It’s a little on the late side as they’ve been back home for 2 weeks but here’s the photos and stories from the last few days of this year’s Andean Summer Expedition…It’s a long one!
So after a luxurious night in Puno (big beds and hot showers) we set off refreshed to explore Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world. First stop were the incredibly touristy floating islands where we learnt how Lake Titicaca got its name- you needed to have a huge imagination (or have drunk a lot of coca tea that morning) and how the islanders lived. After being shown and encouraged to buy their handicrafts we jumped back onto the boat and headed for Isla Tequile which would be our home for the night. Sureyya scored a room to herself but also a floor covered with straw! After a trout lunch (Gilly had another egg) we relaxed and then we were taken on a tour of the Island where we saw the school where they were all playing football (it was a Sunday), the main square and lots of Incan ruins and we arrived in the perfect spot in time for sunset to admire the spectacular views of the lake. After dinner we were entertained/were the entertainment of the locals as we danced with them around the fire to traditional Peruvian music. We were then left with an mp3 player, speakers and 2 little girls with western music they thought we would like… The rest of the evening was spent entertaining the 2 girls (who taught us a few moves) and admiring Pete’s awesome dance moves.
The following morning, after a pancake breakfast we kitted up and prepared to kayak across Lake Titicaca. Pete proved that 1 has more power than 2 as he propelled himself across the lake in no time at all. James’ steering caused more damage to Tye than to Alex and Mike whose amnesty towards war was very effective and they succeeded in almost making Tye cry (apparently that’s not true). Chloe and Gilly did the girls proud and Izzy and Sureyya even managed to push the speedboat into land as well as themselves. Having survived the sabotage of Mc Nasty and Blackbeard (Tye and James) we trekked up to Llachon to meet our home-stay families. Juan and Juana were very welcoming and friendly and invited us to a game of Volley ball that afternoon. Lines were marked by flip-flops, donkey poo and massive stones and the score and rules changed depending on how it favoured Juan’s team. Despite the disagreements in scoring at times, Pete’s team were victorious and the afternoon was enjoyed by all. In the evening we were dressed in traditional attire for dinner. All the girls (apart from Izzy) wore clothes to show they were married-hats with 2 pom-poms on whilst Izzy wore a colourful long beanie to show she was single. The guys were also suitably attired with woolly hats, waistcoats and scarves.
After an early start and a long bus ride, we arrived in Cuzco in the early afternoon in time for a spot of sightseeing. This was followed by a meal out at a Chinese restaurant where Tye’s came and then when he’d finished everyone else’s came and then about an hour later Gilly’s Chinese eventually arrived!
White water rafting was on the agenda for the next 3 days but much to our disappointment we couldn’t have an all girl raft (or a female captain- Sureyya). So, instead, we drew lots on the minibus to rafting to see who would be in which raft. The Golden Nugget (the superior raft) comprised of Pete, Mike, Izzy and Alex whilst the others (James, Tye, Sureyya, Chloe and Gilly) were in Tsunami.
The first rapids were fairly gentle and let us get used to the raft and the paddling techniques. It was also calm enough for our first and only war. The Nuggetiers attacked the Tsunamians with great success. We succeeded in getting the whole crew in the water and only losing two of our members to the freezing waters despite all of us being in the Tsunamian raft. After lunch we went on to grade 3-4 rapids which were really exhilarating and fun but also a lot more technical and Sureyya slightly confused the instructions. When Abel shouted ‘Rockside’, Sureyya, instead of heading for the rockside of the raft (where she already was) preferred to try her chances and dived out the raft instead. Alex and Mike were watching this from below and were able to warn Pete that Sureyya was in and to get the rope ready. Juan-Carlos was also ready with the rope too.
