|Our trek team, later named the Blue Pumas, at the beginning of the trek. We all became fast friends, nore like family. Note the 20 kilos on Darren´s back. My hero.|
The first day was mostly a gentle trek alongside the river. There was a lot of commerce along this part with locals selling water, Gatorade, chocolate etc at every rest point. They certainly knew their market. It was dusty and windy at parts accompanied by flocks of tiny mosquitoes. We came across our first ruins just before lunch. We sat on the cliff above the ancient remnants of a Quechua administrative centre. The Quechua empire ("Inka" is a misnomer interpreted by the conquering Spanish. "Inka" is the Quechua word for their king. For the purposes of historical accuracy I will refer to the people of this area as Quechua as they should be referred to) was extremely well organised and bureaucratic. The trail to Macchu Picchu (or along the Sacred Valley) was well guarded and administered by Quechua citizens paying their taxes as soldiers, administrators, astronomers, farmers etc. Note, mostly men held these roles. Women could sometimes paid their dues by singing to farmers in the fields (motivators!), weaving and cooking for workers. We started to climb up about halfway through the afternoon. At one of our rest points we saw the first of many hummingbirds. The last hour before getting to camp was steep and slow going but Darren and I powered through and led the charge. Carlos, our guide, kept saying that this first day was "practice for day 2", the most challenging day of the trek. As dusk drew to a close we made our triumphant arrival. High fives and a round of applause from the crew greeted us.
|End of day one, only slightly exhausted.|
|The entire "Blue Puma" team, including porters, chef and assistant chef.|
Big breath. The daunting second day arrived. We were going to climbing, for four straight hours, to 4,215 metres over Dead Women´s Pass (so named because from a distant you can make out a perfectly shaped breast with nipple at the crest, *snort*). Darren and I had done suprisingly well with the altitude so far suffering no ill affects at all. Nevertheless we both chewed on several coca leafs to give us the energy to get going. Climbing a steep mountain at 7am is a tall order of a bunch of city folk. Though yesterday there were literally hundreds of hikers on the same trail as us we hardly saw them. This day was a different story as a never ending line of us laboured upwards. You´d think that it would be really annoying but there was a spirit of camraderie as you pass a few peeps who then pass you as you take a panting break. There was a sense of relief knowing that other people were having as much a hard time as you were. We were the first in our group to make it to the top of the pass where invariably you´d be greeted by cheers admidst the clouds and wind.
|At the top of ´Dead Woman´s Pass´. A 4 hour trek uphill. F**k yeah, we made it!|
|Sunset, descending into the cloud forest|
|Welcome to the jungle|
|Sunrise during the final morning at the sungate|
Darren ran up a million stairs to get this final classic shot. I went and sat in a thatch roof hut out of the hardcore sun. This trip was truly a blessing and miraculous. Transcendental. Many thanks to the amazing Carlos for his inspired guiding and for the company of Erin, Lindsay, Elizabeth, Jo, and Tracy. Team Blue Puma forever!
|The classic shot.|