Tesco charity trek to Machu Picchu

Expedition: Private: Machu Picchu via the Lares Valley

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Beeep beeep beeep beeep  – 5am on 27th April,  alarm wakes me, I open my eyes begrudgingly and remember why I’m getting up at this time… To fulfil an aspiration I have had for many years… to visit Machu Picchu.

Leeds to Heathrow, Heathrow to Madrid, Madrid to Lima, Lima to Cusco. 35 hours travelling done! Do I know what I’ve signed up for? Arrive bleary eyed, tired but overall feelings of pure excitement (oh and we just missed one at the airport!!) driving to hotel the city engulfs me with its vast array of colours, people, smells and sights of half built houses, vibrantly dressed locals, my eyes take it all in.

Sat in the hotel’s amazing courtyard drinking coca tea the feeling that this just got real kicks in…the group listen to Rolfe, first team briefing on how this trip is gonna go…. slight worry, fear, trepidation, but overall excitement. First taste of local cuisine, yummy! We set off on a walk round this amazing city Cusco, followed by children offering pictures, woolly llamas, intricate brightly coloured weaving. Way above Cusco we take time to see the city from a bird’s eye view (and catch our breath) our local guides are fun guys who put us at ease and inject some humour into the day.

Day 2 inca vs pre inca it’s all about drainage!  Great insight into the difference and both sit spectacular ….snap snap snap camera on fire! I discover I have a love for something local, cola! High on sugar I eat lunch by the side of a beautiful lake, everyone in high spirits after an amazing days trek.

DDay… True trekking starts…. The driver Walter is a quiet cool guy who drives well & keeps us safe. We stop at a local town and take a stroll round the bustling, bright, dirty, smelly, intriguing, eye-opening market. Back on the bus we arrive at our destination. Poles, check; day sack, check; lots of energy and excitement, big check. Waterfalls everywhere, breath-taking sights everywhere, the group starts to walk this beautiful scenery, every corner and bend “WOW” comes from my mouth. We pass a local who hides underneath her woven blanket with her child to avoid the glare and photos of these alien people walking by her. Rolfe shows us inca skeletons in their primitive graves, WOW again. We meet our buses and head to everyone’s fear: the campsite & portaloos!

Milo, peanut butter, darkness, head torches flashing like the Northern lights and this is just course one. Two more to go.  Warm, food in belly, all tired we head to our beds looking up to the sky which is full of stars, the mountain range in the background is spectacular… I hear a scream then running, then the words “it was massive” our friendly neighbourhood spider paid me and my TBB ( trekking best buddy) a first night visit, Commotion over.. Lights out. Zzz zzz zzz. Waking up…. Yawnssssss… Zip tents open the group is alive we made it, first night and we never got eaten by a local llama :)) breakfast then introductions, our local team members, all play an amazing part in the trip each of them bringing their own area of expertise, even loo man, this guy has my respect!

The only way is up as the song says and away we go… Think we’re all surprised by the gradient of the initial part, the view once over the initial part is awe inspiring, 2 minute break, “drink drink take a break” Jose’s daily guidance will keep us in line and hydrated. The lake we pass provided the fish for last night’s meal. Further up we pass local children so cute, innocent and wide-eyed by the sight of us, stickers chocolate bars are handed out. Reaching the summit of this mountain high fives all rounds and a chance to look in both directions of what we’ve just done and what we have to do. The downhill starts…

Camp 2 – by a stream and incredibly pretty I kick off my boots, tired but feeling proud with today’s achievement. The excitement is high, the swim shorts at the ready… hot spring time. The feeling of hot water albeit brown is awesome, that and the “open to the elements” shower. Back at camp the food tent is alive with talk and chat of the days trek, I think we have master chefs in the food tent, how they prepare, cook and serve these kind of meals from a kitchen tent amazes me – fab food! Bed time…
(Zip zip 3am toilet break, this had to be the best place I’ve ever been to the loo (sorry I just had to share that) the stars are amazing!!

Tap tap on the tent… Hot steaming coca tea to wake me up, yawns, stretches, pop head out of tent and take in this amazing scenery (again!!) breakfast is served, everyone seems in good spirits. Breakfast eaten, pack up picked up and away we go… The day takes us up high and the views from the summit of our climb, well words cannot describe the views! I sit and take them all in catching my breath. The rain clouds come. Then go just as quick. Starting our descent the group see chinchillas running around in their natural habitat, yet another amazing sight. The lovely sight of the food tent is in view and I pick up the pace, I’m hungry 🙂 another fantastic meal, a head popped round the food tent and a thank you to the crew is well deserved and well earnt.