As Sureyya got bashed around in the rapids, we could only hope one of the two ropes would save her. Who would be her hero? Alas, Wan-Carlos’ rope did not reach her and it was too late, the rapids were taking Sureyya further away. It was Pete’s chance to be the hero. He aimed and threw the rope (he’d been practicing before with Izzy) and I wish I could say it went straight to Sureyya and she caught it. Sadly it didn’t. It went to Mike (90° to Sureyya’s left) who caught the rope. There was one final chance to save Sureyya. It wasn’t to be. Mike’s rope didn’t reach her either. With a tree up ahead, Sureyya was left to save herself. Luckily she is a strong swimmer and was able to reach the bank before the tree or water engulfed her. Pete met Sureyya on the bank, rope still in hand, and helped her to safety. She then got back in the raft and we set off again. Following a minibus journey we arrived into a starlit campsite with popcorn and tea waiting for us- once we’d put up our tents of course! We whiled the night away keeping warm around the camp fire and we eventually found our way into our tents for the night. Apart from Tye who didn’t appreciate sharing with James and Pete (Gilly was with Sureyya in the ‘quarantine tent’) and so slept under the table, as you do.
The morning brought exciting news for Chloe and Izzy in the form of a text message- their A level results. Brilliant news for both girls: 3As for Chloe and 2A*s and a B for Izzy so they both achieved their offers for Event Management at De Montfort University Leicester and Geography at Leeds. This meant Mike, Alex and Izzy’s tent had to be renamed the Northern Star (we’ll all be at Uni up North from September) and allowed us to throw Izzy in for a celebratory ice cold dip. There were some more high class rapids today and also a chance for Tsunami to accessorise their helmets with reeds. They appeared from afar to look like chickens which we thought was fitting as they refused to war with us again- we suspected a fear of losing! After lunch we had another minibus ride, this time for a couple of hours so that we would be near good rapids the following day. It was another merry evening, courtesy of A level results, with Ozzy (our raft guide) being ‘DJ’ round the fire and lots of singing along.
On the final day of rafting, Tsunami was down to only 3 as Gilly and Sureyya were feeling ill. This made them even more reluctant to go to war with the Nugget and so Mike and Alex realised the only way they would get to experience the ice cold water of the river was if they jumped in themselves which they did. It was nice. There was also Incan history story time onboard the Nugget courtesy of Pete as well as some thrilling class-4 rapids to complete the trip.
Back in Cuzco in the early afternoon Gilly and Sureyya rested, Chloe and Izzy set off to get food provisions and Alex, Mike and Tye had the most important job of purchasing dwarf hats, plastic hammers and belt buckles for the Salkantay trek. Chloe and Izzy made it back to the hotel in one piece but the shopping was slightly bruised- the bags had split all over the pavement and they’d had to resort to getting a taxi back as they had so much to carry. After an amazing meal at Jack’s we headed back to complete our packing and sorting out the food. We then had to re-divide all the food when Sureyya realised she was too ill to make the trek and James was to stay behind with her.
After an average of 3 hours sleep we all stumbled into the minibus at 3am for the journey to the start of the Salkantay trek. Bleary eyed we ate some breakfast, put on our packs and started walking with Gato and Marie our trusty guides. After our first break we decided it was the right time to don our outfits and shock anyone we walked past. Pete made an attractive Snow White whilst the rest of us were his trusty dwarfs: Doc- Tye, Grumpy- Mike, Happy- Alex, Sleepy- Chloe, Bashful- Gilly, Dopey- Izzy and sadly Sneezy- Sureyya couldn’t join us because she had a cold and the Prince- James hadn’t entered the story yet- duh!
The weather was fine until it was time for lunch and a persistent drizzle prevailed. This meant lunch was as much chicken sandwich as you could eat in 5 minutes and we were then off again at a much speedier pace than before- we wanted to get out of the misery that was the rain. Thankfully the rain stopped for the last hour or so of the day’s trek so we could all dry out a bit. Whilst Gilly and the boys raced ahead Alex and Izzy enjoyed a more leisurely pace to take in the view and be ‘adventurers’. There was a slight worry we would be camping with all the other gringos at what appeared to be a mini festival but luckily we were in a separate area where we could relax, cook and sleep in peace.
