First of all we were shocked when our 8am pick up turned up at 7:40! Who knew South Americans could be early? Apparently it’s called Inka time. We set off in a mini van with our small day bags that were slightly bursting at the seems. Met some lovely girls, Emily and Ashley from England and Sofia and Maria Jose from Chile who became our jungle trek bffs. All was going smoothly until we were stopped by another protest in the road! Fortunately the police came and cleared things up quickly and we set off up to 4600m.
We were thrown some rather questionable cycling gear and basically told to head off down the mountain, stay on the right and don’t fall off! Obviously we were the 2017 Peru downhill champions. It felt amazing whizzing down the open roads, although the odd bus flying round the corner would leave our hearts in our mouths.
Finally, we stopped at a place called Alfamayo and hopped on a short bus to do some white water rafting down Urubamba river before dark! We had three commands…forwards, backwards and get down. It was hilarious. Emily and Ashley took the majority of the splashes but by the end we were all drenched! Tiff even jumped off a bridge into the rapids (after my poor Casa en el Agua jumping skills I wasn’t brave enough). Every time we did something well our boat leader would shout “5 sexy llamas” and we’d wave our paddles in the air (there were 7 of us…). We got off our boats seconds before it got dark and all piled in soaking wet into the smelliest bus back to Santa Maria to sleep.
Up at 6am in the rain, we downed some very strong organic coffee and prepared to trek 21km with our guide Richard. The first bit was ‘Peruvian flat’…so not flat at all! Richard is Quechua (the indigenous population) and told us lots of interesting facts along the way. He explained the three main pillars for Andean people are the Snake, the Puma, and the Condor. Each with their own meaning and appear time and time again throughout all Andean communities, not just Peru.
We had round two of painting ourselves like in Baños. You use a small red fruit called Achiote, which is exported in its thousands to France to use in cosmetics. Locals use it as a natural mosquito repellent and it’s also just fashionable….
The trekking wasn’t too difficult just very hot! Halfway up one mountain we stopped at Monkey House for another culture lesson on inkas and their potatoes, chocolate, alcohol and various medicines. Inka is only the name given to the governors/leaders. Everybody else is known as Quechua. It was fascinating walking along parts of the original inka trail. A lot of paths were destroyed by the locals themselves during the Spanish conquest so that the Spaniards couldn’t find their cities. This is one of the reasons they never discovered Machu Picchu!!
We walked and walked thinking we were about to get lunch…we didn’t get lunch… so we walked and walked some more! Finally 4pm came around and we stopped, we were ravenous! We had seen so many avocado trees along the way and were desperate to eat some. Imagine our faces when they plonked a huge bowl of guacamole in front of us. The 6 of us dived in like vultures. Green mush never tasted so good. This was followed by a dreamy portion of spag bol which we also demolished then quickly fell into food comas.
The last stretch of the trek was along the river, new beautiful terrain. We crossed a few sceptical bridges, one makeshift cable cart, ran through a bat cave and finally arrived at the hot springs.
The night was spent in Santa Teresa where we had a big group dinner, and Sofia was getting us all in the mood to party! Many pisco sours were consumed and our guide made us drink tequila out of a phallic wooden ornament…safe to say everyone got a bit merry and ended up in an empty club, where the man-child behind the bar couldn’t have been more than 12 years old!
Another 6am wake up after little sleep to head a few minutes down the road to do some awesome zip lining. We were a little nervous but the harness looked a lot more legit than previous equipment we’d seen in Ecuador. It’s good value for money, you zip line 4 times across the valley and the last one you do upside down. Then to finish off you cross a very scary bridge and jump off.
We were then given lunch at 10am!! Before a tedious 11km walk along a train track towards Aguas Calientes (town below Machu Picchu). It was a functioning train track so you had to have your wits about you when you heard a train coming!
Aguas Calientes is cool, but very touristy, it’s nice to roam around for a bit and get yourself excited for visiting one of the wonders of the world!
Early last dinner at 5pm so we could get to bed by 9pm ready for our early morning race to Machu Picchu! There was a moment of panic when our guide told us he didn’t have our tickets, but a quick call to the company and all was sorted! Phew!
Finally time to climb Machu Picchu! It was pitch black as we walked to the gates to queue at 3.30am. Our French friends were there first..keen beans! So we joined them and waited excitiedly for the gates to open at 5am. The line got very long very quickly!
5am and we’re off! We began the extremely sweaty climb up 1800 steep steps! Heavy breathing is an understatement, it felt like we were basically running up an endless stair master in the dark! At the top we looked as sexy as our hike at Tyrona Park. Also a shout out to my favourite Chilean girls for giving me so much medicine the night before, otherwise I would’ve never survived!
Really there’s no need to get up so early, it was very cloudy when we got to the top, so Richard our guide told us to wait a while before heading in. Once you do go in it is incredible! We had our last lectures from Richard about this amazing city high in the mountains. The whole concept of how it was built and functioned is another inka mystery! It is believed that Machu Picchu functioned as a type of university to learn about astronomy.
We said our goodbyes to the group and had a further couple of hours to explore by ourselves. Luckily our patience paid off and the clouds lifted so we could get our money maker photographs. Then we went and had a laugh with the Alpacas that roam around! We did not get spat at thankfully!
At 11am we left Machu Picchu and set off back down the steps and along the 11km train track to get a bus back to Cusco at 3.30pm! It was truly an unforgettable experience.