Inka Jungle Trek
Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
31Trip End Apr 06, 2013
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The other guys surfaced not long after us and although everyone seemed excited we were all a little tired. We waited outside the hostel and the guide, Alfredo turned up looking all professional hiker and ready for the trek. AK had a talk with him and decided to go ahead and give it a go. We got on a fairly cramped mini bus, picked up three additional people from Kokopeli hostel and we were off, several mountain bikes strapped to the roof hinted at the adventure we were to experience
We had a fairly long drive ahead of us which did not appeal to AK with his upset stomach. We had a stop for breakfast planned so he had to just hold out until then. He wasn't too worried as he was wearing protection.......in the form of a ladies sanitary towel! AK found it very uncomfortable, in his words 'like wearing a fucking nappy' but reassuring that he wouldn't have to bin another pair of boxers should the worst happen.
After driving through the mountains and passing lots of little villages we arrived at our breakfast venue which was beside a river, the same river that we would later go white water rafting on. Breakfast for SJ consisted of an egg barm and a lukewarm coffee (south Americans seem to like their coffee this way, SJ likes it boiling hot so she is often disappointed). For AK it consisted of dry crackers and water, poor AK. There were cute little puppies at the breakfast stop too so SJ had a little squidge and a cuddle and then it was time to make a move.
We continued onwards and upwards through the mountains and there was lots to see. The snow capped mountains were beautiful and there were lots of lamas/alpacas (we didn't know which was which) horses and sheep grazing on the sides of the mountains and there were lots of rivers and mini waterfalls
We got our safety gear on (body suit with elbow pads, knee pads and helmet) picked our bike and had a little go to see if they worked ok. Typically enough AK's bike had problems, the brakes didn't work! Seeing as we were going to be spending 3 hours biking down a mountain we thought it best to get the brakes fixed, we just didn't bank on AK having to fix them himself!
Eventually we were off and after a shaky start we got into it and both AK and SJ quite loved it! We were at times going fairly fast but it was a great adrenaline rush. SJ's competitive side came out and she decided to overtake most people and get very near the front. We made a stop every 45mins - hour and then set off again. As we got further down the mountain it got really hot so we had to strip off a few layers. After a couple of hours we made another stop and when it was time to set off AK and SJ were a little slow getting ready to go again which meant we were at the back of the group. We also got stuck behind some trucks but eventually we got past them and carried on down the hill
So we continued cycling down the mountain and eventually came to a town. We slowed down and looked out for Alfredo and the group but he wasn't there so we carried on. There was also our mini bus that was behind us so we figured that on a single road with no turn offs we would eventually catch them up....
We had been biking for about 30 minutes after we had gone through the last town, up and down hills in the now blazing sunshine. SJ had to get off the bike and push it up a few of the hills as she was totally exhausted. After a further 15 minutes we realised something was wrong and were now very tired, warm and thirsty! We were a few miles away from the last town so we decided to turn back. We had been cycling for 10 minutes when our minibus appeared with the whole group on it!
By this point SJ was very pissed off at the lack of safety precaution, we could have gone over the edge of the mountain and no one would know where we were
Anyway we were safe and back with the team and we were heading off for a much needed break and some lunch. We arrived at a little place and sat down to some basic but tasty lunch. AK had dry rice and some more crackers and visited the bathroom again!
Now because of the hold up with us getting lost Alfredo said we didn't have time to go the hostel first to change for the rafting. This also pissed SJ off as it was not our fault that the biking process had huge safety holes in it which meant two members got lost for 45 minutes! AK needed one last toilet stop at the restaurant we were at, he went outside to a really disgusting excuse of a toilet, and Kate, a nice Dublin girl who was on our tour, told AK "i wouldn't go in there, somebody with a similar problem to you has beat you to it & left the evidence everywhere". This made AK feel really bad, he really needed to go, and had really bad stomach cramps too, plus we didn't know when the next toilet stop would be. We jumped in the van, AK crouched over holding his stomach, keeping quiet.
