After I had left Macchu Pichu, I had just over a week left in Peru. The official trek had finished and now, we had about eight days to run wild in Peru. Some of us chose to do independent travel, and some of us chose to go on the trips run by the travel company, which went to the Amazon, Lake Titicaca, and the Nazca Lines. I chose Lake Titicaca and the Nazca Lines – while the Amazon wildlife is undoubtedly fascinating, it has developed several interesting ways of killing people and I didn’t really fancy that.
After Macchu Pichu, we returned to Cusco, feeling mildly dazed and incredibly hungry after the whole experience. Most people used the day to shop around for souvenirs, but myself and a few others decided to leave the markets behind and sign up for white water rafting instead. While everyone else slept off a hangover, we clambered into a minibus, nursing our pounding heads, and set off for the hills.
We were going to be rafting down the Urubamba River. It’s a wide, blue ribbon of a river that twists and turns through the grey and brown hills, getting ever wider as it goes until it fans out into a huge, shallow bay filled with pearly pebbles. All the twists and turns, the jagged black rocks and the huge, high walls on either side made for some pretty good rapids. Our guide – who did all the steering – told us that the river was once sacred to the Incas, and as we drifted along the silent, deserted river, I could almost believe it.
I wasn’t very good at rafting. I was more enthusiastic than adept, and jumped into the freezing cold water a little too excitedly when our guide told us we could swim in the river. I spent the rest of the trip shivering and squeaking when the cold river water ran down my sleeve and into my armpit. It was still a lot of fun, once I worked out how to use the oar properly, but I don’t think I’ll be becoming an instructor any time soon. It was also pretty hard work, especially when we had to row against the current, and every so often we all had to throw ourselves into the middle of the boat when we were navigating some of the trickier rapids. Even though we didn’t go down anything higher than a Class Three rapid – and our instructor made us get out and walk along the shore if he thought it would be too difficult for us – by the end of it we were so exhausted we could barely clamber back up the river bank.
Well and truly shattered, we slunk back into the minibus, fell asleep within about five minutes of sitting down, and headed back for Cusco. The next day, we would set off for Lake Titicaca.