The time had finally come to accept my fate.
I was in Peru and had to visit the world renowned Machu Picchu site. However, since I’m not your typical hiking gal, I didn’t book the classic Inca Trail, but the Jungle Trek tour, through Inkas Chacana Tour Agency, and I loved the experience.
Picked up from my hostel at 7am, I joined a small group who would be as close as family for the next three days. We drove to Abra Málaga at 4300ft and biked 40km downhill, looking like riot police with the amount of gear we had on. It didn’t stop us from getting soaked, however, when the heavens opened and we had to bike through tiny rivers, caused by landslides, due to the heavy rain.
Since it was the wet season, it was too dangerous for us to go rafting, so we had plenty of free time when we reached Santa Maria where we were staying the night. Commence the card games, as there was not a lot else to do in Santa Maria. The “hostel” we stayed in seemed empty, resembling a ghost orphanage than a hostel, with lots of empty beds crammed into one tiny room.
The next morning, we got up at 6am to have breakfast before heading out to trek eight hours, with half of the town’s population of dogs following us. We started along a dirt road and our guide told us facts and stories about Inca culture (stay away from any “magic beans”, as they are chilies and will blow half your face off). And then the climbing began.
The pit-stops were interesting, with various animals about the place, including a monkey, a parrot and a strange large rodent. During these much needed breaks, we tried a spirit with a dead snake inside the bottle (still not convinced how hygienic this was) and stuffed a ball of coca leaves in our mouths, turning them numb.
Shenanigans to distract us between trekking
We also tried Machu Picchu coffee, which is apparently the world’s best coffee. Then we had some fun with a natural plant colorant.
Super cool trekkers
We eventually started the Camino Inka, the original Inca trail, which had gorgeous stone steps and a mossy green valley sweeping epically to the side of us. After one last hell of a climb, we made it to the hot springs! I cannot describe how great it was to peel off our nasty clothes and soak for a good two hours. I emerged like a glorious prune.
Santa Theresa was our home for the night and our group was the only one to be little overzealous with the “Inka tequila”. To say that ziplining early the next morning was a struggle for all of us, would be a massive understatement. But it was a lot of fun flying between mountains, despite the raging hangover.
Leaving Santa Theresa, we gathered our stuff, climbed another goddamn hill and made our way to the hydroelectric plant, where we walked along the train tracks. For three hours, I plugged myself into my iPod and admired the green valley, gushing river and waterfalls. Soon, we reached Aguas Calientes, which, despite being extremely touristy, was a pretty little town, tucked away at the base of the valley.
After we were given our tickets to Machu Picchu, as well as our train tickets back to Cusco, we got an early night, because at 4am the next day we were up and about in torrential rain. Yippee.
At 5am, the gate to the site opened and we all walked across the bridge to begin the most horrendous climb of our lives. We clambered up steep steps, with a waterfall streaming under our hands and feet, in complete darkness for over an hour. No one thought to bring a torch in our group, since that’s just how we roll – completely unprepared. It was hell. Everything was wet and hurting. I was even beaten by a three-legged dog, the shame.
Gradually, we crawled up to the ticket office of Machu Picchu, where we devoured packed breakfasts and finally proceeded to the archaeological site. We walked along a path that led to the middle of the terraces where we could see absolutely nothing. Cloud consumed everything, meaning that our guided tour was short and sweet. All I remember from the tour is the condor temple, which my friend dubbed the vagina temple and now that is all I can remember of the majestic Machu Picchu.
We left to buy much needed coffee and waited for the sun to rise and the rain to piss off. We returned to the site (you can leave up to three times) and climbed past the famous guardhouse, where you can take that shot, to a quiet ledge with a great view, gradually drying out under the heat of the sun. Feeling less traumatised by the morning, we started to take in just how impressive the view of Machu Picchu was, surrounded by breath-taking mountains and fascinating history.
We left at midday and walked back, admiring the steps that we hated only a few hours before. Once we reached Aguas Calientes, we distracted ourselves with pizza and beers before our train back to Cusco. Upon arriving in Cusco, we reunited for what we convinced ourselves would be a few beers, but was instead a night filled with chaos. A brilliant end to a brilliant trek.