Thursday, 28 February 2008

2 treks ... 3 countries ... and still in high altitude, and moving fast fast fast!

Hello all!!

I have been recieving emails from people, asking why I havent posted in a while...well, the reason is because we have been moving pretty damn fast and have been ACTIVE!

Writing this blog now, we are in Quito, Ecuador, happily on the other side of the long dark tunnel that was the biggest trek I ever did, the Inca Trail to Machhu Pichhu...but more on that later...from what I remember now, I left you all way back in Copacabana, Bolivia, which is now 2 countries ago already...how crazy is that!!!

So, where was I...way back in beloved Bolivia...let me pick up where I left off...

Did I say we were waiting to catch a boat to Isla Del Sol?

Initially, yes, that was the plan...till our plans changed after we bumped into the real life He-Man. He-Man, or the amazingly cool guy otherwise known as the Frenchman Thierry, is someone Mandi met on Mount Hauyana Potosi. He was one of the few people who actually managed to make it to the top, despite the bad weather. As we were sipping our Cervecas over our Truchas Planchas at the edge of Lake Titicaca, we saw him wander past, Mandi recognised him instantly. He looked alot like this:








That, back in Copacabana, Bolivia, was the beggining of a pretty epic three days. As the next three days evolved, we found ourselves becoming more and more in awe of this real life Superhero, and we turned into wide eyed giggly girls as we observed him with wonder. Why did we call him our Superhero? The reason was, because it seemed that there was nothing that this man couldn´t do! He was the strongest, fittest, most seemingly invincible man we had ever met, a total fitness fanatic, who had trekked everywhere, swam everywhere, climbed every mountain he happened to wander past, and more, you name it, he had done it...this guy was the definition of ´COOL.´
And whats more, he was sooo funny. Mostly without meaning to be. In his strong french accent, he came out with lines that would seem like terrible bragging from anyone else, but from him, were simple statements of fact. He would say, ´I kayaked from Brazil to Bolivia´, ´I fight 2 men´, ´Zat 4 day trek, I do in 2 days´. One of our personal favourites was, ´I run to zee busstop wiv my backpack...I am ALL muscle!´. He was, indeed, all muscle. Then he would say things like ´Where is zee mushroom?´instead of ´Where is the washroom´, such an innocent mis-pronounciation, and we giggled so much and were endeared to him even more.

Anyway, He-Man put the idea in Mandi´s head that we could trek the length of the coast towards Isla Del Sol, instead of take the tourist trap bus. It would be good practice for our trek through Macchu Picchu, which was so imminent. So we trekked.




We trekked along the coast of Copacabana, some 18km, (follow the orange line) over hills, through eucalyptus trees, through beautiful villages and past laughing locals, till we reached a small bay at the northerly tip of the pennisula, Yampupata, tired after 5 hours of intense trekking ( I only wanted to cry once this time, when I had a panic attack cos I couldn´t breathe again, cos of the high altitude, but that soon passed...) and when we reached this point, (HeMan hadn´t even broken a sweat) we got rowed over in a tiny boat to Isla Del Sol, just the three of us and the boat guy. We felt like we were in Lord Of The Rings, in our little boat...we scrambled out the other side onto a rocky, hilly island, and continued to trek another 2km, uphill all the way, to our hostel. For me, mangaging to complete 20km of trekking in one day across high altitude terrain was a pretty damn big deal, I was WELL impressed with myself, and we were all well rewarded with the most amazing views at the top of the Island when we finally reached our destination. I pulled up my deckchair to the edge of the cliff and sat there staring at the horizon, till the distant rain clouds made their way towards our hostel and rained all over us.

We stayed on the Island for a total of 3 days. In that time, HeMan kept us trekking and trekking, that man just can´t sit still...so by the time we returned to Copacabana we had trekked over 35km at high altitude, (following almost all of the dotted orange lines on the Island map, and more) and we all felt more than a little bit pleased with ourselves. We were feeling GOOOOOD.

We left Bolivia with heavy hearts, despite being excited about what lay ahead.

I loved Bolivia, more than I expected to.

Bolivia gave me so much...it taught me to love Spanish, and the soft eloquent way it was spoken there, I was so grateful that I started my trip there, where my fantastic Spanish lessons set me in good stead for the rest of my trip. Bolivia gave me time with some amazing new people...they know who they are...Bolivia reminded me of the power of incredible open landscapes, especially the trip to Uyuni, and I was reminded of how much I loved the scent of Euclyptus trees when we trekked in the land of the Incas. It also taught me that I am cut out for trekking, that I love the feeling of discovering a place on foot, of feeling it challenge and exhaust me. There were challenges there that I discovered I WAS cut out for... Dave knows what I mean, right! The experience on Mount Hauyana Potosi didnt defeat me after all...

Regardless, it was time to move on, time to get to Peru, where our booking for the Inca Trail Trek was imminent. We passed quickly through Puno, on the other side of Lake Titicaca, and were very eager to move on...it was a dull town, but as soon as we arrived in Cusco, we were totally enchanted. OH MY GOD, Cusco is soooo beautiful, sooo stunning, and has a fascinating history. I was enchanted enough with the Inca stuff on Isla Del Sol, getting to Cusco and being in the heart of the Inca Empire history had me WELL excited. To say the least.




