26.09.2016 - 27.10.2016
Before we embarked on our two weeks together, Alli and I came up with two hashtags or slogans for our time together. #AlliandElliedrinkPeru and #AlliandElliehikePeru. So far we have only succeeded at the latter. While we have tried lots of local drinks (Arequepina beer in Arequipa, Cusquena in Cusco and area, Pisco sours, Chilcadas, lots of wine), the fact that we have not slept past 5am for the past ~week did not make us into the biggest party people. But man did we succeed at the whole hiking thing. Canadian girls at home in the mountains! And our 4 day Lares Trek to Machu Picchu did noooot disappoint!!
Our first day started with a 5:00am front door pickup. We had spent the day before wandering Cusco, shopping a bit, and attending the tour orientation so we had met our companions for the tour already. Thomas and Margot from Holland, and our guide for the full 4 days, Percy. We got a bit of sleep on the drive and then a stop for breakfast at an adorable restaurant before exploring the Incan ruins of Pisac. Arriving before 7:00am meant no other tourists, we literally had this amazing old Incan city to ourselves....
Back on the bus to drive to a town called Calca to stop at a local market where we bought food and toys to give to local children we saw along the trek. I loved this, Percy would introduce us to the kids, they were all so adorable and would say thank you and then run home to their parents in little stone houses in the middle of the mountains.
Our trekking began a little further down the road where we met our mules (who carried our duffel bags), cowboy, porters, and chef. So let me just (try to) quickly explain how amazing SAM travel, the camping, and the staff were. These local men (who live in many of the towns we passed through) lead the mules ahead of us, at a crazy fast pace of course, set up camp for lunch or dinner, have a food tent, or sleeping tent, or even a baños (bathroom) tent, complete with hole in the ground, seat (with a lid-surprisingly uncommon in Peru!), and zipper entrance. Then when we finish the next meal, we leave with Percy, they pack everything up, pass us along the way and have the next camp ready. This is not camping. This is glamping. They are nice, gracious, hard-working people... And the food! We ate better food out in the mountains than any town we were in.. 4 or 5 course meals, so many local foods, boiled water everyday. Wake-up every morning (unfortunately at 4 or 5 am) with a gentle knock on the tent and a cup of coca tea. So yeah, I loved it.
Our first day we hiked about 12km, up to 3900m at Cancha Cancha, the first small village. We gained about 1000m on the first day but it didn't feel that difficult as it was over a long distance. Plus I was probably distracted by the beauty all around.
We made camp about an hour past here, at about 4100m. So now that I've raved about how much I loved everything.. Here comes the bad part... Altitude sickness. I got it. Apparently my body does 'ok' hiking in and out of high elevation but it doesn't like sleeping there. The second day I woke up feeling the sickest I ever have. Google any basic symptom of altitude sickness, I had it. But you know what, I was still in the middle of the mountains, with amazingly helpful staff and I had no way to go but forward. They had an emergency mule that would be my noble steed for the day, lead the whole way by the cowboy, Ezekiel. They let me sleep in the tent the longest possible as they packed everything else up, then it was out, onto my mule for the climb to 4700m. Basically every time I stood up I had to vomit and unfortunately some spots were too steep and slippery for me to be on the mule so I had to walk... Just sitting it was hard enough not to puke, my whole body ached, everything got worse as we climbed and it was freezing up there.. So yeah, I can safely say it was the hardest thing I've ever done. I also had to walk basically the whole way down, it was tough and rainy/snowy at first, but every step down to lower elevation, things got better. I'm proud to say I only cried twice.. When I realized I couldn't complete the second day hiking.. And when we saw the orange SAM travel tents and arrived at camp. That cowboy got the biiiiggest hug from me. And then I took the biiiiggest nap.
So I didn't get many pictures from the day. But Alli did!
Here's my ride..
This was my only picture as I was walking the final leg..
And Alli's pics...
Honestly, the worst part of the sick day was missing the food. Anyone who knows me a little bit knows how much I love food. So to miss out on three of the amazing meals from our chef was actually the worst!
I slept about 12 of the next 24 hours, managed to have some soup for supper and feel much more alive at 4am of day 3. There was an option to take a bus ride to the next stop but I absolutely wasn't doing that, if my body would carry me, I would climb the next mountain! The next 14 km (7km up and 7km down) were probably the slowest hike I've ever done.. But I made it. Ezekiel sent his son behind us with a mule just in case (which was so nice!!), but that just motivated me even more to make it on my own two feet. Which was worth it for this view...
I mean look how happy I am to have made it...
Canadian girls loving the mountains
And the llamas we hiked beside a lot of the time..
We descended slowly to our awaiting bus which took us to our destination reward.. Hot springs! Felt so good on our tired muscles. The SAM travel staff even set up a tent inside the hot springs for us to have our last lunch from them. Fantastic as usual. Then we said goodbye to the porters, cowboy and chef and off by bus to Ollantaytambo, one step closer to Machu Picchu. We had supper at a restaurant there, which was good, but not SAM travel good!. Then train to Aguas Calientes for the night. In a hotel. With a hot shower. And a bed. Oh the simple things!
Alli and I decided we really wanted to be on that first bus to Machu Picchu. Which meant a 3am wake-up. I mean, after two weeks of no sleep, what's one more night? We had to wait in the queue at 3:30am for about an hour and a half, but we were indeed on that very first bus and we got to see our final destination with much fewer people, and watch the sun rising between the mountains to shine on Huayna Picchu (the mountain behind the city). Worth it!!!
So yeah, we took a looooot of pictures in those first couple hours..
Then we met up with Thomas, Margot and Percy. They came up later as they had a train that was two hours later than us the night before. Percy took us to see the Inka Gate, the Inka Trails around the area leading to the city, then we had a bunch of time with him in the actual city for explanations and history. He had told us so many things along the 3 previous days of trekking, and it all seemed to come together in the city. He was so knowledgable and interesting to listen to.
We took a break before our next climb and hung out with some llamas.
Then Alli and I had our final hike together in Peru, climbing Huayna Picchu. 700m up in less than 2km. Short but not exactly easy. Some parts are pretty steep, you really feel on the edge of a mountain (Mom, you would have HATED it ).
Again, worth it for the view.
The climb down was just as scary. After one last look at Machu Picchu, we headed out to wait for a bus back down. We met Percy for lunch in Aguas Calientes and then had to say goodbye to him as well. Alli and I both had to fight back tears, unable to believe that our biggest event of the two weeks was coming to an end. Goodbyes suck.
Our train back to Ollantaytambo was more comfortable than on the way there. We sat with some awesome American girls, had great visits about our respective treks, enjoyed a weird traditional dance from a performer on the train, as well as a fashion show for Alpaca clothes they were selling (weird but hilarious).
The last bus to Cusco was less than comfortable and thankfully short, we finally made it back to our hostel, had a shower and some food and slept like babies!!
So... In conclusion of my longest blog post yet... This was without a doubt my favourite thing I have done on the trip so far. The trek we chose was amazing, the people we met, places we saw, exceeded my expectations, and Machu Picchu wasn't even the best part, it was more like the cherry on top. And best of all, I got to do it all with the most amazing travel companion. Only having one more day to spend in Cusco with Alli was a sad realization! #AlliandElliehikePeru was a huge success!