I had an easy week resting my injury, eating great food, and living the Cusco lifestyle. I visited the Doctor again on Thursday and she confirmed I would be o to do the Trek as long as I continued taking my medication. 

When booking the trek I shopped around for the best price and ended up getting what appeared to be the same trek for US$630 cheaper than the most expensive one I found. As I waited in my hostel at 4:30am I couldn’t help but wonder if I had paid more if my trek, ‘would be any better?’, but it was too late now.

Eventually my Guide, Cesar, arrived and it was go time. I jumped into the mini van waiting down the street and met my new US buddies, Dan, Kacper, Veronika, and Nadine. We continued on a little further and in jumped Daphné and Clément from Paris as well as Marjolein, Marco, and Marlies from Holland.

We backtracked the way I had come by bike and eventually we arrived at the starting point of our Trek. 

Our fearless leader Cesar named our group the Sexy Pumas and we began our walk by up hill strait away. Throughout the first day we took our raincoats on and off about 30 times as the weather was continuously changing. 

Day one, Sexy Pumas begin the big Trek

Day one, Sexy Pumas begin the big Trek

We walked along tracks shadowing drainage streams built by the Incas hundreds of years ago with flowing water coming from melting Ice from the surrounding Andes.

It was difficult to watch where we were walking as the towering mountains encompassing us looked like a larger than life oil painting disappearing into the clouds. 

Surrounded by Oil Paintings

Surrounded by Oil Paintings

Eventually we arrived at our first campsite, a grassy area surrounded by towering mountains and a steep grassy hill. We were all exhausted and ready to rest but Cesar told us if we were up for it there was a lake at the top of the hill behind the camp just 1 hours walk.

First day trekking

First day trekking

We eventually made it to the top of the hill and were completely thrown back when a large lake filled with melted Ice from the mountain above appeared at the summit of the hill. although we knew we were walking towards a lake we were still thrown back by the awe-inspiring beauty. It didn’t look real! 

The lake

The lake

That night it began to rain and didn’t completely stop until the following afternoon. 

I slept relatively well and after a bit of breakfast we were walking again by around 6am.

Day two - into the clouds

Day two – into the clouds

Today was wet, cold and streams were appearing in front of us from all directions as we began our assent to 4650m on our biggest day of 21km. 

The weather was getting colder and colder as we made our way further away from much loved oxygen making it close to impossible to hold a conversation and walk at the same time. At one point I tried to eat as I walked and was forced to stop as I couldn’t get enough oxygen in!

making our way through the rain

making our way through the rain

As I continued along we entered into some thick cloud and I could only see about 5 to 10 meters in front of me. As I squinted to see the others in from of me I was met with a snowball. My first snow in 34 years! To say I was excited would be an extreme understatement.

My first snow

My first snow

Shortly after It began to snow lightly and it continued for the next few hours.

Trekking through the snow

Trekking through the snow

Eventually we made it to the summit.

On top of the world

On top of the world

We climbed up some rocks and Cesar blessed some stones we had all carried with us up the mountain, before building a little Jenga hill with them.

Cesar building our stone tower

Cesar building our stone tower

It was freezing up there so before too long we continued down the other side of the mountain. The track turned into a small stream of running water and my walking stick saved me from ending up on my spider bite several times.

The landscape changed several times and at one point it looked like were were on the set of lord of the rings.

We eventually made it to our rest spot were our cook had rushed ahead with the donkeys to prepare our lunch.

Making our way down

Making our way down

After lunch we prepared for the jungle were we were told the mosquitos would be waiting for us. We made our way down the valley and within about 500 meters the sun came out and we began quickly shedding layers as it became sticky and hot.

We continued down the valley and at around 5pm we reached our campsite which was already set up for us. We were exhausted. After dinner and and a few laughs it was an early night followed by an early morning.

Again the day started with some light rain so it was ponchos on and we continued down the valley. Along the way Cesar pointed out different plants and points of interest. The most exciting for me were the wild strawberries which kept me off the pace for a while as I searched the bushes for as many as I could find!

