Lake Tits McGee meets Machu Pikachu

October 25, 2011 - Cusco, Peru

 1. Where the devil have I been?

Isla del SolI departed from La Paz on Wednesday 12th October, destined for Copacobana, a small sleepy town on the edge of Lake Titicaca. From the town we took a boat to Isla del Sol, a small island with great significance to the ancient Inca civilisation. After a quick tour of the sights in the north of the island, we walked the length of the island Main square in Cuscobefore spending the night in the south, and heading back to the mainland the following day. Having experienced the lake from the Bolivian side, I crossed the border into Peru and spent the afternoon on the interesting floating islands of Uros (man made reed islands). From there it was a long, uncomfortable bus ride to Cusco, jumping off point for the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. After a couple of days of preparation and relaxation (not to mention a sneaky pub quiz win!) we set off on our 4 day trek to the most iconic Inca site in the whole of South America and one of the Inca Trail day 1new 7 wonders of the world. The high altitude and constant drizzle and rain made the trekking a challenge, but the food was unexpectedly good and the other people in our group provided much amusement and great company. After 4 days of early mornings, steady walking, endless steps and full on carbo-loading, we were finally rewarded with the breathtaking, On top of the world...with a saggy bumpicture perfect view of Machu Picchu as it emerged from behind the clouds. After skilfully manoeuvring around the hoards of bumbag-clad tourists in order to capture my desired photos, we took a bus, a train and another bus all the way back to Cusco for another couple of days, which mainly consisted of sleep, food and a whole world of calf pain!

2. Most memorable meal

Lake Titicaca is well known in South America for producing delisious trout (first and last time I'll ever use that sentence!). Even so, I was not expecting to find gourmet food when we spent the evening in Sundowners at Las Velas restaurantYumani, a tiny village in the south of Isla del Sol. Fate was kind to us when our first choice of restaurant was closed, so we continued our search and happened to stumble upon a sign pointing up through a small forest of eucalyptus trees, advertising organic, homemade food cooked by a gourmet chef. We followed the signs all the way to Las Velas, a small, candlelit restaurant with the most perfect sunset view and an even more perfect trout dinner. It was so delicious that I didn't even mind that a new toilet was still under construction so we had to pee outside in the forest!Fishermen at sunset on Lake Titicaca

3. Favourite photo

Amazing colours surround busy local fishermen near Puno on Lake Titicaca.

 

4. Best bargain

Probably the happiest Happy Hour I have ever encountered...the cocktails in a small bar in Copacobana were 2 for 20 Bolivianos (less than 1 pound each). Add to this the fact that the waitress forgot to charge us for one of our rounds and the result was a 60 Bolivianos bill for 8 cocktails. Bargain.

5. Immature moment of the week

Squeezing into an Inca windowWhilst on a guided tour of some Inca ruins on Isla del Sol we learnt that this ancient civilisation had a tradition of mummifying their dead in the foetal position and then keeping them on what was effectively a windowsill without a window. I decided it would be a nice idea to emphasise with the dead Incas so found a windowless window that looked about the right size and set about squeezing myself in. It wasn't comfortable, but being buried under 6 feet of dirt in a wooden box probably isn't either. Anti-climax

6. Favourite sign

When I spotted this sign on our first day in Cusco it dawned on me that maybe that $490 I had forked out for the Inca Trail was all a big mistake!

 

7. Biggest fashion crime

Style icon on Uros floating islandsThis week it is I who is guilty as charged for my serious crimes against fashion! As part of our afternoon trip around the floating islands of Uros on Lake Titicaca we were invited to have a look around inside the houses made of reeds on the islands also made of reeds, which we had reached on a boat made of reeds (can you spot a pattern?!). Our hostess then handed us some traditional items of clothing and insisted we tried them on. She didn't need to ask me twice! This was the result. The skirt was slightly big, but I think I pulled it off as an overall look.

8. Crap attraction of the week

Puno is a rubbish Peruvian city on the edge of Lake Titicaca that must be visited in order to reach the floating islands of Uros. Staying there longer than 10 minutes is not recommended. We really struggled to fill a morning in what is supposed to be a popular tourist destination. Its only redeeming feature was that, as we returned to the city by boat and all that could be seen were the lights reflecting on the water, it did look quite pretty. (I should write for Lonely Planet I know!)THE view!

9. Best view

Sunset over Lake TiticacaThe gold medal for this question must go to the view of Machu Picchu at the end of the Inca Trail. It was just a bit of a shame that we had to share the view with a couple of thousand people who had taken the lazy option and visited the ruins on the train, rather than ruining their knees by walking there. Following pretty closely behind in the silver medal position is the awesome sunset that I watched from Las Velas restaurant on Isla del Sol. A view shared with 2 other people and a pig.

10. Div of the week

After hiking the Inca Trail with 2 New Zealanders, we bacame slightly infected with their enthusiasm for the upcoming rugby World Cup final and convinced ourselves we really desperately needed to watch it. Unfortunately, due to the massive time differences, the game was shown live at 3am on the morning immediately after our Inca Trail trek finished. After very nearly falling asleep in the shower at the hostel, we made it out to the bar to find that the Irish (had to be didn't it) barmaid was refusing to serve soft drinks. Two buckets (literally) of rum & coke and a cheese & ham toastie later I was buzzing for kick off! Unfortunately it was the most boring sporting event I have ever witnessed and totally not worth the feeling of near death I experienced for the following 24 hours.

