Chapter 3: The Lares Trek part 1

Trip Start Oct 23, 2010
Trip End Nov 04, 2010

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Where I stayed
The Prisma hotel

Flag of Peru  , Cusco,
Monday, November 1, 2010

  oh MY gosh I feel like it has been ten years since I wrote the last blog, right before we went to much has happened. First of all we bid farewell to Chiara and Anna, who were starting their trek the day before ours, and we were to meet up later in Cuzco (topia) after all was over for one final day before flying back to Auckland.
After that we went to town again, just the area where we were, and visited the beach, which reminded me of Chile actually (same coast) and took some pictures. I found a Spanish phrasebook (which has a different use later in the story but perhaps I will leave that particular experience out? Nope lets face it; WARNING the following may be offensive.) Anyway we went down the road shouting (well not too loudly) little gems like COMPLIMENTS TO THE CHEF and NEVER MIND, I HAVE MY OWN SYRINGE. My personal favourite was THANKS BUT I THINK I WILL JUST WATCH. (I cant find the speech marks so sorry.)
The beach area was just kind of rich and boring, so we made our way back down to a street near our hostel and looked for last minute things for our trek, then went to our hotel for the meeting. We travelled with GAP ADVENTURES, who were definitely really awesome and organised. I recommend them as I have also travelled with them in Egypt and they were fantastic there too. Anyway we met three of the people we would be travelling with (only one was doing the Lares trek with us though, everyone else was doing the Inca trail.
That night we went out for one final walk up the street (remember stuff here is open until at least 11pm) and collapsed onto our beds for our 7 55am Cuzco flight.
 At six the next morning we were still outside in a van waiting for our other member, Canadian John, who rocked up raving about the great night he`d had and that he still hadnt slept and something about Peruvian girls....(sorry John you did lol) anyway John grew on us and became our favourite person to hang out with.
We get to the airport and John falls asleep on a couch (ps I forgot to pack my pocket knife in my checked luggage so itīs now located in the large pile in a bin surrounded by armed guards. I considered it. Thats all I am saying. Anyway we pile onto the plane and are told that it has been delayed due to rain in Cuzco so we all get off and John goes back to the couch. We wander around a bit and get a snack but then are told to get back on the plane so we get back on and soon, we are in the air. It was pretty cool because we flew through huge mountains (not as big as the ones that we would climb though lol) and fly up and up until we get to Cuzco where we get off and immediately notice the lack of oxygen in the air. Its weird its like you are breathing normally but not getting as much oxygen as usual so you breathe harder to get that same amount and if youīre walking, soon you are just panting like a dog haha! We all looked like idiots and Josea who picked us up, looked uninterested in our discomfort but made some jokes about Johns events the night before so we liked him immediately. e is definitely the most sarcastic dry person we have met in Peru but I think he was my favourite! We got in a van and some guy drove us through Cuzco to our hotel (Cuzco is much bigger than we thought) where they had put us on the ToP fLooR (4th) and luckily someone took our bags up for us because we would have died. I have not seen an elevator here yet.
So, they give us some coca tea to help with the altitude, and Bryn starts feeling like crap immediately and disappears to the bathroom, presumably to throw up. I felt fine that whole first day, except for when I decided to see what would happen if I ran up the stairs all the way. Bryn found me at the top about three feet from our door with one outstretched arm breathing so heavily I thought my lungs might pop, but she felt so crap she stepped over me and went into the room where she claims she fell over in the shower.
That afternoon we went on a tour of the city where we visited some markets and more remarkably an area of the market now referred to as THE SICK MEAT PLACE! THE REALLY SICK ONE! GROSS! DO YOU REMEMBER THE BALLS! And without going too much into it, it was definitely on par with the filthy old woman in Cambodia crouching over a bit of faded cardboard containing entrails covered with flies in the hot sun.
The market also had a juice section where I had a lovely papaya and orange and pineapple combo.
The rest of the day was spent wandering Cuzco looking for THE ONE TRUE EMPANADA--which are like pasties, meat/cheese filled pockets of goodness, but alas, Peru turns out to be a fail. I had one cheese one but it wasnīt really what I was looking for. We took some pictures and ate some stuff, and that evening went out with our tour group to eat. I had alpaca, which was ok at the time, but may or may not have been responsible for the internal complications later.
