It was written on the side of Heather’s fridge.


 

It was written on the side of Heather’s fridge. “Walk the Inca Trail”. This was one of a dozen things she had to do “before I die”!

 

Part 1. The Build up trek!

 

Participants:  Sandra and Mel Wilkinson, Heather and Tim Eastwood.

 

I (Sandra) wanted a body guard – for I had heard of muggings and stabbings in South America and Tim looked big enough to ward off any assailants. So the four of us headed down - 1st Class! by train (thanks Heather) to Heathrow. The next bonus was getting the front row of the airplane as Tim stretched his legs out whilst I sat behind him with my short little legs.

 

Our Lima hostel had sent a taxi for us and when we arrived at the “barbed wire” enclosed, “iron gated” hostel I was glad Tim was with us, but as usual the friendly inmates were just like us – travellers, exchanging information and tips which they had learnt. We were only in Lima for one day and the highlight was the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace  – John Cleese, you could take lessons.

 

Four o’clock am and a taxi back to the airport for the flight to Arequipa, a beautiful city surrounded by volcano’s. Here we met our guide for the Colca Canyon – and told him we did not want to sit in hot springs for an afternoon, and that we wanted to walk!!

 

Four o’clock am again and we were picked up in a freezing cold mini bus that vibrated us to the canyon, stopping on the way to see the Condors rise on the thermals – effortlessly. After lunch we started the 6000ft of zigzag descent on a good path which, as we got nearer the river crossed over scree and rubble. Here, Heather’s scissor legs began to dance as she decided that it would have been better if she had asked for walking poles.

 

Over the river bridge and on to a hostel perched above the river. We had a brew (beer!) and then went down to the hot pool by the river. Bliss! – absolute Bliss! laying there with the stars above us and the sound of the river nearby, whilst our aching bodies relaxed in the hot water.

 

The evening meal was fresh trout from the river. We each had our own sleeping bungalows and ours had a high double bed which I struggled to get into and needed a life line to get out onto the cobble floor below.


 

 

Next day we re-traced our path to the river bridge and started to traverse along the canyon through farm fields, passing buildings along the way. On the opposite side of the valley the rock face was full of different colours of red, yellow and browns whilst one part looked like basalt columns, the views entertaining us as we walked along in the hot sun. The vegetation was lush as the trail went from village to village, we had not expected the canyon to be so inhabited, but everyone gave us a friendly wave or smile.

 

Our last nights stop was palatial. Our own bungalow with a shower, this was near the famous “Hot Springs” and so the commercialization had made everywhere upgrade – a change from the quiet hostel of the night before, but when in Rome …. So we sat in the dining room, smelling sweet and relaxed as our guide produced a bottle of wine which he had been carrying for us.

 

There is of course a sting in the tail – yes, its then up 6000 feet in the dark. Mel had been worrying about this as we sat waiting for dinner. He had scoured the cliffs for the path upwards, convinced it would be impossible to find it in the dark. As it grew darker we could see locals running down with their lights flashing – it was there!

 

So, we crossed the river bridge again and started on the long plod upwards. My light was poor – it was rubbish! so I had to rely on the others who had brought their “beams”.

Our guide was using a lemonade bottle with a candle inside so he offered me his spare light. It’s strange when you are walking uphill in the dark, you know its uphill by your breathing but you don’t know how far up you are, but then we started to see the lights of the villages in the valley far away as slowly  the light of the morning sun started to creep   along the canyon.

 

This was when Mel decided that the four foot wide path was too narrow on a mountain side with a 3000 foot drop to the right. (it was no where near that wide – Mel.)

Slowly the sun rose, as we did, and then all four of us had a triumphant hug of satisfaction and relief as we emerged on the canyon rim.

We were up by 7 o’clock am so there was plenty of time for a good breakfast, and as we sat in the village square waiting for our bus in the hot sun, all the villagers came dancing round the town accompanied by an out of tune and out of key band.

 

It was fiesta time!!

 

We were now ready (I think!) for our main objective – “The Salkantay Trek” to Machu Picchu.

 

Sandra Wilkinson