Our last entry was from Cusco where we were preparing for our trek.
On Tuesday 24th June we had an early start to avoid the celebrations that were taking place all around and our bus took us to a number of Inca ruins and a textile workshop.
The Inca structures have amazing stone work where their walls are made of rocks that have multiple sides but fit perfectly. The size and weight of some of these rocks required some very serious effort to get them into place as they didn't have the wheel to rely on and only a roller system.
We finished the morning with a meal of fresh trout cooked by a group of women from a local village from where we commenced our trek.
In the afternoon we commenced our trek and had a slow,slightly undulating walk that kept us at the same height and ended at another quiet village where we all stayed in a local hostel. This is where we met up with our cook team and they prepared us dinner.
Along with a German couple we were lucky enough to get our own rooms while the rest had dorms.
The following morning we started the serious phase of our trek and began a mornings ascent to our first high mountain pass which was at a height of about 4,500 meters. We were all feeling the effects of the thinner air as we made the top of the pass and during the ascent we lost one our number to an ankle injury, who returned to the village that we had stayed in the previous evening. We were now a party of 14 for the rest of the trek.
After a short descent off the pass we were treated to an amazing lunch by the cook team who had travelled ahead of us.
After lunch we had an interesting, trackless descent into a river valley where we camped for the night at a height of about 3,900 meters.
As we have had to carry equipment to cater for mainly hot, sunny weather we both took our sleeping bags to their absolute minimum temperatures on the trek but were very happy that we both still had a warm nights sleep.
We had another early start and after a hearty breakfast of a very thin porridge, egg, bacon, plantain and bread we set off for our second and highest pass.
Helen found this pass a little more challenging on her lungs but with a little encouragement from Nigel we both made the top of this pass at a height of about 4,700 meters.
We dropped a bit of height for another great lunch and then had an afternoon of descent down a river valley to our last campsite.
The following morning we continued our descent down the river valley and into farmland where we met our transport and said goodbye to our trekking crew.
We were then driven to our hotel in the town of Ollantaytambo where we had well deserved showers and explored some more Inca ruins which were built into the hillside. This was one of the last strongholds of the Inca nation and the site of one of the very few victories over the Spanish invaders. Needless to say the Spanish returned later with greater forces and took the town.
The following morning we had a 4am start to catch a train and bus to the lost city of the Inca's at Machu Picchu. This site was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 when he paid a local farmer the princely sum of $1 to show him the then overgrown mountain site.
Words can't describe what is now considered one of the 7 modern wonders of the world. Just have a look at the photographs and video which nearly do it justice.
We had a tour around the site and then we walked up to the sun gate on our own. While we were there a young man burst into song (slightly out of tune) and sang "Too good to be true" to his girlfriend, he then dropped to one knee and proposed. Luckily she said yes and the twenty or so spectators, including ourselves cheered and applauded. (Photograph)
We descended and joined the mass of humanity trying to catch a bus down to the train station. The site is limited to 2,500 people a day and all of them seemed to want to get on the same bus as us.
We caught a train and then a coach back to Cusco where we celebrated with a late evening meal and a bottle of Chilean merlot. The younger members of the group went to paint the city red and quite possibly a number of other colours.
Today is Sunday 29th June and we are back in the hotel in Cusco. We have a free day to sort ourselves out.
Tomorrow we will rejoin the truck and Nick our driver as we head towards La Paz in Bolivia which should be our next edition in about a week or so.