The trekking group included three Australians, two Scotts, two English and two Irish - all great people with interesting stories. Day one of the trek started off in a lush green valley at a very easy pace. About one and a half hours in we stopped for lunch and experienced the absolutely amazing cooking of our treking company (SAS). However, despite the great food Mike's altitude sickness was getting worse. He managed to complete day one but was in no condition to complete the big climb on day two up to an elevation of 4600 m. Instead he made good friends with a horse called SanTiago who carried him to the top. Once at the top, the trek was now all downhill and Mike was able to complete the rest of day two and all of day three on foot. Overall, the scenery was amazing, rolling mountains, glaciers, lakes, llamas and alpackas. We were able to get a glimpse of life in Inka communities and we enjoyed the friendship of the group. It was amazing seeing these unbelievably remote Inka homes basically made of mud in the middle of the mountains, with women in their traditional clothing carrying either their children or their weavings on their back. One very interesting thing is that the Inkas raise guinea pigs to eat which would just be roaming free inside the huts fattening up.
The entire time we had been hiking it had been raining but we knew in advance that it was the rainy season so we dressed accordingly and didn't think much of it
. However, unbeknownst to us the rain had been unusually heavy and the communities on the valley floor were flooding. In addition, all access to Machu Picchu was cut off by landslides and flooding and they were having to air-lift stranded tourists out of Machu Picchu and back to Cusco. Our dreams of reaching our goal were crushed by mother nature. We were put on a bus and driven back to Cusco where we started to see just how bad the fooding actually was. The next morning we watched the news and found out this was the worst flooding since 1981 and that Cusco had declared a state of emergency after landslides and flooding had distroyed houses and caused deaths. Even our tour guide, who was amazing, was at risk of his home collapsing and was gathering his family and belongings and going to his motherīs in the mountains. As we write this entry it continues to rain, which most likely means that Machu Picchu will remain cut-off and more seriously means more destruction to the communities in and around Cusco. We now need to determine were we can go from here....
The day of our trek finally arrived on Jan 22nd. We woke up at 5am and made our way to the bus for a three hour bus ride on some of the scarriest roads we had ever seen. There had been heavy rain during the days leading up to the trek, which had caused many small landslides that partially blocked the roads. However, what made the roads most scary were their widths ( 1 car wide), no guardrails, unpaved and the fact that they were cut into the side of mountains reaching heights of 4800 m. Now we aren't ones to fear heights but when we met up with another truck going the opposite direction at one of the narrowest and highest sections of the road, our nerves were tested. We were positive that it was physically impossible for the two vehicles to pass without one of us falling off the side of the cliff to the valley far, far below. When our bus started to back up and position itself on the very edge of the road/cliff we nearly shit our pants. Our wheels were no more that a couple inches from sure death. Fortunately, the driver's skill and experience overcame the obsticles and delivered us safely to the beginning of the Lares trail