After deciding to skip the mega city and mayhem of Sao Paulo, we sought a more laid back Brazil and headed to Paraty, back on the coast. Paraty had been recommended to us by my Aunty, and it turned out to be a very good recommendation for us – just what we were looking for: somewhere peaceful, charming, quaint, laid-back and friendly, away from the crowds of the huge cities. After a year now of travelling, we had long since learnt what we liked and disliked, and the hustle and bustle of crazy busy cities is not high up there on our ‘like’ list.
High up on the list of places to visit in South America is the famous Iguazu Falls. You can visit these majestic waterfalls from either Brazil or Argentina and we decided on the latter for a few reasons: the main one being that we had heard you got a better view from the Argentina side.
At first it just looked like another city, well that's what I thought on the walk from the bus station to the central square at 7am. The hotel we checked into was a being renovated, and we opted for a knackered old room with a lower rate.
We explored the streets, and knowing that we might want to stay more than a couple of days, we looked for alternative accommodation, and found a great little 'apart-hotel' with rented apartments at a reasonable price. As Cordoba became more familiar, and we settled into the apartment, it began to feel like home.
It was late on a Friday evening when we arrived into Salta, and we got our first impressions of Argentina. The bus station was typically crowded and we needed directions to the town centre. Julie asked a local, and we got a warm response.
We were woken at 3.30am, and it was still raining. The porters needed to pack up and get their 5.15am local train back to Ollantaytambo, and apparently, if they missed this train, then the next one was not until 8pm.
Christmas Day! 7am wake up call and Panettone & hot chocolate for breakfast - very nice. In the morning we were introduced to the porters that had been looking after us so well, putting up (and down) the tents, feeding us, and carrying 6KGs for everyone in the group. We gathered around in a circle and all introduced ourselves.
Day 3 is the easiest day and packed full of Inca sites. We had a short (only 4 hours) walk to our camp site which is collocated at the Inca site called Winay Wayna.
One of the guides (Bruno) woke us all up at 6am with coca tea delivered to our tent. Breakfast was at 6.30am, and we were on the trail by 7am.
Day 2 is the longest day of the trek over two passes; Dead Woman's Pass at 4215m, which took us 4 hours to climb in constant rain, and the '2nd Pass' at 3950m.
Our wake-up call was at 6.30am in the hostel at Ollantaytambo. The guides and porters arrived at 7am to weigh our duffle bags (only 6KG allowed), and we were on the bus to 'KM82' at the start of the Inca trail by 7.30am.
The faffing started here...with a final dress rehearsal in the car park we decided to start out in our ponchos due to light rain, and bought a couple of nice water bottle holders (Peruvian woven) to fit over the top of all our gear.
Firstly, there are many Inca Trails, and secondly, there are many more Inca sites than just Machu Picchu. The whole area around Cusco and the Sacred Valley is covered in trails and Inca sites just like today's tarmac roads connect each modern-day town. Cusco was the heart (more often described as the naval) of the Incan Empire that stretched from Quito in Ecuador, down through Peru, and as far south as Santiago in Chile, covering an area similar in size to Western Europe.
As part of our Intrepid tour package, we were transported high into the hills (3800m) not only to acclimatise in preparation for the Inca Trail but to meet a tribal community living a traditional agrarian lifestyle.
Greeted by four women, a boy, and the male head of the community, all in traditional dress, we were immediately impressed with friendly faces and genuine hospitality as they handed us fresh flowers and covered us in confetti.