Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album Trip 2013 - Cusco to La Paz. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like.
Im now 6.5 months through my 8.5 month journey and finally reached one of the highlights of my trip, the Inca trail and Macchu Picchu. I have been looking forward to this one for a while, it started off by driving down into the Sacred Valley 1 hour outside of Cusco.
We had the afternoon and evening to prepare ourselfs to begin the trail. We spent it exploring the beautiful Ollantaytambo and its ancient Inca ruins.
On our mini-trail we bumped into a little troop of boys that gave us a song and dance in exchange for a few soles
The next day it was time for the big show. The km 82 marks the start of the trail and our 4 day adventure.
The first day was a gentle journey following the winding river. Along the way we bumped into a few animals, some in better condition than others.
In the evening of the first day we were introduced to our team of porters. We had 28 of them to look after the 18 of us.
They are incredible people who carry 25kg of load each and run up and down the trail as we gringos huff and puff our way around. I had a go at picking up one of the packs for a short while.
Manageable but I wouldnt want to carry it up some of the hills on the second day. Incredibly only a few years ago they used to carry twice that amount each!
The second day of the trail was by far the toughest and had us hiking 1.2km vertically up to the summit of "Dead Womans Pass". It was a tough slog and I was more than ready for a rest when I reached the top.
The way down was much more interesting and I took great pleasure bounding down the stairs to reach the camp before some of the porters.
The views from our second days camp were incredible.
Each day we woke early (5am) and the third day was no exception though the views on this morning from the top of a short 300m hike were.
The third day was the best day on the trail in my opinion.
The trail wound its way around the steep cliffs and through the occasional tunnel until we were rewarded with the incredible views of our lunch spot.
After lunch we hiked it yet further down to our third and final campsite. Just before we got there we visited two impressive terraced Incan ruins.
The final day we woke at 3:45 and hiked for a short hour or so up to the famous Sun Gate of Macchu Piccu.
After a little while observing the incredible view we hiked down to the famous photo spot before taking a tour around the wonder of the world
After several hours exploring the site then having dinner down in the valley we hopped in a train and rode it back out of the valley.
Back in Cusco we had a day to enjoy the comforts of a warm bed and good food once more
Next up we travelled by bus to Puno then by boat to an island on lake Titicaca for a home-stay with a local family
Before we headed to the home of the family we would be spending the night with we had a friendly gringos vs local footie match
Afterwards we dressed up in the traditional highlanders dress and performed the ceremonial dance much to my great embarrassment
Then it was off to the home of Blanca, mother of 3 girls and the cheeky chappy Brian
We helped prepare meals which were cooked on a clay wood fire inside one of their farm buildings
That first evening we presented them with some small gifts we had bought in Puno earlier in the day. They were over the moon with the pressies we gave them: Olives, Lentils, Corn, Oil, Waterbaloons, Candles, Matches, A Skipping Rope, Pencils, Washing up products.
Despite enjoying the water balloons, 3 year old Brian was hard to tear away from his favorite toy
The followind day we helped Blanca with some of her daily chores. We took the sheep out of their pen and herded them(with difficulty) to some grass.
Then it was down to the lake shore where we helped separate fish (and often fish heads) from the nets that had been used to catch them overnight.
I had an awesome time on the homestay and felt privalidged to get just a small glance into how these people live thier lives. Unfortunately we could only stay one day and had to hop back in a boat back to Puno.
Along the way we stopped at the famous floating reed islands of Lake Titicaca. These incredible structures are made entirely of reeds found in the lake. They are 10's to 100's of meters wide and several meters thick and can last up to 70 years. They are composed of layered reeds that must continually be added to else the ones below rot away and they sink.
I had been gagging to swim in the cold lake since we first arrived and saw my chance to take a dip.
The next day it was across the border into Bolivia and the massive capital of La Paz
On arrival we took a short tour of the hot, noisy and polluted city. The main attraction was the witches market. Called so because of the interesting varieties of ex-animals for sale including Llama feutus' which are used as part of the Pachamama ceremony
The following day we caught a bus up to 4900m and hopped on bikes and rode the famous Death Road.
The ride was one of the best things I have done on the entire trip, even the soaking rain thunder, mud and fog couldnt dampen the incredible thrill of racing down the mountain just meters from certain death.
The final day in Cusco I thought I would have a nice relaxing day by dressing up as Spider Man and jumping out of one of the tallest buildings in the city
Well that's it for this chunk of my travels and my time with 14 other people I had shared the last 21 days with. I have had so many incredible experiences enhanced by the company of those special people!