The trip is over, and I can’t help feeling that sitting in bed whilst typing this up kind of defeats the point of ‘blogging in the moment’. Oh well. Here goes the last week…

The others decided that they would go on the Salkantay trek. Katie and I weren’t feeling it and stayed behind in Cusco to do a one-day Inca trail and meet them at Machu Picchu. This didn’t turn out to be as successful as I’d hoped- I got horribly ill and had to stay in Cusco the whole last week.

For everyone, the Salkantay trek was hugely challenging. It was slightly harder than the Inca trail, taking them higher. Sarah’s blisters were some pretty ropey Instagram viewing.

Luckily, our training in the Sacred Valley walks had been substantial, and we were better acclimatized than most people who do the trail in the first place. Everyone was pushed to the limits of their endurance, but ended up at Machu Picchu happy and flushed with achievement. The party afterwards in Cusco was, for them, a great end to a satisfying week.

Cusco was the week for me. I ended up in bed for two days of it, but for the rest, it’s a great city to have to stay a bit longer in. It’s just celebrated an anniversary, and the main plaza was filled each day with new events. There were parades, where kids from the local schools danced for the crowd. The dances were very inspired by the indigenous rural life we’d been helping with: girls ‘drive’ boys dressed in sheep costumes with whips. I loved that. It’s hugely important for Cusco to maintain a living connection to its heritage, especially when it often caters so much to tourists like us. We also had parades of all the vendors from the local markets, with banners representing the meat, vegetable, and even juicing sections.

Our ‘last supper’ was the real highlight of the week for me. With our dinner budget doubled, we headed to ‘Uchu’. Uchu is an incredible steak restaurant in a narrow back alley of the city. I had possibly the only genuinely good Alpaca steak I’ve ever had, plus a mango lassie. The others had similar: steaks, and wine. The girls shared a bottle of white with their red meat, which I considered an offense. Everything, from the setting to the quality of the meat, was incredible.

We chose this moment to present Alejandro with two bottles of wine for his efforts over the course of the trip. His leadership has been light and intelligent. He’s been very much part of the team from day one: we stopped introducing him as a guide from week two or three. He’s coordinated us through multiple screw-ups in organisation, translated thousands of hours of bad Spanish for our benefit, and mediated occasional group fall-outs. It’s a testament to his generosity and kind spirit that he shared one of his bottles with us, and Alejandro really likes alcohol. Thanks man. You made this trip special.

This trip has been hugely challenging for me. I’ve changed. Not only am I physically and mentally stronger than when I started, I’m more tolerant. Tolerant of people, of imperfect environments. My Spanish has improved substantially, and I’d like to say I appreciate everything more: my house, my wealth, the fact that I will more than likely work at a desk rather than have to hike an hour every day to hoe oregano beds.

I’ll miss Peru. It’s a crazy, wonderful country. It chewed us all up and taught us valuable lessons about teamwork, community, and timing. I’d love to return one day to see Machu Picchu, but for now, sleep. It will be nice to see my dog too.