Despite the stomach problems, AK was very excited about the rafting as was everyone else and they jumped out of the bus and were away, oars in hand. SJ was a bit unsure about the rafting as the river was grade three, it was getting late, our insurance only covered us for grade 2 and below, and she didn't have her contacts in (she was going to put them in at the hostel but as we didn't have time to go....) After talking to the guides she felt reassured and was to go in the main guides boat as he promised that the boat would not tip up
AK was in a boat with the rest of our group but SJ ended up in a group with no one that she knew. The guide sat her at the back near him as this was the spot where she was least likely to fall out of the boat. After some instruction we headed out into the river. The group SJ was with were really nice and they kept asking if she was ok. They took it all in their stride and didn't seem fazed by it at all. AK was at the front of his boat, so was getting battered by the waves from the rapids, but he enjoyed it, also his stomach didn't feel too bad. It seemed that when he was distracted with the activities we were doing, he felt a lot better than when we were just sitting or standing around
The river was quite choppy and at times if felt like the boat was going to flip but it didn't. Once SJ got the hang of the rowing and mastered crouching down quickly when the instructor shouted 'DOWN' she quite enjoyed it. AK's boat got stuck on a rock which meant they had to fix the boat whilst battling the rapids but all in all, apart from a ripped fingernail of SJ's it went smoothly.
By the time we reached our destination it was getting really dark and the mozzies were biting
The hostel was up a muddy and rocky side street but the rooms were not too bad. Alfredo had earlier asked if there were any couples and as only AK and SJ put up their hand we got the 'matrimonial' room which just meant that we got a double bed in a private room, we were still grateful though. We got changed (we have turned into shower dodgers and decided that as we were going to get very hot and sweaty the next day we wouldn't bother with a shower!) and headed out for dinner, but not before AK payed a visit to the toilet, which was shared between everyone, which meant everyone could hear the noises coming out of his body, followed by the gasps of relief after....he didn't care at this point though, and everyone in the group would get used to AK sharply darting off to the nearest toilet where ever we were, to relieve his pain.
Dinner was at the same place we had lunch as it was just around the corner from the hostel. AK had dry rice with some plain veggies and the rest of us had the usual meat, rice, salad and chips. It was very tasty and as we worked up an appetite it was welcome.
After dinner SJ and Hayley bought a well deserved chocolate bar and some of the group headed off for a beer. Ak and SJ didn't feel like drinking so they went back to the hostel (with quite a few others who were also very tired) and got an early night
After a short but good sleep we were startled by the noise of the alarm going off and we were up and out of bed within seconds - probably a first for SJ! We hastily got ready as it was flipping cold and were the first to be at the meeting point. After not too long the rest of the group joined us and we headed out for breakfast at the same place we had dinner the night before. AK still had a dodgy stomach so he was presented with dry bread while the rest of us had omelettes or pancakes. The tea and coffee is not what we are used to and is not quite to our pallet, however, SJ is ever hopeful that she will get a nice cup of coffee and this morning was no different. She poured the thick black liquid she was told was concentrated coffee into a cup, added hot water and sugar an had a taste....as always she was disappointed but she will keep searching.
The bus picked us up as we had decided not to walk the 2 hours along the road (we were given the choice of walking along a road with not much to see or paying 5 soles to take a mini bus - the group unanimously decided to take the bus) and dropped us off at the foot of what appeared to be a big hill....we quickly realised that we were wrong!
SJ found the hike tough from the start and AK found it tough because he was not well. It was hot and the altitude affected us a little bit. We were climbing through jungle like conditions in the baking sun. After a little while we came across a house and our guide introduced us to the owner. She made money by selling drinks to the tourists and by selling coffee beans. She had a little machine that peeled the coffee beans and spat them out in to a little trough. She also had a little Capuchin monkey that was tied up. It was sad to see the little fella like that as he should have been free in the trees. SJ sat next to him for a cuddle and he was sweet at first but then he started to get a bit excited and pinched her water bottle! When SJ tried to get it back off him he bit her arm but thankfully didn't break the skin, although it left an instant bruise. SJ didn't get angry, she was just sad that he was probably very frustrated at being tied up and probably didn't like humans very much, who could blame him.
We carried on up the mountain and stopped every now and then so Alfredo could explain about the plants and animals. Eventually we joined the Inca Trail and got to another house where a man and his family lived. The man was 104 and his youngest son was 24. He was a real character and spoke in the old Quechua language, played a handmade flute and sat with us while we rested
We also dressed up in local style clothes and took some pictures, and then after SJ purchased coca leaves we headed off again. Along the way SJ decided to try the coca leaves as she was told that chewing them would give her energy. She wrapped about 10 leaves around a pinch of banana catalyst and started to chew. They didn't really taste of much but after about 5 minutes her whole mouth and throat went numb. After chewing for about 20 minutes you are left with a mouthful of green pulp which you can choose to swallow or spit out. You are supposed to chew twice a day but as SJ didn't get the energy rush she imagined she decided to try another 10 leaves straight away (well, we were hiking up a flipping mountain, through the jungle in the baking sun) but unfortunately the didnt have the desired affect
We pushed on through some beautiful jungle, across streams and bridges with no sides. The higher we got the more impressive the view as we could see right down the valley. AK was looking paler and paler and SJ was getting red'er and red'er! At times the path was no more than a few feet wide. Eventually we got to the top where we rested and took lots of pictures. SJ was very pleased with herself but not as pleased as she was reaching Angels Landing in Zion national park. Poor AK was desperate for a bathroom but they don't come along too often in the jungle....that's when the jungle becomes one big bathroom.