11. Dodgy moment of the week

With an absence of any serious risk of death this week, the dodgiest moment category is a bit lacking in quality and quantity. The biggest risk I experienced all week was probably when I narrowly avoided being coated in vomit on the bus ride back to Cusco from Machu Picchu. The road was full of twists and turns, but uneventful until I was woken suddenly from my semi-slumber by the sound of Sophie shouting "HAVE YOU GOT A PLASTIC BAG? I'M GOING TO BE SICK!" In an amazing twist of fortune, the side pocket of my rucksack was full of the bags I had been using to waterproof my stuff during the trek. I gave her the bags, she puked (very quietly I have to say), and before the smell could cause any sicky aftershock for the rest of the coach we chucked the bag out of the window. Bad for the environment, but a necessary evil.

12. Motto of the week

"Never go trekking with a German choir"

So it might not have been an actual choir, but there was definitely a group of fellow trekkers on the Inca Trail who were clearly German and apparently loved to sing what sounded like traditional Bavarian folk songs. We first heard them singing whilst walking along a nice, easy section of the trail - this was unnecessary, but tolerable. hen they sang at a campsite as we were all trying to relax after dinner - this was annoying. And finally, they joyfully broke into song whilst we waited for the permit checkpoint to open on the final morning of the trek. It was 5.15am, we had been awake since 4 and had already been waiting at said checkpoint for over half an hour - this was horrid.

14. Average Bristol Stool Chart rating

With very little excitement to report in terms of my own bowel functioning, I feel it is my duty instead to inform you of the toilet troubles of a fellow trekker on the Inca Trail. I don't know the name of this person and I have never knowingly seen their face, but they left a nasty image burned into my retina on the final morning of the trek. So the toilet facilities along the trail to Machu Picchu stink - in every sense of the word. Firstly, they are basic drop toilets with no seat, no paper and no lights. Good start. Secondly, there are nowhere near enough of them to cater for all the trekkers so it was a very rare treat to be able to walk straight into a cubicle without queueing. Thirdly, half of them either don't lock properly, or don'r flush properly, or both. And fourthly, they stink - of poo. he smelliest poo your nostrils could ever imagine. he kind of smell that makes your eyes water and singes your nose hairs! But as bad as the generally state of the campsite toilets was, none of us were prepared for the sight that would greet us at 4am on the final morning of the trek. Someone had, at some point during the night, deposited a large, sloppy poo directly onto the section of the toilet floor intended for people to place their feet whilst going about their business. My first thought on opening the toilet door was to wonder where the phantom poo fairy could have been standing in order to perform such a feat. After further contemplation I wondered why, as the first poo piece had hit the porcelain foot stand, the guilty party hadn't a) noticed their miscalculation and b) readjusted their positioning to improve their aim. Perhaps they were a big Mastermind fan - "I've started so I'll finish!"

15. Soundtrack to the week

Pretty much any song ever realeased by either Coldplay or Radiohead - this is what the owner of a bar we drank in after the Inca Trail quickly switched on once she realised the gringos were in the building!

Call On Me (Eric Prydz) - perfect music to lunge to before, during and after the Inca Trail.

I Can See Clearly Now (Jimmy Cliff) - As the clouds cleared to reveal Machu Picchu.

The Oompa Loompa Song - for our visit to the chocolate factory in Cusco. Bimbo Cake - yum

16. Snack of the Week

I camer across this delightfully named snack in a supermarket in Cusco. Bimbo cake may not have a very high IQ, but it sure was moist and delicious!

 

17. Favourite person of the week

William our Inca Trail guideWilliam, our guide for the Inca Trail, gets my vote for favourite person this week. He may have struggled to keep up with most of our group during the trek and given us exactly the same motivational speech before starting each new section of the trail ("one and a half hours to the next meeting point, its just one path, up and down all the way, keep to the mountainside, watch out for porters.") But he took our banter well, was genuinely very knowledgable about the trail and the Inca civilisation, and best of all bore a striking resemblence to Pedro from the film Napoleon Dynamite!

18. Best game invention

Hands up if you remember those Michelin I-Spy books from the early 90s that would be thrust into a child's hand at the start of a long car journey. The challenge was to spot everything within a certain category and tick them off on the checklist in the book. Well Sophie and I decided, whilst unutterably bored in the city of Puno, that it would be amusing to create our own version of I-Spy, under the category of "Typical Tourists". The following list was drawn up and all items were ticked off within about half an hour!

money belt, bumbag, zip-off trousers (double points for double zips), oversized camera, map, rucksack with waist strap done up, socks and sandals, wide-brimmed sunhat, fleece jacket, walking shoes, guidebook, lack of tan, video camera, place name t-shirt, item made from alpaca wool, outfit consisting of only black grey beige and brown.The view from the

19. High point of the week

After trekking through mainly cloud and drizzle for the majority of the Inca Trail, I Machu Picchu comes into viewbecame genuinely a bit concerned that the clouds would fail to clear by the time we arrived at Machu Picchu. But William our guide assured us it would be fine. We trusted him and he delivered. As we walked down the narrow track towards the ruins, the clouds gradually cleared to reveal that famous postcard view of the ancient citadel. Happy happy happy!

20. Low point of the week

Not much to grumble about this week. A bit of drizzle, a few restless nights in a tent, sore muscles and smelly toilets was as bad as it got.

 


Pictures

Isla del Sol
Looking out over the lake
Squeezing into an Inca window
Sundowners at Las Velas restaurant
 
 
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