We had our breakfast in Ollyanatambo and there were sold at for a while as we waited for the bus. Everyone but me bought a stick to walk with. I got myself a water bottle holder, which was actually very useful. People also stocked up on Coca leaves for the tough time ahead. Our guide was Hubert (or Hubertcito as we later new him) and his assistant was Augusto (Or Gordito (little fatty) as Hubert always called him!). After another hour in the bus we started on the trail, after the all important group photo and stamp on the passport. The first day is meant to be relatively easy, and a bit of a warm up, and it was. At our first stop for lunch we were amazed by the quality of the food, and by the luxury we were afforded in our little tent with picnic tables that was set up for us everywhere. (For our group of 16 there were 22 porters, including the chef and his assistant. Many had taken personal porters to carry 6kg of stuff for you, me included. All those that didn't ended up taking a local porter for the tough second day for far more money!) Most of the scenery was nice, but not amazing at this stage, and we also saw our first Inca ruin. Hubert stopped to point out some of the flora a few times, and later at the Inca ruin he gave a long history talk, and a few people started nodding of a bit. He wasn't a great orator, with poor English grammar and a tendency to repeat everything. You see he would repeat everything, and his English grammar wasn't very good, which made his talks seem interminable, though basically very informative, because he would repeat everything. At the end of the day we had afternoon tea in our camp, closely followed by dinner, again the food was very nice and plentiful. Hubert gave us a tale of woe, about he was persecuted for abjectly failing to follow the rules of society! Can you believe the wanted to knock his house down because he didn't bother with planning permission, and then they had the cheek to shut his restaurant down, just because he didn't bother with a licence. He later told how he punched a guy when driving a lorry, and let his brother take the rap for it because he didn't actually have a licence. We began to get the idea he was a bit of a chancer! After dinner and this speech everyone went to bed ridiculously early, I know we got up at 4am and had to get up at 5 the next morning, but it was still poor! I didn't sleep great, but managed not to hear the domestic a nearby Peruvian couple were having despite almost everyone else being woken by it.
Day two and we were awoken with the hot drink of out choice in our tents! Well almost, as my tea turned out to actually be coffee. Also turned out everyone was a terrible faff, and I was packed and sat in the dining tent for 20 mins before anyone else joined me for breakfast! The highlight of breakfast was some very nice porridge with cinnamon! This was to be the hardest day, with us going over the highest pass, with a lot of climbing in the morning ( in the morning we were to climb 1400m, that¡s higher than Ben Nevis). People spread out a bit more today, with Dayan and myself usually at the front, followed by Diane, the 60 year old American lady (those two names did cause a bit of confusion!) Poor old team New York was suffering from the altitude and was often far behind. After around 2 hours or so we had out morning tea, from there we were to press on for 4 hours before a late lunch. 2 of these four hours were up, and 2 down lots of steps, many of them original Inca. The pas was called the dead woman's pass (Warmiwañusca) and Dayan and I took about 50 mins for the '2 hour' climb to the top, with me first after a cheeky late sprint. This of course precipitated a long wait for the rest, and up there the cloud rolled in over the pass and it was pretty chilly. At the final camp I gave my feet a much needed wash in the cold stream and after lunch managed a brief nap before tea. Again it was an early night for all, so I had to lie and listen to my iPod as I was not tired enough! The scenery had been better this day, and more varied. Some sections were not unlike Scotland, others were very pretty could forest.
Day three was to be the longest and most interesting day: lots of Inca ruins as well as cloud forest and two more passes. Before we left the porters all introduced themselves, and we did likewise. The first pass was straight away from the camp, and was not as bad as it looked at first, then came an Inca ruin, with a talk from Hubert and plenty time to wander around, then an early lunch. Then it was a long slow ascent to the third pass, but through some lovely sections of cloud forest, and other sections where the path really clung to the side of the cliff and had taken some construction. Just over the third pass was another Inca ruin, and after this we all went off at our separate speeds again, down a long descent on artfully constructed staircases, into what was becoming rain forest. Towards the end was an optional detour into a ruin which few people took, but I did. This was pretty spectacular as I was the only one in sight when I got there. It was mainly a huge series of terraces, but having it to myself really made it special ( some sections of the trail got really crowded, and you were very aware of the 500 people a day using it). The camp on this day was on quite a steep hillside, but actually had a bar nearby, which was surprisingly cheap for its middle of nowhere location. Dayan and I had a beer or two before and after dinner with 4 girls we'd repeatedly met on the trail who were in there own group, the bar was a bit strange and barren with its plastic furniture and incongruous 80's music (Phil Collins anyone?). This night we also had the massive faff of sorting out tips for the porters, but we got there in the end, it helped that they gave us ´Macho tea´ which has alcohol in it beforehand. We also got cake as it was the last night!
The last morning was a super early start as we wanted to get to Machu Picchu before the crowds. We had to forsake the wake up tea in our tent, but the group really managed to get ready quickly and we were the second group out on the trail in the morning. Everyone managed to keep up an impressive pace together for almost 2 hours till we got to the sun gate where we got our first view of MP. To be honest this was a bit misty and not as great as I expected, however, once we descended closed and things cleared up a bit we got the real great postcard view. We took some team photos, I revealed myself as a Puma, and then we headed down for a bit of a rest at the entrance before going on a tour with Hubertsito for a couple of hours around the site. He was actually more informative and less frustrating to listen to hear this time. After that we had as much time to wander as we wanted and our ticket for the bus back to meet up in Aguas Cllientes. We were quite weary, and after less than an hour more Dayan, Madison and I headed back as Machu Picchu seemed best appreciated viewed from close above on the hill than wandering among it. It is amazing, but we were underwhelmed by some of the attractions, such as the rock shaped like a condor (or not), the rock sculpted like a Guinea Pig, and the rather phallic sundial, which was rather underwhelming despite being sold hard by Hubersito. It was still morning when we descended on the bus, but we'd been up for 8 hours!
I'm going to have to go now as I'm shattered and have to be up at 7am to go fly to the Galapagos tomorrow, so you'll have to wait at least a week for Aguas Cllientes and back to Cusco and all the rest. This has been rather rushed too, sorry!