Week 23: Cusco & Machu Pichu. Peru

A fantastic start to the week with my debit card arriving. I had kind of resided to the fact that I was going to be stuck in Cusco for ever. It certainly was an interesting experience living with so little.

The next day I told the hostel owner I wanted to leave and spent the day planning Machu Pichu. I wasted no time and decided to go the next day.  I originally didn’t want to go with a tour and wanted to camp myself but was unable to find anyone to come with me. My track record with camping and trekking alone hasn’t been fantastic so dying to get as far away from the hostel as possible I  booked a tour. I was lucky enough to to get chatting to this random lad Andy who organises  tours on the cheap. I opted for the Salkantay trek which is 4 days and 5 nights of trekking. If you want to trek the original Inca trek you need to book months in advance and it’s a lot pricier. I ended up meeting Andy the suspicious tour guide for ice cream and exchanged the dolla bills.  We got on like a house on fire and I somehow managed to rope him into coming back to the hostel to cook us all a Peruvian feast. We had the famous peruvian dish aji de gallina,  a chicken stew made with cream, cheese, chili and peanuts, topped off with Peru’s amazing olives. The food scene in Peru is amazing.

I stayed up all night with excitement until it was time to leave at 4am. In the height of it all I never asked Andy for a receipt so had no evidence I paid at all just praying all was legit.

Our group was all English speaking expect for 2 Argentinians. I’ve got so used to speaking spanish all of the time I feel kind of guilty speaking in English now so was delira to have the Argentinians. They were also the best  craic. The rest of the group were nice and featured a very serious German couple, a quiet French couple, two extremely annoying Americans and my camping partner Marie from France.

The gang!

Our first days trekking was fairly easy going. After lunch we trekked up to Lago Humantay which was a bit strenuous because of the altitude. The weather was a bit rotten but didn’t take away from the amazing scenes. En route down I ended up creaming myself (due to lack of poles and lots of mud) and destroyed the one and only outfit I brought with me .

Lago Humtantay
The colour of the water completely changes the higher up you up
This place was so mystical
Cliff edge at Lago Humantay

In the height of my excitement I failed to pack a few essentials  one being; money. Thankfully I found 20 sol in a pocket (5 euro) which was to keep me going for the next 5 days! The first issue was water. 1 water cost 10 sol and they advise you not to drink from the streams especially if you have a weak stomach. So to avoid dehydration I stocked up on the juices and teas at  meal times. One night it was celery tea on the menu and I went a little overboard and drank over a litre of the stuff. Crazily my pee stank of celery for the next 2 days which was a little alarming and disgusting. The obscene amount of tea I drank at dinner meant I didn’t need to drink much during the day. It also meant at least 4 loo stops in the middle of the night. This is v annoying but you also get to see the amazing stary sky’s.

The first night of the trek was absolutely baltic and reached minus 7 degrees. I have to admit it was fairly luxurious having the tent pitched for you, gear carried and meals prepared. This is definitely not something I’m used too and I kind of felt guilty about it. The first night I was freezing because I managed to loose my hat, fleece and raincoat and what clothes I had left were soaking wet. The following morning en route to breakie I managed  to find my clothes sitting in a pool of mud and water outside. Fantastic!

Morning views from the campsite

Day 2 was a toughie. My roomie Marie was renting a horse for the day. She is an amazing person she was diagnosed with arthritis at the age of 11 and had a hip replacement 3 years ago. This was her first ever trek. Day 2 featured really steep inclines and we had to cover 23km. The scenery  was stunning and we witnessed the most amazing avalanche. 2 weeks earlier sadly two tourists were killed doing the Salkantay trek caused by an avalanche of rocks. On this occasion it was snow and for the duration of the day we saw and heard about 6 more mini avalanches. Memorable stuff. At the top of  the mountain we preformed a traditional quecha (Peru’s version of Irish) ceremony with rum and coca leaves. We offered them up as sacrifices to Pachamama ( a Peruvian god). I was the only taker for the remainder of the naggin  of rum delira I polished off the bottle helping with my daily fluid requirements. This was my favourite day of the whole trek and the sun dried off all my mucky clothes.

7am trekking, Day 2 Salkantay
Amazing avalanche on Salkantay Mountain
Witnessing live avalnches
Amazing clouds
Me on cloud 9

This trip is worth doing for the food alone it has been outstanding. Chef Rapheal is a genius amazing what food can be produced over 4,000m high.  Everyday we get a two course lunch and dinner. Needless to say I got v overwhelmed at meal times. The next day we walked through the valleys this was easy-going and we arrived in Santa Teresa where there was an option to go to the local hot springs. It was a 40 minute walk or you had to pay 15 sols round trip on the bus. I opted for the 40 minute walk obviously because I was v v low on funds.  Everyone else exhausted from the walking opted for the bus. The guide was really concerned about me getting lost ( I wonder why?) and going alone and told me I had to take the bus. This is why tours are so annoying! The bus man took pity on me and let me ride for free, a true gent.