Wild Strawberries

Wild Strawberries

The day seemed to go quickly as we chatted our way towards our 3rd camp. Once there, we unpacked and jumped in a mini van which took us down the road to the hot springs. I wasn’t expecting them to be very warm but they were and we stayed in the water for a good few hours. We bumped into others we had met along the way and at the hostel earlier and kept ourselves and spectators occupied after making up a game passing stones with our feet… (I guess maybe you had to be there, but trust me it was awesome!).

Hot baths

Hot baths

We returned back to the camp and after dinner we decided to play some drinking games. The sand flies stayed up with us too. I think I got to bed at around 2am. A few short hours later I got up ready to start the day. Fortunately today started with some Zip Lining so no walking until after lunch. 

Zip lining

Zip lining

The Zip lining felt a little unsafe to say the least, we weren’t given a whole lot of instruction and some of the sections didn’t feel quite as safe as we were told they were. We survived with only one small injury between the 4 of us. 

From there we were taken by bus to Hydroelectrica were we met up with the others for lunch before completing the last section along the train lanes to Aguas Calientes, (the town below Machu Picchu).

Making our way to Aguas Calientes

Making our way to Aguas Calientes

We spent the night in a hostel, and collected some very expensive food supplies for tomorrows hike up Machu Picchu. Cesar gave us our Machu Picchu tickets. On my ticket my name was Elase Young, a 28 years old from Albania, and my passport number had an extra digit. A few of us had a few discrepancies but Cesar told us it would be fine.

The next morning we were up at 3:30am to beat the rush of people up the mountain. We got to the first checkpoint and at 5:30am they opened the gates. I was pretty excited and got to the main gait at the top of the mountain in around 40mins to be second in line.

Checkpoint 2 - waiting to enter

Checkpoint 2 – waiting to enter

It wasn’t long before the busses began arriving and hundreds of people started piling out. I was excited to be at the front of the line to be one of the first to see Machu Picchu for the day however that was short lived as I was pulled up at the gate as my ticket name didn’t match my Passport name. I spent the next ten minutes in a small interview room being asked the same question over and over again. ‘What is your name? this isn’t you’. Eventually after several security staff came over to have their say, they printed me off a new ticket (with exactly the same information in it) and I was through!

As we entered Machu Picchu it was sitting in a cloud and you couldn’t even see it. We walked up to the Sun gate but again because of the clouds we were unable to see anything. 

Surrounded by clouds

Surrounded by clouds

We made our way back down to the ruins and were were thrown back as everything appeared in front of us! It was really impressive seeing everything in real life. Even seeing photos many times before still doesn’t prepare you for the real thing!

Sharing Machu Picchu with the locals

Sharing Machu Picchu with the locals

At 11:30 Daphne, Clément and I jumped on a bus to the bottom of the mountain and began the last leg of our journey back to Hydroelectrica where we were to meet our bus for the return trip back to Cusco. We had to be back for a 2:30 pick up so we put a good pace on for the walk back. we got back and almost instantly Daphné and Clément found there bus. 

I spoke to all the bus companies waiting and no one had me on their list. I had in the back of my head that this was going to happen. Eventually one of the transport guys made a few phone calls and got me on a bus before taking me off again to let some others on. At around 3pm I was put on another bus and finally I was on my way back to Cusco. This 6 hour bus ride was by far the scariest experience of my life. We flew around blind corners, squealing the tires on the wrong side of the road with several hundred meter cliff drops on the side with no guard rails while overtaking trucks. (this is no exaggeration, this continued to happen for the majority of the trip). Eventually it got dark then we drove through clouds with about 5 meters of visibility but that didn’t even slow down our driver. I had already played out in my head my game plan of how I was going to protect myself as we hurtled off one of the cliffs.

Scary bus trip

Scary bus trip

At 9pm we arrived back in Cusco. I had survived!