The Inca Trail

An early start in the chill was our introduction to the 4 day hike to Machu Picchu. A bus took us 45 mins from Ollantaytambo to the start of the trek. It only costs around 300 soles (ยฃ75) to actually do the trek which isn’t a lot! After a bit of organising, we set off with our guide leading the way. There is a weight restriction on the amount of luggage you can take with you as there are porters who carry it for you to the campsite – they are absolute machines as they carry around 20kg on their back, leave after you leave, and arrive at the campsite before you do – I felt so inadequate! They are absolute machines and legends! It’s 44km over 3.5 days, which I know doesn’t sound too far, but dealing with altitude, varying weather conditions and steep ascents/decents makes it the challenge. 

The walk itself was only 11km but was up and down hill a bit. Reached an altitude of 3100m having started at around 2650m. It gave us a good idea of what to expect over the following days. We were fortunate enough to see a few Inca ruins along the way – they suddenly appeared out of no where and the views were stunning. 

The food was amazing and continued to be for the whole trip – we were definitely spoilt! I was used to eating cold baked beans out of a tin, not having amazing soup and a plate of rice, beef stew and veg, along with “Happy Hour” which consisted of several cups of tea and cheese crackers and jam. Early nights on all three evenings was a necessity as we were all so tired. 

The second day was much more of a challenge – the morning was all about climbing. Went up 1000m to 4200m and reached Dead Woman’s Pass in under 5 hours. It was such an achievement – a hard one both physically and mentally. The altitude affects the lung capacity more than you may think although the recovery is a quick one. I also had a couple of odd dreams too. The rain came down when we started the descent so it was poncho time! Is made the steep steps quite slippery. We had to keep ourselves motivated and the reward at the end was great. I thought I’d be a lot worse and find it harder than I did. The spin classes have clearly paid off! 

Day 3 was another early start – this was going to be the longest day (16km) and mostly downhill which isn’t easy sometimes – down 1000m to 2500m. My quads were starting to feel the burn on this day. I didn’t use walking poles on the second day so relied entirely on leg power. We started uphill which was ok but I was definitely slower – tiredness was beginning to sink in. The group tended to separate a bit depending on the different paces, but we all met again at various points. Going down was a huge challenge – I slipped over a few times down the wet steps and near some steep cliff drops which was frightening. Now have 2 elegant bruises on both bum cheeks. I ended up getting frustrated with myself that I kept on slipping over or coming close to it so got a bit emotional. But as the day went on, I grew in confidence and was fine by the end of the day – it takes a while to adjust to focus on where you put your feet. Everyone else was feeling the fatigue too. 

The final day – we were woken up at 03:30 to get through the final checkpoint as early as possible. This meant waiting in a line at the checkpoint for an hour in the dark. But it would be worth it. The views along the way were incredible. You were never tired of the scenery around you – 360 degrees of mountains, waterfalls, lucious grass – almost jungle like in parts. The walking on the last day was great in comparison. Easy up and down with some narrow parts. We finally reached the Sun Gate and had the most incredible view of Machu Picchu as the clouds cleared and the sun was rising. Another 45 mins on our feet and we made it! It was hard to take it all in. Of course, we were all shattered by this point and had to contend with a huge amount of tourists. Walking around the site made me realise how massive it is in comparison to other Inca ruins we had visited along the way. We explored the major temples and wandered around.The sun was fairly fierce and it was so early in the morning. 

Things I have learned to love and appreciate:

1) Oxygen

2) A toilet I can sit down on 

3) The power of the legs

4) Face wipes & deodorant 

It was the most amazing journey and I valued that more than visiting the big site itself. It suddenly hits you once you’ve completed it. Sitting in the town afterwards having a celebratory lunch was great fun. Back to civilisation – aka Wi-Fi! 

Lima: hot, hectic and a heck of a lot of honking

Arriving into Lima early this morning, I was greeted by a warm breeze and a lot of voices eager to transport me here, there and everywhere. Thankfully, I’d already organised a transfer to Milaflores (although in my error, I’d made it for yesterday rather than this morning – doh! But managed to sort it out without having to pay any extra ๐Ÿ˜Ž). 

The next thing I seem to notice as I got in the cab was that everyone seemed to be in a rush – it was 6am, granted, so the familiar rush hour traffic full of buses carrying school kids and businessmen falling asleep didn’t feel quite so out of the ordinary. But the amount of noise was insane! Endless honking of horns made it seem that everyone was completely stressed out! No one seems to allow anyone to pull out or want to indicate or allow pedestrians to cross the road when it is their right of way. I have been almost run over quite a few times. 

After making it successfully to the place where I was staying, I was greeted by lovely Peruvian women who couldn’t speak much English, and I have to confess that my Spanish is a tad rusty. When I say “rusty”, I of course mean “can’t speak much whatsoever”. I was able to briefly sort myself out and then headed out to explore. Did a bit of Miraflores and then decided to go more towards the city centre. Realising it was a good 5 mile walk after looking at trusty Google Maps, I got on a bus and hoped for the best as it was heading on a straight road towards the old town. A bus did only costs 1,25 soles which is the equivalent of 40p. Please take note TFL! It took about 20 mins obviously taking mad traffic into account – I did see a prang or two en route. 

Got off at the Museo de Arte de Lima  and had a bit of a nosy. Also the pit stop for the loo and wi-fi came in handy. It was an impressive building and grounds, and contained a lot of historical items from the Inca empire, Spanish rule, and the eventual independence. 

I particularly liked a painting of the enthroned holy trinity painted in the early 18th century:

It reminded me a bit of the painting of Charles I by Van Dyck, both slightly different in meaning though. 

Then I walked over to the historical bit which was another mile away. I came across the magnificent square and popped into the Cathedral and Archbishop’s Palace – both impressive buildings and date from the mid 16th century. 

A quick lunch and a good walk around and I was knackered! It had got to around 27C in the middle of the day and I was melting. 2 lots of sun cream applied and I still got burnt! I thought the sun must be fierce but then realised I had grabbed my factor 15 instead of 30 on the way out this morning *facepalm*. So lots of after sun will hopefully do the trick. 

The buildings are amazing – all very colonial and a variety of bright colours. I like the little wooden balconies that protrude outwards. 

Navigated back to where I was staying (via a quick walk along the Miraflores coast) and had a much needed shower and watched an episode of Homeland. Found a little place to grab some food nearby and it was amazing – was hungry after a long day!

Think I’ve done enough walking for today. Now for sleep as it’s 6 hours behind London here! Yawn! 

The snow has started…in London…during rush hour

You can sense the tension in the air among the snowflakes falling from the sky….can’t you? 

While I am now safely in the warmth of a South West train carriage heading into London, I am accutely aware of the disappointment of the commuters trying to make their homeward journey. The floor is wet. Glasses are steaming up. My feet are cold. As you’d expect, everyone has their head down either in a device of some kind, a book or a damp copy of The Evening Standard. I, meanwhile, guilty of being one of those people (while writing this), am also listening to ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division, and was convinvced I was almost dancing along at one point due to several odd glances from those unhappy commuters who really need to brighten up. My smile soon vanished and I became one of…them…

It’s officially zero degrees and the beginning of January. No one is happy. Snow in London during rush hour adds to the despair as public transport will just seem to…stop. 

Oh well! I’ll just have to find somewhere to build a snowman! If it ever settles…