And you swear it's flat from here?!
Trip Start Apr 23, 2012
19Trip End Ongoing
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The first day I was picked up bright and early to meet the group: four guys from England (Adam, Charles, Luke and Jamie); two American girls (Michal and Latecia); a German couple and four Israeli's, one of them being Mattan, from Arequipa. The first activity was mountain biking through the Andes (don't worry, I made sure it was downhill...) and after a two hour drive with the English guys insisting on playing the most depressing music I was ready to get going. Seeing all the other groups being handed bitchin' helmets, knee and elbow pads and gloves, I tried not to worry too much when we were given cracked helmets and bikes with broken gears
Promised that the hail would stop when we reached lower altitude we set off in hope, racing to the point where the hail would stop blinding us - making it incredibly difficult to Gage how close to the sheer drop at the edge of the road you were... Although the views were absolutely breath taking, the near hypothermia and frostbite ruined it somewhat and the whole group had had enough before we reached the bottom: at least we still got to admire the landscape from the relative warmth of the bus.
That night we stayed at a hostel in the jungle with no hot water or electricity. For dinner we had the first of many 'menus': a salty soup followed by what would always inevitably be rice with some sort of indistinguishable meat. The English guys appeared with beer for the whole group and after dinner Michal and I joined them in their room for some more drinks.
Apparently Michal was a Sexologist and felt the need to divulge most of her sexual experiences to the group, needless to say the guys were pretty interested, I on the other hand was not quite so impressed. Honestly, there was no steering the conversation in another direction: it all came down to 'that time when'...
The next morning we were woken up at five for a day of hefty trekking... not the idea of fun everyone had told me about! It would take us eight hours to reach the hot springs where we'd be transferred to our hostel. The first two hours were fine, I was actually starting to think about taking up 'trekking' as a hobby, the most strenuous part being when we had to walk across a near vertical slope with a river raging below us. Along the way our guide showed us some plants that the Incas used as a natural dye (that's what's all over my face in the pictures...), we got to taste coffee straight from the plant and chew coca leaves from a plantation. After trekking for a couple of hours our guide pointed to a huge mountain and said 'We're going to climb that.' We all thought it was just Ceazer being his usual hilarious self, little did we know...
So we got to the bottom of this steep track leading up the mountain he had pointed out earlier and the cigarette very nearly fell out my mouth.
"HOW FAR UP IS IT!?!?"
Two hours of the steepest climbing in the heat of the midday sun, with the humidity of the jungle making you sticky: not my idea of fun to those people who assured me otherwise
On the last leg up I actually thought I was going to die: my t-shirt was drenched in sweat, I was feeling light headed and couldn't breath. Then, amazingly, the Israeli guys suggested we stop to enjoy the scenery! Thank fuck for that. However, as it transpired later on they actually thought I was going to pass out if I didn't stop. When we finally reached the top I Gasped to the guide
"AND YOU SWEAR IT'S FLAT FROM HERE!?"
"Si, Si... Esta bein." Calmed by his response somewhat I caught my breath and turned around to see an incredible view of the jungle valley, cut in two by the river. Then... more walking! This time along part of the old Inca trail: steep, narrow steps with a sheer drop down to the valley below
After a few more hours of me complaining every time there was a slight incline, we reached the part of the river we had to cross to get to the hot springs. Our guide had mentioned a cable cart, funny that... never seen a cable cart like that before. It was literally a box hanging from a cable that some Peruvian guys pulled along, bit skeptical at first but it was great fun and we all had a competition to see who could pull other people the fastest at the other end. Another steep hike before the springs... "NO MAS ARIBA, POR FAVOR!" Even though I was hating it I must admit I think I was improving as the day went on, this time I wasn't even last to the top.
We reached the hot springs, cracked a beer and got in... Best way to end the day of trekking. We had another menu for dinner and were told about a 'club' in the town we were staying in, queue pre-drinking in our room, trying to teach our guide the concept of King's. The club wasn't so much that, but with happy hour just starting as we arrived we all managed a good few Pisco sours before remembering that the hell wasn't over and we still had to trek the next day.
Up at the more reasonable time of eight, we had breakfast and the group split - some of us had opted to do ziplining while the others decided it's be great fun to add an extra three hours of trekking onto the day. Again I was not impressed when we had to trek uphill for a good forty five minutes to reach the first zip line... collapsing after the intense walking and heat at the top our group waited until last to go, considering if it'd be alright to spew as we zoomed through the canopy
It came my turn to go and it was all fun at first until I started spinning wildly around, making me nervous for when it came time to stop... Turns out the guides at the bottom had forgotten to give me an extra glove, vital for braking at the end of the steeper lines. Perfect: nursing a hangover while having no choice about the direction I spun in. When we came to the third line I was more than a little anxious when faced with a cliff face a the end of the line, told that we absolutely had to brake using our gloves. Panicking, trying to explain in broken Spanish about my lack of glove, luckily he seemed to get it and I was saved from certain death when he gave me his glove, even if it was tattered and ripped. The last line was definitely the best: we were given a water balloon and told to aim for a target far below on the ground beneath us - winner got a free beer! We were also allowed to lean right upside down and run our hands through the canopy of the jungle below us: awesome!
We were then transferred by bus to our 'restaurant' for lunch, again another menu... I swear to god if I ever have to eat rice again. There was a football game on so all the guys decided to stay to watch the end, being told the directions to Aguas Caliente (?), the town at the bottom of Machu Picchu
"PLEASE JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP... I'm going to collapse!" - Thoughts that were running through my head as I politely nodded and mumbled, 'uh uh...', all the time checking the clock to see when I could end this hell. Luckily for me my bag kept breaking, causing me to stop every ten minutes to sort it, with talk-a-lot still chatting about her ex in Chile... and then, to top it all off, the sole fell off my boot an hour away from the town.
Never have I been to happy to get to a hostel.
That night we had what was comparatively an amazing dinner, even if the mince in my spag bol was just beef cut up weirdly. After dinner, having showered of course, we all sat in one room with a few beers before going to bed a few hours before we had to get up to go to Machu Picchu in the morning
Having had enough of walking, I booked a bus to the top of Machu Picchu where I would meet the rest of the group at six. When I got off the bus I managed to pull a muscle in my leg... I decided it'd be best not to mention this to the rest of the group who were soaked in sweat with bright red faces. Then we made our way to the iconic 'postcard picture' in the Machu Picchu grounds... I canīt even find words to explain how amazing it was.
The mist snaked in and out of the buildings and it was spectacular to watch the sun come up while the mist disappeared to reveal this amazing view I'd only ever dreamed of seeing.
After having a guided tour of the ruins we were left to our own devices, wandering around in awe at the ancient Inca fortress. We found somewhere to sit and enjoyed the view with the sun shining down on us... best cigarette ever. We spent all day there before going to get our passport stamps and going back to the hostel... we had some dinner and then played some cards before getting our train back to Cuzco, still admiring the view we had seen earlier that day.