Inca trail – killed it!!! In actual fact it wasn’t the Inca trail that we did but the Salkantay trek instead as we booked too late for Inca trail permits. The Salkantay trek is actually harder than the Inca trail which had left me more than a little panicked, however, I still nailed it!
We were leading the charge 50 metres ahead of the guides and horses that were meant to get to camp before us to set up. In all honestly, I thought that I would spend a great deal of my time riding those same ’emergency’ horses. Trailing at least another 50 metres behind the horses were the rest of the group. Shocked? I know I am! I know what you’re thinking and no, the people in our group weren’t 110 years old, each weighing an average of 275lbs! There were actually quite a few experienced trekkers in the group. In your face chronic fatigue! There is definitely something to be said for fresh mountain air over the polluted streets of Hong Kong!
I wanted to pinch myself but it was too cold. We didn’t pack any warm clothes in our daypack as we didn’t realise we were hiking to a beautiful snow capped mountain on our first day. We camped under that same snow capped mountain and it was the coldest night that I have ever experienced. We had -8 degree sleeping bags and I was wearing 3 jumpers, 2 thermal trousers, tracksuit bottoms and a woolly hat and I still lay awake shivering all night.
After drinking the bottled water that had practically frozen in the tent, my stomach twisted and cramped in agony. I initially thought that it was food poisoning and let me tell you that trying to do a number 2 in a hole in the ground, in the dark and in the freezing cold is the most uncomfortable, unflattering, unfeminine thing that I have ever done. I realise that telling you about it is equally as unfeminine and you may look at me differently after this, but I feel that I need to share this with you for you to fully appreciate the sacrifices we made in pursuit of seeing Machu Pichu.
For my boyfriend Dan, it wasn’t just about the taking part but about winning the ‘race’. He was incredibly competitive and needed to come first in every section. Heaven forbid if I wanted to stop to take a picture or do my coat up or take a swig of water. Stopping for a pee was like a formula one pit stop – tactically planned, allowed only when we had a good lead and in and out in 5 seconds. I spent many a time still pulling my pants up whilst walking. Kisses were allowed at scheduled stops only and when it started to rain, I wasn’t allowed to stop and put my waterproof trousers on. And he says I’m the fun police! Avoiding the wrath of Evans was what kept me going – it was a case of keep up or be left behind. Thank God for Coca leaves…
Frustratingly, it didn’t matter how much of a lead we got as designated group meeting stops meant that we could be waiting for half an hour for the last person in the group to arrive, only to have someone who came in behind us start the next section off in front. Dan would then strop until we managed to overtake, which wasn’t always easy on such small paths. I would find myself, against my will, praying for uphill sections as I knew that their stamina would run out and that they would fall back, allowing us to push on and after putting a suitable amount of distance between us, I would be allowed to relax a little and you know, maybe take in some of the amazing scenery that we were there to see (at scheduled stops of course)!
The third day saw an unjust victory for one of the girls from team China! She had taken on a competitive streak on day 2 and saw her chance 20 minutes from the finish line, where Dan had already been waiting at the designated group stop for 5 minutes. With a blatant disregard for the competition rules, she ignored the group stop and continued, giving Dan a silent finger as she went, which sent steam flying out of his ears!
Little did any of us know though that there was an additional section to be completed – as they heard the news, their eyes met and off she went before the gun for the start of the race went off, but despite her best attempts at cheating, we took that b*tch down!
Day 4 set a precedent – we were so close and now I wanted it too. My competitive streak had now kicked in and I was determined not to let team China get her much wanted victory, but this posed a huge challenge for me as day 4 was uphill all the way with hundreds of inca steps to tackle, whilst trekking through the jungle in a tropical climate, sweating and breathless. Despite day one being incredibly tough, trekking up to 4500 metre altitude and day 2 trekking 9 hours straight and 1500 metres downhill, day 4 was, by far, the toughest for me and now the competition was officially on!
When we allowed team China to get close enough we could see in her eyes that she wanted it but we weren’t about to give up without a fight. At times I thought that I would collapse but I was spurred on by the sound of the clapity clap of trekking poles in the distance. I’m proud and still incredibly shocked to be able to say ‘game, set and match to team Hong Kong’!!!
The guide had told us that the uphill part of this hike would take 4 hours but we did it in 2.5. Dan was offered a job as a porter as he did all of this with 7kg on his back and with the amount we all ended up giving in tips, this job opportunity could actually rival broking in current market conditions!
After 4 days of tough trekking and camping, we reached Machu Pichu to be greeted by a thick layer of fog and heavy rain. We could have been in Stone Henge for all we could see. It was more like Machu Poncho than Machu Pichu! It was bloody miserable if I’m honest.
The rain meant that it was too dangerous to climb Huayapichu mountain but we hung around for long enough for the fog and rain to clear for a short period of time and were able to hike to the sun gate (the Inca trail entrance to Machu Pichu), where we had views of Machu Pichu in all it’s glory. Despite the weather’s best attempts, nothing could take away from the magnificence of Machu Pichu!
VIDI, VICI, VENI!
Upon return to Cusco we checked straight into Peru’s finest hospital where Dan was put on a drip for 24 hours as he had pushed himself so hard on the Salkantay trek that his ankles had swollen up like balloons! He had also been bitten at least 157 times on his legs by mosquitos and had developed a deep tissue infection. Should you ask him about it, he will tell you that he nearly had to have his legs amputated! I guess team China had the last laugh after all!
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