Kartier’s great adventure
Kartier tells us about her amazing Machu Picchu trek.
It began on the 14th of October (with a 4 hour delay out of Perth). After a good 30 hours of flying, full body pat downs through each airport accompanied by “Tengo una bomba de insulina, no puede ir a través de la radiografía” (i.e. “I have an insulin pump it cannot go through the x-ray”), I arrived in Lima at 10pm to be told everyone else had cancelled! Now it really was going to be an adventure!
After a short flight to Cuzco the next day, I met the group I would be joining – 2 Australians, 1 American, 1 English, and 3 French Canadians (2 who happened to be Pharmacists as well). We spent 4 days touring Cuzco to acclimatise to the altitude by exploring Incan sites and learning about the Incan way of life.
Our first taste for hiking came in Ollantaytambo where we climbed 200 odd steps to the top of a fortress which doubled as a temple to the sun with amazing views, followed by climbing the opposite hill that afternoon which would have been at least double the height. So far everything was good at almost 3000m with no symptoms of altitude sickness until we began climbing. Who would have thought a leisurely walk uphill could be so difficult with less oxygen available? The views were well and truly worth the spluttering.
The first day of the trek dawned and with nervous butterflies in the tummy we began our 42km trek. I chose our first water stop as the opportune time to explain to the group how to use a Glucagon Hypokit and to inform everyone of the location of my emergency glucose stash (overly prepared as ever, I had a kilo of glucose tablets plus 3 hypokits – nothing was going to stop me reaching the end!). Everyone looked on pale faced as I explained how to dissolve the glucagon, draw it up in the syringe and where to inject me. I at least had reassurance from my two pharmacist friends who were not in the least phased.
A leisurely 13km of undulating ground, beautiful scenery and amazingly our porters managed to arrive at lunch, pitch tents, prepare a three course meal, wait for us to leave, pack it down, pass us on the road and arrive at camp ahead of time to do it all again for dinner. This is total glamping! Feeling marginally guilty but very thankful for what they do because I don’t think any of us could have mustered the energy to pitch a tent at the end of each day.
By far the most challenging. It involved 6km of climbing and 3km of decent. Climbing to 4215m, the aptly named “Dead Woman’s Pass” or “Warmiwanuska” has been one of my biggest achievements. I still get goose bumps thinking about how elated and exhausted I was all at once. We survived the hardest day!
Another 10km of amazing Andes views in the rain. Luckily the clouds and mist only added to the mystical view, however it did make for some treacherous downhill sections. With uneven steps and rocks sticking out at every angle, it’s not surprising one of the girls twisted her ankle, fortunately she was able to continue. At 3600m, we found an amazing Incan tunnel and as our guide put it ‘the most beautiful campsite in the Andes.’
The final 10km continued to amaze us. The rain stopped and we had a magnificent day. We saw baby llamas on the trail, defeated the ‘Gringo Killer’ (an insanely steep set of steps cruelly situated right before the sun gate) and the first view of Machu Picchu. It was by far the most amazing place I’ve seen and even more amazing in person than in photos. It was worth every step!
We then had two stunning days in Machu Picchu before returning to Cuzco for one final day.
My diabetes played nice on the trip. I had a small handful of ‘lows’ which were all caught by the excellent early warnings provided by my Dexcom – continuous glucose monitoring system and that meant I really didn’t go low at all (or at least nothing significant; 3.8 was the lowest).
The whole experience has to be one of the most amazing things I’ve done thus far in my life.
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