It’s been an intense time here in Peru! Finally got a chance to sit down and recount the events from the last couple of weeks. The short course had pre-organised a class trip to Machu Picchu over the weekend and a 4-day trip to the amazon the week after, both of which were responsible for some of the most amazing sights and experiences of my life.
While I’m sure nearly everyone has seen the cliché selfie at Machu Picchu, it does it absolutely no justice! It is an awesome place with mystical vibes that will stay with you for a long time. We all woke early in the small town at the base of Machu Picchu to get the bus up the mountain. There were already large crowds gathering when we arrived at 8am but it didn’t matter, we were finally there! It was slightly disappointing at first as there was thick cloud cover hiding the ruins below but it also added to the mystery of the site! We made our way through the ruins with our amazing tour guide Fernando as he led us to the entrance of Huayna Picchu.
Huayna Picchu is certainly an underrated component of the Machu Picchu experience, it is the mountain standing tall behind those cliché selfies, but it was easily the highlight of the trip. The 2-hour round trip up and down the mountain was a crazy journey with steep drops, tiny Incan steps and unforgettable views. Once at the top the clouds had receded and the true panoramic views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains and valleys was revealed. I highly recommend this short hike to anyone who is thinking of going as I found it much more rewarding and intimate than battling through the crowds down at the ruins.
After Mondays’ class we prepped our bags for the fast approaching Amazonian adventure. The flight in to Puerto Maldonado was very quick and the landscape changed abruptly once we entered the basin. Huge meandering rivers snaked their way through lush dense forest as far as the eye could see, a truly beautiful and refreshing sight after 3 years of studying Environmental Science! Once in the town we were briefed by our guide who took us on the river boat to our lodge, which was essentially the jungle version of Bora Bora. The oxygen was so rich and fresh after coming from the thin air in Cusco that my long lasting cough immediately dissipated, certainly the best natural detox out there!
The following days were full of amazing tours including a particularly special tour through the Tambopata Nature Reserve. Here we trekked through the muddy jungle to get to a bunch of canoes which we took through the swamp and out into the lake. Slowly drifting through the dense swamp was surreal, the sounds of Howler Monkeys calling in the distance brought the jungle to life and the wildlife was simply awesome. Once in the lake we were lucky enough to spot Black Caiman’s, Squirrel Monkeys, and a family of eight Giant Otters!! Some of the other groups managed to also spot tarantulas and Anacondas.
Another tour took us to an indigenous families’ riverside village which was an enlightening experience. The village Shaman demonstrated some of his skills including archery and fire-making, while the children were running around greeting everyone very excitedly. One of the young boys (around 4 years) was very keen on sharing his experiences with Ayahuasca as he is training to be a Shaman, but the language barrier made it difficult. It is a very old and normal tradition for children as young as 1 years old to be given Ayahuasca as it is a very important part of their lifestyle. Next time I’m in South America I plan to join in on one of these ceremonies and experience the internal journey myself.
Before we left the jungle we had a free afternoon where we played soccer with the locals. A storm swept through the jungle but the game continued even after a tree fell on the field and the mud made controlled movement near impossible. After 2 hours of sliding around the pitch we were battered and covered in mud but were left with nothing but bruises and smiles. A quick jump in the river to wash off the mud sufficed before we all got far too intoxicated in the pool and pretended to be Caimans well into the night. The Amazon (and the crazy fancy lodge) was an unreal experience which will be hard to top.
When we returned to Cusco we naturally celebrated the events of the past week which ended up in the usual way, but we had to cut it short as we had to get a few hours sleep before Quad biking past Moray the next morning. After some water and an effective local hangover cure we were on the bus and ready to ride! Hiring the quad bikes for 4 hours cost us 100 soles each ($40) for a crew of around 10, and we certainly got our moneys worth! Tearing through villages and shredding up dirt paths was easily the best way to spend the morning. The sun and dirt had some bite but we didn’t mind. The views from the ride were great but we were more focussed on going as fast as possible without causing a pile up! The previous night caught up with us on the ride home and we were pretty defeated.
However, the week was not over! An early night was needed as we had to be up by 3:30 AM to catch a bus to Rainbow Mountain, an incredibly beautiful mountain boasting 7 different unique colours. The trek was far harder than I had realised! The 16km journey started with a breakfast of bread, coca tea, and bangin’ hot chocolate before heading off through the valleys. Some opted to ride a horse while others chose to walk it, either way it was an incredibly hard journey which started at 4200m and ended at 5200m elevation. By the time I had reached the last uphill stretch the exhaustion and lack of oxygen had set in with my walking pace and I slowed to zombie speed. A break was needed every few steps to catch a breath but once at the top I was amazed at the colours and surrounding views of snow capped mountains and deep valleys. I was expecting to be slightly disappointed by the colours due to Instagram filters flooding my expectations but the mountain held its own, we were lucky to catch the right light before the clouds came through and the views and colours were breathtaking. Needless to say after the hike back we were thoroughly exhausted and slept very well after a good Pad Thai and Sheesha.