Counting the sleeps…

16 Apr

It is finally here!

In just a bit more than a week, I am leaving for Peru and my Inca Trail adventure. I am so excited that I can barely contain myself, so if you’re prone to jealousy, then I would suggest you stop reading round about now..:-)

I haven’t written much about this fabulous trip, except for the fact that I will be hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, which I have been exercising for. So, I thought I would share a bit more about the details of the trip.

We are doing the trip through G Adventures, and the official name of the tour is In the Shadow of Machu Picchu. It is a 10-day tour and starts off in Lima, the capital of Peru. Lima is knows as the City of Kings and was ‘founded’ by the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Lima is also known as the Culinary capital of Latin America, and apparently a seafood lover’s paradise. I definitely want to try out some yummy food and maybe do a culinary tour, which is an add-on activity. On day two we take a flight to Puerto Maldonado, on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest. We travel by motorised canoe and take a walk to our lodge in the Tambopata Rainforest Area, an area which apparently holds the world record for the most bird sightings in one area. We will be doing plenty of walking and will be spending the night in a rainforest lodge, with no electricity, so pretty rustic. (Note to self – don’t forget to take lots of elastics and bands for my hair, because the combination of heat, humidity and no electricity is sure to create havoc with my hair!)

On day three we take a flight over the Andes into the heart of Inca territory, Cuzco. Cuzco is the site of the historical Inca Empire and the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city. The elevation is about 3 400m (11 200ft) above sea level. Now, for someone who lives in a city which is about 1 750m (5 700ft) above sea level, the adjustment may be slightly easier but this is still pretty damn high, so I am stocked with altitude sickness tablets that I will start popping round about this time! At the height of the Inca Empire, the Inca occupied territory stretched from Ecuador in the north to Peru and Chile in the south. In 1525 Huayna Cápac, the ruler at the time, died of the smallpox, introduced to the area by the Spaniards, after he set of to investigate the unfamiliar men. His death was followed by a Civil war between his two sons, Huáscar and Atahualpa. The combination of the war and the effect of the smallpox epidemic weakened the empire, and eventually the Spaniards captured Atahualpa (who had by then defeated his brother).

The Inca Empire

The Inca Empire

Legend goes that the Incas collected and paid a handsome ransom of silver and gold for the release of Atahualpa, but they reneged on this once the ransom was delivered. Eventually, Pizarro executed Atahualpa, and instituted the puppet Inca Túpac Huallpa in his place. He died shortly after and was succeeded by another puppet ruler, Manco Inca Yupanqui. But Manco Inca turned on his captors and recaptured Cuzco in 1536. Eventually he was driven out of the city and he retreated into the mountains of Vilcabamba, where he and his successors ruled for another 36 years until the last ruler, Túpac Amaru, Manco’s son, was eventually tracked down and executed in 1572. It is believed that Manco Inca built a magnificent city in the mountains which was filled with all the remaining riches of the Inca empire. For years treasure hunters and grave diggers were searching for the lost treasures and the lost city, until eventually, the American historian Hiram Bingham ‘found’ Machu Picchu in 1911. He believed that it was the lost city and final retreat of the Inca’s, but no evidence has ever been found to conclusively prove this. But before I bore you to death, the purpose of this little history background is to highlight just how special this area and in particular, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is. Or maybe to highlight what a geek I am!

View from the top of the Westcliff stairs

View from the top of the Westcliff stairs

The Inca trail is a 43km hike and stretches over a four days, with the final day spent mainly at Machu Picchu. I have been exercising and am hoping that I am sufficiently ‘moderately’ fit to tackle this trail without passing out halfway amongst the 2 000 steps on the trail. To prepare myself for all these steps I have, on a few occasions, done the Westcliff stairs (two flights of stairs of 400m, consisting of 210 stairs nestled in between the beautiful residential area behind the Westcliff hotel in Johannesburg). The stairs are very popular amongst runners, and in particular Comrades runners. For those of you who don’t know, the Comrades is a 89km ultramarathon and any runner’s dream to complete.  Bruce Fordyce is a legend in South Africa, and won the Comrades a total of nine times, eight of which were consecutive. And, apparently Bruce used to train at the Westcliff stairs. The difference, of course, is that I tend to huff and puff walking up the stairs on my second lap, whilst the runners actually run up and down the stairs. But, I am not running the Inca trail (which you can do, if you like…), so that is okay with me!

hiking_clipartIn addition to training for the Inca trail, I also had to do a fair amount of shopping. Since this is the first multi day hike I am attempting doing, I had no idea what to expect in terms of the actual conditions of the hike. It is autumn in Peru, and as I understand the daily temperatures in the mountains are fairly similar to Joburg this time of the year, but it gets pretty cold up in the Andes mountains at night. And layers are highly recommended for the hike. Luckily, porters will be carrying most of our gear and clothes, so we only need to carry a day pack with water, jackets, camera, snacks etc. Basically, everything that we would need during the day. We are sleeping in tents along the route, so I am stocking up on warm clothes, thermal underwear, a silk sleeping bag liner (who says you cannot sleep in luxury in a tent??). And of course, I could not resist buying all sorts of hiking gadgets and stuff, like a small towel that folds up to the size of a matchbox and a multi purpose buff, that can serve as a hat, arm band, hair band, balaclava and (if you can figure out the complex drawing) even a pirate hat! Harr, harr!

Finally, I want to take some awesome pictures to remember this trip by, and on the few hikes we have gone on, I have quickly realised it is not the best idea to have to stop a whole line of hikers in an effort to take a DSLR out of a back pack to take a quick snap, so I had to find an alternative solution. I finally found a bag that I can carry on a shoulder harness in front of me, so I ordered the bag and the harness and am just hoping it is not too big, so that I can still walk fairly comfortably!

Now, the only thing to do is to count off the sleeps until I finally leave for Peru, via South America, on the 26th of April. And make sure that I pack everything… I am notoriously bad at this part and always forget something, so I am going to do a packing list to make sure that I am not stranded in Peru without a water bottle, or medical insurance card, or hiking socks, or blister plasters, or travel vouchers, or hat, or sunscreen, or gloves….oh my goodness, I think I must start to pack!!

Adios Amigos!

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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Travel


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