A place I dreamed about going to when I was a child and didn’t think it was ever possible for me to go.
I am not an outdoors person and have NEVER camped in my life however, I felt the journey to Machu Picchu required at least a journey that might help me be one with nature or find myself. Then, I realised how tough this was!!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get onto the Inca Trail as I’m quite last minute with this decision so I joined the Lares Trek as I found out that you interact with some of the children in the villages and our guide would tell us what life is like being here …as well as some ghost stories.
You may have read in my other post that I suffered from altitude sickness so badly where I had pressure headaches, threw up a couple times and had some breathing difficulties before doing this trek. I think my body must’ve gotten used to it a bit as the Lares Trek goes up 4,450 metres above sea level. But I still had some breathing problems and had to take my time getting to each campsite. Read my post on altitude sickness but I will say that the tablets I got in Peru helped me otherwise, I do not think I would’ve made it.
During the Lares Trek, we started out as a group of 16 enthusiastic people who were individuals, friends or partners travelled from across the globe and excited to do this trek. In the evenings, the temperature dropped below zero – we were so frikkin cold even with when wearing extra layers to bed. When I say layers, I mean I wore 2-3 extra layers underneath my clothes and yet I could still feel the cold.
I shared with a lovely American girl (that I ended up working on a vineyard with in Bolivia.. That’s a story for another day) and I was so lucky that she was so prepared for camping.
This city girl only had baby wipes, anti bacterial gel and toilet roll (which helped) – this great American girl had other camping equipment that seem normal for a normal camper but not to someone who knows nothing about camping!
Day 1 – start of the trek, get to know some people, had lunch at a local house and played with some local kids who were adorable. The indigenous community here speak a separate language called Quecha which I found very hard to pick up but I still wanted to say polite phrases like ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’. Also, always good to bring some treats like crackers, biscuits (nothing with sugar as there’s a dental problem – tour companies will warn you) or toys to give to kids along your travels.
When we got to our campsite for the evening, it was pitch black, I could hear dogs howling and it was so cold that no one wanted to shower (except for the guides) so some of us opted for a baby wipe shower (my wipes came of use!). The day was quite tiring so we call actually went to sleep around 8pm as we had to get up at 5.30am. As being someone who has never slept outdoors, I kept hearing the dogs howl which sounded like werewolves and I could hear an animal walking around the tents sniffing then scratching with the paw which scared the life out of me. Then I fell back to sleep and woke up to hearing my left tent neigbour puking their insides out. I fell back to sleep and woke up again when my right tent neighbour did the same thing. Both were so loud but my tent buddy slept right through it.
Day 2– Well in the morning of Day 2, it seemed that the group of 15 reduced to a smaller group of 9 which felt a lot better in terms of hiking.
(the other group went back down and stayed at a hostel/hotel as they had such bad altitude sickness).
I was suffering a bit with my breathing but I felt that this is a personal challenge and I wanted to get through it.
There were a lot of kids out and to hear about their lives were actually quite interesting.
Reached the summit that was 4,500 metres and my body was aching!! I was mentally and physically exhausted at this point and probably had resting bitch face on.
On top of the summit, there was some sort of Jesus Christ cross and the other side seemed to have a lot of Pachamama rocks all piled up. Our guide informed us that this was a place that all the villages who followed either one religion and would try to claim it here. Both religions still have ceremonies at these spots so I guess they just share it and split the times when they need it.
From here, I knew that it would be easier as we would be going down!!
We also saw a lot of Illama’s, dogs that look wild but they belonged to a village nearby that followed us, some birds I’ve never seen before and truly was a beautiful sight.
Since we were a smaller group – I asked about a local ghost stories as it’s good to compare to Asian and British stories and see if there’s any similarities.
Just to give you a little context on one superstition, there’s mountains are thousands of years old where there’s been a lot of sacrifices, burials and wars so I believe that there are spirits wandering around and I just don’t want them to follow me (my culture has loads of horrific stories of ghosts following you so I am not taking chances). So, before I joined the trek – I went into the local market just to buy a few cloves of garlic. The lady of the stall laughed at my and gave me more cloves for my money (it was cheap and I was willing to not willing to take more but she insisted) so I know for definite that my garlic would protect me haha.. But it was interesting to hear from this indigienous tribe that they believe in it too and they also believe in spirits following you with bad intentions.
These stories may have scared the others … probably best not to talk about ghost stories at night…
Day 3: We woke up to a beautiful sunrise! I quickly went out to the Inca toilet (aka pee in the bushes) and it seemed that I was dazed as I went into the wrong tent where a couple was sleeping! I was so horrified that I did the most British thing and apologised… then ran off shouting my tent buddy to pop out of our tent haha.
We finished this trek around 4pm, got on a bus to Ollantambo and then a train to Aguas Caliente where we stayed for the night. It was a luxury to stay in a bed in a warm room and be in a hot shower – this was heaven!!
The idea would be that we would get a train from Aguas Caliente to Machu Picchu first thing in the morning to try to get to the Sun Gate at sunrise and reunite with our group members who did the Inca Trail!!
I CANNOT CONTAIN OUR EXCITEMENT!!
Day 4: We got up at the crack of dawn, wandered in the dark to the bus stop where there was a massive queue already. Our bus was the second bus journey going from Aguas Caliente to Machu Picchu which took about 45 minutes. When we got out, the sun was slowly rising and the queue to get into Machu Picchu was already huge.
But it was worth it. I was speechless when we got to see some views and then our guide said that this wasn’t the best view, it got better and he was not joking!!
We had 45 minutes to rush up to the Sungate so we could meet the other people in our group, see the sun beam through this gate that it has been shining through for centuries as well as used by the Inca’s regulary (not a gate but it’s original Inca stone ruin). It felt MAGICAL. There was a lot of happiness, tears and excitement that we all made this tough journey together.
Then we joined another group to get a history lesson about the Incas, the story of the last Inca King (it’s a brutal and sad story), how Macchu Picchu came about as it was the hiding spot of the last Inca King who was hiding from the Spaniards, the everyday life that they think would happen and see the llama’s roam around freely.
This group of people consisted of such amazing individuals that when we were together, it made the group awesome. We spent a lot of time together and there was no hatred, disagreements or disputes. We are all people from different walks of life, from across the world and all wanting to experience the same things.
When we all had difficulty, everyone tried to support one another and help each other wherever they could. I couldn’t have asked for a better group than these guys. They’ve made the start of my trip amazing!
There we have it – another Wonder of the World ticked off my bucket list and an everlasting memory.