The Last Leg… “Our wetsuits were so wet it was like wearing a slug”
After our night out in Coroico, the next day was thankfully a chill-out day. Those of us who managed to surface in the morning enjoyed a buffet breakfast and some relaxing by the pool, and then we all ventured into town to see it by day! In the afternoon, we got the bus back to La Paz (for the last time!), stopping for some traditional Bolivian street chicken on the way.
The next day, it was time to say goodbye to Bolivia as we border-hopped back to Peru. Unfortunately at this time we also said goodbye to Vicky and Jordan, who had decided to leave the trek for some well-deserved rest in Cusco after their month volunteering in Quest’s wildlife project! For the rest of us, however, it was a 5-hour boat ride to the island of Taquile, in Lake Titicaca, where we made the most of the sunny weather and the boat’s outdoor deck!
On Taquile, we were greeted by some locals, and treated to an amazing trout meal. Afterwards, we had a moonlit walk to the top of the island, led by 8-year-old Sindy. Even in the full moon, we could see that the island was beautiful, and even featured some steps that were laid by the Incas!
The next day, we got up early for a spot of kayaking. It took us about 2 hours to kayak to the mainland, although some of us almost didn’t make it, considering that Pete and Natalie attempted to sabotage people’s kayaks by flicking up their rudders, and then ironically breaking their own rudder so that it was impossible to steer. That’s karma for you! Still, we all made it across, and in a place called Llachon, we had another trout lunch and a game of volleyball with the locals, followed by a walk to the water’s edge to watch the sunset.
On our way back, we were accosted by some locals who had traditional Peruvian clothes for us to wear – skirts, jackets and hats for the girls, and ponchos and woolly hats for the boys! We had a great time taking photos, and having dinner and playing cards in character as well!
Soon enough, it was time to head to Cusco. We all immediately liked this city, as it had brilliant architecture (and more importantly, there was Gringo food available!). We had dinner at a place called Jacks, where everyone indulged in enormous toasted burgers and the closest equivalent they were going to get to an English breakfast until they went home! Well, we needed the energy, because our next activity was three days of white water rafting…
Our first day was so much fun. The rapids were fast but not too perilous, and in between we had a few splashing wars between the rafts, which resulted in Ben heroically leaping from one raft to another, dragging Matty and Richard into the water with him. A couple of hours later, when we were all suitably soaked, we stopped to set up camp by the river, and warmed up with some hot drinks and popcorn. That evening, we got a campfire going and some ipod songs playing, and had a very pleasant evening under the stars!
Day 2 involved some slightly more dangerous rapids, so no splashing was allowed this time – but that was fine, since we all got drenched from head to toe anyway! We were all shivering pretty violently by the end, and treated ourselves to some toasted marshmallows that evening. That night, it started to rain… oh no! No one wanted to raft in the rain the next morning, but we all gritted our teeth and put on our wetsuits anyway (which were by now so damp, it was like wearing a slug). It was freezing work attempting to paddle this time, but we all survived without anyone falling in! After lunch, it was time to get dry (as best we could) and make a start right away on the Inca Trail!
Matty, Misha and Richard were taking an alternative route to us so we had to say our goodbyes until we reunited with them in three days’ time, but the rest of us got an Inca Trail stamp in our passport and started on our way, following our guides, Gato and Rosie. We were actually glad for the damp weather once we started walking, as it kept us cool during the uphill bits. On our way we saw some Inca ruins, and Gato gave us some history about what they were used for. Arriving at our campsite we put up our wet tents, and had some soup noodles, before settling down for the night and hoping for better weather.
It was NOT better the next day, but once again we were glad it wasn’t hot once we started walking. Today was all uphill, to a mountain with a peak of 4215m – and it was all steps too! Some of these steps came up to our knees, and we were all exhausted by the time we got to the top – some of the girls on the original Andean Exped team were overheard saying that it was harder than the Ice Climbing!! Then it was all downhill on the other side to get to our campsite, much to the ruin of our knee joints.
Day 3 saw the beginning of the official Inca Trail, some vastly improved weather – but unfortunately, the dreaded Trek Tummy Bug for Cat and Ben! Still, we walked in excellent time, through tropical trees and some more Inca ruins, and got some incredible views of the valley from our high vantage point. Some of us got bored walking down endless steps and made up the game “Porter” (i.e. trying to keep up with the local porters, who are carrying about 25kg of tourist’s luggage!). Needless to say, we had nowhere near the speed or stamina of these guys, and I think it’s safe to say that no-one will be quitting their day jobs to become a Peruvian Porter.
Finally, on day 4, we got up at 4am to start the short walk to the Sun Gate, from which you can see Machu Picchu (just about) through the clouds. We made our way down to be reunited with Misha, Matty and Richard (who were sunburnt from their mini-trek in the snow without suncream!) and together we made our way round Machu Picchu, with Gato telling us more of its history and what some of the rooms could have been used for.
Then, after some cheesy gap-yah photos with the ruins in the background, it was one last downhill to Machu Picchu pueblo, where we had some celebratory beers and food before catching the train (and bus) back to Cusco. We all made the most of our last free day in the city, with a posh breakfast, some tat shopping, some unusual massages and a night out to celebrate both the end of the trip and Misha and Vicky’s birthdays. Some excellent dance moves were demonstrated – and you know it’s a good night out when people miss their flights the next morning (not mentioning any names!!). One by one, we all started leaving for our respective flights on the 29th, except for a few people who decided to stay in Cusco for a few extra days. (we did manage to fit in a last game of twister before parting ways, though). It’s been a crazy six weeks, and after all we’ve been through I hope we all stay in touch. Can’t wait to see the photos!