trail takes 4 days and covers almost 50km of intense gradients both up and down, along passes, through cloudforest and up and down literally thousands of steps. You walk by day and camp by night.
A brief aside: We went with a campany called Peru Treks, and by god they were marvellous. You have 2 guides for each group (there were 12 walkers in our group) and ours, Freddy and Noemi, were top notch. We also had 21 porters in our group. The porters carry all the tents, tables, kitchen equipment, medical supplies and food required for such an undertaking. Speaking of food..our cook Apu should be Michelin starred, stat. The food he managed with 2 bunsen rings was incredible, and hit the spot every single time.
So. We set off from the starting point, Kilometre 82, as a group of fresh faced individuals on Friday at about 8.30am. We had been picked up from our hostels and hotels in Cusco at about 5.30am. Early starts was to be a reocurring theme on this trip. Our new friends, awesome people to a man:
Marieke, Frederique, Ashling, Simon, Me, James, Fiona, Hannah, another Hannah, Dai, Caitlin and John. Honourable mentions to James and Allison who were supposed to be on the trip but were ill, and joined us by train at the end of the trail.
Having crossed the checkpoint at the beginning of the trail and the horrible rope bridge that followed, we were off. About 14km this first day, and the worst rain we would see on the trail itself. But we also saw a wonderful Incan ruin and were treated to a crash course in Incan beliefs and Quechan religion by Freddy. We got to our campsite at about 3pm. It was all set up already, and the porters applaided our arrival as we dragged our asses into camp, as they would every afternoon. The campsite was just across from a second ruin, where this was taken:
Next morning Noemi woke us at 5.20am with a cup of coca tea, good for the altitude. We had a wonderful hearty breakfast and prepared for what we were told would be the hardest day- the trip up to the highest point on the trail at 4215 metres  – Dead Woman´s Pass, and then the several hundred steps back down. My god they weren´t kidding – it was hard. But views like this were the rewards:
The previous day when Freddy explained the Incan and Quechan beliefs and the god Pachamama (Mother Nature or Mother Earth) he asked us all to pick a stone we liked as we climbed the pass, as we would need it at the top of Dead Woman´s Pass, the highest point on the trail. When we all got there we gave him our stones and he built this:
He then poured some rum over it as an offering, and we all also had a dram (pouring a little from our glass first as a further offering). The idea behind this is that you leave behind all the pain and suffering that you have there with Pachamama, and that you thank her for the trail and the countryside. The ceremony had special resonanace for me as my Nana had passed away 7 days previously. As I was unable to attend the funeral I had decided to do the trail in her honour and leave the stone for her on the highest point of the trail. It was perfect, and I´m really glad I could do that for her. After a pause for reflection we set off back down the mountain to campsite day 2.
Day three was a thing of beauty. However I should also point out that it was a day of terror for James as it contained over 3,000 steps down, many of them with steep drops on one side. But he was awesome, and continued on with white knuckles and occasional expletives to help him along. It was gorgeous though, as this was the day with the most impressive views and also the day we went through cloudforest.
We also spent most of this day with two of the group in particular, the lovely Caitlin and Jon. They were our trail buddies most of the time anyway, as the four of us usually made up the back end of the group (along with our patient guide Noemi). But this day were were particularly slow (thanks to Caitlin´s bad knees not liking the steps and James´ brain not liking the drops) so spent most of the day in their exclusive company. No bad thing. We eventually made it back to camp having spent the last 30mins of the trail giggling hysterically at the idea that we had gone so slowly that we might have been the last 4 people on the trail that evening!
Caitlin and Jon
That evening when we did make it back we were afforded a drink at the makeshift bar in camp, and a lovely thank you ceremony for the porters and Apu our cook.
The last morning we were awoken at the earliest time yet of 4am, to pitch dark and the requirement to pack our things in the dark. After a swift brekkie we set off for the checkpoint that marked the beginning of the end of the trail. The idea was to get through as early as possible, so we could rush the hour or so after that and hopefully make it in time to the Sun Gate, to see the sunrise over Machu Picchu. So rush we did, but sunrise we did not see. The weather is very unsettled at this time of year, and there was just too much cloud. We saw this;
So now that we had missed the famous sunrise it was time to do the last part of the hike, the 2km or so we had left to make it to the actual site. As we were on this part of the hike the rain started in earnest, and it. did. not. stop. But the gluttons for pictures that we are, we smuggled the camera out to take pics of llamas along the way.
And then we were at Machu Picchu. Rain soaked, cloud covered Machu Picchu. Sigh. Truth be told it was a great shame that the weather thwarted us. The views were fleeting at best and all the steps and paths turned to rivers and streams. In the end we left early to get out of the torrential rain and warm our bones. But the trip had been worth it. We saw stunning views, challenged ourselves, met new friends and honoured family members. Nothing beats that.

Posted via email from dreadpiratesarcas


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