We say a farewell to some of our local team with a big thank you and a round of applause, on the bus we head into the last campsite, the drive takes us past inca ruins and down into a forest, the mountains are in touching distance. A quick sort out of bags and it’s back on the bus to head to a local town for some shopping, and a look around. We meet in a pub, most of us have a bag of some description filled with gifts, treats, hats, mats, rugs etc etc. time to head back for some food and to get ready for an early start.

Early morning train to start the trek to the Sungate, the week’s trekking has been heading to this and I’m excited, to say the least. Train journey takes us to where this trek starts… I cross a wooden rope bridge first to get my pass checked and my passport given the seal of approval for me to be allowed to take this final trek to the Sungate and Machu Picchu. Humid conditions, no donkeys, no support team, just one man and this huge rucksack which contains all our lunches, this man is a machine! First stop 5 minuntes in, some inca ruins what were once houses. Amazing to think how long ago these were built and the condition of the buildings. Onwards and upwards we climb, the heat is intense and the paths narrow and steep… Climbing up up up….

I turn a corner and see high up above me an incredible inca settlement, this is where we’ll be lunching. We continue to climb. The settlement getting closer, the ground below me further away. Once at the village I have my picture taken on a rock which lends itself to this place so easily. I think the entire group is looking down and is in total awe of the view.

The man machine (sorry I don’t know his name) has unpacked lunch and passes down the 3 courses, the man is a legend and we all thank him for him getting up here with all that weight on his back. Day sack back on and it’s the final part of the trek where I will see Machu Picchu for the first time. I trek through rainforest and humidity to reach the steps that are almost vertical, with a new lease of energy I get to the top…. And… I see what I’ve aspired to see for many many years. The Sungate and Machu Picchu. Taking a deep breath and a moment to collect my thoughts. I just take in the view.

Onwards to Machu Picchu…. The rain starts, the clouds descend and the place takes on a serene, magical feeling. I make one phone call, my mum stood here 15 years ago and has been an incredible inspiration in making this dream come true. Today was about trekking here, tomorrow is about a tour and a proper explore, for now it’s a local bus down to the town and my hotel for the night. Everyone eats out at a quirky, cool restaurant and talks about the day’s trek. Very tired I head back to our hotel for an early night ready for tomorrow. Back on the bus and the tour starts with a group photo all proudly showing why we did this and for what reason, then with Edwar guiding us we all listen to the history of this place. Llamas roam freely, cameras snap away, to say there are hundreds of people wandering around, it still processes an air of peace and quiet. Tour done and looking up it’s all about the final hurdle on this epic trip – Machu Picchu mountain.

4 people…. All going to give this final hurdle an attempt. I sign in, name, date, time, AGE. Looking down at the list I see most are much younger than me, should this be telling me something?! Not one to let things get the better of me, I start off on these steps which will lead me to the top, the goings tough, in places sheer drops, and wide enough just for one.. However I carry on and with us four supporting one another, when the top is finally reached it’s an amazing achievement and one of which I feel totally proud of. The views are simply amazing, words don’t do them justice.

Back on the bus heading into lunch, everyone congratulating us on reaching the top, we eat drink and replenish the energy levels, then it’s collect the bags from the hotel, and head to the train. Once on, I fall asleep briefly, power nap over and it’s cards, chat, looking at photos, then the most bizarre… Surreal, fun, train journey I have or probably will ever take…Brightly coloured dressed monster dances down the carriage inviting it’s passengers to join it in a local dance, Marni is chosen and the group clap extra loud as she joins in. Then the fashion show.  Totally hilarious and the model cum waiters, waitress cum sales people seem to enjoy it too. This really shouldn’t be the case but it’s one of the parts of the trip that I’ll never, ever forget!

Back in Cusco and the final night, quickly throw the bags in room and freshen up and then we eat our last supper as a group. I’m asked to give Jose our thanks and the team applaud as we say a massive thank you to him and to Edwar, both have been awesome beyond words in making this trip exceptional.

Quick Pisco Sour in the local pub then back to the hotel for packing and sleep.
Next day soon arrives and with it a whole lot of sad faces, but this for me has been a simply fantastic experience and I’ve made some new friends and experienced some amazing sights and visited a place in the world that has intrigued me for many, many years.

I say goodbye to a great couple of people Rolfe & Marni with the agreement that we’ll meet again either a French reunion or on another adventure holiday. Three flights done and at Heathrow I say goodbye again this time to the group of people who I’ve walked with shared the past 9 days with, highs, lows, laughs and overall I can comfortably say the best trip I have ever taken in my 41 years of life.

On the final flight home, I raise a glass with my trekking best buddy – Emily. We’ve had the time of our lives!!



Colin Turner

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