I haven´t written one of these in a while, but it`ll have to be a bit more brief than some of the others because my days are running out and I still want to do so much more!
For reasons unknown to me, a couple of weeks ago I came down with a stomach bug and fever bad enough to warrant going to a hospital (really a posh travellers´clinic). I spent a day and a night there lying in bed with an IV and oxygen being pumped into my system while I watched, to my relief, a lot of English language Big Bang Theory and movies on the cable TV they had. It wasn´t particularly exciting, although my friends did visit me and bring chocolate, much to the nurse´s chagrin, and when I was released (with an order to not drink alcohol and follow a pretty boring diet) I was rather relieved.
Two days later Marc, Jasmine (a new volunteer) and I climbed one of the hills surrounding Cusco, something I said I´d do in the previous post. It was a relatively tough climb, but completely lacking of fellow tourists/gringos and the view from the top was stunning, far better than that from the white cross (cristo blanco) that overlooks the city on another hill.
Now onto Machu Picchu. I decided to do the Jungle Trek, a four day trek that encompassed mountain biking, zip lining, rafting and jungle hikes, rather than the traditional walking and camping that the Inka Trail consists of. I booked it for about $270, which is pretty good considering it can be upwards of 400 pounds at home. There were 11 of us in the group, 5 Dutch, 2 Columbian, 2 Canadian, a Brazilian and me. The first day we were all picked up in a minivan and driven for about 2 and a half hours to the top of a 4350m mountain called Abra Malaga. From there we took our bikes, of debateable quality but with good brakes, and zoomed down the mountain for another 2 and a half hours into the jungle below, all the while enduring torrential rainfall. While it was enjoyable, the fact that we were all still a new group and hadn´t really communicated yet meant that it was probably the low point of the entire trek. After this we were taken to a nearby town and put up in hostels for the night. My roomate was the Brazilian, Vinicius or Vinni, who spoke no English, only Portugese, Italian and a bit more Spanish than me. While before this would have meant there would be little communication, now my Spanish is much better we became great friends, and I helped translate for him when he was speaking to other English speakers.
The next day, after a healthy dinner and breakfast (much to my relief my stomach was OK after that. Stupidly I completely ignored the doctor´s order to not drink and had gone out two days before Machu Picchu began, meaning I was almost in the state I had been in before hospital), Vinni and I (and two other english travellers) partook in the rafting activity that some of the others had done the afternoon before. This was a huge amount of fun. The rapids rose to grade 3.5 (I think) but the guide knew what he was doing and we even got out at one point and clung on to the raft as it took us down more rapids. After this we caught up with our group, who had started the day´s hiking, and began the real jungle trek. This gave us some incredible views, but was pretty exhausting as it was uphill much of the time. Half way through we stopped and sampled some cocoa beans, snake tequila and tried on some traditional Inca dress.
To cross one gorge a basket contraption was required, where three of us at each time would be pulled across, our legs dangling outside. It also meant we had to wait for around half an hour at the side of the mountain, knowing that one trip would mean a bumpy drop to the valley below.
We arrived at our final stop just as the sun was setting, at a spectacular hot springs pool complex nestled within a valley. It was exactly what we all needed, and we relaxed our exhausted legs in the hot water while sharing some beers.
PART 1 OVER