Savage Mountain Pass

July 29, 2016

IMG_0870 (1)Machu Picchu Diary

6 July 2016

It’s 1830 and we are sitting around in our puffy jackets drinking sweet cocoa, eating popcorn and sweet pastry and reflecting on a remarkable day. We have just covered 27km, climbed 550m to cross the pass at 4602m (15,000’), dropped 1900m through ice and icey rain being driven sideways by strong winds to arrive at our ‘warm’ bush campsite tonight. From alpine to rain forest, sun to snow, rain to fog. Maybe the only constant  that seemed oblivious to it all was the mule, or rather multiple mules that tracked up and down the mountain with us. As with the Annapurna Circuit and the Thorung La pass in 2012 this track and pass remain of commercial significance to the locals. Though of course in this case most of the mules are hauling back and forwards with camping gear and packs. Of ours. Read more


July 24, 2016

IMG_0804 (1)Machu Picchu Diary

5 July 2016

The alarm goes off at 0400 but we have been awake prior to all the iphone alerts pinging off. No one really wants to get up but we stir ourselves into action and clear the room. I’m mildly surprised to see most of the group sitting around the common area, slumped like so many half filled bean bags, no hint of energy. But they are at least out of their rooms and ready to go. It turns out they had not tuned into the start time and the word had gotten around that we were due to leave at 0300. It’s a source of amusement for me but I leave them alone. Early is better than late. We try and move about quietly for the sake of others in the hostel but it seems everyone is up early to catch a bus to somewhere, so it’s not long before the half lit common room has a slight hum to it as people check packs, catch up with social media, double check times and make last minute additions or subtractions to the bags they plan to leave behind at the hostel. Read more

Sexy Woman

July 21, 2016

IMG_0619Machu Picchu Diary

4 July 2016

Sacsayhuaman (something like “sarc-say-wha-mahn”) is an Inca site above Cusco which we visited today. The team is mostly in good shape altitude wise and managed the 200m lift in altitude to this modest hill above the city without any drama. However some are still feeling a tinge green. Hopefully another nights sleep, tomorrow’s descent into Mollepata, and the fact that we are camping at Cusco altitude later in the day should mean everyone gets another two nights of acclimatising. I am hoping that helps since we do need to get everyone over that Salkantay Pass the following day. Having said that, there is a Plan B for anyone who is forced back by the height – a bus trip back to Cusco, up the Sacred Valley and meeting us at Machu Picchu in five days time. (The Machu Picchu site is significantly lower than Cusco). Read more

Cloud Mountains

July 20, 2016

IMG_0348Diary, 2 July 2016

Ana-Sofia has advised us that Cusco and the area we are trekking is not considered the ‘Andes’ (or Las Sierras) but rather the ‘Cloud Mountains’, an area or region that borders the Amazon jungle, but which features its own type of forest. That sounds good to me and besides, is suitably poetic. I look forward to seeing it as we bore through a sunny sky and I gaze out over mountains and gullies that share the same brown hues as those in Afghanistan. There is no vegetation around Lima and I was reminded that this is one of those rare coastal deserts, Lima being the largest desert city after Cairo. We are all on LA2023 this morning but slightly subdued over yesterday: time differences, jet lag and constantly being on the move all taking their smallest weight of flesh and spirit. Diamox is slowing some of us as well. Read more

Ricky Baker

July 19, 2016

IMG_0248Machu Picchu Diary

Friday 1 July 2016

1337 hours and the aircraft frame vibrates and shudders as the undercarriage, not designed to be aerodynamic in any way thrashes through the air below us. As the undercart is cleaned up over Botany Bay everything settles down and the slightly alarmed look on Kavitha’s face vanishes. We have been delayed an hour due to congestion at Sydney airport, a delay that only reinforces my impression that this piece of infrastructure is a serious embarrassment. Anyone in denial over Badgeries Creek has not repeatedly been inconvenienced by this third world airport of ours. Anyway, I am assured our flight will make up time over the Pacific and that our already tight window to make the connection through to Lima will not be further constricted. “Relax” the assured cabin attendant tells me. “We know who has tight connections on this flight”. His multitude of boy scout like buttons and badges twinkle in the sunlight thrown into the cabin by the low Sydney winter sun.  I know he is just assuring me in order to get me to my seat but there is little else I can do or say. Read more