The team is currently making its way along the Peruvian coastline, here’s a brief account of their first week on the road after their project:
Expedition Phase 1 Blog:
Here cometh the expedition; a terrifying prospect for anyone who lied a fraction about how much physical preparation they had done before hand. But fret not, we were eased into it – ice climbing – a day spent at a measly 5000 metres in a Lord of the Rings-esque environ equipped with crampons (spikes on feet for any laymen out there) and 2 pick axes (spikes on sticks – again for any laymen who may be reading). Fortunately we were not required to wear garters (Celina was concerned and asked about whether they were necessary – we think she meant gaiters but no one was brave enough to question). As a reward Matt (our exceptionally skinny leader) took us to a delightful French restaurant where the majority of us were so excited by the startling array of choice we ended up spending more than double our budget on one meal, ordering starters, mains and desserts along with a few cervezas and botellas de vino también. It was delicious and suitably expensive… costing us approximatey 12 pounds each, which goes a long way in Bolivia. Approx 5 Alpaca jumpers for the Fam, my friend.
The following day we were treated to 24 hours of what is called ´Trek Prep´. Pretty freakin´exciting. ´Trek Prep involves trekking (geddit?) around a city (in our case La Paz) frantically searching for all those necessary things like pasta and more pasta, porridge, pans, more porridge, another set of bigger pans because the first set you buy aren´t big enough, spoons, sweet sweet condiments and some more pasta. End Of. Needless to say we rocked it and came in under budget, pretty impressive considering we bought 95.8% of all the carbohydrates in Bolivia´s unofficial capital.
So before the trek, comes the trek to the place where the trek begins. Simples. Not So. We left at God knows when in the morning (we can´t remember it was so hideous an experience) to spend an estimated God knows how many hours on a Bolivian bus which means spending the estimated duration of travel multiplied by two, on a Bolivian bus. Hoorah! We were told to bring breakfast and lunch on board (peanuts and bread) but of course it being God knows when in the morning, and we being a group of 15 adolescents (plus one very mature and also very beautiful graduate) meant that we forgot to prepare adequately resulting in a telling off that involved no expletives whatsoever.
By the time we finally arrived at our starting point it was raining proverbial cats and dogs. Thankfully our bus dropped us off nearby a lovely looking building and our Aymaran speaking guide set about negotiating a deal. Unfortunately for us, the people in charge of aforementioned lovely looking building were the only Quechuan speaking folk in a what we had thunk was an entirely Aymaran speaking area. Great. Luckily with a bit of… luck… and a lot of hand gestures we managed to reach a deal. There was room at the inn. It was the greatest news ever… a beautiful start to what was bound to be a BEAUTIFUL trek. Not So.
The next day we woke up to rain. Lots of it. We loaded up with porridge but nothing could prepare us for what was in store. A foggy, painful, cold and wet death. We climbed up mountains, over rivers, through cloud formations, in and out of muddy ditches, only to slide down mountains again and trudge alongside river rapids that seemed to many like a more appealing way to go than continue with the darned walk. Fortunately none of us made the leap and we eventually reached our campsite and the edge of a lake no one could see, at the base of a snow capped mountain no one believed existed. We set up our tents in the storm and clambered into them far more enthusiastically than Alex climbs into the bed of any woman. But don´t worry – it’s not like our frantic carbohydrate spree in La Paz went to waste. Not so. Instead of sending out 2 poor Questies to cook in the rain we decided to stay in our tents from 2pm till the following morning munching on any remaininfg snacks (in Mette´s case an entire sweetie shop´s worth of Haribo). We woke up the following morning after 16 and a half hours of ‘do-I-brave-the-cold-and-run-outside-to-have-a-wee?´ disturbed sleep.
We were greeted by The Breakfast Club (Team)with porridge, which after 24 hours spent in the cold seems far more appealing than it does on a November morning in Inglaterra. We poured ounces of sugar onto our oatmeal – the girl´s delighted to finally have an excuse to gorge themselves silly – ´We need the energy!!!´. Porridge and tea done we were lucky enough to be able to see at least 25 metres in front of us which meant that not only could we see some if not all of the lake we could also see a fraction of the snow capped mountain that towered above us and a hint of sky azul. However it wasn´t only good news. Unfortunately due to unforseen and almost unheard of (for the area) weather conditions we were unable to complete the slightly more challenging half of our first trek – meaning that we literally had to turn around and go back, for fear of being stuck in even more unforgiving weather conditions with a group of unseasoned trekkers. The weather on our second day was ever so slightly more gentle… we were subjected to minimal rain and only a slightly generous portion of cloud cover – at least for half of the day. We slid back down mountains, under rivers, through cloud formations, out and in of muddy ditches, only to trek up mountains again – there being a hell of lot more uphill than we remembered going downhill the previous day.
