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Vicki’s Travel Diary

Monday, 24 Mar 2008

Location: Cusco, Peru


We made it! Lucky for us the train from Puno was only delayed by 1 day, so we arrived in Cusco with a day to spare before commencing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We've had an amazing week and really enjoyed the Inca Trail, or pilgrimage, as they like to call it.

The train ride from Puno was very scenic and we thoroughly enjoyed the 1st class pampering that came with it. The seats and cabins were much more spacious than what we've become accustomed to over the past few months, with a 3 course lunch to top it off. Ben and I were the only young ones on board and we were most amused by the on-board entertainment, with dancing and a pisco sour provided for morning tea and a fashion parade in the afternoon. The oldies were really getting into the dancing and I suddenly had a forward flash of my life in about 30 years time....

We arrived in Cusco and saw straight away why this place is referred to as the Gringo capital of South America! But it was good to enjoy some Western food and come across many English speakers.

The 4 day trek to Machu Picchu started very early the next morning as we were picked up by our tour company around 5am. There was 16 of us on the tour, with 2 tour guides and about 20 porters to carry all the camping equipment, food, and some of our personal belongings. The stamina of the porters was amazing, they would carry up to 25kg on their backs and finish each day well before any of us! In fact the porters have a race each year to complete the 45km Inca Trail and the current record is just under 4 hours - impressive on flat ground, but on the Inca Trail you gain and lose 1000 meters several times all of which is over 3000 meters where oxygen is noticeably thinner, so all the more unbelievable.

We were lucky to be with a great group of people and we were really impressed with our tour company. Also our guide was quite the character and had been working on the Inca Trail for some 10 years so was really enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The trek itself was quite challenging but really enjoyable as the scenery was amazing. The second day was certainly the toughest as it was pretty much uphill for the entire day. But on the 3rd day it was almost all downhill, and Ben and I followed the technique of the porters and ran down. This is actually much better than walking as it puts less pressure on the knees and legs with each step. Our guide took a few of us on a mad downhill dash for the last leg on day 3, down make-shift paths that connect between the actual path as it zig zags down the slope. We finished covered in dirt and thoroughly exhausted, but it was great fun. The final morning of the tour we awoke at 3.50am and commenced the final part of the journey, arriving at the Sun Gate around 7am where you get your first glimpse of Machu Picchu. Quite a moving experience after all the effort to get there! We spent a few hours touring Machu Picchu, marvelling at the architecture and building techniques employed so many years ago. Then it was time to take on Wayna Picchu, a very steep mountain just on the other side of Machu Picchu. It was a tough climb to the top but the views were spectacular. Coming down from the very top was very scary given my fear of heights and given how narrow and steep the steps were, not to mention the steep drop off, but I became one with the wall and slowly lowered myself down. Ben couldn't stop laughing at me!

We're back in Cusco now and leave tomorrow for a 7 day tour into the jungle of Manu Biosphere Reserve where we hope to see many interesting animals and plants including Jaguars and Caimen. Although just not at night when I'm on my way to the bathroom I hope....