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Peru 2002

Gaby Drinkwater (Tour Leader), Me, David Taylor, David Skey, Julia Palmer, Mark Walmsley, Jude Rattle, Patrick Curtis, Timea Curtis, Bjørn Fossheim, Jerry Garland, Emma Paske, Katie Paske, Helen Collins, Sarah Nedelec, Lucy Berisford.

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Friday 20th December 2002 - We leave Breadsall at 2.45am, Robert gives us a lift down. Check in at Heathrow at 5.20am. Hang around and then fly on time at 8.20, sit with the 10 others on the plane. Arrive at JFK, David has his immigration form ripped up in front of his eyes and taken into a special room. When they realise that I am travelling with him, my luggage is searched as well. Let him in eventually. We spend six hours in the Terminal 8 bar, sleep all the way on the next leg to Miami. Sleep on the floor there. Sleep well on the 5½ hour flight to Lima.

Saturday 21st - Get to the hotel at 7am, total travelling time of 35 hours. Stay at the Embajadores hotel in the Miraflores district of Lima, sleep for a couple of hours and then meet up with Mark and Jude and explore. Walk up Larco Ave. and look at some local jewellery and paintings.

Sunday 22nd - Breakfast in the hotel. Go for a city tour, visit the National Museum in the afternoon. See lots of old Peruvian civilisations. Back to the hotel for 5pm. Jacuzzi on the roof. We all go out for lunch near to the hotel. Stay in the bar till late.

Monday 23rd - Go out for breakfast with David and Julia to Café Italino, omelette. Fly from Lima to Juliaca, alt 3800m, we all feel the effects, breathlessness and headaches. Meet Louise our guide over the next couple of days. Go to the market, for some juiced oranges, wander round the very busy market, meat etc. is for sale. Juliaca is the main city of the Altiplano. Drive to Puno. We all try some Coca leaves on the way, good for altitude. Arrive in Puno just as it goes dark. Check in to the Hotel del Lago on Ave du Sol. We all go out for a meal, a few of the group are suffering with the altitude. I have one beer and it is enough. Many people have a very bad nights sleep, I am almost embarrassed to say that I slept very well.

Floating islands on Lake TiticacaTuesday 24th - Awake at 6am. David investigates the shower and finds that a cat has been living there. Breakfast in the hotel and onto Lake Titicaca for 7am. Go to the floating islands, very interesting. Continue on the boat to Taquile island where we stop for lunch. Bjorn just happens to meet someone that he knows from Norway. Have very nice fish for lunch, looking out over the beautiful blue lake. Down a lot of steps and back on the boat. Read 'Endurance' all the way back. A few of us get a taxi to visit the Yavari, an amazing story. Gaby leads us to a restaurant for the evening meal, a few of us try the Guinea pig, not much meat on it, a bit like KFC. Go to a gringo bar with Lucy, Helen, Bjorn and David. I struggle down one more beer and have a bad head ache. Walk back to the hotel just after midnight. There are fire crackers being set off everywhere. When we get back the hotel owner and his family are having their Christmas celebrations. We stay for a drink and watch some of the children opening their presents, most seem to be dolls. I sleep very well again.

Highest altitude of the holidayWednesday 25th - Up at 7am and leave the hotel at 8am. Coach to Cusco. The planned train journey was cancelled due to lack of numbers. Follow the same route on the road. Get to my highest altitude so far of 4335m, buy a baby alpaca rug for 70 sols. Open my Christmas presents on the bus. I get some very appropriate presents from Anna and Annette. Stop for a picnic lunch at a very nice glass and wooden restaurant. Arrive in Cusco at about 4pm. Have a wander up to the main square. The city seems a great place, wide tarmac streets, well dressed people, etc., a big contrast to Puno. A little rain shower on the way back to the hotel. Gaby gives us more info about the trek, we are all amazed that there will be 26 porters to support us. Walk up to the "Inka Grill" for a great meal. Debate over the chicken fingers that I have to start and then pork chops. I collect the money and we are considerably out, Patrick owns up after a number of recounts. Enjoy talking with Lucy and Sarah, a good meal. Feel very full, bed for 11pm.

