Inca Jungle Trail


GratefulIy, I was just dropping off to sleep when there was a strange noise directly above my bed. The day before, I'd cycled from a chilly 4316m above sea level down a winding mountain road through waterfalls into the sticky Peruvian jungle at 1430m. Today was a non-stop hike, apart from lunch, through coca and coffee plantations to join the classic Inca Trail. My vertigo had been challenged as I descended carved steps facing the valley deep below and as I crossed a rickety old bridge made of loose logs over a ravine. My skin had been challenged by the multiplying blisters gained from hired boots and from the relentless attacks from invisible mosquitoes. And my fitness levels were seemingly not up to this four day challenge.
I was shattered and relieved that my group's hostel in Santa Teresa was clean and had showers, albeit cold. We were split into pairs for each room and when the scratching sound began, I hoped it was my room-mate.
'Is that you?' she asked, which was the cue to switch the light back on.
We looked to the ceiling. The square polystyrene board that was probably covering up a hole was getting pushed down by.. something. A corner gave way and a long, black tail dangled down from the opening and formed a hook. We had no idea what it was, but before it landed on my bed I was out the door and shouting for our guide to rescue us. He was there in seconds ready to do battle with a broom.
Wow! Fascinating!' said Carlos, as the giant scorpion dropped onto the handle.
Slowly, he pulled it towards him and as he did so, I leaned towards the wall for support, stopping when something moved next to my head. There were about five small scorpions crawling down to rendezvous with their Big Momma. I was now hyperventilating. The fear didn't come from an illogical phobia. I'd been stung by one of these critters years ago in Bali but the memory of the searing pain and my swollen hand was fresh. As I cried out 'There's more of 'em!' Carlos swung round with his broom and the giant jumped off and scarpered to a new hiding place.
We swapped rooms, relieved to have escaped. Or had we..? I lifted the sheet to get into bed and there beside me was a cockroach. Dead, but still, inside my bed. We wondered if there was another room we could try and opening the door shone our torches upon a scuttling mass of hard-shelled cockroaches the size of salt shakers. This was like a mutant breeding station. We weighed up alive versus inanimate creatures and chose to stay, eventually falling into a fitful sleep.
At breakfast, we were given the option of hiking or zip-lining across the Sacred Valley. Although the quicker option was the tempting one, vertigo led me to choose the walking route along a rapid flowing river and gravelly train tracks to reach the small town of Aguas Calientes. From there I climbed about 1000 steep steps by torchlight to see Macchu Picchu at sunrise, my legs aching and lungs wheezing with the increasing altitude. Inside the mountain-top site, up dizzingly high at 2450m, it was drizzly, covered with cloud and I wondered if my nightmarish encounters were worth it. But like Brigadoon, the ancient walls of a lost city slowly emerged from the mist and a sense of wonder swept the fog from my sleep-deprived brain.


A Wilson

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