The city where almost all travellers arrives at before starting their adventures. Since all the hiking trails are in the mountains where at points the altitude would be 3000m above sea level, it was a good idea to acclimatise for several days first beginning the trek. This busy city filled deep in the mountain ranges was quite a sight to behold whilst flying over the mountains, and also had exceptional weather despite the morning and night chill; the sky was always blue and had little rain, the sun always shone brightly but not overbearingly hot. It was necessary to wear sunglasses at all times outdoors though since we were alot closer to the sun.
Upon arrival, we stayed at the Golden Inca Hotel( it has a sister hotel Casa Real, both with excellent services and clean rooms but Golden Inca has better wifi reception, neither were particularly close to the main plaza but was within walking distance and taxi was cheap). At night we visited the main Plaza De Armas walking through the various alleyways and taking in the foreign scenery, at times we would be approached by locals selling souvenirs or trying to take us to massage parlours. We had our first dinner at Restaurant El Pasa ( if I remember correctly), trying a fettuccine dish. One of my friends got pretty sick so headed back to the hotel while my other friend and I tried out an Incan massage. I have never had a massage before so it did feel pretty good at the time, but my body started to ache the next day.
After my friend recovered from his sickness I began to feel sick and got diarrhoea ( the hotel staff told me it was likely to be a reaction from being in the higher altitudes), so I spent the rest of our stay in Cusco doing some light sight seeing. We did come across a parade of intriguingly dressed paraders and game stands at night.
One of the interesting tourist places in Cusco was the Golden Temple which showed how the Incan civilisation built their temples and altars which segued to how buildings looked after the Spanish Conquistadors invaded. It didn’t really seem that interesting until you realise that the Incans were able to build walls and chisel stones with such precision without the tools that we have today.
Another place worthy of visiting was the Inca Spa especially as the day progressed and it became colder. The spa was filled with various scents and fragrances which helped relaxing and soothing the body.
The Choquequirao Trek
After being briefed about the trekking schedule, we left early in the morning via a van to the start of the 10 day trail around 2000m above sea level. We had a breakfast along the way, consuming a bowl of very salty chicken broth and rice. Despite the saltiness, it was very warming and enjoyable to consume in the chilly morning.
For the first day of the trek it took us around 5 hours to descend the mountain, walking on the slippery sandy trail on the side of the mountain with the sun constantly shining in our face and swarms of mosquitos silently stuck to whatever bit of skin they attach themselves to. Although the scenery was absolutely stunning, I was struggling to compose myself as the day progressed. By the time we reached the bottom, my legs were no extremely sore after repetitively straining my legs with my body weight and constantly trying to stabilise my body as I stepped on each slippery rock and gravel. It was the first time in my life where I lost complete appetite despite some amazing local cuisine presented in front of me made by the chef who came along with us. Still a bit sick from the previous day and having legs the weight of lead, we once again set out to walk uphill to the top of the next mountain before nightfall. Despite only being about 1000m above sea level, which technically shouldn’t give humans altitude sickness, I struggled for breath with each step uphills. My tour guide seeing that I was unable to continue suggested that we head back to the resting place and stay there for the night.
It was the first time in my life where I had to make a hard decision of giving up on the first day and forfeiting my trekking expenses, or continue on, knowing that I may have to reach altitudes of 4000m above sea level and entering places where it wasn’t possible to get medical attention. Although my friends encouraged me to continue with them, I did not want to slow them down as I already have, and thought it would be a better idea to attempt the trek another time when I am fitter so I headed back with one of the travel guides back up the first mountain early next morning. I still struggled but luckily I was allowed to ride the donkey for part of the trip. After saying farewell to the tour guide I caught a van back to to Cusco although this time it took much longer as I was travelling with alot of other returning hikers.
The first thing upon returning to Cusco was visiting the tour agency to return the gear they lent me. I wasn’t particularly happy with having paid around $1000USD for a 1 day trek but the agency was very willing to cover part of my expenses and arrange transportation for me to meet up with my friends near Machu Picchu, thus it wasn’t too bad.
The following two days I returned to the Golden Inca Hotel. My cold got a bit worse and I could not physically bend my legs for two days, I had to lift each leg onto the bed, before it got slightly better. As much as I liked having pizza, mcdonalds and fried roasted meat, I do not think it helped much with my illness.