Myself, Ozzy and the two Argentinians
View of the valley

Here is a stunning laguna we saw during the trek. Sometimes it’s hard to believe the colours are real.

Laguna on Salkantay trek
Me at the laguna

The hot springs were amazing we had 2 1/2 hours of pure heaven chilling with the most amazing back drop of mountains. That night we had a bonfire and a boogie fueled by the surprisingly delicious Inca tequila. The next day I was somehow booked into do zip lining it was included in my package (good man Andy). The  zip lining was amazing particularly when we got to go upside down. What wasn’t so amazing was the final suspension bridge which I was the first in the group to tackle. The guides were all very blazay about the whole thing. A lot of the lines are just supported by chunks of wood. The guide kept saying vamous amiga (let’s go my friend). I figured the bridge was simply just for crossing the river. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was strapped onto the side of the bridge and I started to slowly walk, at the beginning all was fine and I enjoyed the views . After a few steps the gaps between the bridge got bigger and bigger and the bridge started to sway violently. The raging river beneath me seemed to be getting more aggressive. Even though you were strapped in if you fell you would be left dangling with no one to help. The bridge seemed to go on for miles and the further I went the more unstable the bridge became. It kept swaying from side to side and this got worse as more people got on the bridge. My body froze and my heart started pounding and I couldn’t even turn around. All I could hear was the river and a man screaming amiga mas rapido. I was clearly holding up the whole group. It was such a horrible feeling. It was the closest thing to a panic attack I could describe my legs were shaking so badly I couldn’t move. I rarely get nervous or scared and I don’t know what came over me. Maybe because there was no prior warning and I figured it was just a scenic stroll over a wooden bridge. I eventually made it to the other side after coping on.  Never again! I was too terrified to take any pictures.

Monay day 3 Salkantay
Over the moon with the donation of Philadelphia (forgot how good this stuff was)

The next day was Machu Pichu! At this stage the money was non-existent what little I had left was the tip for the guides. The night before Machu Pichu you stay in a place called Aquas Calientes we stayed in a hostel and I got the honors of sharing with the Americans.  Our final meal was dinner in a restaurant, conveyor belt kind of stuff not a patch on Rapheal’s cuisine. I was still hungry after, I had brought crackers and wafers as snacks and obviously they had turned to dust. So my second dinner consisted of wafer and cracker dust.Wake up call was 4am. We were given a packed breakfast the night before which I obviously dipped into immediately. Rationing snacks is not one of my  specialties.

The trek up to Machu Pichu is fairly steep and absolutely mobbed with people.  En route up as I was de layering I found a mysterious breakfast  sitting on a rock. I tried to locate the breakfast’s owner but couldn’t. I took it as a blessing and devoured the breakfast which got me up to the top. You feel like you know Machu Pichu because of the iconic postcard photo but seeing it in the flesh it pretty memorable. It really is a wonder of the world. I had about 5 hours on top to explore before making the 3 hour walk back to Hydroelectra to catch the bus back to Cusco. The 3 hour ride back to Cusco was treacherous but beautiful. Some of most amazing scenery but the roads kind of reminded me of death road in Bolivia. I was the lucky divil who got to stand for the journey…

6.30am view over Machu Pichu
Views of huanapichu
The 3 hour train track route from Aquas Caliente to Hydroelectrica

On my last day in Cusco I went for one final explore of the markets I think they have been my favourite of South America so far. I could spend hours so exploring them.

This woman thought me how to make soup using sheep’s head and legs…..
This cutie sold the best cheese
This needs no explanation. This section of the market sells offal

When I got back to the hostel my new phone (an early birthday present from Una)  decided it had enough and refused to turn on. There was no reviving her. There’s obviously major room for improvement in Bolivia’s electronic scene. After some emotional good byes to Karen and the hostel I set off of for Lima, the food capital of Peru. Just as I was leaving one of the girls came to me with a package of clothes saying a random woman just dropped them in saying these were for Roisin. I genuinely have no idea who gave them to me. If ever there was an example of the kindness of strangers this is it. I now have a nice leopard skin number. Absolutely delira with my new wardrobe!

Volunteers at the hostel. From the left; Diego, Milka, Unknown German, Bane, Agoose, Kent (owner), Me, Brenda, Another unknown German and KAZ






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