Getting Drunk and Lost Part 13 : Peru
About a month before we were due to arrive in Peru the worst rains for 20 years caused widespread flooding and devastated huge parts of the country. The rains showed no sign of abating so we decided to go to Cusco, do the Inca Trail and then fly up to Ecuador. So our experience of Peru is a bit limited!
Cusco is a lovely city but we didn’t get the best first impression! After showing our taxi driving the location of the hostel we set off and then promptly got dropped off 5 minutes later at the foot of some very steep steps. Not this shit again! But as feared it was indeed this shit again as he claimed this was the furthest he could take us and we would simply need to climb the stairs and we would be there. Obviously this wasn’t the case as not only did it take us about 20-30 minutes in the dark with all of our stuff through some dodgy streets but when we got there it was quite clear cars could get there. Thoroughly pissed off from this and the fact that we had only eaten a tube of Pringles all day (it’s now about 9pm) and freezing cold I got in bed and refused to move. Ever my hero Les managed to find a shop selling beers and noodles and we had both in bed!
The next day we set off to explore Cusco and were immediately besieged by people selling absolutely everything. We escaped up to a balcony for a quick drink and a people watch. We then met up with a family we had met back in Bolivia in Potosi. We went for lunch at a lovely restaurant and it was great to catch up. When the bill arrived however we discovered Les had accidentally ordered Alpaca and that made me sad. After saying our goodbyes we decided to check out the Irish bar and have another beer. And then this continued as we decided to have a night in with a bottle of Pisco. My body had other ideas and after a couple I was feeling really sick and really tired. I was woken from my sleep by a loud bang just outside the room. As I shook myself awake Les came crawling back in the room. He’d completely passed out and smacked his head on the concrete floor. A survey of the Pisco bottle showed me he had finished the lot and I wasn’t sure if it was this, the altitude or the combination of the two. Either way I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night making sure he was ok!
Predictably the morning started with a huge headache for poor Les. We had booked on a walking tour for 10.30 and although I don’t think he was quite up to it we headed off into town. It was actually a fun tour, seeing old remains of Inca temple, listening to traditional music and learning how to make ceviche. For those who don’t know this is using lime juice to marinate and thus cook fish and is served with corn and potatoes. It’s delicious and looked super easy. After this we headed to San Pedro market which was way too full on. We stayed outside in the square for ages watching the world go by. It was really sunny so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon chilling in the main plaza. And after 5 weeks in Bolivia with no junk food the lure of KFC on the corner proved too much.
The day arrived for the start of the Inca tour. As part of it we were changing hotels. We walked to the next one and after about 2 weeks of cold showers it felt like absolute heaven. I think I was there half an hour as I knew it was only another day and we’d be out camping again. That afternoon we met everyone in our group and walked down the street to collect and choose our camping equipment and learn more about the upcoming few days. The passes for the Inca trail are very tightly regulated and two people from our group had to do another trek and were furious. So then there were six. We ended up going out for a coffee and then dinner with two of them and had a great time getting to know each other. Actually it looked as though we were really lucky and ended up having a really great group to go with.
The next day – and two more hot showers later – we were off early. After a quick stop at the white Jesus that overlooks the city we were heading into the sacred valley. First stop was a woman’s weaving community supported by G Adventures, the company we were doing the trek with. It was fascinating seeing how they raise the llamas and alpacas, use their fur and make dyes for the clothes using traditional methods. They let us feed the alpacas and I was in heaven. There was obviously a shop and we couldn’t resist. I kept it to a handmade bracelet and Les picked up an alpaca scarf. Back in the van and off to lunch at another G Adventure supported project: Parwa community restaurant. The food was amazing and lunch was topped off by watching a surprisingly competitive swingball game between Les and Evert, our guide. Our next and last stop for the day was Ollantay tambo an ancient village in the sacred valley. We spent a few hours late afternoon exploring ruins and getting a taste of what it would be like in the days to come as we climbed some steep steps! After a group dinner at the station in town we headed back to pack the 4kg each we were allowed to bring. This was because the porters would be carrying everything and 4kg felt like nothing as we packed and repacked to get it down.
