So there we were…2.30 am on Saturday morning ready to leave for Heathrow….all packed and full of anticipation.After a good drive to our parking lot and a quick transfer to Terminal 5 we arrived and quickly found the rest of our group.We were each handed an envelope containing our flight details/tickets and souvenir T shirts.Once we had passed through customs and enjoyed a strong coffee in the departure lounge it was off to board the plane (B.A. flight) to Madrid.It was a short flight but enough to get us hungry for breakfast and get us prepared for the 11 hour flight to Lima…
The flight was ok…we were not used to flying long haul and the legroom seemed more restricted than the short haul from before but all went ok….apart from the food options for all the flights just seemed to mainly consist of ham and cheese rolls which sat heavy on our stomachs…We arrived in Lima and filtered through the Customs and luggage clearance to be transferred to our Hotel for the evening…The Kamana….this was eventually found by our drivers after many trips round the many one way systems,once we had settled in,was ok and quite comfortable…the city of Lima only seems to go to sleep very early in the morning but we managed to sleep well and arose early the next morning to catch our transfer flight to Cusco…this seemed very different to Lima in so many ways.
Lima,like so many capital cities had areas which needed investment and a lick of paint but Cusco seemed so idyllic.The streets in Cusco were incredibly clean and the terracotta roof tiles gave such an old traditional feel to this beautiful city.The people seemed very friendly and accommodating .The feel was more relaxed and we arrived at the second Hotel we would be staying at…the Garcilaso.It was after our second or third cup of Coca tea (which helped us cope with the 3400m altitude)that we had some time to venture into the plazas and explore this incredible place.
The Peruvian people are wonderful.Very courteous and always willing to help if they could.The food was good and plentiful.Mainly consisted of chicken,beef,alpaca with a good selection of vegetable,rice and pasta dishes to accompany them.We never had the opportunity to try Cuy (guinea pig) but hey….alpaca was good…
Monday morning started with an acclimatization trek to help us settle in,with a coach ride to the top of Cusco, a place called Tambomachay.This was 3765m above sea level.One of the many Inca sites we would visit over the next week and once we had put on our rucksacks,filled up our water containers it is was a long walk down hill to the city of Cusco.We walked round farmland,through rocky valleys and saw the next Inca site where we would be stopping for lunch….Saqsaywaman…(it can be pronounced as it looks..as our guide said….sexy woman…)
The main guides by the way were Hilbert Sumire(Director del Proyecto at Machu Picchu)Rocco (an excellent pan pipe player,great guide and overall good guy)and Eric (we just have to say this about Eric..once a year there is a race from Km 82 on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu over 26 miles away…bearing in mind altitudes of over 4200m last year Eric completed the run in 3hrs 40 mins…incredible).Also there was Hernan QC who was a diamond,helping everyone and had loads of patience.
Anyway I digress and back to the story we go….Once we headed to Saqsaywaman we rounded a corner to be greeted by three large tents and a Peruvian band..(pan pipes,drums and flutes etc)This to be our treat.The 3 tents were for the chefs,the food and one for us to sit and eat whilst we listened to the band play the traditional music which the area is known for.
A lovely warm day,great food,nice music and time to get to know our fellow trekkers and guides.Perfect.
The ruins at Saqsaywaman were very impressive.Rocks,once shaped were then stacked on top of one another to form very tight fitting no mortar joints.All cut to fit exactly with the next one and with some weighing over 300 tonnes,baffling how they were moved into place.
After a short rest we headed back in the direction of Cusco,over the hill tops and down towards the centre.The views were stunning and conditions perfect.Peru was living up to our expectations as an incredible Country.
Tuesday was great…we headed out along the Sacred Valley by two buses and headed to Ollantaytambo.Peru giving us another opportunity to give us some incredible glimpses of the glaciers and mountains which lay ahead.The fields of corn and potatoes adding splashes of green as we zigzagged over the train lines and very rough roads leading to Km82.
This was the starting point of the main trek and where everyone who walks the Inca trail,begins.There are only 500 people a day allowed to walk the trek so we queued up,had our passports stamped,collected our tickets and had the obligatory group photo.