Refreshed from a proper night’s sleep the second day seemed a complete contrast to the previous day as it was hot, sunny and short. We had reached camp for the day by lunchtime and whilst some of us caught up on sleep, Alex, Mike, Tye and Izzy relaxed in the Coffee shop and explored the local shop where prices where half the price of the ‘gringo shop’ 20m away! Izzy and Chloe made a delicious 3 course meal for us all that evening: soup, yum, tomato, salami and red wine pasta, yum and to finish off, chocolate oat cookie cake, yum, yum. Then it was time to get more rest in before the dreaded following day- most people take the bus instead of walking it because it’s so hard and you can’t take donkeys on it. Knowing this only made us more determined.
We left early to avoid the sun and we were soon climbing in a rainforest type environment, admiring the Inca stonework as we went and still dressed as dwarfs of course. After a few hours of constant climbing, we reached an Incan temple which we were told has amazing views of Machu Picchu. Sadly we can only assume this to be true as a huge mist blocked our view. Anyway, the rest of the day was downhill, only in terms of terrain that is. From walking in the humid forest we then found ourselves in the building site of a hydroelectric plant which led us to discuss whether an artificial fall of water (as produced by this hydroelectric plant) can be called a waterfall. After some more strange looks and comments – apparently we were smurfs and gnomes, not dwarfs we found some lunch and got in contact with James. He was going to meet us with Sureyya’s ashes… 2 more hours of walking and we arrived in Aguas Calientes and pitched camp for the night. We even braved the freezing showers! Sadly the restaurant near the campsite didn’t want to open for dinner despite Gilly and Izzy’s best efforts, “Tengo hambre” and pathetic looks on their faces. They did however (with Tye’s help) find us a good deal for dinner in Aguas Calientes itself. This was topped up by market food – street kebab- for those of us who hadn’t yet tried them. We returned to camp to find Sureyya and James waiting for us full of stories from their time in Cuzco.
We were up at 4 to down some porridge and then after a minor disagreement between Gato and the bridge Guard we were able to cross the bridge and begin the 1 hour and a half climb to Machu Picchu. This climb only took us 40 minutes. We’re good. And we even managed to beat the first tour bus to the gates of Machu Picchu which felt amazing. We spent the morning soaking in the incredible atmosphere and beauty of Machu Picchu.
First Gato gave us a tour and explained the history of Machu Picchu to us. Following this, we found our own secluded spot where we rested and surreptitiously ate our snacks before transforming into Snow White and the reunited 7 dwarfs for some sneaky photos. Next we braved it to the top for a few less subtle photos which involved Pete (in costume) successfully pleading with the guard to let us take the photo. After some final pics we headed back to camp, packed up the tents, walked a bit, ate a late lunch and then took a 7 hour minibus back to Cuzco. It was too late and we were too tired for the ‘all you can eat curry’ and ‘Tai food’ we had planned so we settled for McDonalds or an equivalent which was just across the square from our hotel.
Since it was our final day together we had the day to do as we pleased and so after a luxurious breakfast, we split up to go souvenir shopping as well as to take in the final sights of Cuzco and get last minute items for the night out. Tye got the Alpacca slippers he’d been desperate for (for his mum), Mike bought an Incan vs. Spanish chessboard on impulse and Gilly some tea for the family. Our last group meal was finally upon us and we headed to Baco for some stunning food which looked as good as it tasted.
Ozzy joined us for the night out and we headed to the Frog club where the girls could get free drinks. It was here that Tye decided to challenge everyone at arm wrestles. He beat James right-handed but James beat him left-handed. All the girls took Tye on together but never had a good grip so it wasn’t fair. After the arm wrestles, James and Pete entertained us with a very sweet 4-line poem they’d written about each of us highlighting our best (?) bits each was accompanied by a puppet version of the animal we’d been named in the rainforest. A great way to end a fantastic 6 weeks. Thanks guys.