This trip report was written by one of our trekkers, Corah McGuirk on the last day of her Machu Picchu trek, in Sept 2016.
So as I sit here in the airport in Lima reflecting on the last 10 days I can’t actually believe how much we managed to fit in! We arrived in the airport in Dublin at 6am and everyone was brimming with excitement. Some of us had already met at the training weekend organised by Earth’s Edge which was a great opportunity to meet people before the trip. As someone who had booked to go on this trip on my own it was a really nice introduction. We were all given our jackets (which quickly became our favourite piece of clothing) and introduced to our amazing team leader James (aka Jam), our Doctor Barry and our social media idol Pat Divilly.
As for the trip itself where do I begin! Everything was so well organised from flights to hotels to transfers we didn’t have to worry about a thing! We arrived in Cusco and had that whole day to relax and explore. This really helped us to acclimatise and we all went out for dinner to a local restaurant to celebrate one of our lovely team members birthday! Sarah doesn’t like much of a fuss so naturally we had a local band come in and play some traditional music and sing happy birthday 5 times in a row for her! Even the waitress got involved by inviting Sarah to dance while we all recorded it for snapchat! The following day we had a walking tour to what we called white Jesus (Christo Blanco). We met our amazing guides Edgar and Maruja and found their knowledge and passion about their country to be amazing.
On Sunday we had an early start to begin our Salkantay trek. The drive from Cusco takes about 4 hours but it’s a really beautiful and scenic drive. The hike was tough as we were feeling the effects of the altitude at 3,800m. We met our horse men (which some of the ladies took a fancy to and even named one the Peruvian Zac Efron!) and our cooks at our first lunch and experienced the amazing food! We arrived to our first camp and I was so impressed with the set up. The one thing I will highlight is a massive shout out to Jam for making us hire warmer down jackets even though we moaned at him about it because during our first night of camping the temperatures dropped to -10 and the next day we all wanted to hug him for helping to keep us warm!
Monday saw us hike to the highest point of the Salkantay pass at 4600m which we all found incredibly beautiful and emotional! The support in the group was something I will never ever forget! After dinner on Monday night our leader Jam decided to play the “game game” with us which sees everyone write down 2 famous people/places/items and by the fourth round all we were allowed to use to communicate to our team was our eyes…. This was one of the funniest parts of the trip with endless belly laughs and a great way for everyone to bond.
On Tuesday we arrived in La Playa after a 9 hour trek (a lot of which was downhill and let me tell you it’s not all it’s cracked up to be!) We were treated to the most amazing lunch I have ever experienced it was a traditional meal which sees heated stones and layers of meat wrapped in banana leaves and covered in soil for hours to slow cook. This was one of the best meals I have ever had we were all in a food coma but did a tour of the coffee farm then and got to sample the most delicious coffee ever and farm avocados which was a massive hit with our team as we are all avocado mad! We then drove to Santa Teresa (absolutely buzzing from the coffee so it turned into a full on rave on the bus) to a gorgeous campsite which had an added bonus of 3 gorgeous puppies which we all spent far too long ou-ing and ah-ing over! We then headed to hot springs for a dip which was well needed as the muscles were tired and sore from 3 full days of hiking.
Wednesday saw us walk along the train tracks towards Aguas Calientes which again was a lovely scenic walk and we arrived at a beautiful hotel which was much appreciated after camping (having said that the camping was way more comfortable then I had imagined and I had never ever camped before!). In the afternoon we did some personal development with Pat Divilly in Aguas Calientes which was amazing. This was followed by an early night as we had to be up bright and early for Machu Picchu the next day!
Wake up calls at 3.30am on Thursday for breakfast and then down to queue for the bus trip to Machu Picchu. Although I have seen photo after photo of Machu Picchu nothing compares to seeing it in person. We did a walking tour for two hours around Machu Picchu and then headed for the mountain! We heard again and again that it was the toughest part of the trip, that it was 2 hours of uphill and I was pretty terrified I’m not going to lie! My personal experience…. I struggled! But I had Maria Ryan beside me and we cracked each other up for an hour & 20 minutes and we got each other up to the top (Jam likes to sugar coat certain aspects of the trip, eg its 2 degrees guys when it was -12!) Barely able to speak but still able to laugh I have never been so happy to see the top of a mountain! A special shout out to our little rocket Cookie who managed to smash everyone’s time and got up in 40 minutes followed closely behind athletic Dr Barry! Thursday night we went to a local bar in Agaus Calientes for a “quiet one” so again in good Irish spirit we ended up in a local Peruvian night club and it was possibly one of the funniest nights of my life!
Friday saw us travel back to Cusco on an extremely hungover 2 hour train journey followed by a 2 hour bus journey…. Actually I have left something out… so myself and my roomie Aoife got a call at 7.30 to wake us up. Naturally I lied to Jam and told him yes we were awake and ready to go! (leaving at 8am for 8.23 train!) and at 7.55 when we hadn’t surfaced at reception the lovely Sarah decided to call in and see if we were ready and she burst out laughing as it looked like a bomb had hit our room, we were not even nearly packed to go and I was concentrating on transferring pringles from one box to another (Pringles are life when trekking and camping!) so next minute the troops arrive and in (shout out to Debbie, Megan and Jam) and in 3 minutes flat we were packed and ready to go! Aoife and I laughed hysterically the whole walk to the train station! We went out for dinner in Pachapapa which was a lovely way to end the trip! Dr Barry’s alter ego Larry even made an appearance which was well appreciated!
Just to finish one of the funniest moments on the trip was Gill walking along saying her bladder was blocked and the doctor asking her what other symptoms she had when she was talking about her platypus!!!!
Best trip of my life and made life-long friends! Couldn’t recommend Jam and his team enough!