12 May 2017
The next leg of our adventure entailed the scariest 20 hour bus ride in the history of mankind. Lima to Cusco. Nightmare is a huge understatement. Sitting on the second level right in the front only made it way worse. I am relieved and amazed that we got to the other side in one piece. No sleep and no school work done. Staying in your seat being the biggest aim and accomplishment.
Cusco, the cultural capital of Peru, is alive with markets, street vendors, local people dressed in bright traditional cloth and lamas on leashes.
Our host, Daniel, and his son Danny picked us up from the bus terminal and took us to their home in the suburb of Santiago. Up on a hill, overlooking the city, we found three comfortable rooms with a clean shared bathroom. The comfortable beds saw way too little of us. Only three precious hours.
We attended a compulsory meeting with our trekking company in the city centre. Here we met our tour guides and companions and received duffel bags for the trek. After quite an ordeal with administration issues and struggling to draw money to avoid the 8% credit card fees, we finally walked home (quite a significant distance) to re-pack our bags. By midnight we flopped into our beds, only to be up again by 3am.
Our Salkantay trekking company picked us up at 4am. Not the best way to start a five day walk. And a difficult one too. In true van Rensburg fashion, we went for the longest, hardest Inka trail.
Our family made up exactly half of the trekking group, excluding the two guides. Suffering up the mountains at high altitude on day one is the perfect way to turn 12 strangers into family and friends. The care and concern for one another was something truly special. Especially when altitude sickness kicked in for a few of us. Not fun!!! Hiking at high altitude was a new experience for our family and most of our group.
The five day trek took us up glorious mountains and through stunning valleys. The scenery ever changing. Our two chefs did an incredible job of creating delicious, artistic platters of food in the middle of nowhere for every meal. Being woken up with coca tea every morning was another little treat. We mostly slept in tents on thin mats and narrow sleeping bags. I hate to have my feet closed in! But, it was very cold. So, in the interest of maintaining some body heat, I happily disappeared into that narrow cocoon every night.
Every morning was an early start. Every day was flooded with special moments. Every hour brought people together and saw connections made. What a wonderful blessing! I will forever look back on this time with fond memories of breathtaking beauty and precious conversations and people.
Our final day started at 3am. Our family climbed the many, many stairs to the entrance to Machu Picchu in a record 35 minutes only to wait in a line for nearly an hour. After a two hour tour and strong coffee for all, we started our climb up Machu Picchu Mountain. Not for the faint hearted!! And no small feat in noon day heat!! But we did it with good attitudes and much silliness and laughter. Our family of six plus our adopted member, Joyce, enjoyed a little lunch at the top with a perfect view of Machu Picchu. Going down was rather difficult with all those narrow stairs. A last little hangout with our trekking family, followed by big hugs and sad goodbyes concluded our Salkantay trek.
We had only minutes to catch our breaths before starting the decent to the town of Aguas Calientes. We met a lovely Australian couple with whom we instantly connected and we chatted all the way down to the town. There we exchanged detail and made a date to meet up upon return at the end of November. They live on the Gold Coast, only an hour and a bit from us. How good is that?!
Another 10km walk (less than two hours) brought us to the town of Hidro Electrica, where we met our host and guide for the next several days…..
– Mariza –