Friday, 18 January 2013

Hello 2013. How well you have begun.

This is a bit from my diary about Machu Picchu and after. I know I've already said a little about the trek, but this is a tad more atmospheric and whatnot, so I'll whack it in.
After an early bus ride (feet too sore to walk), I arrived at the gates where I met up with the rest of the group, and from there it was another short climb to the spot from which you first, huffing, puffing, sweating and swearing a little, see the mighty, ancient Incan ruins rise into view...and what a view...
No number of photographs can prepare you for the majesty of Huaynu Pichu and it's smaller sister jutting out of the earth, keeping eternal guard on the (admittedly very preened and preserved) ruined city which lies at its feet. All, it seems, suspended on a floating disc in the dizzy heights of mountains dripping with jungle and spider-webbed with cloud.
A magical, whispering awesomness pours out from the ancient bricks and spills over the edges, cascading like the ethereal mist that surrounds it, which the sunshine clears away after a few minutes of us staring down in awed silence.
We spent the day napping and sketching on the top of Huaynu Pichu in the sun, looking down (and bearing our bits to...see picture) Machu Picchu below.
The whole trek was an amazing, hilarious, thoughtful, hard, rewarding and incredible experience and was a phenomenal way to start 2013.
From here, I flew to Lima to meet Mama bear, got stuck there for a while due to a nasty swollen bite and a chest infection (not had the best luck with health as of late). From Lima to Tarma, a weird little town totally off the Gringo trail, which as it turns out, is pretty cool. From Tarma we took a day trip to San Pedro de Cajas, a wee adventure through farming villages, alongside a river on a bumpy dirt road, up, up, up through the mountains to 4000m above the sea to San Pedro. There, we ate lomo saltado (chips, tomato, onions, pork and rice all cooked in a delicious sauce of sorts, and super cheap) followed by a strange pineapple gelatin thing which vaguely (closely) resembled what was still coming out of my nose... Then wandered round the incredibly quiet and sleepy town in the sun, up to the cemetery where we sketched for a bit before getting back into a taxi, packed with 9 people (9! It was a flippin' 5 seater!!) and wound our way back down to Tarma, ears popping as we went.
From Tarma we shared a taxi with a mother and her two travel sick little boys to nearby San Ramon, a gateway to the jungle. It's a really wee little town filled with moto-taxis buzzing round the hive town like bees, beeping tirelessly, inquiring who needs a ride (for 25p per person anywhere). We hopped on a bee who took us to a 3* hotel (thank god for mums) Hotel El Refugio, at the end of town, just at the top of a dirt road leading down to the river.
We entered and were greeted by a mini jungle refuge, with vines dangling down from the high trees which eased the vicious sun's strength, as beautiful birds hummed  through the bountiful foliage that accompany you down the winding paths which connect the little bungalows dotted through this jungly sanctuary.
So we've spent time swimming, relaxing, visiting waterfalls hidden in the jungle. A walk led by a little girl of 10; our guide, Janette, where we sat in a powerfully pummelled pool at the base of the waterfall. It was quite an experience; to sit in this natural swimming pool, and to look up and see the sky dripping with green trees soaring into the bright blue.
And Dad would love every second :)

Monday, 7 January 2013


Hallo! So I have (just about) survived a 5 day Salkantay trek to the amazing Machu Picchu with the amazing Eoin, Andreas and Adam, and our group collaborated with a couple of lovely German girls called Lisa and Verena, three Ozzie gals called Renee, Katie and Ellen who were an absolute hoot and we had loads of fun with. Juan, our tour guide, got more and more hilarious as the trek went on, leading up to the last day when our group and our chefs and Juan and Mac (tour guide number two) all got absolutely hammered round the campfire in Hydroelectrico. This proved for a very interesting and hilarious morning, as the chef was still too drunk to actually be able to cook anything! And so we dined in style with bread rolls (no butter, chef lost it) and a terrible, terrible, drunkenly decorated cake. It was lucky we all found it so hilarious as it was a bit of a disaster.

So the trek entailed meandering through snow-capped mountains, up to a height of 4800m above sea level, passing alongside the mighty Salkantay mountain, before descending into the humid depths of the jungle on day three, finishing off doing zip-lining on day 4 (which is the MOST amazing and fun thing) before walking along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes, super tourist town which lies at the bottom of Machu Picchu mountain which towers above. The whole town is dwarfed by giant mountains covered in trees and is buzzing with a constant atmosphere of anticipation, excitement and relief. (also loads of bars do 4 drinks for 1 which is a bonus).

Regrettably I took the bus up to Machu Picchu itself, due to terrible blisters on my little toes which massively hindered my ability to walk, but it was a nice journey up and saved my feet for the 45 minute trek up Huaynu Pichu (the massive mountain overlooking the ruins) which proved to be oddly enormously enjoyable...not excercising makes whatever excercise I get quite a pleasant feeling on the old bod...Anyway. So we arrived at Machu Picchu in the morning, and took our final huffing steps up the viewpoint, and watched as its mystical secrets unfolded through the mist. Maybe a tad underwhelming, but the combination of its incredible age, incredible location and the sheer feat of human ability ensured that it took what little breath I had left from the climb away. We spent the afternoon napping on the top of Huaynu Pichu, taking naked photos and sketching, before making the descent to wander around the ruins once more (assisted by our makeshift hilarious guide, Eoin) before saying our farewells and heading back down to Aguas Calientes to shower and go for Pisco Sours before our (late) train back to Cusco, into which we arrived at 2 in the morning after a horrendous train and bus journey. But hey ho, we covered a good 80 or 90 kilometres, had an amazing time, covered a thousand topics of conversation, and saw some incredible landscapes.

Here are the photos from the last little while, covering Sucre, Christmas (sadly not New Year as both Andreas and Adam´s cameras got stolen, and the infamous Machu Picchu. Enjoy!

p.s. a lot of these pictures are courtesy of Adam Clelberd
P.p.s. they are also seriously jumbled...not sure how to recitfy this... starts with Sucre, moves on to La Paz, the walk is Pisaq, then Christmas, then back to Sucre. more pictures to come later!