After taking lots of pictures we started the descent down the other side of the mountain. It was about 11.00am by this time and we had been hiking for 4 hours. We were all tired and hungry but we still had a while to go before lunch and a proper rest. The descent was a little scary as we were walking down rough steps that the Incas laid and at times there was a sheer drop off to one side. We made it safe and sound though and after about 2 hours we finally reached the small restaurant for lunch.
AK's first priority was the bathroom (he came close to digging a hole in the jungle and just going there and then)
After a well deserved rest we all started out on the 3 hour hike to the hot springs. Along the way we stopped off at a little mini waterfall that lead into the Urubamba river and we had the opportunity to get in the pool. Everyone stripped off to their swim suits and got in. SJ tested the water by dipping her toes in and was shocked to find the water was icy cold! We certainly didn't expect that in the jungle but then the water comes from the top of the mountains which are capped with snow. AK (part human part fish) really wanted to get in but his stomach was telling him otherwise. SJ stayed at the edge and dipped her sore, from hiking all day feet in the water and AK hastily took off into the jungle with a roll of toilet tissue to find a good spot for digging a hole and taking care of business
Eventually everyone got dried and dressed and we headed off again in pursuit of the oasis that was the hot springs. We walked close to the river and at times it felt like there was no one there but us, it was a really amazing walk knowing we were getting closer to Machu Picchu (we earlier found out that the Picchu is pronounced as Pic-Choo. The way we had been saying it sounds like we are saying 'old penis' in Quechua! This could have been very embarrassing!). We eventually came to a wooden bridge, which at least had sides, but was still a bit scary none the less. It had missing planks, rotten planks and the whole thing moved as you walked on it. We all made it across safely and waiting on the other side was two local ladies who looked like mother and daughter and a small child that was wrapped up asleep in a makeshift hammock. They were selling water and other drinks and must stand there all day waiting for tourists to cross that bridge. The water was overpriced but then they have to carry it all down the mountain to that spot and the older lady was quite elderly so they were actually charging a fair price. A lot of the Peruvian people work hard and have a tough life.
We carried on walking along the other side of the Urubamab river and eventually came to a river crossing like no other we had seen before
Once everyone was across and we had walked a little further eventually the hot springs were in site. After changing, having a beer and a snack we all got in the hot springs which had two temperatures and was just lovely! After our long day of hiking it was a welcome treat. We also had the chance to take a shower and wash our hair which, surprise surprise, SJ did. In one of the pools we got close to the source of the hot water and it was really hot, nearly too hot! It was very picturesque being surrounded by mountains and overlooking the Urubamba river.
Too soon it was time to leave so we all got dry and headed toward the mini bus and after a slightly scary drive we arrived at the small town where we were having dinner and spending a night at a hostel. AK and SJ were lucky enough to have a 'matrimonial room' again but it was probably the roughest room we have had so far
We got changed and headed out to dinner which was the usual soup, chicken/rice, coffee and tea combo but we were so hungry that we tucked in.....all except poor AK who sat down to a tasty plate of boiled rice.
After dinner some of the group had decided to go to a club (plus Alfredo was keen on dancing the night away!) so we headed back to the hostel to make cocktails. AK had decided he wasn't going to drink due to his poorly belly and SJ was just being a light weight (well we did have zip lining in the morning) so we said good night and headed off to bed. SJ was asleep before the light even went out and AK was not far behind her.
We woke up early but feeling rested on our third day and were excited to be getting closer to the Old Mountain. We got dressed (again without showering!), brushed our teeth and were ready and waiting for the others who by all accounts had enjoyed themselves the night before! They had spent the evening drinking and partying and were a little hungover.
We had breakfast where we had dinner the night before and the minibus picked us up at about 9am, a late start compared to the previous day. After a fairly short drive We arrived at a hostel that was set in the side of a hill. We all headed up and sat on one of the balconies chilling whilst waiting for a group that went before us to finish with the zip lining equipment. This gave AK and SJ plenty of time to think about the zip lining.