Next morning we were off to km 82 which is where the inca trail starts. After queuing to get in and doing the standard start of the trek pictures we were off in beautiful sunshine and high spirits. We were going at a very steady pace with plenty of stops which we needed because Don one of our group was suffering very badly from altitude sickness. The night before we had been restricted on what we could order from the restaurant to avoid getting ill at all; all that seemed to go out of the window on the trek when Evert bought some fruit from a seller on the trail – peeled and unwashed – and gave us all some to try which we did without thinking! On the first day of the trek you are still very much amongst the community and so there are locals waking by as well as horses and donkeys who walk by themselves and know the paths inside and out. We also saw an old woman on crutches slowly navigating the extremely steep and rocky steps. As I said we had to go slow for Don’s sake and we seemed to be pretty much the last into camp. This meant an extra half an hour walk uphill but they pay off was an extra half an hour in bed the following morning. We arrived just before dark and were clapped in by around 20 porters who really were the ones deserving applause. Our tents were set up, warm water was ready for washing and they were busy cooking what turned out to be the first of a series of amazing meals. After settling in a little we all stood around and introduced ourselves. The porters told us their age, whether they had children and what they were carrying: then we did the same. Les couldn’t resist a joke and on his turn claimed he was carrying my stuff. A few titters from the walkers, stony faced porters. After dinner we played a card game and chatted a little more, talking about why we were all travelling. Then it was time for bed and Les’ first night ever camping. It was freezing! Wearing most of our clothes we struggled to get warm and it was a bit of a restless night!
Morning soon came around and it was time for the toughest day. We got woken up with ‘Agua Caliente’ (hot water) and coca tea. Les did struggle bless him, never a big fan of mornings. The morning walking was really quite tough, constant uphill and beaming sunshine. Shedding layers and splitting up so we were all walking separately we tackled ‘dead woman’s pass’ the notorious killer that marks the highest point of the whole trek. We got there about midday in cribs and drabs and had a photo at the top all together. We also had a few celebratory shots of Pisco. Then came the long climb down. The first bit was very steep and I nearly fell many times. However we were all desperate for lunch and trying to get there as soon as possible. It was helped by us passing a sprite bottle full of Pisco around. Finally we got to the lunch spot and had the rest of the afternoon free. Everyone else had a nap but I couldn’t sleep and spent time watching the porters mess around together and exploring the camp. Then Les came out and we watched as clouds came over the mountains and mist descended on the camp. It was beautiful. After that we had happy hour and tea before another great meal. We spent the rest of the evening playing “shit head” which caused some relationship issues between Les and I! Luckily the camp was a bit warmer and the Pisco definitely helped us sleep.
Another early start and another beast of a climb first thing. We continued climbing until the peak where we had lunch and it was like a desert – no shade and burning sun. But it was a beautiful spot and there were llamas and alpacas everywhere. The afternoon was some of the most gorgeous and diverse scenery we encountered, on tiny ledges, through the cloud forest, into the jungle, encountering ruins and climbing through Inca tunnels. However it was a long long day, with 16km of (mostly) up and down and we were exhausted when we reached camp. As we gathered in the gazebo for dinner the porters came in with a cake for Emily’s birthday. So impressive on a camp stove! After completing the tradition of pushing her face in the cake we all had some with the red wine they also brought and played cards again. Then the porters were singing and we said our goodbyes as we would all be up early and they would have to leave for the local train back down. An early night for us ready for the 3am wake up call.
After a quick breakfast we all set off for the final morning just to be stopped about 5 minutes later. The plan was the wait at the checkpoint until it opened at 5 and then walk to sun gate. The hour went surprisingly quickly but as we marched towards the gate it was clear that the sun we had been blessed with had disappeared and it was starting to drizzle. 2 hours (and some steps so steep you had to use hands and feet) later we arrived at sun gate to a thick thick layer of mist. We stuck it out for half an hour and decided it wasn’t clearing anytime soon and we would be best to head towards Macchu Picchu. We were all a bit disappointed as we headed down but suddenly the clouds parted and we got the most spectacular first view of Macchu Picchu. Simply stunning and to put a silver lining on the situation it looked fantastically eerie in the thick cloud. However as we continued the half an hour or so walk towards the site the rain got heavier and heavier until it was just torrential and we had to take shelter. Eventually it eased up and we went inside and Evert gave us a tour of some of the most important structures. After that we got the bus back into town and the restaurant meeting point. Having a proper toilet was heaven! After lunch, in which I accidentally spill an entire glass of beer over Don, we got a train back to Ollantay tambo. Over some games of “shit head” and “heads up” we were very rowdy and I think we might have annoyed some fellow passengers! Before we knew it we were hearing back to Cusco and the prospect of a hot shower. We gathered for dinner that night but surprise surprise I was sick again and could only manage a liquid diet of beer and inca cola. I was gutted because dinner looked amazing, minus the “claws and all” guinea pig the rest of the group shared. After that we went to a club and had a bit of a dance but after a while it was white girl trying to dance salsa and we needed to go home.
The next morning not enough smashing my phone could dull the sense of achievement and wonder of the Inca Trail and Macchu Picchu. Like so much that we have done I think it’s definitely an experience that needs to sink in to be appreciated and it’s one of the best things we have done. But time to leave Peru very much unexplored and head off to our final stop: Ecuador.
Walk to Next hostel- I was ill and did basically nothing
Then 7.30 plane to ecuador