We’ve been travelling for nearly three weeks now and home feels a long way away. I’ve got used to the rucksack routine, packing up my clothes every few days and having to make sure I don’t leave anything in the locker.
We started out with a two day stopover in Miami, where we sweltered in the humidity, stayed on a yacht and ate Cuban food. After a pretty horrible red eye flight we found ourselves in Lima, a city I knew very little about except that it was where Paddington started his journey from. Sadly we didn’t see any spectacled bears but we did find ceviche, the Peruvian national dish, and a beautiful area of the city, Miraflores, which overlooked the sea. We survived a couple of hair raising colectivo rides to the centre but were glad to leave the bustling, screeching Lima for the more tranquil Nasca, an eight hour bus journey down the coast into the desert.
Nasca is famous for its mysterious lines, which we viewed from a roadside mirador and marvelled at the intricacy and size. We also saw the lesser known Paracas figures, which I preferred – a bent over old man, a family, a monkey, all cut into the desert hills and still visible after all this time. The bleak beauty of the desert was something I won’t forget.
One horrendous 14 hour bus journey later – I haven’t been that travel sick since a child – we found ourselves 3,600 metres up in Cusco. The journey was worth it though – Cusco is a beautiful mountain top city which is the perfect mix of Inca and Colonial architecture, winding streets, tiny cafes and all topped by breathtaking views of the Andes. We spent a few days acclimatising to the altitude, since it’s the highest I’ve ever been and I was initially very short of breath. Our days were a mix of exploring the city, drinking coffee while reading The Hunger Ganes trilogy and hiking up into the mountains around the city to visit Sasquayhuaman, a massive Inca site, and the Cristo Blanco, a massive statue who lights up at night and can be viewed from all over Cusco.
Of course, a trip to Cusco has to also include a trip to Machu Picchu and we were no exception. We decided to do it via the Salkantay trek, a five day mountain and jungle trip that ended up in the Lost City. This has to be one of the hardest but most rewarding things I’ve ever done – it deserves its own post. Needless to say, we climbed 2500m over two days, with a gruelling 1000m in 4 hours on day two, to ascend the Salkantay pass which stands at 4600m. From this snowy mountain peak we then descended 2000m into the jungle, which was considerably warmer and where we soothed our aching muscles in a hot springs. After four days of walking we arrived in Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu, and then got up at 5am to make sure we arrived at the site in time for the sunrise. The sun threw milky rays over the city and it was one of the most breathtaking things I’ve ever seen. Tired bodies were temporarily forgotten as we spent nearly ten hours exploring Machu Picchu, including hiking to Inkipunku, the sun gate, to see a stunning aerial view of the whole city spread out below us in the hot sun. Inquisitive llamas greeted us around doorways and we marvelled at the sheer drops over the mountain edge and the ingenuity of the people who constructed this place. Machu Picchu has always been a massive dream for S and he wasn’t disappointed – nor was I.
We’re now back in Cusco, recharging our batteries and cleaning our clothes, before we leave tomorrow for Puno on Lake Titicaca, where we’ll cross over into Bolivia. So far this trip has been everything we wanted and more – I can’t wait for the next part.