Thunder and lightning kept me awake from 4am, which was a mixture of terrifying and awesome. Being so close to nature, you never quite know what’s going to happen, and it really emphasised just how close we were to nature! Waking up and heading to the bathroom, I realised that the bats who were living in the roof of the cabin had been a little scared of the lightning, and had left me presents all over the shower floor…. luckily it washed off easily enough!
I was packed and ready to go by 6:30am, despite the morning call time being 7:30, which I thought would give me an hour of alone time, but once I headed to the bar almost everyone else was there already! Seems we’re a group of early risers, or maybe the thunder and lightning just kept us up – certainly Kirsten and Mike had been kept awake by the giant spider in their mosquito net (not a perfect honeymoon bed!)
Breakfast at 7:30 was scrambled eggs, fried plantain and the most amazing mango I ever tasted.
We quickly headed to the boat and were whisked on a 90 minute river trip to the port, during which time we raced a couple of the other lodges (everyone heads at the same time because there are only a few flights a day from Puerto Maldonado).
During the trip we did a bit of bird spotting, but everyone was generally subdued to be leaving the jungle so quickly after we arrived. It would have been amazing to stay there a few more days, but i’m pretty sure even if you stayed there 2 years you would still be discovering new things!
After a 45 minute bumpy van ride to the office, we repacked our bags/suitcases from the duffles we took into the jungle and then headed to the airport. We stopped at a little snack store and I bought some brazil nut and tomato cookies which were really good, even if the taste was a little strange.
At the airport, G Adventures have an agreement with Avianca to use their executive check-in lines, which made us all feel very important – particularly as all the other tours have to use the ‘normal’ checkin.
The airport is tiny in Puerto Maldonado and we were warned that the checkin process might be unusual – rather than owning a bag scanner and scanning the bags after check-in, the airport opts for a more hands-on approach – opening bags and scanning them with hands before they go through check in. The process was kind of ridiculous, with hands probing around to find god knows what in our bags. After promising I didn’t have anything dodgy in my bag, and a pair of gloved hands finding nothing, I was free to check in as normal and from then we had a short wait whilst Harold obtained the check-in ladies number (although he insists he was just getting a number to check his air miles). We continued to tease him about this the whole trip!
The flight itself was uneventful, and the airline provided a USB port at our seats which was great for recharging my camera!
After we arrived in Cusco, the centre of the Inca empire, we were whisked to our hotel (5 minutes by private bus) and checked in. Harold gave us a guided tour of the city and we tried the free Coca Tea (good for relieving altitude sickness, since Cusco is at 3400m from sea level).
True to form, Harold had booked us a table at an amazing little restaurant (Aguaymanto) for lunch which had the most incredible menu of Peruvian dishes and catered well to the needs of G Adventures guests. It was really hidden up a back alley and a staircase but worth exploring to find it!
We shared some Nachos as a starter and then I had a thai green curry as a main, followed by a shared Mango Flambé for dessert. It was awesome, and we all left feeling great about Cusco. Nobody was really feeling the altitude, which we were all thankful of since we had been warned it could be a tough evening.
After dinner a short recognition walk showed us more of the area including the central square which featured a rather excited looking Inca on a fountain. My google-fu tells me he is Pachacuti – the main Inca who built Cusco and Machu Picchu into the places they are today.
On the way back to the hotel, the girls were acosted by some Andean women holding cute lambs who forced them to have photos taken with the lambs and then demanded payment (as much as S20, $7) for the photos.
Once back at the hotel we freshened up before our briefing about the inca trial at 19:00.
During the briefing, we met our guide (Israel) and he talked us through the plan for the trip, packing and essentials. We have a 6kg limit for personal items which will be carried by the porters – which gets reduced by 2.5kg for our sleeping bag and 1kg for our air mattress, leaving just 2.5kg for our personal stuff!
Israels recommended packing list for those 2.5kgs:
- 3 t-shirts
- 3 pairs of hiking socks
- 3 sets of underwear
- Thermals to sleep in
- Warm hat and gloves
- Spare pair of hiking pants
- Warm jacket
I don’t know which lightweight shop he goes to, but when I put all that in my duffle it came to 4kg! A quick rationalisation and I was back to 2.5kg – phew!
Israel talked us through the timeline of the 4 days
- Day one – Gentle start – Pickup at 7:15, bus to the km82 start point, starting at 2700m, hike for 11km/6 hours, starting at 9:30. Climb is only 300m, so we sleep at 3000m
- Day two – Challenge day – Starting at 3000m, hike for 12km/8 hours, starting at 6:30. Climb is 1200m, descent about 600m, sleeping at 3600m
- Day three – Culture day – Starting at 3600m, hike for 16km/10 hours, starting at 6:30.
- Day four – Machu Picchu – Starting at 3:30am, hike for 6km/2 hours, Gate to Machu Picchu opens at 5:30am. After MP, take a bus/train/bus back to Cusco
We would have another 3 people joining us for the trail, and Mike and Kirsten would be doing the Lares Trek which is an alternative trek for those who are unable to get Inca Trail passes (only 500 passes are issued a day). For our group of 8 hikers, we would have 19 porters!
Most important thing, which they kept reminding us, was to bring our passports! Clearly that has burned them in the past!
In our day packs, we were told to pack:
- Mosquito repellent & sunscreen (question: why don’t they make sunscreen which is mosquito repellent as well?)
- Water bottle / camelbak
- Toilet paper / baby wipes
- Rain gear / Poncho
- Passport (must not forget this)
- First aid kit / medication
- Headtorch and spare batteries
- Cash (S300 – S400)
Before the trail started, we had a tour day visiting the Sacred Valley, which is a chance for us to get prepared for the trail and also test our gear. Our big bags would stay in Cusco whilst we toured the Sacred Valley and did the Inca Trail, so we would need to take everything with us tomorrow ready for the trail. Exciting times!