Cusco

Above: My Timotei moment

Wow, wow, wow. The last two weeks, on the archaeological expedition, have been just amazing. We had one week at base camp, followed by a week´s trekking our way across the Vilcabamba, and every single day brought new challenges and achievements. It´s been special.

For the archaeological bits, check out the expedition website at www.x-journal.com/journal/inca. You´ll see that we were absolutely gobsmacked by the extent of our success. Almost too much of a good thing.

The trek was pretty gobsmacking too, through some of the most spectacular scenery the Andes can offer. It was physically quite tough, involving lots of steep uphill walking, but we had a fantastic team of arrieros, who would go ahead with the mules and set up camp so that by the time we trailed in, footsore and weary, the tents would be up and the kettle on.

It was quite alarming how quickly I went feral and adapted to life in camp. Normal concerns with trivial things like body odour disappeared very early on. Day 1, our mules couldn´t make it across a narrow rope bridge, so we had to shoulder our baggage and carry it a mile or so – instant sweat saturation. Then the next day it rained – total mudbath. Mud became the new black.

It wasn´t all that easy to get clean, just a small bowl of hot water twice a day, for a flannel bath starting at the top and working down. The best wash I had was when I had a Timotei moment and jumped into a pool under a three-tier waterfall. Seemed like a good idea for the first 3 seconds, until I realised just how freezing cold the water was. Staggered out considerably less smelly, but with an achingly cold head.

But it wasn´t all back to earthy basics. We did still have life´s bare necessities, like the morning cuppa of coca tea brought to our tents, and vodka martinis before dinner every evening.

Speaking of coca, I got quite into coca-chewing, which is meant to ward off fatigue and hunger. I remain to be convinced, as all the fresh air and exercise totally cured my insomnia and gave me a raging appetite, but maybe I just wasn´t chewing enough, my ladylike little wad looking rather amateurish compared with the hamster-cheeks of some of our arrieros.

Now back in Cusco, attempting to readjust to civilisation and hot & cold running water. Took my dirty washing to the laundry this morning – they deserve danger money for going anywhere near that vile-smelling pile.

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