I spent much of my two weeks in Peru slapping myself to make sure I was awake and that it wasn’t all just a dream. High in the Andes I loved the absolutely breathtaking scenery, the incredible ruins of the ancient Inca settlements, the sincere warmth and friendliness of the Peruvian people, the diversity of the food, the beautiful old Spanish colonial buildings in Cusco, the kick of the Pisco in the loveliest little bars in the world, the depth of the history and religion, the vibrant music, the colours of the people in traditional dress and the absolutely breathtaking scenery again because it deserves an extra mention. This was a fantastic trip that I just couldn’t fault at all.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Possibly one of the most inspirational moments of my life, let alone the trip, was reaching the top of the Chiriasqa Pass at 4,950 metres above sea level. In the thin air it was hard work getting there but I felt that every gasp for breath and every aching muscle had been worthwhile as I stood there and looked behind me at the ice capped Mount Salacantay and its icy blue glacial lakes and ahead of me at the vast wilderness of Sisay Pampa as snow flurries contrasted against bright blue sky and dark clouds. With no sign of human life in sight this was probably the most remote and isolated place I had ever been.
I had always wanted to walk the Inca Trail but the Salcantay extension made the experience all the more remarkable. Seeing hardly a soul for days, star gazing at the clearest night skies imaginable, having a bath in the icy waters of the Rio Cusichaca and emerging from my tent each morning to look up at snow covered peaks and down at cloud filled valleys are moments I will remember and treasure for the rest of my days.
- What did you think of your group leader?
Bobby was an absolute star. He’d already done the Inca Trail something like four hundred times before and consequently knew every mountain, every mountain path, every block of stone at the Inca sites, every exotic species of plant, every llama that we met along the way, every native bird and insect, every star in the sky, every statistic about South American football and the best way to cook a guinea pig. He always had a smile on his face, he had an infectious laugh, he punctuated his speeches with jokes and he liked a beer.
My favourite moments with him though were when we were all seated round the table after dinner on the nights of the trek. High in the cold, cold Andes and miles from civilisation he would tell us his tales of days gone by, his personal experiences and the history and superstitions of his country. His round Peruvian face looking stern in his concentration, illuminated only by a camping gas lamp, was an absolute picture. And then he would laugh.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
If you immerse yourself in the culture of the Andes, eat everything you’re given, breath in that beautiful fresh mountain air, stare at the stars, talk to the people and take in everything that you see you will have a wonderful trip and you will hardly notice the gruelling physical exertion.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
I was pleased that I chose the High Inca Trail because there were very few coach transfers and even they were fairly short with frequent stops at places of interest. Other trips to Peru involve other remarkable features which I haven’t yet seen but they are often a long coach ride or a flight away. On this trip I felt as though I didn’t waste a single moment transferring from one place to another.
Also, when you get to the ‘classic’ bit of the Inca trail that everybody does, although still very remote and beautiful, it seems a lot busier as you come across other groups. The campsites on these stages are busier and noisier. For this reason the Mollepato and Salcantay extension was by far the best part of the trek.
No matter what you do though, it’s all fabulous.