The end

October 4, 2009

edinburgh airport

So, that’s it then.

La Paz-Lima, Lima-Madrid, Madrid-Heathrow.  And the last wee hop up to Edinburgh.

Oh, and not forgetting the car drive home.

Thirty six and a half hours of solid schlepping.  Incorporating a plethora of check in desks, an interrogation of passport controls, a perspiration of customs checks (well, you never know, some wag might have slipped a handful of coca leaves into our luggage), an indigestion of airline meals, a snooze of in-flight movies and whatever the collective noun is for mile-high drinking.

I know – an intoxication.

It’s nice to be back home in the bosom of one’s family. 

On the other hand, travel is a blast.

Kilimanjaro anyone?


What’s on the menu 6

October 1, 2009

quinoa porridge

Looks can be deceptive.  The beige-coloured, bland-looking item above is Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) porridge.

Back home, particularly in Scotland, Quinoa is, to be honest, the sort of food beloved of beard wearing hippy types who frequent those faddy health food shops most of us can’t afford to shop in.

Over here, it’s a staple and they make a thousand and one things with it, including the rather splendid Quinoa porridge we are served every morning on the trek.

Maybe it’s the oxygen starved air up here. Or our trek-enhanced appetites. Or perhaps we’ve just gone native.

Whatever. This stuff is amazing. Dare I say it, even better than the oat variety?

And for that I fully expect to be escorted in chains from the aeroplane as soon as it taxis to a halt at Edinburgh airport.

What’s on the menu 5

October 1, 2009
Pachamancha - can you dig it?

Pachamancha - can you dig it?

This was the highlight, gastonomically speaking, of the trek.

Pachamanca.  From two Quechua words, pacha, meaning earth and manca, meaning oven or pot.

While we snacked on freshly made popcorn and coca tea, the Peruvian porters were hard at work preparing this delicious traditional meal.

First, a pile of stones was heated on a fire.

Next, a variety of meats and vegetables was wrapped in banana leaves and placed on top of the hot stones.

Finally, earth was heaped on top and the whole lot left to cook for a couple of hours.

The result is shown below in all its mouthwatering glory.


Nothing other than the best tasting lamb, chicken, potatoes, sweetcorn and other vegetables I’ve ever eaten. Soooo succulent, as a result of being literally steam-cooked in their own juices.

Pachamanca.  I dig it.

What’s on the menu 4

October 1, 2009

inca kola truck

In Scotland, Irn Bru  allegedly outsells Coca Cola four to one.

Here in Peru, they have another kind of Coke which massively outstrips the so-called Real Thing in popularity.

And no, it’s not cocaine.

It’s this stuff:

inca kola

What’s it like?

In appearance, Inca Kola is a greenish-yellow colour (don’t go there) and has a taste similar to bubble gum and not unlike the aforementioned Scottish national soft drink.

The big question: does Inca Kola contain any cocaine? Answer; like Coke, the original recipe did originally contain a few milligrams of the Class A drug in every bottle, but not any more. 

In fact, Inca Kola is now owned by the Coca Cola corporation and is currently available in 16 of the 52 united states.

No, they’re not a sponsor.  Just thought you’d like to know.

Made it!

October 1, 2009
Higher than kites at 4,600metres

Higher than kites at 4,600metres

This is it.  Not the end of the trek, but certainly the high point.

The snap above was taken at the top of Hatun Paso. Breathtaking, literally, and at 4,600 metres about as far up as we’ll be going.

Above us, and unfortunately out of shot, is the magical peak of Pumahuanca, which towers an additional 1,000 metres into the air.

In a few minutes, we’ll be heading back down, passing Aurora and Yuraq lakes, then turning into Quena forest where we’ll stop for another enormous Peruvian-style lunch.

Hard work this trekking.

Below is a snap of the whole team celebrating our triumphal assent. And below that, a link to a video of a few of them arriving, breathless but happy, at the top.

team at the top

View the video.

Sick as a dog

September 30, 2009


Note the dark rings under the eyes and the sad demeanour?  Nope, he hasn’t been partying; these are the tell-tale external symptoms of Fraser’s altitude sickness.

The boy got it bad.  Nausea, queasy guts and a throbbing, brain’s about to explode headache all but put him out of the trek on day two.

We Scots are made of sterner stuff, though.  A couple of max-strength Codeine and he was on the way again.

Sunny duh

September 29, 2009


“If nothing else,” finger-wagged our trek leader, Mark, “Remember to put on plenty of sun cream.  There’s a dirty great hole in the ozone layer right above us.  And you’re two miles closer to the sun out here than back home.”

So on the first day out, I duly slapped factor 50+ on my face, neck, ears and arms…but forgot my legs (you know, those things you trek with?)

Earning me the not entirely undeserved epithet, Hotlegs.

If I had a Peruvian Nuevo Sol for every well-meaning but irritating git who asked me if I knew my legs were burnt, I’d be solvent.