15th-20th October 2018
Before embarking on our Inca Trail, with GAdventures, we had 5 days in Cusco. Originally, the extra days were in case we needed time to adjust to the altitude, but as luck would have it, neither Sarah nor I suffered from the sickness. We did however, need those 5 days for other things… like shopping.
The centre of the city is a lovely size: big enough to get lost down the cobbled, Inca wall-clad streets, but small enough to get from one side to the other without the need for public transport. We did a Walking Tour one afternoon which took us to the bustling San Pedro market, which had everything from wooden spoons to goat's heads (so I'd heard…). The history of the city is fascinating, and I loved the tales of the Incan messengers pegging it to the coast or back to Quito. It also really hit home what buggers the Spanish were, but as an English person I really can't point fingers...
The handicraft markets were wonderful. They were the place to purchase anything llama-related, and were hives of activity and colour. We'd walk passed stalls where the owners would be buried under mountains of alpaca rugs and woolly jumpers.
We also wanted to spend time picking the perfect tour to get us into Manu National Park: the Amazon Jungle. This took a looooong time as we needed a trip that coincided with our available dates. The dream would have been to head to the Reserve Zone (the place deep in the jungle where no one but a couple of remote tribes live) but, alas, our dates didn't fit and waiting wasn't an option (I figured I'd be making a return trip anyway…). After spending 2 exhausting, emotional days popping in and out of travel shops, we settled with a 5-day trip with Bonanza; a glorious, family business (they all hail from the jungle) that was brilliantly reviewed on Trip Advisor and completely wildlife orientated. (That's another blog post, coming soon.)
On the 19th October, for our Sarah's birthday, we got up at 2:30am to head to Rainbow Mountain. The feeling of being sick with exhaustion was totally worth it. It was a long drive out of the city, but the second half of the journey was beautiful. We drove up, up, up into the mountains through remote villages and beeped at llamas as they took over the road. We were at extremely high altitude and the sharp, snowy caps proved it so. It was gorgeous.
We walked 7km to get to the top (a staggering 5,200m above sea level) to overlook the valleys and see Rainbow Mountain in all its glory… the last 20m were ridiculous; the air is so thin that I had to stop every 5 steps to catch my breath, but the views, OH the views!
On the way down, we popped across to see the Red Valley - almost as, if not more, beautiful than the show-stopper itself. The landscape is otherworldly and so, so huge. I adored being surrounded by these mountains.
That evening, Sarah and I went out for a beautiful dinner for her birthday at Moreno (the staff are angels). This was a great idea, until it hit us just how tired we were. The food made us even sleepier which made us delusional… I mean, I have no regrets now, but at the time we definitely should have shared the plate of dulce de leche-filled churros (which came with its own hot chocolate). The saviour of the feast, was the Andean Mint Tea, Muña. It's. Incredible. We stumbled home and had an early night. A beautifully memorable day for me, and Sarah's best birthday to date (I've decided on her behalf).
The next few days were spent preparing last minute bits and bobs for the Inca Trail, which had approached very quickly...