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After re-grouping in La Paz our little group set off to Copacabana on the way to the Peruvian border. We spent just a night there, enough time to sample the local speciality- trout on the waters edge, check out the car blessing ceremonies held every morning in front of the church (cars, buses and people are decorated with flowers and confetti, blessed and sent merrily on their way), and explore the local markets.

Next stop was Puno, known solely for the floating islands just off the shore. We were lucky as we arrived in town with just enough time to jump onto a boat for the islands, where we spent an hour visiting the people and learning about how they keep their reed platforms floating. It proved to be a very touristy outing – complete with a ride in one of the traditional boats – but also an amazing look into how these people escaped the Spanish invasion, and how they have managed to survive in this way since. The islands that they live on were created by cutting blocks of reed nearby (which grows profusely in Lake Titicaca), tying them together, and then layering the surface with more freshly cut reeds. The top reeds are added to every week, and all the little huts and boats are also made from reeds. They can even eat the plants. It was a strange sensation to walk on the islands, very squishy, and a little unstable.

We all immediately took a liking to charming Cusco, not a difficult thing to do as we sipped coffee and ate delicious carrot cake from one of the balconies overlooking the main square. Well-preserved Spanish buildings encircled the green centre piece, and although always swarming with tourists and touts, this does little to detract from the city centre’s beauty.

After a few days exploring the cobbled lanes, checking out some ruins overlooking the city, and preparing for our walk, we were whisked up to the mountains in the early hours of the morning to meet our group for the Salkantay hike. After I found that the Inca Trail was booked out for the remainder of the month, we decided we were up to the challenge of this slightly more difficult five day walk. Mum and Dad had invested in hiking boots, and had gone into training (nail can hill I believe) before they left home.

The walk was rather spectacular, with changing scenery every day to keep things interesting, plenty of high mountains to gaze at, and leafy jungle foliage as we made our way back down to ground level. Mum and Dad had a great time taking horses over the pass at 4600m, and decided that that was the way to do treks in the future- on horse back. We had a lovely group to walk with (a young French couple, a young American and us), and were very well fed and looked after along the way.

On the fourth day we gladly walked into Aguas Calientes, and headed for the thermal baths to sooth our tired bodies.

The final part of the journey was our reward for our long days of hiking. Emma and I were up well before dawn, racing up the steep stone stairs in the darkness with plenty of other hikers sweating it out also. We secured our tickets for Huaynu Pichu and met Mum and Dad at the top gates as they came off the short bus. We were the first through the gates at 6.30am, with the deserted ruins of Machu Pitchu laid out below us. After satisfying our photographic urges with the perfect backdrop we were taken on a two hour tour of the site, watched the sun rise over the opposite mountains, and learnt a little about the Inca culture.

After hiking up Huaynu Pichu and admiring the spectacular view, Ems and I wandered off in search of the Inca Bridge, while Mum and Dad returned to Agua Calientes for a well earned rest. The magnificently crafted ruins, intricately layered in the high mountain, and surrounded by spectacular lush scenery had surpassed all our expectations, and was the perfect experience on which to end our family travels.


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