This Machu Picchu hiking leads on a rugged mountain route observing mountain lagoons, snowy peaks, mountain passes, meeting local people living in remote areas along the Lares trail, who had to learn on how to live in these extreme weather conditions.
Mountains bring out the philosopher in you. It can't be helped. It's something to do with fundamental consciousness, the presence of eternity, the freighted Zen of the earth's natural monuments, the closeness of the transient sky. So, at 4,414 metres up in the Huchuy Qosqo Pass in Peru's Sacred Valley, when I should have been contemplating the legacy of Pachacutec, Atahualpa, and other Inca rulers, why was the prospect of a hot Jacuzzi, a cold beer, and an emerging blister on my left foot the only stuff on my mind?
The Salcantay Trek and the Lares Trail are about being in the mountains with all the time you never seem to have. Here you'll think, wonder at nature, and marvel at Inca history? Maybe. But your heart-rate, breathing and stamina, and the next step, will seem just as important. You'll find you're capable of keeping going when you can't. And that Plan B thing, quietly on offer for those who can't cut it and need an easy day. Well, you sure as hell aren't going to let that happen.
High in the Andes, out of breath just thinking about the next step, and with a heart-rate mimicking the William Tell Overture, they say you'll find out what you're made of. Sensing my answer wouldn't be good, I flew from Lima into the Inca capital, Cusco, and began following advice that drinking tea made out of coca leaves helps alleviate altitude sickness. The psycho-active alkaloid of coca is cocaine; so coca tea is surely the cuppa which would've had Jimi Hendrix's approval.
Apparently an excessive coca tea regime is a mistake. I'd also been taking acetazolamide tablets without realising one side-effect was paresthesia, pins and needles in your feet and fingers. I woke up in Cusco at the ultra-comfortable El Mercado hotel sensing just the hint of a Nazca Plate earthquake in my room. There wasn't one.