My Adventures so far..... The Inca Trail, Peru

**Warning folks**
 In starting this blog it was a way for me to document the travels I'd been on but I have kinda gotten side tracked with my baking and it has taken longer than expected to get round to this first travel post. So with my vacation imminent I decided it was a perfect time to share. This post is quite wordy and more for my benefit than anything so feel free to leave after you check out the pretty pictures.

I have always been antsy and a number of years ago I was looking for an adventure. It didn't matter what it was I just wanted to do something! I was out for a walk on my day off and heard an ad on the radio for Concern. They where hosting a trek in Peru to raise money for the charity. This was it. Just what I needed.

My family will tell you I am an over thinker, I scrutinise everything to the smallest detail until I get to the stage where I'm so frustrated that I just talk myself out of it and move on. I had wanted to do something for so long at this stage that I didn't even wait until I got home from my walk. I called them there and then at the side of the road. The registration pack came a few days later.I was so excited reading through it couldn't wait to get going.

Before the trek came around I had to raise the money. I held a benefit night in my local hotel and had a well known band play on the night. Although the band was a big expense, for anyone undertaking something like this I would really recommend going this route. A band with an established following  brought a lot of people to the gig which I wouldn't of had with just a local band. The bulk of the money was raised that night between the tickets and a raffle. I had great support from the community, family and friends who donated prizes, gave up their time to set up and the hotel even had the tickets printed for me saving costs there. Something I hadn't taught about and I'm not sure who informed them but a local reporter called me to see if I'd do an interview which generated a lot of publicity so a big thank you to whoever that was. The press really helped the night be a huge success.

I had done bits of hill walking before but nothing that would prepare me for altitude so I joined a gym to get prepared. I was working nights at the time so once I finished my shift I'd head straight to the gym for an hour and then home to bed. It was tough but I later appreciated the effort while trekking 4000 feet above sea level across the Andes.

When the day finally arrived my mam dropped me to the airport and we had a lovely breaky. During which she gave out the usual mammy words of wisdom and warnings. You know the ones!! I saw a few people sitting close by wearing concern t-shirts and figuring they were part of the group so I introduced myself and my mam left a bit more at ease thinking I wasn't going off on my own. My poor mammy, I don't think she slept from the time I told her I had signed up to do it.

We flew to London to meet the rest of the group, the Across the Divide team who were running the trek and catch the flight to Lima. We stopped off in the smallest pinkest airport in Caracus on the way for refueling and a brief leg stretch. A total of fifteen hours after leaving London, England we arrived in Lima and were taken to a hotel for the night. We were catching a flight to Cuzco the following morning to start the trek. On arrival in Cuzco we had some time to look around the city and try some coca tea which is said to help with altitude sickness.

From here we went to Ollantaytambo were we had a brief tour of the village before starting our first leg of the trek. Our campsite for the night was a terraced site on the side of a mountain. Not a great place for sleep walkers I can tell you. We woke early the next morning with basins of agua caliente (hot water to you and me) being brought to our tents. We had breakfast and were given some snacks for the days trekking. Back in Ollantaytambo that day we had a tour of the town and the ruins. Our guide was great, he gave us the low down of the Inca culture, customs and religion.

One house we visited gave us an idea of how people lived and still live today. It's bascially one space were they eat and sleep. They had niches in the walls were the skulls of their deceased family are placed. In Inca culture it is taught they look over the family and the property. Where we would have cats and dogs running in and out of our houses they had guinea pigs. This house had at least 30 in and around their feet. Guinea pig is a delicacy which is served at special occasions.  Or if your a tourist can be tried at a local restaurant which some of us did later in the trip.

One camp at 3200m above sea level had been closed because the teacher didn't want to come so far to work. The local kids had to walk a two hour trip each day to get to the next school and we think think we have a long commute. We played football with the kids that evening and gave them some crayons and colouring books which we had brought with us. Some of the kids sang us songs or did a little party piece to show their appreciation for the gifts.

On one of the days we came across a lone old busker singing local folklore songs in the middle of the mountains, like it was no different to busking at the corner of Yonge Street. We gave him some fruit and small donations of Nuevos Soles (local currency) as a thank you for entertaining us and went on our merry way.

The day we reached the highest point at 4445 meters {emotional to say the least but we will blame that on the altitude ok!!} we had lunch looking out over the most stunning landscape before making our way down to the next campsite where we played a game of football with some locals and had a singsong round the campfire. This was one of the best nights on the trip for me. I made myself a life long friend that night. You know who you are!!

The trek from here was pretty easy. Downhill all the way, through forests and across rivers and on to our next camp site. This one was particularly luxurious with thatched roof huts, hot showers and toilets. We had the remainder of the day to relax, catch some rays, read a book or just simply take in the view.

The following day we where off on the train taking us 100km where we got off and walked the rest of the way to Machu Picchu National Park. We reached the Sun Gate to be greeted by the guides with a huge congratulations for making it so far. After spending some time looking around we went down to the nearby village Aquas Calientes where we were staying in a hotel for the night. I know spoilt right!! We all went to a local restaurant that night to celebrate coming so far but it also happened to be one of the groups birthdays so we got to try the roasted guinea pig. 
We were up early for a return trip to Machu Picchu where we where going to have a guided tour around the ruins which we where told had been placed on this particular mountain for reasons to do with Inka religion and culture.

Source of image and meaning below

 I prefer the mythological version of events however on the flip slip the ever practical archeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti and was abandoned around the time of the Spanish Conquest. It was unknown to the outside world before being discovered by historian Hiram Bingham in 1911.

The various temples, houses and terraces are all in a very good and are still being restored to give travellers a better idea of what it was like in it's hay day. After the tour there was an opportunity for some of the group to do a further 2 hour climb up Machu Picchu mountain, behind us, for some more impressive views of the city. Some people decided not to take the extra tour and went back into the town to have a look around but i figured I had come this far why waste the opportunity.  The steps up where very narrow and quite often to my groups distress my big size 9's would trip me up. I practically stumbled for 2 hours up the mountain. The views where totally worth though!!
Here we all are in Cusco on the last night of the trip before we headed out to celebrate. This trip was exactly what I had been looking for. So humbling and self-exploratory. I would recommend something like this to anyone who is feeling lost in themselves and needs some space to figure it out. You can't get much more space than 4000m high up in the Andes.

If you made it to the end of this post fair play and thanks for reading. I would love to hear from anyone who has done something similar or is even just considering it. I apologise for the quality of the pictures, these were taken on an old school 35mm film camera long before digital entered my air space. 

Michelle xxx
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