After seeing some of the zip lines in the distance SJ in particular started to panic. She kept thinking what kind of nutter suspends themselves hundreds of feet from a flipping cable and harness? AK was still feeling poorly and was often visiting the toilet, along with painful stomach cramps so he didn't have much time to think about his fear of heights!
Eventually the other group started to return one by one and as they did our group started to put on the harnesses. SJ resisted as she still didn't know whether or not she was going to do it. As time was running out she decided to put on the harness and see what happens. She could always back out if she wanted to! One girl from the earlier group returned and was crying her eyes out! She said it was good but so scary that she freaked out
We had another short ride in the minibus and the arrived at the foot of a hill where we had a demonstration of how the harness works and how to hold the cable, signed a form which basically said if you die you can't blame the company and we were off. The 'small hike' to the top of the hill turned out to be a rather tough climb up a very steep hill and by the time we got to the top we were really tired. It was at this point that SJ realised that she couldn't back out and started to feel sick and dizzy with worry. AK was also panicking a bit but he didn't show it!
SJ had asked to go second (not first in case the cable was weak and snapped, best to let someone else test it out first and not last just in case she bottled out) so after watching someone do it first she was clipped on and before she knew it was away! As she was flying from one mountain to the next all kinds of horrible thoughts were going through her mind! AK got on and despite his fears, made it across in one piece. It was definitely an adrenaline rush, but scary none the less.
The second zip wire was the longest and everyone stopped before they got to the other side which was terrifying as you arie literally suspended between two mountains
We were all relieved to be back safe and sound, not least AK and SJ! After AK paid another visit to the bathroom we all piled into the minibus and headed off for lunch. We drove along a road parallel to the river and the view was amazing. We got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu mountain as we approached the little cafe and we all started to get excited.
The cafe was really little and basic in some respects but it had nice food and a big plasma screen TV showing Italy v Germany in Euro football games. They also had lots of dogs and cats including kittens! SJ was in her element cuddling he kittens and giving chicken leftovers to all the animals. Our guide had decided to take home one of the kittens and to SJ's surprise he wanted to carry it to Aguascalientes along the train track! AK was still feeling quite poorly and had decided to get the train with Hayley who was also feeling poorly. So he headed off and SJ headed off with the rest of the group to start the three hour walk to the town at the foot of Machu Picchu mountain
After a while of walking along the railway and with no sign of Alfredo we started to worry a little. We stopped and started to ask people coming from the direction of the cafe if they had seen Alfredo and eventually one person said they had and that he had gone back for the two people who didn't get on the train. He told us to just carry on walking. By this point half of the group had walked ahead so Santi, an Argentinean guy ran to catch them up and tell them the situation. We carried on walking as we figured that there was only one way along the railway and it would lead us to Aguascalientes. We got to the halfway point and had a rest, bought some water and chocolate and were about to leave when we saw AK and Hayley walking toward us on the track! It turned out that AK and Hayley needed their passport to get on the train and SJ had AK's so they couldn't get on.
We all started out walking again and SJ was relieved that AK and Hayley was safe and well. The kitten had meanwhile been placed in a sling that Ana made and was comfortable enough to fall asleep
We arrived at Aguascalientes after dark and were a little disappointed with the town being so touristy and a little bit scruffy in parts. We checked into our hostel which was a bit rough and our room had a broken window. When we reported this to the hostel they 'fixed' it by wedging a piece of cardboard over the window! We were just so tired that we didn't care.
We all had dinner together, went to buy snacks for the big day the next morning and as SJ and Hayley had decided to get the bus up we had to buy our tickets (a bit lazy but then we wanted to hike Huayna picchu and had been told doing both was tough). We then headed back to the hostel for an early night in prep for a very early 4am start.
We had a good sleep and were gutted when the alarm went off at 3.30am. Once we were up though we started to get excited. We left the hostel at 4am and those that decided to get the bus made their way to the bus station and those that were hiking up the steps headed off to the foot of the mountain. SJ was very pleased to be near the front of the queue
AK was feeling surprisingly ok when he woke this morning, which was a good job considering he had signed up the night before, to take the tough one hour walk up the steep, inca steps to Machu Picchu. The walk was constant and hard, but AK was making good time considering how sick he'd been for five days now.
