Arequipa, Saturday 04/04/15

Peru is breathtaking, literally. 

I flew from Cancun to Lima, arriving around midday. The taxi ride from the airport was somewhat off-putting, as I passed rows and rows of dowdy streets with colourless shops. Then there was the sea-shore, with swimming prohibited, an expanse of wasteland and high nets preventing the black gravel cliffs from tumbling into the road. 

The hostel, however, was charming, being an old Manor House with plenty of character and in a bustling part of town. It took me all afternoon to sort out my SIM card, as iPhones can cause problems and my constant changes do lead to confusion. However, the staff were very patient and a young woman eventually sorted it out for me. 

In the evening I went for a short walk and had the first of the many fresh, pretty, delicious vegetarian meals I had in Peru. Hurrah!

The next day I did something I don’t usually do and paid for a tour of the city. I’m glad, because I did find some parts of the old city attractive.  

 In the cathedral I found an effigy of Jesus in bed, which is something you don’t see every day.  

 (Of course, it’s supposed to be him laid to rest in the tomb, but the Spanish had to dress everything up).

That evening I met a small part of the group with whom I was to spend the next eight days and the following morning we were off to Cusco. 

I will say more about Cusco later, but when we arrived we met up with the rest of the group, sixteen in all, and had just enough time to have another good meal, then pack for the next day and off to bed. We were allowed our own day pack and no more than 6k for the porters to carry for us on the  four day Inka trail, to include sleeping bag, change of clothes, etc.      

We all piled into the bus and set off for the Sacred Valley. Our first stop was at Ccaccaccollo, where we visited the women’s weaving cooperative.  

The hats indicate that these women are all married – if they were single the brims would be turned up. 

We encountered the domestic llamas,

 as well as the smaller, fluffier and more attractive alpacas.  

We had an amazing seven course meal in tiny village called Huchuy Qosqo. This was the first course, which was avocado stuffed with mixed vegetables, potato crisp and pigeon egg. 

 We spent the best part of the day in the Sacred Valley 

 and we rested by the terraces of  the Pisac ruins.  

 By the late afternoon we reached Ollantaytambo, with its impressive Inca fortress.  

   As we reached the highest point, we were all amazed to see this rainbow behind the mountains, even though it had not been raining. I took it as a good omen for the coming days.  

 The next day we set off on the Inca Trail, 27 miles in the Andes. This is a picture of the people travelling, with the “hikers” in the back and all the porters and cooks.   

This first day was relatively easy, as we only walked about 7 miles. It rained a bit, but that cooled us down. We ate well in the evening and tried to sleep in the tents. As I had not paid for an inflatable mattress, I found myself on a plastic sheet about 3mm thick. Not ideal!

The next day was hard. It took about four to five hours to climb the long, steep path to “Dead Woman’s Pass”. The steps are very uneven and though we started in good weather, it clouded over the higher we got.  

 I was really pleased to be among the first of the group to arrive at the top.  

 Also Paul, a member of one of the two Canadian families on the trek, commented that whenever he saw me I was sitting down, but whenever he reached a meeting point I was there before him, which I thought sounded rather magical. 

What goes up must come down and camp was about 1,000m lower. The descent was hard on my knees and when there were no steps and just a slope, harder on my toes. I believe I will lose the nail on my left big toe. Hey ho. However, there was time to admire the scenery and even spot a hummingbird. 

It rained during the night and the mountains were cloudy and moody first thing in the morning.  

The weather improved and so did the walk, though it was our longest day.  More cloud forest.   

 The remains of the spa where the Incas would bathe before entering Machu Picchu.   

 More stunning views.  

 Once again, it rained hard all night. I wasn’t feeling  quite right and didn’t know if it was late onset altitude sickness. But as we were about to get up, the rain stopped and I was determined to get the best out of the day, even if it was 3 O’Clock in the morning. 

We rushed to the Sun Gate, but there was far too much cloud drifting about to see Machu Picchu properly. Then, as we approached, the sun broke through and the day grew warm and wonderful.  

  I’m sure you will have seen pictures of Machu Picchu, or could download many which would be better than mine. There are a number of different temples; this one is the Room of the Three Windows.  

This is the Temple of The Sun.   

 

  The Inti Watana stone is one of the many astrological features of the site.  

This is the head of the Condor on the ground in the Temple of the Condor.  

Together with a short guided tour,  we spent about three hours roaming the site, taking some time off in the shade and chewing some Coca leaves.  

 Then it was a bus ride to Aguas Calientes, where we had a late lunch and a few drinks and then took the train back to Cusco. 

I had hoped to cover more of my time in Peru in this post, but the WiFi in the places I’ve stayed is making it really hard to upload pictures. 

It was a once in a lifetime experience for me to see Machu Picchu and to manage the hike. The group were friendly and fun and we were lucky with the weather. Tomorrow I’m off to Colca Canyon.   

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