Above CuscoThursday 26th - Breakfast in the hotel, eggs and ham. I leave the hotel safe open.

Huge stones at Sacsayhuaman Get the bus up to Sacsayhuaman, it sounds like 'Sexy Woman' when Diego says it. I take the satellite navigation device, it says that we are at 11.9 kft, I laugh at first and then realise that it is correct.

Sacred valley of the Urubamba RiverDrive down to the scared valley of the Urubamba, we passed its source the other day, it flows into the Amazon eventually. Go to the market in Pisac, wander round and buy a warm pasty and then find a bar with the two Davids and Pat, discuss world politics. Drive back to Cusco for 1pm. Meet the others at 2.30pm for a city tour. Go round the Cathedral, some Inca ruins and an Inca street. Go shopping with Sarah, Lucy and Bjorn, I buy an Inca bag to use on the trek. Patrick buys lots of things, as always.

Start of the Inka TrailFriday 27th - Have a good breakfast and leave at 9am. Drive to good ruins at Ollantaytambo. Have our first meal of the trek, lupin stew, a bit difficult to get it down. Start walking at 3pm at kilometre 82 after an incredibly rough drive. Cross the river and follow the trail for a couple of hours, a good easy start to the Inca trail. Camp at 9230ft, 2800m. Have tea and biscuits at 6.15 followed by three course meal, soup, fish and rice, crème caramel (of sorts). We stay in the mess tent talking, make a start on the Red Label. The promised beer woman does not turn up. Patrick starts making Inuksuks and the craze soon spreads. See the Southern Cross for the first time and lots of satellites. Play a rather strange version of take-two later on with the 'Witches of Eastwick', i.e. Sarah, Lucy and Helen, and also Emma and Katie. Bed for about 10pm. I snore a lot apparently.

Saturday 28th - Wake up at 6am, most people are up and about, having a wash, etc. A wonderful bright morning. All us lot and the porters are introduced to each other. There are a few interesting revelations about some members of our party. Leave camp at 9am, I walk in shorts and a t-shirt. Leave the Urubamba river and walk up another valley. Nice steady ascent up to the lunch stop at 12.30, the bean stew is fantastic, me and Mark have seconds. I fall off the trail whilst trying to take an altitude reading on the GPS, at about this time it is christened the Mupetometer. Trail gets steeper and it starts to rain just as we arrive at camp at 3.30pm. The stragglers get a good soaking. Camp at 3790m. Tea and cake at 4.30, lots of laughs, sit around talking for an hour. The porters are fascinated by David's video camera. After tea Patrick is on top form and cannot stop singing. We all do 'On Ilkley moor bar tat' again, Katie does the special bits. David does the slices of toast joke and then does the 1234 one. Gaby gets all the way to the end of translating it into Spanish before we all realise that it will not work. Stay up till 10pm talking with David, Lucy and Sarah.

Group at Dead Woman's passSunday 29th - Early start, woken at 6am, try to leave by 7am, porridge. Long uphill to Dead Woman's pass at 4200m. The GPS reads 13,800 feet. So a few of us walk at the side of the pass until at reads 14,000 feet, Gaby goes white. Long downhill to 3600m and elevenses. Up again to 3800 for lunch, two courses, soup followed by beef, with local potatoes and rice. Up over another pass at 3,900 and down into the jungle. Visit some ruins in the clouds. Walk along the valley. Campsite at 12,100 feet. Fantastic thunderstorm, Bjorn joins in with his flash gun and David thinks that we are all going to die. Great views of Salcantay, which Diego tells us is unclimbed. Finish the whiskey with Dave and in bed for just gone 9pm.

