Saturday, 1 October 2011

Four Completely Avoidable Mistakes... Machu Picchu walking tour

Time for another iconic mountain escapade. When one thinks of Peru you nearly always think Machu Picchu, Llamas and Guinea Pigs. Well I do anyway. This is a story of fun, hardship, pain, reward and as usual rum.

I broke the cardinal rule of walking shoes... I bought new shoes the day before the trek. This was my biggest mistake, perhaps of the whole trip. In the shop they seemed fine. By day one I realised they were too small, by the end of day two my feet were in a world of pain. This will be detailed further and I full well know I should of known better, I miss my old walking boots. First mistake...

Second mistake, I forgot to ask if I needed to rent/bring a sleeping bag... ergo I had no sleeping bag. This only really affected the first night sleep, cause after this I borrowed a blanket. I know, once again poor planning screwed me.

Day one started at 430am with a pick up from the hostel. I jumped into the van to sleep. Two hours later and a quick breakfast we headed off up the hill for a relatively easy days hike. Three hours to lunch and three hours after. Lunch was soup and rice(a theme). The group consisted of 17 plus the two guides, cooks and horsemen. The majority of our group was Swiss but also comprised Americans, Australians, Spanish, Israeli, German and Dutch to get a feel of things. I was the only token Brit for once. At lunch, I was apparently lunch for about a hundred flies and this necessitated reattaching the bottom of my shorts.

At the end of day one we played a 'Rest of the World' vs Peru plus Girls football match (we won) and settled down  a surprisingly tasty dinner. I was fully prepared for a five day detox, but after dinner the rum soon came  out and we played pigs. A game similar to dice based on points.
Before lunch ready to walk

Dog overlooking the mountains
Day two was 'the hard day' an early start and straight up hill to our higest point for three hours. The climb was  tough but tolerable and was rewarded with amazing valley views and fog/snow at the top of the pass. Going uphill my feet felt best but it was apparent that my feet were hurting. After five hours of walking a much needed lunch was shared in a farm shed before a final (exhausting) three hours to camp. Spotting what we thought was camp in the distance, we took a five minute break to prepare for the last half an hour only to then walk around the corner straight into our actual camp! The scenery had begun to change in the afternoon from mountainous to green forest.
Shoes off and feet patched up(squeamish people don't read this: my pre-existing blister had ballooned in size and my nails had cut into the sides of my toes. My big toes were looking considerably off colour...) I removed the soles for some extra space and joined the others for a celebratory snickers and beer.
Pre-dinner was an amazing selection of popcorn and crackers. Dinner itself was the staple soup and rice.
After dinner went much the same as the previous night... games and rum till later than we should have.
Valley Views

The group

Juan Carlos explaining offerings to PachaMama (Mother World) and looking decidedly cold
Day three was billed as the easiest. For me it was the opposite. In theory it was an easy three hours downhill, however every step I took sent agony either through my feet or my knees (a by-product of ill fitting shoes). Eventually I made it to lunch where all walking for the day was over. The usual lunch was followed my another football match, which due to my feet I had ruled myself out of so instead I practised my sport photography.
After this we were driven off to camp and after putting up the tents to some outdoor hot springs. This completely rejuvenated us and was epic bliss, a much needed treatment for the feet. The same dinner routine was enjoyed. In a slight shape up for rum consumption instead of pigs we played monoply (with cards) and then ring of fire.

Local kid, proceeded to swipe snotty nose on my lens!

Cool Kid

Footballers in action
Day four. Dosed up on maximum strength aspirin (the stuff is amazing) I had one of the best days walk, 6 hours total to Aquas Calientes (literally hot water). The walk was a steady uphill in the warm sun to lunch at the hydro-electric damn. This stretch also included a 'cable car' river crossing. Basically a trolley attached to some rope. The afternoon was completely flat and included the first views of Machu Picchu mountain, ruins and Waynapicchu. It gave you an idea of how remote Machu Picchu is; we literally walked around the whole mountain and saw no viable paths, except old remnants of Inca Trail which had to be pointed out.
At lunch I had left my bag to be taken the last stretch by train, due to sunny weather I put everything (waterproofs, jumper etc) in the bag... Mistake number three. Obviously my rum offering at lunch (in re-packing my bag I had shared a swig of rum with the guides and Pachamama, ie pooring it on the floor as is the custom) was not appreciated as for the last half an hour of the walk it rained. Not just dull rain but epic rainstorm rain. Soaking me fully to the bone, on top of that the train was almost two hours late meaning I had no clean/dry clothes. Silver lining we were staying in a hostel so had towels and hot showers. The swiss girls had bribed us with the promise of another bottle of rum if we collected their bag from the station (a wise move considering the weather) so once again before our earliest start we socialised drinking rum with ring of fire.
Towards Hydro-electric Dam

Cable Car Crossing

Machu Picchu and Waynapichu
Day Five. Machu Picchu ascension day. Easily the hardest wake up due to being in an actual bed, it being 4am and the prospect of wet socks and boots. We left on time (ish) at 430am and headed off in the dark to climb for 'sunrise' at Machu Picchu. This was an epic hour long trek up stone steps in humidity. By the end I was soaked through... it had not rained. If I was given one piece of advice the day before by Sandra(who left our tour early to join her friend) it was to bring a spare shirt.... mistake number four! Anyway a little damp never hurt anybody so mission accomplished we didn't see a sunrise as there was no sun. We wandered around taking obligatory Faceache profile pictures and taking in the sites. I climbed Waynapicchu at the nice time of 7am. This was lucky because any later and I wouldn't have bothered due to being knackered and my feet. It offered more stunning views of Machu Picchu and the route we walked the day before. I spent a good half hour relaxing on the top, taking photos of the sites and Japanese tourists... as one does.
I got the bus down around four and took of my boots for the final time... I doubt there are many better feelings than that. Spent the rest of the day relaxing in Aquas Calientes eating pizza and shopping before catching a late train back to Cuzco.
Faceache profile picture


From the top of Waynapichu
In the sun
I've already explained some of Cuzco, so to add. It was dubbed 'The Bubble' at some point, it being in Peru but not 'real Peru'. It is its own small encapsulated area of backpackers and locals. It is easy to enter but hard to leave. I have ended up being here almost a full week. Its a lot of fun and provided much needed rest from walking. However I have my exit booked so on monday I am outta here.

Right then, big moves and shakers in the world of travel plans. On Monday I fly to Puerto Maldonado in the Jungle. The news is my decision to basically write Chile off, and focus solely on Peru, taking it in at a nice pace and seeing some of things I want to and have missed. This means Titicaca, Arequipa and Ica for sand boarding/Ballestos Islands. This also means I will loop back on myself. It also means 3 days of travelling to reach Santiago from wherever I am in Peru (most likely Ica).
Well now you are all updated... time to watch Dr Who.

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