And so we set off on the ‘moderate to strenuous’ Inca trail, a trek through the eastern flank of the Andes that lasts 4 days and ends at the numero uno tourist destination of Machu Picchu. This is the view from the notorious Dead Woman’s Pass, day 2, looking back the way we’d come. Notorious because you ascend steeply on the Incas’ worn stone steps to an altitude of 4200m above sea level. The views, as you’d expect, are amazing but best of all, you know it’ll never be that difficult again. In the picture one of our porters waits for the last of our group, ready to reward them with a hot drink.
There was little time for sketching on our trek; the next opportunity I got was on day 4 at Machu Picchu itself. It’s a magical place, a small city built at 2400m in the midst of deep green, forested mountains which rise up momentously around it from the valley floor. The air is suffused with light and has an almost tangible presence, like it would hold you up if you leaped into it. Machu Picchu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South America, yet it still feels incredibly peaceful. I would have been very happy living there as an Inca lady, ritual sacrificing of women aside. Pleasingly, the Spanish never discovered it during their conquest – you can’t even see it from the valley below.
Ps – On Wednesday, we travel into the Peruvian rainforest to volunteer for a month. We have fairly limited internet there so I’m not sure when the next posts will be, but I will try to get something up. Will probably involve a lot of parrots.