It hasn’t been long since our last post, but we’ve done so much in the last five days we had to share. We are now in Puno, Peru and will be crossing the border to Bolivia tomorrow where will we will have a much needed rest in the lakeside town of Copacabana.
The last five days have been jam packed with mountian biking, trekking, zip lining, rock climbing, racing up a mountain in the middle of the night and finally checking out the incredible Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
It all started the night before our Trek actually at the Loki hostel where we were staying. We decided after our trek briefing to have a drink or two at the bar and meet some of the other travellers. As you can imagine it turned into a very fun filled, albiet slightly wasted, evening. They had organised drinking games to get the party started. Ben and I jumped in line for Musical Chairs and unfortunately I was out after the first round. Ben however made it to the finals which consisted of dancing on the bar (Coyote Ugly style!) and stripping down to his Calvin Kleins! They then demanded I join him on the bar and as a ‘wedding gift’ made us drink far too many free Jager bombs. They even played Here Comes the Bride and the whole bar clapped and cheered for the only newlyweds brave enough for backpacker hostels on a honeymoon. After Ben stripped down to his undies for a free tee shirt, I signed up for the next drinking game which involved picking up a cereal box with just your mouth, without touching the ground with your knees or your hands. After each round the cereal box halved in size, until the final round which was simply a napkin. Lucky for me my Bikram Yoga practice prepared me for such a challenge and I too now have a Loki tee shirt. It was a very late night considering our early start (6am) the next morning…
We woke up needing much more sleep, but excited for the day ahead – mountain biking. After a three hour drive from Cusco, we hopped on our bikes and flew down the mountain. Turn after turn, and u-bend after u-bend we decended almost 2,000 metres. It was beautiful. We then hit the dirt road which required a lot more concentration and effort, but was a lot more fun. We had a group of about 25 who were all really fun so the trip was off to a good start. We finally made it to Santa Maria town at about 4PM where lunch was being served – and if you know my man this was a very difficult few hours. After ‘lunch’ we relaxed in our family hostel before a casual dinner and an early night.
The next day was our intense trekking day – 26 km on an Inka Trail which was discovered 14 years ago. It was very very steep and far too close to the cliff face for my liking. Physically we were fine, and actually looked forward to the intense climbs, but mentally I was struggling being so close to the sheer cliff edge. I unfortunately had a bit of a panic attack at the top of one of the cliffs, but managed to calm myself down with a little love and support (and lots of handholding!!!) from my hubby 😉 We made it to our final destination, the hot springs, around 5:30. It was awesome to soak in the hot springs after a 12 hour day of hiking. That night after dinner and tasting the very strong Inka Tequilla, we all went out to the local ‘discoteque’. Santa Teresa town was tiny and the disco was empty when we arrived. Our guide Jimmy told me it was only run for the tourists (which was very obvious) and the only Peruvians that go there are the tour guides. It was an awesome night out dancing with all our new buddies.
The next morning, again after too little sleep, we went ziplining. I don’t know how I convinced myself to do it but after getting through my fears the day before I thought it a good opportunity to challenge myself again and I’m so happy I did. I knew I would enjoy it and since it was the highest zip line in all of South America (250m high and 400 m long), there was no way I was going to miss out! I even convinced myself to do it alone rather than with the guide. Check out the photos (which we’ll upload soon) and you’ll see just how incredible it was. That afternoon we trekked the final 4 hours to Aguas Calientes which is the town closest to Machu Picchu. It was a beautiful trek along the river and was a welcome change from the cliffs the day before. We were in bed bright and early since the next day was a 3:30 am start!
We woke up at 3:30 to leave the hostel by 4 to walk the 2.5 km to join the queue at the stairs that lead to Machu Picchu. Why so early you ask? Well, because Machu Picchu receives nearly 1,000 visitors a day during the high season, they restrict the number of tickets (only 400) to climb Wayna Picchu mountain – the mountain and additonal Inca site that looks down over the lost city. Because the ticket counter opens at 6AM, and the stairs leading up to the ticket office open at 5am, it is important to be there as early as possible to get in line to secure your spot.
It was just about 5AM and completely pitch black but the race was on (there were tons of other tourists in line in front of us). Ben and I powered to the top of these extremely steep and seemingly endless (2.5km) rock stairs. We were on a mission and I think our competitive nature took over. We made it to the top and were 20th in line! It was incredible to enter the site when no one else was there – the city bit by bit emerged from the cloud cover. It was breathtaking. After everyone else in the group arrived, we toured the city with our guide and hear about its history, how it was built etc. At 10am it was our turn to climb the extremely steep Waynu Picchu mountain. Again, we had about 400 metres of ridiculously steep stairs to climb to make it to the top. After the huffing and puffing, we made it and the views were definitely worth it. We then took our time coming down before we hiked up to the Sun Gate which is on the other mountain that neighboors Machu Picchu city. It was not as steep of a climb but after our killer morning, it wasn’t the easiest either. It was about 2pm and we decided we’d make our way back down to Agaus Calientes – a further 8km (down the stairs at least!) We were exhausted and slept the whole train/bus ride back to Cusco.
Wow, what an incredible four days!