We just arrived in the town of Machu Picchu by train and we are exhausted from our two day Lares trek. So I will keep this to the facts and highlights:)
Fact: This trek is normally a three day trek which was modified by our organizer, Uniktour, to be two days to fit our schedule. The easiest day (the first day) was taken off our trek. In other words, we skipped the easy part.
Highlight: The three day trek normally starts in Lares, a small market town. We luckily still drove through it on our way to our starting point and stopped for 15 minutes or so while the market was in full force. This market was probably one of my favourite markets ever – not for the goods but for the people watching. If there was any doubt that Peruvians dress in traditional clothing every day (rather than just for tourists, which one would be forgiven for thinking) this market puts those thoughts to rest. We were the only gringos in town during the bustling market time (8am) and everyone was in traditional clothing.
Fact: Our trek was about 10km by the way the crow flies on the first day, but much longer (I swear!) when we walked it – we started out at an altitude of 3750m and climbed to 4450m by early afternoon, followed by a two hour walk down from the summit to our camp ground for the night.
Highlights: passing through small villages along the way – seeing local mountain farmers (they can only grown potatoes at that altitude) and their families working the fields, doing laundry in the mountian streams (it was cold enough to need two layers of pants and about three layers of tops plus a jacket, so god bless the women who do laundry with their bare hands in the mountain streams!), making textiles (we came across three women sitting in the sun each with their work splayed out in front of them) and seeing the alpacas and llamas up close as we walked the mountain passes. I’ve never seen so many of these animals; they were everywhere. Seriously. And they weren’t afraid of us, so often we would be walking only a few feet from a herd as we passed by.
Fact: It gets really cold at high altitudes in the dry season (winter) in Peru. We bundled in all of our layers before getting into our sub-zero sleeping bags within our tent with only our faces exposed to the air. When we woke up at 6:30am there was a layer of ice covering our tent and the two large bowls of water that we had used the previous night for washing our hands were now blocks of ice. It gets cold here!
Highlight: It was the highest and coldest I’ve ever trekked or camped. And the sleeping bags are freakinshly warm – I even had to strip off a couple of layers during the night. We were also camped by a high altitude aqua lake – beautiful! When we awoke at 6:30am all the llamas and alpacas we had seen high in the mountains the day before had been herded during the night and were all around our campsite (so cool!).
Fact: After suffering for three days with what I first thought was a really bad case of gluten intolerance, later suspected to be tourista due to the duration of the horrible GI symptoms, I finally broke down and started a three day course of azithromycin the first morning of the trek.
Highlight: Antibiotics work. ‘Nuff said.
Fact: Peeing while squatting and not spraying yourself is really hard.
Opinion: We are so spoiled to have toilets (with seats!!) in North America. Squatting should be taught in elementary schools in Canada – bonus points should be awarded to those who can do this with three layers of pants on in subzero temperatures with strong winds in the dark. There is no highlight to this one.
Fact: The second day we woke up at 6:30am and started our two hour trek down the mountain at 8am to Patacancha. We were picked up by our driver and taken about 45min down the road to an Inca trail where we trekked another 3+ hours up another mountain to see the ruins of an Inca village and then took the Inca trail back down the other side of the mountain to Ollantaytambo, where we caught the train headed for Machu Picchu.
Highlights: The scenery is beautiful. Every 50m or so we want to take another picture from the new vantage point. It’s stunning really: the snow capped peaks, the Inca terraces and stone walls along the Inca trail, the villages and villagers, the wildlife. I could go on and on.
Fact: we are now exhausted after arriving in Machu Picchu with a 5:30am start time tomorrow morning.
Highlights: Our hotel is great, with a hot tub, a fireplace in our room and a shower with hot water and water pressure that would be enviable even back home. I feel warm and clean again:)