(Part of a series of articles by Fi trawling the archives for photos taken on the tiny compact camera way back when).
I’m looking back almost 3 years as I write this now and I can’t believe that we experienced the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve and Salt flats, the Lares trek and Machu Picchu within the space of a fortnight (two weeks later to be heading to the Galapagos…but that will come later). The variety of landscape and cultures within South America is just stunning and we were glad to have chosen the Lares trek to lead into our Machu Picchu visit. While it doesn’t lead directly to Machu Picchu it’s a stunning route far less travelled by the large tourist groups, passing herds of alpacas and wandering through small adobe villages where pigs and chickens wander about amongst the residents. It was a fantastic way to experience the Quechua (ke-chew-a) culture with not another tourist in sight.
The first day was pretty relaxed, after the obligatory road block we headed to an outdoor thermal spa and then began our trek walking up through the farmed hillside terraces. By night time we reached a small village where our guides bring packages of fresh bread whenever they pass through. We prepared our tent for the night and emerged to find an entrepreneurial young child had set up a small selection of beers for us to buy (rightly or wrongly we obliged) and then after dinner we helped to serve up a huge vat of hot chocolate to the local children, played some games and shared out some colouring books and pens which mostly ended up being used on each others faces. This was all experienced in the pitch black of night with only a few torches to light the way, we managed a few shots with the flash which captured bemused faces at the light appearing from nowhere. The kids later retreated off in the dark to their homes, no doubt knowing every step of the village like the back of their hands.
The second day was to be the toughest. Walking for around 8 hours up to 4550m altitude – it’s not a technical climb but the altitude is a killer mentally and physically. A year of traveling had taken its toll on my fitness but this was a shocker – I felt like an 80-a-day smoker and had to force myself to keep going by counting 20 steps at a time. Reaching the summit we could see across the sacred valley, its lagoons & glaciers, and it was beautiful – but also bloody freezing! From here on though everything became much easier as it was all downhill. The evening brought yet another immense meal, we were certainly never going to starve and in fact it was often far too much food but being British we ate so as not to offend. Our chef even managed to bake a birthday cake for Paul’s imminent 30th celebrations. Quite how this was possible in the middle of nowhere with only a gas stove we have no idea!
Our final day involved only a short hike down towards a village where we popped into a chicha house. The ladies were taking a midday break and sampling a large glass of the pungent drink. When told it was Paul’s birthday coming up a glass was offered up as a gift amusingly along with flowers. Chicha is essentially a sour fermented drink often made from maize. One method of production is for women to chew the corn and then spit it out and leave it to brew. Mmm yummy! We left the chicha house a little squiffy and hopped into a collectivo bus to Ollantaytambo where we managed to catch a local festival before heading by train to the hell that is Aguas Calientes – the neon-touristic gateway to Machu Picchu.
Here are a few galleries of pictures from our compact camera – click on the images below: