So it is time for us to do the epic Inca trail. We have been looking forward to this for months. A little bit less excitement now that we still have sore legs after the Colca Cnayon and everyone telling us how difficult it is....
Anyway, we meet our group the night before the trip for a briefing. Our guides Oskar and Saul seem very nice and the group which mostly consists of Irish likewise. Anyway, how come the Inca trail is full of Irish- most Irish we meet are interested in partying...and then the Inca trail!! Hmmmmm Although we have this guy in our group from the Uk living in OZ that straight away is telling us he will be trouble. He is storming out of the place because they missed that he wanted an xtra large mat and not an ordinary mat!! Yeah, that guy needs a life when that is what he gets upset about. Anyway, at the briefing we are told that because of a planned demonstration by farmers we will need to be picked up at 3am in the morning (instead of six) to avoid the demonstration. Yippey- NOT.
After about 1 hours sleep we get up for three to wait to be picked up. Surprise surprise...they are a full hour late. Luckily Susan and Chippy who are also staying at our hostel are entertaining...well as entertaining as one can be at 3 in the morning- and that is a big compliment.
So we head off in the bus and arrive at the village closest to where the trail starts as the sun is about to rise. As we drive along with our bus we are met by some sight- there are big rocks all over the road. Just before this we have picked up our porters (they are called Chetskis which means Inca runners in Quetchua which is the Inca language still spoken here). These are all tiny men who will turn out to do superhuman things as they carry all our stuff. We can not talk enough of how impressive these guys are....Anyway, the chetskis are ordered out with the guides to clean the road of the stones and like little ants they clear it within minutes. They jump back on the bus and just a few meters away we are met by an unwelcoming group of locals. Hundreds of farmers and locals are blocking the road and we are ordered to get off the bus and walk the last big as it would be dangerous for us to continue in the bus. As we begin to approach them we very quickly realise that this wont be easy. The farmers are desperate in every sense of the word- the are very poor by the looks of it, very angry and very drunk and there is no way in hell they will let us through. We quickly run back onto the bus and from there we watch as our guides try to reason with them and also as they are kicked and abused by some of the farmers. We are then ordered to reverse the bus (no choice as roads are very narrow) and go back where we came from. The Chetskis are also ordered to put back the stones. All in all this was pretty scary and not much fun to expereince....there would not have been many seconds until it could have turned into something nasty.
Waiting around on the Machu Pichu railway for the demonstrations to be over
Anyway, we are told by our guides that it is too dangerous to go ahead as the famers tell us that we will be attacked if we try to break through so we have to wait until they tire (or get polatic drunk and fall asleep)....for how long they are not sure but normally they should be tired by the afternoon. We have very little choce but waiting around and as we drive back we see loads of stranded groups just like us and they have even blocked the railway that goes to Machu Pichu. As we wait around we are approached by Peruvian TV and some of the guys in the group get to do interviews. We are offically famous!!!
In late morning we see some tourists starting to walk by us with all their backpacks and they inform us they will try to sneak up the other way and chance it as they might now be too tired and too drunk to put up a big fight. This sounds dodgy to us but as we wait and they don´t return we make a decision to give it a shot. Thing is this would involve an extra 10km of walking in mountains and we are already very late...Anyway we set off and we have to walk through fileds with bulls, cross a river with strong current and we finally come to the spot where the farmers are standing (although it is at the opposite side of the river). They are blocking the road with very tall and sharp sticks of wood and look quite intimidating. It does not calm us when all guys are ordered to the front in case of a fight. Anyway, Saul, one of our guides start negotiating with them. It turns out that his brother ran for Mayor of the area (Ollantaytambo) the year before and he is from the area and known to them. After some discussions it turns out that they will let us through if we all give them a small tip. It probably should be added at this point that they were all pretty drunk and probably just wanted money for beers. Finally we are trough!!! Although we still have 10k to walk until we even reach the beginning of the trail. The plan originally was to walk for seven hours on the first day which is the quivalent if about 15k. It will turn out that we will end up walking for 8k more on the first day and many hours more....The fist day is supposed to be the easy day,mostly flat ground but when you add the extra distance it ended up being very tiring. But hey, at least we finally reached the Inca trail and we were on our way. We reached our first camp as the sun was coming down and had a fabulous meal in a tent that was set up by the chetskis. During the trail we will continously be amazed by the things that is brought for us and the food that will be served. Three course meals for lunch and dinner and snack times with popcorn and biscuts and tea. Personal bowls of hot water for each individual ahead of each meal to wash and we are woken up on in our tents with hot tea every morning. We can go on and on about it but it really is truyly amazing. It is like five star luxury only that we are staying in tents...
Camping in the clouds
Anyway, the other thing worth mentioning apart from the fact that the nature on the first day is really breathtaking. It sounds like a cliche but it truly is. We also got to get entertained by our troublesome friend. It took about five minutues or so into our walking and he started complain that it was difficult. Well, he said he felt sick but....Anyway, he did not join us for dinner and early the next morning he announced he was going to return. This meant we would loose our guide Oskar who would have to go back with him. The plan was for them to meet up with us again on day four in Machu Pichu. we were sad to loose Oskar as he seemed like a really good guy. Mostly we felt sorry for him as he would have to walk and hang out with the grumpy fecker. It is no exaggeratoion- rarely have we met anyone as miserable.
Our schedule was out now so it meant that we would have different target camps. Having never done this before it made little or know difference to us other than it would be a harder,longer trek. Day two is notoriously the toughest day. It was mainly uphill- SERIOUS uphill! We reached 4200 meters and the air was thin up there making it all the more difficult. The last few meters were bloody hard but totally worth the pain. However, we made it to the top and we had rain for about 10minutes only. It was great having the two scots there as they were fit and we just followed them. It should be mentioned here that Susan is a freak as she smokes 20 a day but don´t tell her dad and she was super fit too. The summit is known as Dead womans pass, aptly named as it looks like a giant tit! Impossible to get a hand on it though!
We made it to the top!
Once we made it to the top we were met by an incline of anynumber of meters, i.e. 2 hours downhill. Downhill in general is tough on the knees and this was no different. The steps were original Inca steps meaning they were rugged and not uniform. So watch your step please!! We were due up at an ungodly hour the following day so we all hit the hay after another splendid dinner.
Day three was much the same. The same aul gang, the same aul amazing scenery, the same aul amazing dinners BUT there was a place to buy beers. We did this in earnest. We presented our tips to the chetskis and said our goodbyes to them. They were (tiny) legends. A good few beers were had but we were curtailed by another 4am start.
Last supper (and beers) with the gang
The final day we got up at 4am. The control opened at 5.30 so to have brekkie and pack up the sleeping bags etc. We had a 2 hour trek to the sun gate in Macchu Picchu all through eally heavy mist. The mist whic was at strak contrast to the mountains offered some unbelieveable views.
Early morning mist
Martin in the clouds1
Martin in the clouds 2
After 3 really good days it was obvious the weather was going to be crap on the last and most important day. From the sun gate (which is where you get the first view of Machu Pichu) all we could see were fluffy white clouds. It was unfortunate but we will no doubt download pics from Flickr and pretend they are ours!! We continued into Macchu Picchu were we would wait for quite a while for the weather to clear. Nob Jockey Moany hole was there to meet us as he had recovered from his near death sickness. Within minutes he was moaning again and after about an hours worth of rain he left. To come all this way and then to leave because of rain is uncomprehendable. What a twat....Anyway, too much airtime for him already. The weather cleared somewhat and we entered Macchu Picchu. It is a natural wonder to be honest. It blew both of us away, even if the clouds did mess with our pictures. It should really be said here that although Machu Pichu really was fantastic it was the journey there that blew us away and Machu Pichu was just the icing of the cake ( a cloudy one).
The "disappointing" views of the sungate
Machu Pichu- as good as it gets!
What makes excursions and treks like this is the group. We were so lucky as the rest of the group were fantastic. We had from Team Ireland: Susan, Chippy, Majella, Colin and Crea. We also had two gay scottish lads (okay, they were not gay...in case they ever read this!!!) Paul and Michael, two Danes in Marianne and Rolf and also a Red Liverpudlian named Dave. It was great to hang out with all these guys although difficult to loose them once we got back to Cusco as we constantly bumped into them....and drank with them!!
The Irish flag on top of Machu Pichu