‘Saturday 4th October 2014 – 1920
I am in Cusco! I’m sitting in a little restaurant called Jack’s cafe which by all accounts is very ‘tourist’ friendly.
It was a bit of a maze getting here, even with a map, for the streets are narrow and winding and in the dark slightly unsettling at points.
I have managed to get all my £ (or rather $) changed. I felt it would be better than worrying I don’t have enough.
Food arrived – Tuscan veggie soup. Interestingly, it had pesto on top which I thought was a nice touch.
Few things to mention.
Anthony – my 17 year old school friend who introduced himself and his entire class to me in the queue in Lima. And as luck would have it, he was sat next to me on the plane. Cue Kat, a delightful Peruvian lady who facilitated our conversations. She was quite interesting really. Her mother and brother lived in Lima and she goes every couple of days to stay with them as her brother is poorly. But her husband lives in Cusco, so she was flying ‘home’ to see him. Before she left she gave me a massive hug. Mothers, they’re the same everywhere.
She looked at me like I was mad when I told her I was ‘sola’. In fact quite a lot of people do.
I have a feeling the Peruvian men are charmers. Even the 17 year old was trying it on. ‘Do you have Facebook?’ ‘Can you feel my pulse?’ ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ And my ultimate favourite, ‘Is there a disco at Machu Picchu?’ Brilliant.
Fast forward. Pick up at Cusco no trouble at all. In fact, they had sent not one but two sets of cars for me because of the delay – oh well, better than none. Christophe (the driver) was keen to practise his English and I my Spanish. Again it’s amazing what even a few words can do to enhance your first impression.
Hotel Prisma – our base for tonight. We had our debrief about 10 minutes after I arrived. The group is fine, some doing the Inca Trail, others on Lares. There is one girl who appears to have severe anaphylaxis to nuts and pulses – fab. She has brought Piriton, steroids and an Epipen and lucky for us we have the donkeys and mules so if needs be she can be quickly evacuated. Added to that our guide, Alexis, is expedition course trained and tells me we have oxygen and inhalers but no sats probe.
Cusco is at 3326m (according to one book I read) and I am already starting to feel it. A slight fuzziness to the head, some bouts of hyperventilation – unprovoked – and reduced appetite (even soup with veg was too heavy). I suspect that mango juice pushed me over the edge but I’m about to try coca tea for the first time.
It’s actually raining here. And it is forecast to rain all week.
It looks like group experience is mostly first timers with any ‘experienced’ trekkers keeping quiet just now. A few ‘hills only’ comments. Some people seemed shocked to hear we would not be showering for 3 days. Lol – and here was me thinking I wouldn’t wash my hair for a whole week!
It looks like we will be in Ollantaytambo tomorrow night and Aguas Callientes on the last night, so only 3 days camping.
I forgot my sticks which is a bit annoying so I’ve hired some as actually our highest elevation is going to be 4,800m with an ascension of 1,000m in one day. That’s actually madness by the way. I reckon I probably should take Diamox if I’m going to survive.
Anyways, it’s almost half 8 and I have a whole repack to do before bed (6kg only!) so I’d better go.’
There are definitely a few things worth noting at this point.
1,000m really would turn out to be the testing day, for all of us.
My little Lares group consisted of 7 people and one guide, not to mention an assortment of llamas, donkeys, cooks and horsemen.
Though there was great bravado and talk of inhalers, oxygen cylinders and ‘expedition training’ I saw little evidence of this in practice, which was a colossal shame. I don’t want to be too negative, but I am very glad we did not come across any anaphylactic issues as urgent medical attention would very much have been unlikely. How can I be so certain? Because when we were faced with a situation of trying to ‘evacuate’ some sickies from altitude sickness, we were faced with a resounding, ‘It is not easy. It will take 4 hours to walk, minimum.’ And this was from our final camp.
What happened to the oxygen and inhalers and donkeys chat? Hmmm, I wonder…