Following in Sam and Nicks' still echoing footsteps from November, and feeling unsure about how the city would react to Nick's return, we arrived in Cusco on Monday.
The 3400m altitude hike hit us hard after ascending straight from sea level, a mere stroll across the Plaza de Armas resulted in virtual hyper-ventilation. Ignoring accepted advice, we countered with three days of soup, beer and museum visiting. This presented the ideal opportunity for a repeat visit (for Nick at least) to the Inca Museum to witness the incredible zombie inca mummy tomb diorama, not a disappointment even at the second time of asking. Sadly attempts to procure photographic evidence of this intriguing exhibit for publication in this very journal resulted in near expulsion from the museum by an irate security guard.
Having acclimatised, we were thankfully saved from the temptation of spending 4 days getting increasingly smelly with crusty travellers on the Inca trail as it is closed in February for the annual clean-up.
Not wanting to shirk on a spot of high-altitude trekking, Nick invented our own personalised itinerary, visiting increasingly spectacularly situated ruins, starting on horseback and continuing on foot, culminating in the tourist trap that is Machu Pichu.
Machu Pichu didn't fail to live up to its reputation, it was raining and the ruins would mysteriously emerge in and out of huge banks of cloud throughout the day. This was a good excuse not to attempt the mad SAS survival training dash that Sam and Nick made up the vertical peak of Wayna Pichu and down to the jungle-clad moon temple (in 1 hour), although we did manage to get a spectacular view of the ruins the day before after scaling 100 foot rickety vertical ladders to conquer the peak of Putacusi (see photo).
We are now back in Cuzco feeling broken and exhausted. Off to Puno and Lake Titicaca tomorrow.