We had to wait a little while for all our porters to collect the equipment and filter through but it wasn’t too long before…we were on our way…crossing the famous bridge and off onto the track….incredibly quiet…..just the rush of water in the Urubamba river below and occasional birds chirping….this was it…we were on our way to Machu Picchu.
The initial trek was quite an easy start,following the river but as we got further into the valley the inclines got steeper.Sometimes with some steep drops but always amazing us with the incredible views which we will never forget.
As we travelled further there were more Inca ruins and at each stop the guides explained what the buildings or areas may have been used for.The weather was ok and even tho there was rain,nothing could dampen our spirits as the views were breathtaking.
After stopping for lunch we had a steady climb along ridges and along hill tops to our first days camp at Wayllabamba at 3000m.By this time we were grateful of the incredible job the porters had done of racing ahead, preparing our tents and had already made fresh popcorn,cookies and hot chocolate for us.After dinner which was served at 7.30 pm we were all ready for bed by 9pm.
It was the normal early start of the coca tea call at 4.30am and once we had breakfast it was time to fill our water containers for the trek ahead.Everyone needed to drink as much as possible along the way as there would be no chances to fill up again until lunch.We stood taking in the view of Mount Veronica which stands at 5000m high.Not a bad spot to wake up to….
Today was going to be hard…..we were going to go up….and up…to Dead Womans Pass….to 4215m to be precise… the flowing undulating pathway made its way through valleys and up and up into the hills above.But the paths themselves were often quite roughly made with very uneven steps and at some points very steep inclines and erratically spaced steps.
This was going to be a long day…12 hours of walking and going from 3000m to 4215m….altitude would certainly takes its toll and effect most of us in differing degrees.The pathways meandered back and forth but we headed on,stopping for lunch with incredible views then it was off for the big push to the top….which would still take another 2 or 3 hours..
Altitude sickness is a funny thing…some wouldn’t be effected much at all whilst others had a much worse reaction to the lack of oxygen available.But what mattered to us and in particular our little group,was the fact that we helped each other and arrived at the top together.It was incredible.The views spectacular and the feeling of accomplishment…overwhelming.
As the weather was closing in and as we all know…what goes up…..it was soon time to venture down the other side and catch up with the others at our next camp.The trip down was quite precarious as the cobbled stoney step were very uneven and were covered in water and sometimes foliage.It was so much harder on the knees and legs descending and thank goodness for our trekking sticks (Pacerpoles) which made this a lot less punishing.
We made it back down to 3500m to our tents at Pacamayo where the we all gathered for the usual “happy hour” of popcorn,cookies and hot choc.Some had found the decent harder than anticipated but again after a good meal and early night it all seemed ok by the morning.
Again the call was at 4.30am to the sound of the coca tea delivery and breakfast soon followed.Today was fresh pancakes with bananas,peaches,porridge and toast….incredible people the chefs,cooks and porters are….they are real heroes……….Anyway the view we awoke to was outstanding…………..
It was soon time to set off…after filling water containers again we took off round the side of the mountains to the ruins of Runkurakay which were perched overlooking our previous nights camp.This was followed by another ascent to 4000m and the steps,again,were uneven and quite steep but by now the weather which had picked up and was quite warm and sunny.Everyones spirits were great but it was a reasonably long twisty journey to reach the summit but by then our guide Rocco had perched himself on the edge of the top and was playing a tune on the panpipes which echoed through the valley.Quite wonderful.
We passed over the top and then down to the ruins of Sayacmarca,then onwards with another hours trek to our lunch stop.The sun had really come out and even though we had descended into the rainforest,was proving very warm and showed more than ever that we needed to refill our water containers and drink as much as possible.
We gradually climbed back up out of the rainforest passing through tunnels,caves and welcoming showers of water cascading over rocks to cool us on our way to our third pass over the top today….The view was spectacular and after a quick snack break we were on our way down…again..
