Czarina’s South America Adventure – Part 3

Yesterday we started off early to begin our one-day Inca Trek. I was nervous and anxious but ready to go!

Our local guide, Ray, would be our guide through the trek which made me more at ease since we knew him quite well by then.

Those doing the one-day trek jumped off the train at the 104km sign. Having our first view of the trail was intimidating since it was straight uphill for the first two hours. Those first two hours were definitely the most difficult. We would walk for about 15 minutes and take two minute breaks to catch our breath. During our trek we would go through two check points where they would check our passports and our permits. This is a great way of keeping track of all the trekkers out there and looking out for their safety.

I doubt I could have done this without the support of my hubby. He was a trooper! About an hour in, he suffered from severe cramping in his quads which Ray attributed to the altitude. He just kept powering through with no complaints. So I did everything I could to keep my mouth shut and to stop the whining in my head. The truth is, this trek is not easy and you must be mentally and physically prepared for this. There were sections of the trail where you are climbing some steep steps upwards and off the sides it’s a sheer drop. I would climb those sections using both my feet and hands on all fours.

Lunch was a welcomed break at what Ray called “mini Machu Picchu”. We sat on these beautiful terraces to enjoy a huge boxed lunch. It took me a second to realize how beautiful it all was around me. I hadn’t paid any attention at all to my surroundings as we were walking; I was too busy watching my feet and praying for my legs not to give up. I was jello by then and could barely eat the sandwiches, snack bars, fruit and juice boxes. I was too worried it would all come back up. Couldn’t believe how much food Ray had carried for the eight of us.

There were two very surprising things I wasn’t expecting: Firstly, there is only one “official” bathroom on this portion of the trail and secondly, the bugs along the way were horrible! The only bathroom break was in the first couple hours and you are using a squatter. Once I learned this was the only “bathroom”, I instantly had to go again. But there is almost nowhere to hide. For the guys, this clearly wasn’t a problem. For the girls, on the other hand, we all held it in. Not fun! The bug bites I noticed after I was done the trek but they really got all of us all over our exposed legs. Apparently these tiny bugs are only around Machu Picchu and the nearby town of Aguas Calientes.

Reaching the Sun Gate after six hours was so powerful. With Ray leading the way and empowering us with his words those last few steps, he embraced all of us one by one and told us to enjoy the view and that we should be proud. I felt like crying even before I caught my first glimpse of the mystical Machu Picchu. Such a great time to arrive since the mist was just rising off the site that afternoon. Too amazing for words and too overwhelmed with a mini victory in my chest. We did it!

Czar holding a goat  Czar Machu Pichu

Czarina’s South America Adventure – Part 2

After spending the past few days touring around the Sacred Valley, it’s now apparent to me why this is a “must see” destination for all travellers. Pisac, Moray and Ollantaytambo are all evidence that the Incans were ahead of the game in terms of astrology, farming, architecture and so on. The Incan ruins are stunning and we couldn’t have asked for better weather to tour them. We’ve had some pretty sketchy drives along some narrow cliffside roads where it’s just a sheer drop. I kept my Gravol close and my eyes shut tight on those ones… Yikes!

Our local guide, Ray, is very knowledgeable on this beautiful country he calls home. G Adventures has given back so much to the people of Peru and in turn, Peru is thriving from tourism. Although this is a slower time of year, almost all tours are booked full with G Adventures for the next couple of months.

As part of the tour, we were taken to two different projects that G Adventures have been a part of: a women’s weaving initiative and a Peruvian restaurant set in the Sacred Valley that opened in March. I’m thankful that we selected “G” as our guide. Can’t imagine doing all this on my own. I feel safe and the inclusions have been great.

Altitude was a little bit of an issue on our first day touring Pisac. Mainly I noticed I was out of breath after walking a short distance uphill. Sometimes, I felt a little disoriented and Kathy mentioned that was common when you travel from sea level to 3700m high. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one. It’s a great bonding experience for the wonderful group of people we are travelling with to exchange stories about how nauseous we all felt that first day! As our days go on, I’ve acclimatized and I’m feeling a lot better.

Tomorrow we start our hike to Machu Picchu. Wish me luck!

Czarina’s South America Adventure – Part 1

My first visit to South America has left a new found taste for adventure! So begins our G Adventure trip through Peru with our 1 day trek to Machu Picchu.

We arrived a day ahead to spend our first day touring Lima. The city itself is massive with about 13 million people living in the city and surrounding areas. First impressions left me feeling like I was back in Mexico.

We spent the first couple nights in the tourist friendly beach town of Miraflores, which is about 30 minutes away from the airport. Everywhere you look there are tourist walking around, lots of shops and restaurants. Our hotel, Hotel San Agustin, is small but is just off the main drag and location is great.

Day 1 was about seeing as much of Lima as we could. We hopped in a cab in front of our hotel to Centro Lima where you can find the main square, the Presidential Palace and St Francis Church. The cab cost $25 Peruvian Soles which works out to be $10USD and it took about 20 minutes to get there. I was most excited to see St Francis and tour the Catacombs below ($7 Sol – 1 hour tour). The crypt is home to about 25,000 deceased Franciscan beginning in the early 1800s. It’s exactly what you except… super creepy, but you can’t look away. The amount of skulls and bones left me feeling very uneasy and I stayed tight to the group for fear one of these power outages that I heard so much about would happen right then and there. Thankfully that didn’t occur.

That evening we had the opportunity to meet our group at the orientation provided by our G Adventures Tour Guide, Katy. There are 14 of us and the majority of us are Canadians or Aussies. I think the biggest thing we took away from the orientation is the importance of water to combat altitude sickness. Katy is from Cuzco and says a trick they suggest is to drink pop. Apparently the sugar helps. I’ve heard so many different suggestions but I’m willing to try anything to avoid being “that girl”…

Right now, I’m flying over the snow capped Andes on my way to Cuzco with my group. Looking forward to getting to know our group and checking out Pisac tomorrow!