When we first arrived in Peru for the start of a ten day trek on the Inca Trail, we could hardly wait to disembark the aircraft before starting to take photos of the rugged mountains that surrounded the condensed, bustling city of Cusco where we were to stay for three nights before starting our journey.
After acclimatising to the altitude at 3600m, we had time to explore the chaotic street markets, where several pupils were to be found bartering for some colourful ‘traditional’ Peruvian trousers. Alongside these eccentric shopping excursions, we visited attractions around Cusco such as an alpaca farm, Cristo Blanco and the first of many Inca ruins, where we had the delight of being blessed by Patcha Mama (Mother Earth) in a hands-on religious ceremony.
Three days later, it was time to start our trek, a daunting prospect for many of us, teachers included. The four-day hike was truly an unforgettable experience. From the heights of Dead Woman’s Pass to the rainforest of valleys below, none of us tired of the stunning scenery.
Nestled in the mountains were a seemingly never-ending variety of Inca ruins at which our guides didn’t tire to entertain us, even at our most exhausted. One memorable moment was while we sat at the top of a mountain shrouded in cloud, when our guide whipped out a panpipe and played the theme from Titanic. Another point of amusement was watching Mr Ireson trying to skip a rope that had been impressively made from the grass on the hillside.
The evening meals were impressive, and everyone was shocked when a lavishly decorated cake, baked in a tent without the use of an oven, was brought to the table for afternoon tea.
On the final morning of the trek, we arrived at the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu just as the sun rose above the mountains. After spending the morning exploring the ancient city, we descended into Aguas Calientes for pizza and a dip in the hot springs before catching the train back to Cusco.
The trip was over all too soon, and on our return to England, as we reminisced about the previous ten days, it was clear that our time in deepest darkest Peru would not be easily forgotten.
Chris Bird (L)