Alternative adventure to Machu Picchu...
22.05.2008 - 25.05.2008
Jess this time!
Having done a bit of asking around a few months ago when having to make the key decision of whether or not to shell out for a place on the legit Inca Trail, I decided that maybe it wasnt the best option for me. The thought of days of uphill walking and sleeping in the freezing cold in tents to be woken up at 4am didnt really appeal, so I decided to look for alternative options to visit Machu Picchu once in Peru. We made friends with two other girls in Cusco who were in our room in Loki - Anita and Heather - and they also hadnt booked anything, so we decided to go in search of another way together.
Word on the street was that there was a 4 day 3 night jungle excursion available including 1 day mountain biking, 2 days trekking *nervous twitch* and then Machu Picchu on the final day. All this for the same price it would be to go for just one day and with no tents in sight. It also included food, accommodation and the train back to Cusco. Perfect we thought, so whacked down the cash and headed back to the hostel very happy with our cost effectiveness.
Only issue (initially) was that we could only take a day pack for all this time as we had to carry it ourselves (no fit porters in this gaf) and therefore had to be able to bike with it too. Hmmm. Having never gone on a 4 day "jungle thing" before (I use the word jungle lightly, it was marketed as jungle but you couldnt get malaria or anything) I wasnt really sure what to take. I eventually crammed in enough stuff to satisfy most of my "what if" scenarios and then I was ready to go.
We booked to depart on the same day as Pranav, so whilst he headed off at about 4.30am on the first day, we had a leisurely 7.30am pick up. Very civilised. This was the start...
We took a 5 hour local bus right up to the top of a mountain - this is when I discovered that not being able to roll my rrrrrssss was going to act as a barrier if ever needing to shout out our guides name. Once at the top, we were each presented with a bike, gloves, a helmet and a packed lunch. Everything one would need for the adventure we were about to embark upon (although upon reflection a stun gun for scary dogs, complimentary insect repellent, shin pads and operational brakes would have also been welcome extras.)
The first part was incredible. Downhill biking on a proper road. Amazing. For a few minutes I even considered making a promise to myself to learn to ride a motorbike. (Dont worry mum, I soon got through that phase!) Then, in a cruel twist of fate, the proper road ended and we were back to nature (almost) on a rocky road. This is when the situation started to do downhill. If you know me, you will know that I have an enormous fear of dogs. Now this rocky road went through many a village... many a village populated with packs (ok maybe a slight exaggeration...) "groups" of stray angry dogs. So in an attempt to get through these villages as quickly as possible, I tried to go as fast as I could. Sadly my limited mountain biking experience was not enough to help me stay on my bike. I flew off flat onto the road, my bike veering into a ditch. Sadly I was alone as I was not fast enough to keep up with the people in front, but my fear had kept me away from the back of the group. So there was me, alone, lying in the road, bleeding (a bit) and crying for the fear of being mauled by dogs. Eventually our guide came and mopped me up and we were on our way again. We biked 45km that day - alot of it was downhill and in fairness we did see alot of amazing scenery and villages off the beaten track. So although by nightfall I still hadnt arrived at the hostel, was bitten to pieces by insects and could barely walk, let alone bike - it was an interesting day and quite an adventure.
The next morning saw the start of our 2 days of trekking. If I´m brutally honest, I found it hard. Uphill walking isn´t really my forte - but to compensate we did see/do some really cool things along the way. Whether it be walking through little abandoned villages, crossing delapidated Indiana Jones stylee bridges, clambering over rocks (Lara Croft eat your heart out) or walking along some of the actual Inca trail. To top it off, we also chilled out in some hot springs at the end of the second day which was so relaxing (although it did give the insects further opportunity to bite other parts of my body that are usually covered on a day to day basis ahem). Got some good pics anyway.
On the fourth morning we got up bright and early (hmm not so bright but very early) and headed up to Machu Picchu. It was very wet and miss bright spark here left her phenominal waterproof (you have never seen so many secret pockets in your entire life) back at the hostel. Still, the rain cleared up pretty fast but any pain incurred was certainly worth it for what there was to be seen. I can honestly say that postcards do not do that place justice. Just the sight of the ruins through the parting cloud was enough for you to forget everything *might seem a bit OTT but you would know what I mean if you were there*!
We had a great day exploring the place and taking tonnes of photos. I can now say I have seen one of the wonders of the world and hope that many more people get to see it before it gets too eroded...!