January 2nd, 2010
From flesh-eating jungle bugs to the glorious ancient Inca ruins, the four day Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu can only be described by one word: Epic.
Day One-Mountain Biking
The first day of our trek promised to start off fantastically, with a torrential downpour causing our mountain biking trek to be blocked in ways that would have made any American tour company cancel the trip. For South America, es bien! We dress ourselves as rain-proof as possible (ie, everyone in their fabulous North Face gear as I struggle with a one-size too small Gap rain jacket), and hop onto the bikes to brave the weather. We begin biking downhill with no problems, sans the rain semi-blocking my vision. I´ve stratigcally placed myself at the tail end of the pack, so I will be forewarned of any dangers in the road ahead. Within minutes I come across an intense river blockage in the road. It looks as if the river dam has broken, causing the river to dangerously flow rapid across the street.
I make it in time to see three tourists from our group have biked across the obstruction, while a fourth is mid-way through. Which is as far as she got. She pauses for a moment, causing the river to sweep her away into the below rapids. She is taken a few feet down river, and is luckily able to pull herself out before being dragged down the precarious bottom flow of the river. Unfortunately, she has to say adios to her bike, which suffered a far worse fate. Immediately after she slithers out of the water, drenched to the bone, a fourth tourist from our group decides he can make it across. Before anyone can stop him, he begins pedaling hard to make it across the river (er, road?). In a few seconds, the almighty river sweeps him away and he is not as lucky as the girl before him. Unable to get out of the water, he struggles for a few seconds before being dragged further downstream. He is finally able to stand, but alast the river wins the power struggle and drags him a few feet further down. Finally, he makes a last-ditch attempt to stand and prevails over the river; he is out at last! Although he has made it out of the river relatively unscathed, his torn pants and wet camera beg a different story.
The tour guide spends the next 30 minutes attempting a rescue mission on the two lost bikes, eventually saving one of them! The other is lost in the abyss, but will make a nice present for a little Peruvian boy who happens upon it 30km into the next village! The rest of the day consists of us biking in the rain, with only one more mishap (slipped bike on the slick roads). After an hour of torrential downpour, the sun finally comes out! Soaked and chilled to the bone, I do one of the many Peruvian wardrobe changes ( “the weather is fickle like women”, as Peruvians say) and finish the rest of the bike ride in a tank top and capris.
Days 2-3: Trekking
The first day of the trek commences with a whopping 26km (approx 16 mile) hike through the Inca Jungle. Let the intense jungle bug-bitting begin! Sadly for me, I apparently have sweet blood and am always the first and most popular attack victim for mosquitos and bugs alike. The best part of the hike was not the bugs, but rather the wonderful oasis-like restaurant found in the middle of the jungle. We stop for a wonderful spaghetti lunch (how Peruvian, right?), followed by a one hour siesta in a hammock, as rain droplets lightly fall on my face. Actually not as pleasant as it sounds, rain droplets are ish annoying when sleeping. Hence I slept with my poncho has a blanket!
The next day of the trek consists of a 6 hour walk along train tracks (have you ever tried walking along train tracks? That is one tedious journey, trying to avoid the rocks and only step on randomly scattered wood boards!). Once we arrive in Aguas Calientes, the last stop to Machu Picchu, we have our final supper as a group and get ready to celebrate New Years Eve. We all gather at 11:30 pm, have some drinks and move to a bar to salsa-dance the New Year away! We stay up till 2am and wake at 3:30 am (yes 1.5 hours later) to embark upon our glorious trek to Machu Picchu!
Sleep-deprived (some still drunk) and with minimum water and food, we slowly but surely make our way up the 600 km to view the awe-inspiring ancient Inca civilization of Machu Piccu. We make it to the the Machu Picchu entrance a bit before 6am and stand in line for tickets to Wayna Picchu, the 800m higher mountain which provides the most beautiful view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding Peruvian mountains.
Within a few hours of touring Machu Picchu, I run out of water. Uh-ohs. One hour later, I have finished my food. Double uh-ohs. We all know I´m not good sans food and water. And, I need to pee. After “marking my territory” at Machu Picchu (hehe/oops sorry ancient Inca gods!), I take some photos with llamas (que cute!!) and am ready to begin the steep and formidable ascent up Wayna Picchu (yes, sans water and food).
Our new-found friends, Elaine and I make it up Wayna Picchu in non-record breaking time, and enjoy the amazing view of Machu Picchu/take a nap. I scramble up the last 50 meters to officially be at the top of the mountain, where a swarm of weird and huge jungle bugs call their home. I spend 4 minutes shreaking and swatting away huge flies/moqsuitos, pose quickly for a photo opp, and very quickly run/fall off the summit.
After making our way down Wayna Picchu, careful not to fall off the nearby cliff, we traverse Machu Picchu and finally make it to the bottom, where we can take a 22 sole (7 USD) bus back to town. Oh wait, Elaine and I only have 39 soles between the two of us. Guess we´re walking some more. 2 hours and a parched throat later, I make it down to town!! Hooray, the epic journey is complete.
Or not. We are, of course, in South America, where nothing goes quite as planned. Our 6pm train tickets? Lost in a confusing mess of language barriers and incompetent people. After a few hours of confusion, most of our group is able to locate their lost train tickets. Who can’t located his train ticket? The one person in our group who is on a tight deadline; he has a plane to Chile to catch early the next morning, from Cusco (the location the train is taking us to). Uh-ohs. Andy spends the next few hours running around town, trying to
a) locate his train ticket
b) get his backpack which is hindered by the fact that he cant find his room key (which was in his pocket the whole time…this is where sleep deprivation and hours of hiking without food and water get you) and
c) locate his missing jacket with his camera inside. Our train leaves at 6PM and sure enough at 5:55 I see Andy and the rest of our group running to catch the train, jackets, backpacks and tickets in hand! GO group!!
We arrive safely back in Cusco at 10PM, and crash out, exhausted and bug-ridden. And so ends one of the most epic trips of my travels (sans the sneaking onto an airplane story in Indonesia last New Years).
*Strange & Weird Happenings* While trekking Machu Picchu, I am walking up to a bridge when I see this crazy Aussie man on a motorbike. Who is it but my fellow exchange student from Thammasat University in Thailand!! My mouth drops as I see Felix, wondering if I am in fact in Thailand. Nope, we just happened upon eachother a year later in Peru! Small world.
Next stop: Puno to island hop and Trijullo for some MUCH deserved beach time. The journey is half over, but there will be no shortage of adventurous stories to follow.