Camino de Inca y Machu Picchu -
Puno, July 24th 2002

We spent a day in the nice city of Arequipa with coble-stones on the streets and a lot of old Colonial buildings. Here Vanessa and I met up with Ian, an English friend we both met on the Encounter trip some three years ago. The next day we headed to Colca Canyon which is supposed to be the deepest canyon in the world. The roads were not the best. There were so many pot holes in the road so the driver preferred to use the semi-desert at some places instead. Here we toured the beautiful landscape and tried to avoid getting altitude sickness with the coca tea you drink daily. Supposedly you would show positive for cocaine two weeks after drinking the tea. Two people didn´t cope with the altitude and suffered vomiting and with bad headaches. The only real cure is getting to a lower altitude and rest. We also saw quite a few condors using the thermal up-winds in the mornings for hang-gliding upwards. These gracious animals with a wing span of more than 3 meters were amazing to see up close.

We took the imperial night bus to Cusco which meant it did include some food, bingo and a movie. The bingo was a good exercise of the numbers in Spanish. Returning after a late dinner the first day in Cusco, our travel agent was waiting for us telling they had double booked the Inca trail and we had to leave the next day early in the morning. I had hoped to cure my Achilles which was sore since last trek and my tummy which had found a new bug which it didn´t like. But there was no time for this so the only thing we could do was to pack our stuff and sleep some three hours before we should get picked up.

The company fancied picking us up more than an hour late the next morning so we were a tired, afraid that they missed us and angry at our travel agent. On top of all, the trail was also fully booked since they only let so many people in every day so we started a bit outside the normal trail to have something to do the first day. This meant we had to do the normal trail in three days instead of four. Vanessa unfortunately did a misstep and injured her knee, an old sport injury, the first day. One of the porters carried her to the camp that evening and she had to get the train back the next day.

The trek was actually harder than I had expected since so many people does it. We carried all personal things about 8-10 kg. The porters were amazing carrying 25 kg jogging and running past. They are really impressive just wearing shorts, t-shirt and a pair of open sandals in the not always too warm weather. We were 10 tourists and had one guide and 8 porters. The porters carried our tents, cooking tent, eating tent, tables, table clothes, camp stools and all the good food they kept serving us. So we got kind of spoiled with good food and warm tea in the tent in the morning. This made things heaps easier. I had some problems in the beginning with my tummy though. Hoped the gases I was producing could lift me over the hills or at least warm up the freezing tent at night; neither worked. The trail mainly consisted of steps steep up-hill and down-hill so it was very tough on your knees. The nature changed from temperate to cloud forest to almost jungle like. There were some nice Inca ruins to visit along the way before we the last day arrived at Machu Picchu which was just incredible. This remote city was built high up in the mountains with an astonishing architecture all surrounded by high extremely steep green mountains.

Our guide was very good even if he had had a pretty rough time. The day returning from his last trip he got mugged by a taxi driver and got a broken nose. When he finally made it home he received the news that he had to make another tour the next day - no time for doctor. Then Vanessa hurt her knee which meant he had to get her to the train. They almost missed the train so they had to hang outside the train till the next stop. Then he had to run all the way we had made the first day to catch up with us. He was very knowledgeable and it was really helpful to have him explaining all the sites and the Inca culture. Never appreciated guides before but even I can change my mind I suppose. Some day I might even appreciate museums, knock on wood.

After the Inca trail we did some touristing in and around the beautiful but over touristy town of Cusco. There where heaps of interesting places and temples mainly from the Inca period. Cusco was a good place for souvenir shopping, even if it´s not the cheapest. Most things are fairly cheap anyway.

All of Peru has been pretty cold so far and some parts of the country like Puno have been inaccessible at times since they had some 25 below freezing and loads of snow. Were afraid of heading to Puno this morning due to the weather but it was only 2, 3 degrees so we survive even if I can´t work on my non-existing tan. So we´re now in Puno on the lake of Titicaca, the highest situated navigable lakes and also the largest lake in South America. We visited an old steam boat today which was brought from England in some 3000 pieces. It took 6 years to get all parts with boat to Peru, train to the Andes and on mules over the mountains. Tomorrow were heading out to some floating islands on Lake Titicaca.

Many chilly but warm hugs my friends, Emil