We are now getting into the interesting but of the story. The next day we pile onto a bus en route to the Sacred Valley, which conains a sun temple and is about an hours hike through the hills. n the way, my stomach starts to rumble a bit. Then alot. Just when I feel like I might explode, we reach some kind of halfway point. one of those places where you get off the bus and are immediately accosted by ten women selling coca leaves, water, hats, dolls and everything else (except toilet paper, but it was ok, i came prepared with wet wipes.) There were two pretty sick toilets and no lock so with one hand I held the door closed. Lets skip that bit but just say that the bus was waiting for me when I stumbled out weaving through the crowd and clutching my stomach. I did feel a bit better though so we went on our walk--bad idea. We made it out to the sacred valley of the Incas and I made a run for it down some of those kind of terrace things, through a cactus bush, over some kind of hose, and with the valley in full view I hoped none of the Andean people down there had binoculars. Also: I wonīt be able to go to the dentist here as that page is no longer in my spanish dictionary.
I kind of shuffled back to the van, the object of many jokes in our group then and since, and we made it to 0llantaytambo, which is a really nice old cobblestone town where we would spend the night. We ventured into the market area and I bought a couple of bracelets and a hat but that night when Bryn woke me for dinner my legs just didnt respond and I think there were about eight stairs I fell down with my camera in one hand and my ipod in the other...soomehow I was just shaky and nothing was broken, but I got a few bruises. I didnt eat anything that night and spent most of it in the bathroom....I was quite worried, needless to say, as we would start our trek the next day, a 30+km trek through the Andean mountains which would reach a height of 4600metres, just over halfway the height of Mt Everest!
The next morning I felt a bit better and our new tour leader, Johan, came to meet us. We literally drove to some small town which was just getting electricity, got our bags sorted (we had put 6kg of stuff into a duffel for the porters to carry, put the rest of the stuff in storage, and carried water, snacks, raincoat etc) and started walking straight up at quite a fast pace. None of us were ready for it but we all sucked it up, until we reached a stream area with horses. We each pulled out our bag of coca and learnt how to chew it. There is this whole process. Coca is essentially a very raw version of what cocaine is made from but itīs not the same thing. You chew it to stop hunger, thirst, pain, fatigue and it makes your mouth a bit numb, but you`d need to chw like 30 leaves. We had a kind of a catalyst from the market, some little back thing with aniseed in it, which sped up the process, but I didnīt like my mouth being numb so I only chewed coca one time. Incas believe that coca leaves bring you closer to the mountain gods, and priests always chew them. I think there is like .5% of the alkaloid cocaine in there. We take it because of altitude sickness... Anyway after I dashed away for a bit, we kept walking upwards and across, and met some small kids, very cute and very dirty. I gave one a sole (Peruvian currency worth about 40cents) and he clutched it with his tiny filthy hand. These people let their kids wander anywhere, as we went, we met some more, about 5 and 4 years old, with no parents to be seen within at least three kilometres. The kids were just holding hands running down the hill after a small dog.
We gave them some fruit and a few cents and kept going, up and over one mountain, where the porters had lunch waiting for us. I was near the front at the beginning but began to lag behind as I got weaker and had to keep ducking behind rocks. After lunch, which I ate about 5 spoons of rice, we kept walking about 3 and a half hours up and over another mountain and then down the other side, where camp was waiting for us (the porters would pack up, overtake us and then set up camp....sigh I LOVE OUR PORTERS! We camped next to a beautiful lake with llamas and alpacas on the hills. Didnt eat dinner and almost passed out at the table so after I managed to make it to our tent I got into my sleeping bag with about ten layers on and shivered and panted until Bryn came and we both shivered and challenged the capacity of our lungs together! It was so cold!! The next morning it was raining and I was still lethargic and weak, but we made it to someones Andean house (will load pics when I get home.) The house was unbelievably small, dirty and just so different from anything I know, but the people were lovely and the kids so cute! Even in the cold as we had at least six layers on each, the baby had bare feet and the kids were running outside in sandals after the pigs...inside the house was dark except from some embers from the fire used to smoke out the house against mosquitos, and there was an alpaca neck hanging from the roof and some cuts of llama dangling above the four and a half foot high front door. The thatched roof was quite thick and tight. This one room housed all 7 people and had a kitchen at one end (a fire and six or seven old pots) and some kind of raised area covered with dirty furs and clothes at the other, with about ten live guinea pigs running loose around the whole thing. The fuel for the fire was dried cow poop, which people would run around collecting as there are not that many cows and I guess llama poop is just not as good?? Anyway it made for an interesting smell. We were handed some small brown things, which just after the cow poop intro, I thought was a llama poop and upon further inspection thought was a dried dog poop, but it was one of the Peruvian 4000+ varieties of potato. I gave mine to the little boy, thinking I should just avoid any further problems...
More to come! Problems that is! And part two of this blog!
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