Porter's RaffleMonday 30th - Woken at 6.30am, the sky is clear, another shorts day. Descent steeply from the campsite, down a series of steps, this is the Inka trail proper, the vegetation becomes a lot more dense. Visit some of the old ruins on the way down. Stop for elevenses at a check point. I am amazed how they surveyed the route and cut it into the side of the hill.

Trail disappears into the jungle The path is almost invisible even from the checkpoint. Get to Winaywayna for lunch, look at the ruins first, very impressive. Fantastic lunch of chicken casserole with savoury rice, and a cold beer! Continue walking, it starts to rain heavily, very steep steps. Arrive at the Sun Gate and we can only see glimpses of MP through the rain. Continue to walk and go through various checkpoints. Diego tells me off for standing on a religious stone, Pachamama is offended, I get stung by a very large insect a few minutes later.

Group arriving at Machu PicchuArrive in MP at about 4pm and get the bus down to Aguas Calientes. Very busy little town, stay in a hostel. We throw our walking poles into the raging river. Walk up to the hot springs and everyone enjoys a beer. Stay in with David, Lucy and Sarah. Eventually get out and go round a few bars in the high street and then pizza. I just cannot sleep. Bjorn's birthday, porters depart.

Diego Happy ?Tuesday 31st - Knocked at 6.30, breakfast on the roof, heavy rain. I wear my salopettes. Early bus up to MP, Diego gives us a two hour talk in the rain. Me, Jerry, Dave and Bjorn head to the top of Wayna Picchu. The four of us go for something to eat and then head up. We are caught up by Mark and Jude halfway up. It is a very exciting path, we go through caves etc. to get to the top. About one hour to get to the top and 45 minutes to get down.

David worshiping the GodsAlmost no view of MP from the top. Bus down to MP, the connecting train is delayed from 4.10 till 7.10, so we stay in a bar and drink some huge beers and have a pizza. Catch the train, it follows the course of the river, but there are no views since it is dark.

Urubamba river in flood Have some beer on the train to celebrate New Year in the UK. The train runs dry of beer, so they stop one going the other way and get all the beer off that one. Get a coach to Ollantatambo, very bumpy. David has the embarrassment of requesting a pit stop for the first time in his life. Fill up with Diesel at a garage in the middle of nowhere. For some reason which no one understands the coach will not start again. Midnight is approaching rapidly. Eventually get back to the hotel, a very quick change and up to the Fallen Angel just before midnight. Grab a bottle of bubbly and then back down to the main square to parade around with everyone else wearing pink pants. Back to the club, our party is in a small padded room with a mirrored ceiling. I spend a lot of time having cushion fights with people. I suddenly get very tired and get to bed for 3am.

Beer in the hot tubWednesday 1st January 2003 - Wake with a slight head ache at 8am, get on the coach for 9.30 for an hours drive to the rafting start. All our group are in one raft with an instructor. The other groups look old and boring and we are all pleased not to be with them, there are five rafts in total. The water looks just like drinking chocolate. Grade 3 rafting for a couple of hours. Me and Bjorn set the pace at the front, everyone gets soaked. Great views of the Viabama valley. Great weather all day. Have a buffet by the side of the river and then coach back to Cusco. David has been feeling ill all day and is in bed. We go out for a meal later, go to 'Greens', good food but very slow, most people are very tired. Go to the 'Cross Keys' for one on the way back, Gaby's last night in Cusco. Last time in bed till we get home.

Thursday 2nd - Get up at 5pm to fly to Lima. Walk into Lima and look round the various markets. I buy a fantastic wooden chess set. Fly from Lima to Dallas overnight, I sleep a little on the plane.

Friday 3rd - Arrive at Dallas airport in the morning. They let us in reluctantly. We have a 13 hour stop over. A few of us catch a train down town. Go to the JFK museum. A big friendly guy welcomes us, takes our coats and realising that we are not American, he asks, 'Are you from Europe, France maybe? Go up the Reunion Tower for a bite to eat and a cold beer. Catch the plane home in the evening.

Saturday 4th - Bro picks us up from Gatwick at 7am. It is raining.

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