It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been back from my trip to Peru and I’ve finally had a chance to write about it. It takes me a lot longer these days to write blogs than it use to.
I went to Peru with two of my girlfriends, Kate and Char. We planned our trip to leave Toronto and fly directly to Lima, then staying at the airport until our early morning flight to Cusco. From Cusco we would begin our 4 day jungle trek to Machu Picchu. I arrived at Pearson Airport first, but before long we had made it through security, got our local currency (Peruvian Soles) and had a glass of wine, all before boarding.
The flight there was slightly rougher than expected, usually I can sleep anywhere but I was having so much trouble getting comfortable. It was not the greatest start to the trip considering we were about to be up for more than 24 hours! Fast forward through our long travel day, we arrive in Cusco airport, changed out of our plane clothes into something comfortable and tried to bargain for a good taxi deal (we come to learn this is not a strong quality amongst our group).
Our taxi dropped us off at our Airbnb where we patiently and thankfully waited for our host who let us in/leave our things at about 8am. Cusco’s elevation is about 3,399m or about 11,151 ft, for comparison Toronto’s elevation is 76m or 246 ft. We were definitely concerned about altitude sickness, and we were told that adjusting to this elevation could take more than 24 hours, and usually takes between 24-48 to be completely acclimatized. Too bad for us we had just about 24 hours to adjust before embarking on this trek. Our Airbnb host invited us to her living room for some coca tea to help us with the altitude and showed us some places around town to see. She only spoke Spanish so lucky for us, Kate was able to conserve on behalf of Char and I. We spent the day walking around Cusco and stumbling into many squares with churches and old buildings, these squares or plazas became busier and busier as the day went by. Given our long travel day, but the time it was lunchtime we had walked around Cusco and were absolutely exhausted. We went to sit on the church stairs in the city’s main square and ended up having a quick nap (the most necessary). We decided we would grab something quick to make for dinner, and snacks for day 1 of our trek and planned on going to bed early. Our guide was suppose to meet us at our Airbnb at 7pm that night to go over when he would be picking us up in the morning and all of the items we needed for the trek. After a lot of miscommunication and waiting around, someone finally showed up at 10:15pm… wayyyyy past the bedtime we hoped for. AND we also found out that we would be carrying our bags the entire trip and the three of us had big backpacks (65L) and small day packs (about 20-30L). We were in a panic trying to figure out what to do, it was clear that we only needed to pack a small bag of things for this trek and that bringing the big bags would have been absolute death (literally). Luckily our Airbnb host was the kindest lady in the world and allowed us to leave our big bags in her living room until we returned from the trek!
Inca Jungle Trek Day 1:
Renee (our tour guide) picked us up at 7:30am the next morning and briskly walked us to the main square to pick up 2 more travellers (from USA) before basically speed walking to the van. The van picked up 2 more girls from Ireland and an Israeli traveler was already at the van when we arrived. We drove through little Peruvian towns, along dirt rounds and winded up and down roads that wrapped around the mountainous terrain. After 3 hours we pulled over into a lot off the road to gear up for our first activity of the trek, mountain biking! We wore chest protector, shin pads, helmets and reflective vests in case vehicles couldn’t see us for any reason. Personally, I was shitting my pants before this activity and on top of that I felt like shit from the winding roads and almost puked!! Also the last time I was on a bike (that wasn’t stationary) was 3 years ago in Vancouver and I also fell off and died then too.. So you can understand my hesitation!! The first bit of the ride seemed ok, except every time I tried to peddle I couldn’t move, at the break I learned that one of my gears wasn’t correct! The break spot was a beautiful panoramic view of the Urubamba River down in the valley. Once my bike was fixed, we continued down the mountainous winding roads, crossing streams that would wash you into the landscape if you didn’t slow down properly and change your gears. This activity was breathtaking, there aren’t many words that describe how beautiful it was to be biking along the edge of a mountain!!
After biking 50km down the mountain, we took a short bus ride to the little town called Santa Maria. Elevation: 1200m (3937 ft). We arrived in this little town where we had a homemade meal and then we were off to go white water rafting. It was early evening by the time we made it close to the river, the gear was wet, it was cold and we were not the most excited to say the least. They briefly taught us our cues and then we were off! The rapids were decent, water cold and we actually had a pretty good time! Minus the fact that our guide pushed Char so far back that she got engulfed by waves, it was a fun ride. Our guide was trying to be funny but pushed it a little too far.
We got another homemade meal and we were off to bed early, because of our early wake up call the next morning.
Inca Jungle Trek Day 2:
Day 2 of our trek was one of our bigger days, about 10 hours of hiking from just above the river, to the tops of the mountain and finished the hike along the river’s edge then led us to the hot springs near Santa Theresa, elevation: 1500m (4921 ft). It began relatively early. We met for breakfast at 7:30 and started hiking along the road we had drove on the previous night. We came to a trail in the jungle and took that down, closer to the water. We crossed a bridge and continued walking along a gravel road, among derelict structures that seemed to have no life. The road winded just above the river and we followed it for a while until we reached another opening to the jungle. This time it was an uphill climb, a tough 10 mins of 45 degree angle climb. We reached a sign that read “welcome to the inca trail”, a very small part of an enormous civilization.
