On the Inca trail
We finish off in Quito with a night on the town with Jasen and one too many pisco sours, hangovers in altitude really are the pits!
We´ve decided to get to Cusco a couple of days early to acclimatise before we start the Inca trek. Cusco is a very charming city and we make the most of the fine weather by visiting a few places, our favourite being Pisac. It is in the foothills of the mountains and is truly stunning with an old world vibe. Later on as part of the Inca trail we also visit the ruins at Pisac which again blows us away. Its not just the stunning scenary but the history and the people who live in and around Cusco which we absoutely love.
One the eve of our trek we meet up with the rest of our group as well as our guide Jose. Gavin and I have been dreading this for ages, it is by far our most difficult physical challenge to date and exercise really is not our thing. As we size up the people in our group - made up of fitness and yoga instructors as well as young people and outdoorsey types we get a sinking feeling in our stomachs. What on earth are we doing? We support and encourage each other, there´s no backing now so we get with packing our bags for the next five days...
Day 1 as with all days begins super early as we have to leave by 7am. We get to our first destination a very small village that still uses some of the old weaving methods. The women of the village show us how they use plants and insects to dye the wool into various colours before its made into hats, scarves, blankets etc.
Next we stop at the Sacred Valley, named so because of the ecosystem that allows the locals to grow crops all year round which are supplied to Cusco and surrounding areas. I know we keep saying it, but the valley is beautiful, so serene and peaceful that one could easily spend quite a bit of time sitting on a rock and watching the wonder of nature in front of you. We however have to get to Pisac so its back on the bus and onwards to the next destination.
Jose leads the trek at Pisac showing us around stopping every so often for us to take pictures. Someone makes a comment about the many steep steps and Jose informs us that there are 5000 of them to get through on the Inca trail. Joy. Our education about the Incas begins with the architecture and how the Sun Temple is the focal point at every site. We soak up the stories like sponges and ask many many questions to try and understand the ancient civilisation. The one thing that amazes everyone though is how they managed to build so high up in the mountains without any machinery. Every building block is the same size and completely smooth. Everyone is tired and ready for a nap after the short trek in sweltering heat so save for the growing stomaches the journey to lunch is very quiet. I think everyone is a little worried about what is to come ahead...
After lunch we head to the village of Ollyantambo where we will be spending the night before starting the trek the following morning. We check into our hostel and Jose rounds us up to take us to the ruins in the village. We all clamber up the steps and once again Jose rewards us with story time about the Incas. We get a chance to explore the ruins before going back down for last preparations and an early night before the trek begins.