SJ arrived at the entrance to Machu Picchu and was very near the front of the queue. About 5 minutes later AK arrived, tired and desperate for the toilet but glad he had conquered the steps. The gates opened and after a rush that would rival that at a church jumble sale, we headed in...we could hardly believe we had made it to this amazing place. We walked through and onto one of the terraces to be confronted with the most amazing sight, Machu Picchu at dawn, before sunrise and bathed in a eery mist
So after a few pictures we headed up to a spot where Alfredo likes to do his talk, it was a pretty good spot as we could see the whole of Machu Picchu. AK seized this picturesque opportunity to take out his Liverpool flag and tent pole, which he carried for the full four day hike just for this moment, and proceeded to wave it about while SJ and the others in the group took photos of it. One of the security guys wasn't too happy with AK doing this, and wasted no time in telling him to stop. Fortunately though, we had plenty of pictures already, along with laughs and pointing from other foreign tourists. While we sat, mouths gaping, looking at the magical picture before us, we all could not help laughing at the guy who was dressed as a Zorro character, complete with mask and sword, and was jumping around the terraces waving his sword! We all agreed he had to be a northern Englishman, although we never found out, and while it was very amusing we were not sure just what the Inca's would have made of it!
We all settled down and our guide Alfredo made a start on introducing us to Machu Picchu. His English was much better than our Spanish but it was still hard to understand so we didn't catch all of it. The place is amazing and they built it over a period of just 150 years before they abandoned it because of the invasion by the Spanish. The whole site is quite complex with specific areas for the high ranking incas, ceremonial sections, a burial site that was like a tomb cut out the rock and even a science section where they observed the stars, the sun and the moon through little pools of water
After our introduction and a walk around Machu Picchu it was starting to fill up with people and that kind of spoilt it a bit. We were thankful we had got up so early and were able to see it with very few other people here. After a short break where we ate our packed lunch we said goodbye to Alfredo and gave him the money we had all chipped into for a tip. He had been a great guide and even though SJ had shouted at him on the first day he had remained cheerful, informative and good fun throughout the trip.
AK & SJ had paid the extra $10 to hike up Huaynapicchu, the pointy mountain you often see in the background of pictures of Machu Picchu. Unfortunately poor AK couldn't move more than 2 minutes away from the bathroom and was starting to look very pale and tired. SJ, although she doesn't like hiking, was excited about climbing to the top so she set off with Hayley while AK paid another visit to the porcelain throne
The hike up Huaynapicchu was tough from the start as it was almost vertical! It was hot too but she just took her time and stopped often for water and Haribo jelly breaks. After about 15 minutes of hiking SJ heard a familiar voice shouting her name, it was AK at the start of the hike. He felt really rough and had pains in his stomach so he didn't think he could do the hike. SJ sent some paracetamol down with some passing hikers and continued up the mountain. Near to the top the trail got very precarious and consisted of using ropes and chains to help pull yourself up but it was totally worth the effort. The view from the top was amazing! You could see the whole of Machu Picchu, the terraces down each side, the sun gate at the top of Machu Pichu mountain and the river that runs around the bottom. It was spectacular. There were also some ruins at the top so SJ and Hayley climbed around for over an hour and took lots of pictures. After a while it was time to hike back down, this was much easier than the hike up!
When we got back to AK he was living down at the cafe (yes, unfortunately there is a cafe and other buildings at the entrance to Machu Picchu) dozing. He was disappointed that he didn't do the hike but SJ thought that he was too poorly and wouldn't have had a good time anyway
We were all pretty tired by this time and decided to get the bus back down to Aguascalientes rather than taking the steps as we had planned. We arrived back in the town with about 7 hours to kill before our train back to Cusco arrived. AK, SJ and Hayley eventually met up with the rest of the group and went for a well deserved pizza and beer. AK had decided that since he was going to visit the doctor the next day and based on the fact he had eaten nothing more than dry bread and plain rice for the past 4 days that he was going to fill his boots with Pizza, beer and anything else he could get us hands on. He would later pay for it but for now he was enjoying himself.
After walking around the town and buying some goodies for the train ride home we decided to just chill in the hostel where our bags were stored. After what seemed like forever it was eventually time to get the train so we headed off for our two hour train journey followed by a two hour bus ride! Most people slept on the train but SJ being SJ was wide awake the whole way through. There was a bit of excitement when we got off the train as Hayley thought her bag had been stolen so we all ran after some lad who we thought had taken it but we didn't catch him up. Poor Hayley was gutted but just as we thought it was gone forever the lad came back holding the bag above his head. It turns out he picked it up by mistake and was coming back to return it. It all turned out well in the end.
We arrived back at the Wild Rover hostel tired and ready for bed as it was gone 1am. We had requested a private room away from the bar as we needed a good night sleep. After AK visited the bathroom (the pizza and beer had the effect we suspected on AK's digestive system) we passed out fast asleep after our amazing but tir g 4 day hike to the top of Old Mountain.