When we got back to the aforementioned lovely looking building we were lucky enough to spend one night in, everything changed, and when I say everything, I´m referring only to the weather. Sun. Effin´ lots of it. We were scorched to the extreme… and when I say we I´m referring only to Tyler. And maybe some others. But most definitely mainly Tyler. Thankfully we reached camp before it got dark and were treated to a delightful night by the river surrounded by leaves and green things and provided with a ´delicious´ supper consisting of tuna pasta some sauce and some olives which may not sound too pleasing whilst you´re sat Reading this in the luxury of your first world, but out here is pretty damn gourmet – OK? A big shout to Laura and Celina of The Grange Cookery School fame for that one.
So with Day 2 done, came Day 3 – The Final Day of our First Trek. Did we survive? Yes. Was it hard? Yes. Did we all have to and stop and panic for 20 minutes because we thought someone had fallen off the edge of a cliff because Matt was shouting something unintelligible and blowing his whistle when it was only Celina´s bag of rubbish that had become unfastened and needed to be re-attached to her bag that was the problem? Yes. These are all eternal truths. We arrived in Charazani out of breath, sun scorched and hungry but triumphant. We had done it. Half a trek. Sort of. Go Team Bolivia! All we had left to do was cook the last supper. Simples. Not So. Thanks to our lovely guide Pedro (big shout out to mi Grandma!) one of our gas cookers was entirely f-worded. We needed to think and fast. So Matt thunk and Fast. He arranged for the Questies in charge of cooking for that night to use a local café´s kitchen. Salvation! Not So. Unfortunately those involved in the 3 hour cook fest (it definitely wasn´t the very mature and also very beautiful graduate) managed to rustle up a pasta porridge slash pancake feast with a sauce made up of sacheted rehydrated mushroom with fuel infused onions (Femke´s Fuel bottle definitely leaked into the entirety of her bag) and a generous helping of pan fired processed meat. Yum. It was of course completely inedible and so the only option left was to ask the lovely lady of the café to whip up something tasty for a group of 15 adolescents (plus one very mature and also very beautiful graduate). The result was potato, rice and meat… that tasted exactly how her café smelt. Of poo. This, unlike the majority of this article, is no exaggeration. It really did taste of poo. The Perfect End to the Perfect Trek.
We felt like illegal immigrants crossing the border from Bolivia to Peru. Two months had been a long time and at the very least it was nice to have a new currency. We had arrived at the holy land and our first stop was Puno, where we stayed at quite a nice hotel, ate dirty Chinese food, got completely trashed that night and semi-went to a club (open to debate as to whether it was legit or not). All in all, a pretty standard day for us. The next day, we went off to the ´floating islands´ in the middle of Lake Titicaca where we were told how the locals there lived. We were completely enthralled by their clothes so the girls took advantage of the situation by dressing up and essentially looking like silly Gringos(something that happened on more than one occasion over the course of the next few days) while they extorted us with their ´traditional´ goods for sale.
Moving on, we arrived at our destination, where we split up to stay in two different casas overlooking the Lake which was beautiful. A group of Mette, Nico, Rory, Bash and Ross went down to the lake for a freezing swim, while Tyler took the safe option of just watching. Afterwards, a game of footie started with perhaps the sweetest looking ninos we had seen in the whole of South America and it was a great opportunity to get some nice photos. That night, more clothes were forced upon us while our hosts took part in what can only be called ´improvised dance´ around a fire. There was no way that they actually did that stuff in their free time. Oh well, it was still fun until we started crying from the smoke.
The next day, the main event began with everyone splitting up into twos for the kayaking across the (Lake) TItties. Unsurprisingly, Nico and Alex raced ahead with Bash and Tyler in close pursuit despite being told that we were going to stay in a group. That night we stayed with locals organized by the effervescent Juan and his beautiful wife Juana. The quiz, created by Ross and Nico, was our entertainment for the night and without sounding too bitter, the team with four people (Matt, Shoe and two others whom I can remember at the moment (probably ´cos they didn´t really contribute much)) won. They are still to receive a prize….fools.