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The Lares Trek

March 24, 2010

Hi there! It´s been a while since my last blog. I´ve been moving around so much it´s been difficult to get much free time. I´m now travelling with an Intrepid group from Lima to La Paz. Once again, I´m the youngest person in the group, with all the others at least in their thirties, and I´m also the only one who´s not Australian! As soon as our group leader, Ada, discovered I was only 18, I got the nick-name of baby-boy! During the first week, we quickly travelled down the south coast from Lima to Pisco, then to Nazca and Arequipa before returning to the great city of Cusco. By this time, I had gotten used to the group and just as well since we were about to go trekking.

My origional plan was to do the 4-day Inca trek from Ollyantaytambo up to Macchu Picchu, but I had to have booked 6 months in advance to do that. Instead, I teamed up with Ada and 4 of my Australian Companions: Sean, Jackie, Amber and Josh to do a trek from the hot springs in Lares, along the Sacred Valley to Ollyantaytambo, where we could get public transport up to Macchu Picchu. We met our tour guide, Ernesto, along with the 2 cooks, the 2 porters and their horses at Lares. They had a small tent set up which, during the course of the tour, would reveal meal after meal. When we were off, Jackie powered ahead with her rowing legs leaving us behind. We had been told to bring books,pencils and marbles for the children we meet along the way. Ada persuaded me to only give one marble to each child. It turned out to be wise advice when we were completely surrounded at the village in which we spent our first night. Amazingly, despite being put to shame by Jackie, we managed to beat the porters to the campsite! I mean they did have to take down the lunch tent and load up the horses with  all the stuff, but we still felt proud! The sun disappeared behind the mountains and things quickly turned cold, but we had a nice warm soup followed by stir-fry. Sean had also brought a bottle of Pisco to help us keep warm.

The next day was the toughest. We were going over the highest point on the mountain and it was all up-hill right from the start. Our optomism from beating the porters yesterday was short-lived, but we powered on up none-the-less. On the up-hill bits I really didn´t want to stop and loose my momentum, but that often meant I missed the best paths and ended up on the rocky, gravelly bits. This time, the porters easily over-took us. But within 2 hours (2 long hours) we made it to the pass and it was worth it for the view of the lake.

In the picture, you can see (from left to right) Josh, Amber, Jackie, Sean, Ada and me. We were told the campsite for lunch wasn´t far away but we kept on going and going without seeing it. We were spent when we arrived for lunch, but then Ernesto revealed the truth and his grand plan. Therewas talk of there being a strike in the valley meaning that we might not be able to get a taxi to Ollyantaytambo as we had planned. So, Ernesto thought that if we really paced it, we could reach tomorrow´s campsite today. As it turned out, the campsite we were eating lunch in was originally going to be the campsite we would sleep in. But now we had to keep powering along to get to the next campsite to spend the night.

It really was a struggle. The Ozzies (apart from Jackie) weren´t used to hiking and I was pretty out of practice myself. It wasn´t long before I was limping along with a blister. But we made it. We were too tired to stay up any later than 8. As luck would have it, in the morning we managed to get a taxi which had navigated the road blocks to get to us and we got a smooth ride to the railway station at Ollyantaytambo. Me, Jackie and Ada felt a bit let down that we´d only trekked for 2 days whilst those on the Inca trail were trekking for 4, so when we got to our hotel at Aguas Calientes, we went for another walk up a mountain on the edge of the Amazon.

At first, it seemed only slightly strenous, but then we came to the ladders, and the rock faces, some of them too tall to see the top of. My fear of heights was really challenged here. I recoiled when we emerged from the jungle canopy and I realized just how high we were. But the struggle didn´t stop there, we kept zig-zagging for what seemed like an eternity. As we took yet another break, some super-fit porter jogged past us ´You bastard´ was all I could think. But, eventually, many breaks later we reached the top and we rewarded by a view of Macchu Picchu from hundreds of metres above. The feeling I felt was like the feeling I would have expected from completing the Inca trail, although I doubt as many people walked this route as the Inca trail. But after getting over our high of reaching the top, we had to go right down to the bottom again. The ladders proved particularly tricky and disorientating. When we got back, we had earned our bragging rights!

The next day came the bus to Macchu Picchu. As luck would have it, it was pissing it down!

We might not have got the postcard view of the place, but we did get some spectacular sights when the mists cleared.

The whole place was so full of mystery, some of which the guides could only speculate over. After a while, me and Jackie seperated from the group to look around ourselves and have our own ideas of the place. As we climbed the steep stairs, my fear of heights really seemed a thing of the past.

I was wanting to get myself some lunch up there but the food was so expensive. I noticed that everything about Macchu Picchu was expensive and yet the roads up there were in great disrepair. The bus journey back had me really worried as we skidded all over the place. Also, I was told that the porters were so poor that when they were given trainers and boots to help them with their jobs, they simply sold them to buy food. As we watched the Beijing Olympics, Ada stated that there were no decent Peruvian athelites. But there could be. These porters carry the legendary strength of the Incas which allow them to jog routes with the greatest of ease, like the one me, Ada and Jackie struggled so much with. The porters on the Inca trail powered ahead of everyone else despite carrying so much more stuff than them. One of the group members who did the Inca trail was actually carried by one of their porters! This money should be going to these amazing people but instead, most of the money is going to Lima which I noticed was much more urban than the rest of the country. If some more of the money went to these super-human porters, Peru´s chances might really change at London 2012.

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From → Peru 2008

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