Sunday, February 28, 2010

Peru Day 18: The trek begins...

I should've known better than to stay out late the night before, but the festivities were too much fun to leave. We had to be ready for pick up at 5 am, which meant we were up at 4:30 to shower, get dressed and finish packing. Ugh. I've always thought of myself as a morning person but not this morning.

Diego and crew picked us up on time and we drove for about 3 hours way up into the mountains to start our trek. I slept most of the way on Mike's lap and when I awoke we were in Cachora, the village at the start of our climb. After a simple breakfast of bread, coffee, Milo (our favorite beverage when travelling), and fruit, we set out with Diego and Raul, our assistant guide. It was pretty muddy for the first couple of hours and the sun was out. The trek that day was about 40% uphill and 60% downhill and we covered about 12-13 miles. Downhill is DIFFICULT. Everything hurts. I got blisters in places I never knew I could get blisters.

We arrived for lunch an hour later than expected (I'm apparently a VERY slow trekker) but we were greeted with warm water and soap to wash and then a full-on gourmet lunch. Avocado salad to start followed by soup and garlic bread and then a main course of rice and stuffed trout (stuffed with spinach, cheese and -- wait for it -- hotdog). Peruvians love their hotdogs, which, in this case, was a shame because it was totally unnecessary. The fish was amazing on its own. Our chef and porters are unbelievable.

The rest of the day was downhill -- really hard on the body. I kept thinking about everyone I know who's had either hip or knee replacements and I cringe at the thought of them attempting this.

This trek is actually more difficult than the Inca Trail but we're looking forward to the reward. Choquequirao means "the golden cradle" and the city was used the same way Machu Picchu was (as a financial, spiritual, administrative center for the Incas). Machu Picchu just got all the attention because Hiram Bingham made such a fuss and the Peruvian government capitalized on the tourism possibilities. Peruvians anticipate that Choquequirao will become as important a tourist site as MP if access to it is made easier (there's talk of a cable car). But for now, it's only accesible by foot or horse. And it's not an easy trek.

We camped at Chichisca, a grassy spot with some permanent structures (even a bathroom!) and maintained by a small family with noisy kids. Our crew set up camp and got down to work making dinner. Happy hour was popcorn (my favorite) and dinner consisted of pasta, beef stew, vegetable soup and bananas foster (I know!). So good.

We discussed the possibilty of finding me a horse to ride for some of the next day, as most of the next day would be entirely uphill and I am SLOW. What can I say? I'm a fas walker on FLAT ground, but this is just not one of my strengths. Unfortunately, no extra horses could be found. Bummer.

We crashed by 8:30 and I slept soundly through the night in our comfy tent (Thermarest mattresses are a MUST).

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