We had two days to absorb the city before the trek was to begin. It was no time at all.

Again, the night before the trek, we were so tired, the last thing we felt we wanted to do was trek! But I knew that this was one of my dreams, and after trekking for 3 days solid in Isla Del Sol, doing another 35 to 38km over 4 days to Machhu Pichhu didnt seem so bad after all! I treid not to think about the fact that most of it was uphill, and that we would have to tackle 3 high passes over ancient stone Inca steps that were BIG, before we got to our destination. My mantra was, don´t think, just do it. Take one step at a time. I was reminded of Dory in Finding Nemo...´Just keep swimming!´. I love that fish!

So thats what we did. We got on that trek, and we swam through it. Literally. It pissed down with rain so much of the time! Day by day, up steep steps, through ancient paths, we trudged. I was nervous about having panic attacks related to breathing difficulties again. But amazingly, I had no problem at all. Mandi raced ahead, and my breathing was great. My legs ached and I was knackered mostly, but that was easy to ignore. We were entertained and awed along the way by the most beautiful landscape, by all kinds of hummingbirds and butterflys, and by some of the most amazing plants I had ever seen. Mandi loves plants, and stopped often to admire flowers and to ask our guide about a particular species. It was a great excuse to stop and take a breathe, and our guide was AMAZINGLY full of knowledge. He pointed out plants that were good for all sorts of different diseases and ailments. I thought he had studied plant medicines, but all his knowledge was from local people. He was brilliant. We walked and walked and walked. It was incredible. The only thing that pissed on our fires was that we had a really dull, piss boring group. There were 2 Swiss German girls, who were the most stuck up, dry, boring, DULL, zero sense of humour girls we met on this trip so far. They were condascending and constantly complaining about most things...their company was painful! Then there was a father and son combo who seemed to be on a ´bonding trip´, seemed they didnt have much time together and this trip was making up for lost time. The father was very shy, but nice enough, the son was an all round miserable git. A teenager, we called ´Kevin´, after the Harry Enfield character. He was totally incapable of saying thankyou for anything, or being vaguely appreciative of anything, we both felt like slapping him at different points in the trip, the ungrateful spoilt brat. SO thanks to them, we had the knowledge of our guide all to ourselves, seeing as none of them seemed interested in the information he had. Along the way, we met plenty of other great trekkers, a lovely group of Finnish, Irish and some English folk, we great fun, and we ended up tagging along with them and being part of their group night out when we got back to Cusco, something that we would never have done with our own group. It just proved Mandi´s theory, that it is not language that creates a barrier with people, its just people. On our trip in Uyuni in Bolivia, we had non english speakers in our group, and yet we all communicated brilliantly and their personalities shone through, but on this trip, language wasnt an issue at all, attitude was.

Regardless of all that, Mandi and I laughed and joked and giggled all the way through the trek, gazing in awe at where we were, constantly reminding ourselves of how blessed we felt, as we gazed as the hummingbirds sipping nectar from the flowers only a few steps away from us. We were in a real life episode of ´Planet Earth´. Amazing.

The sense of awe would only grow. On the morning of the 4th and last day of the trek, we crawled out of our tents at 4am, in the heavy rain, to start our final trek up to Machhu Pichhu. Only 2km to go. Uphill. The rain was relentless. My brilliant boots held out for me through the rain and mud, but Mandi wasnt so lucky, her boots filled with water. We climbed and climbed, with our miserable shitty group, but were cheered some some random english girl singing ´I will survive´on the top of her voice. That made me giggle, and more people joined in. This was the point in the trip that we had all built up to, reaching the final high view point where we would get to see the picture postcard view of Machhu Pichhu, the image that was plastered all over Peru.

This is what we should´ve seen:





When we finally got to the top, the whole damn thing was covered in cloud! It was raining heavily, we had been up since 4am trudging through the rain and we couldn´t see a flippin thing!

GUTTED! It was so tragic, we had to laugh! We took a wicked picture, standing in front of the scene, head to toe in our wet weather clothes, nothing but a blanket of white sky behind us! It was funny.

It DID get better though...we trekked down to the actual site, and we had the rest of the morning to properly explore the actual site, and it was AMAZING. The mist from the clouds slowly cleared up, and the scale, beauty and ingeniousness of the whole inca site was revealed, bit by bit. It was magical.

The whole experience of the trek and the site will always be one of the most amazing experiences in my memory. I can totally understand why, for so many people, Machhu Pichhu is the highlight and reason for coming to South America. Next time I come to Peru, Im doing this trek again! (maybe 2 days trekking instead of 4 though....!)

We passed through Peru so fast, I felt we just sneezed and missed it. We were gutted that we didnt have more time, Peru has so much to offer, there was so much to see and do. But we stayed only for the Trek, and moved on quickly to get to the next place of our dreams: The Galapagos Islands.




Now, we are in Quito, Ecuador, recovering from the treks, getting rest from our speedy travelling and preparing to get out of high altitude once and for all! The weather here is crappy, too much like london, and it is cold, so we are happy to move on quickly, and tomorrow morning we catch an early flight out of Ecuadors´ highlands, and finally get to Sea level again! Sunshine, beautiful coastlines and some of the most incredible untouched Islands are waiting for us! Finally the bikinis come out! The snorkels go on, and the lounging begins!!!

Galapagos, here we come.


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