When I started dating my wife one of the first things she told me was that she wanted to walk the Inca Trail and that she felt she needed to do it for some reason. I loved this goal so I said “let’s do it” and we saved furiously over the next few months to do so. We booked a trip with Intrepid travel, a group dedicated to supporting local communities and ethical travel. We got carried away and tagged on a trip to the Galapagos Islands too. I would propose to her there on those islands – but that’s a story for another time. Suffice it to say that the trip shaped our future and definitely changed me. I’ve decided to post a daily photo journal of those amazing four days, recalling whatever details I can. Before I start on day 1 of the actual hike I’d like to share some photo’s of the experience we had on the way to the trail. South America is an amazing place for tourists – one could spend months touring around and I highly recommend it to anyone. This is a very long post but I hope you enjoy it.
Our first port of call on the way to the trail, after visiting the Galapagos Islands, was the extremely interesting city of Lima. The city was defined by amazingly ornate and varied architecture, one of the better remnants and influences of the old spanish colonial era. There was also a hillside covered in different coloured houses inhabited by the poor. It was very beautiful despite the reality of it. I tasted Pisco Sour, the local drink, for the first time. The others in our group loved it but it frankly made me want to yak!
We arrived during a festival period and there seemed to be an everlasting parade in the larger town squares. We got very lucky with our timing. It was an amazing town with both Inca and Spanish influences in the architecture. It seemed to be based on piazza’s connected by narrow streets. We stayed in a local hotel for two nights to help us acclimatize to the altitude. It was a lovely yellow building with little statues of bulls on the roof which I think was for luck or to ward off evil. Strolling around town we saw the older buildings from Inca times with their perfectly fitted together stonework – the stonemasons of the time were masters of their trade. Our city tour also included a stop at a coca leaf shop, which had all sorts of propaganda leaflets seeking to legalise the coca leaf trade despite the fact that it would end up being processed for drugs around the world. However, the local custom was to chew the leaves when climbing to higher altitudes to ward of altitude sickness so we all partaked. Our guide, Gonzalos, purchased a stash to give to our porters during the hike. Gonzalos was a lovely chap who said “Moi Bien” a lot and was clearly proud of his country and was eager to share it with others.
CHIWATERI COMMUNITY – Sacred Valley
Markets at Cusco
Our second day started out with a visit to the local market hall to gather supplies for our visit to the Chiwateri Community who live in the Sacred Valley. On our walk to the market we passed by a shaman store that proudly displayed and sold llama fetus’ for medicinal purposes, a local butcher that sold meat hanging up out in the open completely unrefrigerated, and roadside vendors that sold Guinea pig on a stick. The market itself was kind of awesome, selling mountains of round bread, enormous blocks of chocolate the was a juice store that and my wife stopped at that somehow managed to include egg in the juice and make it taste good! Gonzalos purchased some supplies for the day ahead, including soccer balls, whose use would soon become apparent.
We then took a minibus to the Sacred Valley, stopping first to sample some freshly baked empanadas. This establishment also held a cute little guinea pig house which was odd given the propensity of the locals to eat the little creatures. Our next stop was to deliver fruit and bread to local school kids at their school. I felt a bit awkward being there as it felt a bit like we were treating the kids and their school as a tourist attraction, but the whole point was to try to get tourists to continue to contribute to the community via donations after the trip. The school was basic and some of the children had to walk kilometers to get there but they all seemed happy and unaware of their level of poverty. And quite rightly so. If it wasn’t for the poor access to medical care I could see myself living thier life and being just as happy. The children, all with red wind and sun burnt cheeks, sang a song to us, which had most of us in tears they were so beautiful, as our guide played the recorder. It was a lovely visit.
A spot of shopping and lunch
After the school we visited an enclosed community outdoor market place where the locals sold their wares to tour groups like ours. We did end up buying a nice table runner and didn’t feel pressured to do so at all except out of politeness. After all the trades were done we were treated to lunch which consisted of Guinea Pig and quinoa! Both of these were new to me. The guinea pig (Coy) was quite gamey and reminded me of chicken feet, but the quinoa was good and I’ve been a fan of it ever since. We were also served a local variety of potato which tasted amazing.
Soccer with the Inca’s
After lunch Gonzalos produced a soccor ball that he had purchased at the market in Cusco and we were suddenly transported to a bizarro world in which we were playing a soccor game with descendants of the Inca’s, several kilometers up a mountain! I remember we walked out onto the field in single file as all good teams do and it was tourists against locals. The locals wore very simple shoes and their toes got torn apart by our boots during tackles. The two older guys in our group decided to play rough and at one point picked up the ball and turned it into a rugby game. A foul was called! The air was so thin I was sucking on my asthma inhaler for breath, but it was surely a good way to acclimatize.There were two matches played, boys’v boys and girls v girls. Lot’s of fun and probably one of my favorite memories of the trip.
Soon enough though, our visit to the community was over and we headed to our motel in Ollantaytambo for the night. We would begin our trek in the morning.