Above: I get matey with Tony Hadley
Our end of expedition party was a huge and somewhat surreal night, featuring two roast guinea pigs, a total eclipse of the moon, and Tony Hadley, the lead singer of Spandau Ballet.
Roast cuy, or guinea pig, is a Peruvian speciality, so it seemed an appropriate menu choice for our celebratory dinner. When we arrived at the restaurant on the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Antonia nudged me and hissed, ‘That’s Tony Hadley over there’. And sure enough, there he was, large as life, and barely changed from the New Romantic days of ‘True’ and ‘Gold’.
Fuelled by a bit of dutch courage and a dinner of roasted rodents (dished up intact, complete with feet and ratty little teeth, not a lot of meat but quite tasty), she and I wandered over in starstruck manner to introduce ourselves. And Tony (first name terms, note!) could not have been nicer. He was in the restaurant with a huge bunch of people who had just completed the Inca Trail in aid of the cancer charity Action Research, a change of plan after his celebrity bout with political reporter John Pienaar had been vetoed by the boxing regulators.
We got chatting about our expedition, and he seemed genuinely interested in what we’d been up to, asking lots of questions about what we’d done, seen and discovered. He introduced us to his friends, and we all got very matey.
Several glasses of wine, a couple of cigars, and one lunar eclipse later, the charity organisers had finally finished presenting awards to all the trekkers for everthing under the sun, from the basic well-done-for-finishing award, to most glamorous hiker and celebrity lookalikes (Tony Hadley nominated for his striking resemblance to Tony Hadley).
Tony rounded off the proceedings by getting up to sing – a hilariously under-rehearsed rendition of ‘YMCA’, followed by a faultless version of ‘True’, the voice sounding as good as ever. And despite his trekking war wounds (a bleeding blister on his heel) he still made it to Ukuku’s, the nightclub round the corner, where the party continued until the wee small hours.
Woke up the next morning wondering if I’d dreamed it all in some bizarre altitude-induced state. Not every day you get to boogie on down in Peru with a 1980’s pop idol…