..to the Inca ruins of Puyupatamarca at 3200m….we were now on our way to our campsite at Winay Wayna..only 2640m..passing over landslides,shear drops,more caves,tunnels and going down more steps than you could imagine this was the journey to camp……During our trip we got to see orchids,Humming Birds and hear the sound of Toucans as the returned to their roosts….sublime…after another 12 hour trek it was now time to catch our breath…and rest up for our big day tomorrow………… the main event……
There was no coca tea call today… the porters had to pack everything away and head back away from the trail….for us however the 3.30am alarm call meant we had to get up,have breakfast and fill our packs with water to set off as early as possible to the Sun Gate with the prospect of seeing the sun rise over Machu Picchu.Before this however we were treated to a great surprise …. before we had really left our campsite.Just around the corner there was another Inca ruin… It was pitch black when we arrived at around 4.15am but as we waited only for half an hour or so….the light came up,cloud lifted to reveal an incredible sight….
Then we were off again…back through the camp and up onto the trail.Winding upwards again and into the clouds….we were then following the undulating path to the Gringo Killer steps….50 or 60 steps which were really…straight up….and fun…..
Because we had taken things easy along the way we felt great….. but…… we had noticed a few others suffering with aching knees and joints at this point..
We weren’t far from the Sun Gate now and after a short trek along some quite nice paths we arrived…to be greeted by clouds..
..not really what we wanted but hey we made it this far and Machu Picchu was just a short trek away….we waited for an hour or so for the cloud to lift with no joy and then ventured down the pathway …..we were teased often as the clouds lifted slightly catching occasional glimpses of Machu Picchu…then the cloud would lower again……..but eventually…after about 20 minutes or so…..
there it was….Machu Picchu…it really was amazing…awesome…all the things you think it will be and more….We had a short stop at a photo point with our group who we were so pleased to have completed our journey with….(thank you Dawn Hunter for the photo)
then the trip continued downwards…..it was quite surreal arriving at Machu Picchu via the backdoor and we could see already the place was quickly filling up with other tourists and parties so we took our chance and the last group photos were taken as quickly as possible.
What can we say about Machu Picchu…of course its incredible,mystical,amazing and all the other descriptions you think it will be….its a much bigger area than we thought it would be and there are so many elements to it.
If you get the chance……go….if not by trekking then go by train and bus….it is so worth it.
We then made our way back down to the entrance after absorbing all we could from this stunning place and onto an awaiting bus which took us back to Aguas Calientes where we had a great lunch and celebrated with a beer.The journey back to Cusco was made via the incredible scenic train which lasted over 3 hours but finally made our journey back full circle (via a short coach trip) to Cusco and our hotel.
Saturday was our own to drink coca tea,buy gifts and finally relax after,what had been,an unforgettable trip.The meal on Saturday evening with traditional music food and dancing made the day complete and we fell into our beds, glad it wasn’t another early morning start on Sunday.Our flight wasn’t until 3.30pm so we had another morning to ourselves so said a sad goodbye to those who were going onto the rainforest extension trip and set off for a final walk through Cusco.
We had a slight hiccup with the flight reservations on the way home and after some slightly raised voices and a lot of hair torn out we managed to get all our connecting flights back from Cusco to Lima then onto Madrid and arrived as planned back in Heathrow on the Monday evening.
We have so many photos of the journey,the people and Machu Picchu…we couldn’t possibly upload them all,but hope this has given you a sample of our trip to one of the Seven Wonders of the world……Please see our video on youtube for more pictures of our trip
(Mike and Sam Step by Step to Machu Picchu for Macmillan Cancer Support)
Our journey to get there along the Inca Trail was amazing………….the people of Peru …. great,….the guides …. incredible,….the porters…..all heroes……..and thank you to our friends and fellow trekkers who made the whole trip something we will never forget.
To Hilbert…….so many steps…….no pain no gain…………Bloody Incas……
To all our sponsors…thank you …you have made a difference…
To all of our kit sponsors..thank you ……we couldn’t have done it without you…
Especially to Dawn Hunter,Fiona Gilroy,Sian Trigwell,Tom Kane,Joanne Wright and Sue Wright a special thanks for making our journey so much fun….we were so glad we had all of you there.
and finally to you…..out there…….who read this……thank you…..its great we could share our journey with you……we hoped you enjoyed it…..
Where to next I hear you ask?………….well there is a rumour of Guatemala/Costa Rica or Nepal in 2015…..
we will of course let you know when we decide….