Machu Pichu Day 2

 

After a fitful night’s sleep I awoke to the voice of Erick outside our tent letting us know it was time to get up. The night before Erick had suggested that some of us may wish to start out a little earlier than the others, so we would all reach Dead Woman’s Pass around the same time. Damien and I liked this idea and were happy to set off early. Overnight though the early starter’s numbers had expanded to five of us. Josephine was feeling particularly fatigued from the day before and poor Annemijn had been sick overnight and was looking decidedly pale.

This days hike was a continuation uphill for another 4 km to the peak altitude of our trip – 4200m at the first pass – Dead Woman’s Pass (so named as the shape of the pass looks like a woman lying down). The morning was dewy and fresh and despite my second night of bad sleep I felt surprisingly good. I think a hearty breakfast and a good strong cup of coca tea (for energy and to ward off altitude sickness) was the right start to my morning. Coca has been used by the Quechuan people (native people of the Andes) for hundreds of years. Chewing the leaf is the way the locals do it and although Damien and I gave it a crack when we were back in Cusco, it’s definitely an acquired taste!

Damien and I felt totally different from the afternoon before and were so pleased that today’s ascent was proving to be much easier. I joked to Damien that we were Team Tortoise and that Jess and Krissy were the Hares. But soon we were all referring to ourselves as Team Tortoise and, later, Team Tortuga (in Spanish). The whole crew came to feel one under this name. Throughout the journey at varying stages of the Trail different members of our little team would feel the effects of this epic hike more than others. We all became tortugas every now and then! It was nice that we all fell into comfort with each other so well. It was a wonderful part of the trip to discover that we were experiencing it with such a terrific group of people, the porters and guides included.

It was cool that the original members of Team Tortuga reached Dead Woman’s Pass first, we felt we had recovered some of our dented pride from the afternoon prior! When all of our team reached the high pass Erick undertook a ceremony to make an offering to Pachamama (the Quechuan Earth God) with some pisco (local grape brandy). It was a touching moment and we each shared a capful of the alcohol in celebration of reaching the highest point of our walk.

What goes up must come down and so we began our descent with walking sticks in hand. It started raining around this time and settled in for the day. Perhaps it could be seen as a shame that we could not see all of the massive mountains that we were hiking through with the clarity sunshine provides. However, I feel hiking through the rain and the clouds added to the mystique of the walk. At some stages of the walk we were literally making our way through mini waterfalls as they cascaded down the Incan steps. It was a magnificent part of the trek but Damien was definitely feeling it is his knees towards the end of the downhill haul. I think it was roughly 1000 steps down and they were steep!

When we got close to the Incan ruin of Sayacmarca Damien elected to keep on trucking towards our next campsite as his knees were screaming at this point. The rest of us continued on to Sayacmarca. After Erick told us of the various theories of what the complex was used for, we were carried on down the hill. By this point of the day we had been hiking in the cloud forest for a while but one of my favourite parts (and there were many) was this final stretch to the campsite. I eventually got separated from the rest of our group and I was able to walk through the tall trees in splendid isolation. They were beautifully draped in dripping mosses and ferns, and I just marvelled at the beauty of nature and felt the joy of being alive.

It was then just a hop, skip and a jump to our next campground, Chaquicocha. We were treated once again to delicious meal. It was amazing what our chef could whip up for us each night. We were definitely spoiled! As we sat around the dinner table Erick relayed a ghost story about the strange goings on he has experienced at this campsite. On one night in particular he had a very chilling “encounter” when he was at this site a few years back. Thanks to Erick I was rendered completely unenthused about doing any middle of the night toilet stops. Furthermore, I was cursing Erick when I awoke later that night and heard some very odd sounds just outside our tent! I would like to say I was unperturbed but I was seriously on the verge of waking Damien to get his assessment on the “sounds”! Well, I’m still here typing right now, unscathed by the forces of evil, so it was nothing, right? True, by morning I felt a little silly about being slightly (OK majorly) freaked out by the weird noises. Anyway, it just goes to show you can never beat a good ghost story when you have a group of people stuck camping in the middle of nowhere!

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2012 is the year that my fiance, Damien and I took leave of work to see this wonderful world we live in. Our adventures took us to Scandinavia in the winter to view the ethereal Northern Lights, the heat and humidity of Asia for three months, Europe via caravan and now South America. We have seen so many wonderful sights and met so many great people that I know that year of travel will continue to inspire and inform how we live our lives for all the years to come.

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