Our first stop of the day is what we called the monkey house. It was a woman’s house who had a monkey. He was tied up due to visitors and because he was aggressive (but roams free when tourists aren’t around. She grew coffee beans and had a traditional way of cleaning them and sorting them to ensure that they were okay. We stayed for a while, a much needed break and our guide Renee explained the traditional cleaning process of coffee beans.
We continued walking the inca trail, along the mountain’s edge, and up steep inclines. We stopped and our guide painted our faces with some plant that many cosmetic companies use as a natural dye. [Video]
The next stop was a larger production, there were various animals including dogs, parrot, cats and this thing that looked like a rodent. Here we tried 100% cocoa bean, which was bitter. Have you ever tried chocolate that was 70% cocoa and you’re wondering why you even bothered because you want chocolate to be sweet? This was about 30% worse. Then we tried some with honey and it was so good, still a bit bitter but alright. Renee passed about 2 types of juice, one was passionfruit, which you can imagine was sweet. The second one was made from black corn, it was a strange taste but not that bad. After the juice, he pulled out this brown drink that was stuffed with various vegetation that we had passed along our trek. He invited us to take a shot and of course, I was first. It was a strong liquor that had an after taste of liquorice. The next bottle was similar but had a snake in it, I passed on that shot considering it was still early in our 22km hike day.
After our drinks, Renee brought us over and dressed us up in traditional inca wear. It was so funny and the outfits were quite beautiful. Every time he takes a photo he makes us say things in Spanish and we have no clue what he’s saying. For all we know he could be telling us to insult ourselves! After some pictures and a few laughs we were on our way again.
I could go on and on about the views we saw along the way but I’d rather just share pictures (which, by the way, do not even do any justice to how beautful these places were). The following pictures are from along our hike on the Inca trail up until we ended at the hot springs. Along the way, we stopped at a coffee plantation where we were ale to grind coffee, buy some to bring home and where we learned the delicate art of preparing a guinea pig (we did not witness it, just were told how it works, while they were running around).
After the hot springs we got another wonderful homemade meal, and got tricked into partying that night. They turned the restaurant we ate dinner at into a bar, pushing the tables aside, cranking the music and dancing. We had a decently early wake up call the next day for zip lining and more hiking.
Inca Jungle Trek Day 3:
We woke up the next morning not feeling 100%, but we got our butts out of bed and to breakfast, before heading to the zip lining place. There were 5 zip lines and 1 suspension bridge, it was so beautiful. We zipped across the valley over top of the rushing river, absolutely incredible.
Video: Zip line with a partner
Video: Upside down Zip Line
Our afternoon was a 3 hour hike along the train tracks to the town of Aguas Calientes, elevation: 2,040 m (the town to access Machu Picchu). This hike was suppose to be our easiest hike, it was flat and only 3 hours long. We severely underestimated how much this hike would actually suck. First of all, the rocks along the tracks were hardly walkable, I walked along the wooden beams of the train tracks, until a train approached and to top it all off it was pouring rain. A solid stream of rain for 2 of the 3 hours! Lucky for me, my rain jacket kept me pretty dry, but my legs were just soaked, I wore shorts so my clothes didn’t get completely wrecked! Others in our group weren’t as lucky. Once we got to the town, we settled into our hostel, got some food and went to bed early!
Inca Jungle Trek Day 4: Machu Picchu
The day you’ve all been waiting for. I know this blog has been long, but the last day of the trek was incredible. We woke up at a fun hour of 3:30 am! We packed our things and luckily we didn’t have to bring all of our belongings with us. The hike started in Aguas Calientes and followed an Inca path up to the base of Machu Picchu, elevation: 2,430 m. The hike was about a 400m increase in elevation and took about an hour and a half, it was dark, started out chilly but got warm, pretty quickly. Once I got to the base of Machu Picchu and made it inside, it was about 6am! Our tour guide told us stories about the this Sacred Inca Place, we walked all around the ruins until about 8am. Took a little break and we were heading up to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain, elevation: 3,061 m.
I thought the morning climb was difficult. The morning hike cut through the road the buses took, so there were steps up to each part of the road all the way up to the entrance of Machu Picchu. I had trouble continuing up each set of steps as the incline was steep and the elevation continuously increasing. Let me tell you, the mountain portion, which increased the elevation from Machu Picchu another 600 m. It took us about an hour and a half at a 55 degree incline almost the entire way. It was both mentally, and physically one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was well worth it though, the pictures don’t even do the place justice! After we got to the top, we hiked all the way down back to the town and got on a fairly luxurious train that took us back to Cusco. The next two days we spent in Lima and headed home from there.
If you want to catch a lil’ video put together by my girl Kate, here it is! Peru Video
Well, now that I’ve written about Peru, I’ll have to start my blog about my east coast trip, which will take me another month…
Until next time,