Monday, 16 April 2007

Did you know that the Rhinoceros Beetle can carry 850 times its own body weight?

It's officially the strongest member of the animal kingdom.

That's nothing.

The porters on the Inca Trail could carry all that, running, and then they'll happily strap your rucksack on top if you slip them a few quid.

Apparently the porters have a race along of the Inca Trail every year - the route is only about twenty miles, but a lot of it is along what our guide called "Inca flat" (ie a few degrees shy of vertical), and there are several stretches of ascent and descent using some pretty steep, narrow and slippery steps that are enough to make you wish you'd never heard of the f*cking Incas.

I'm told the record is three hours and twenty seven minutes, but four to five hours is supposedly considered a fairly acceptable time.

So, what it takes the average gringo four days, three heart attacks and a couple of nervous breakdowns to complete, the porters can run in less time than it takes to explain the off-side rule.

It was a great experience, but it's pretty humbling hobbling up and down those evil hills, stepping aside occasionally for the porters and septagenarians to skip jauntily past, then crawling into camp on all fours, having long ago lost the will to live, only to be applauded by the cook and his team who arrived three hours earlier and have erected the tents, set up a dining area and started cooking a three course meal.

The food was plentiful and tasty, a first on my Peruvian treks, and especially surprising considering the backend-of-nowhere location and the lack of basic cooking facilities. The birthday cake they made for a couple of the girls was particularly impressive given the fact that they had no oven - how? - though my personal favourite was the pizza they turned out for us.

If I could cook like that in my kitchen back home I would be a happy (and considerably fatter) man.

The group we hiked with was also really cool (always a bonus), apart from the campest German I've ever met - a guy called Hans Peter, or Hans Off as he was christened by one of the team.

As you know I'm not one to b1tch, but I did find his habit of waiting for the guide to finish talking and then say "So, could you repeat from the beginning please?" pretty wearing after a while. When we arrived in Maccu Picchu after four days of hiking, Rebecca and I got separated from the main group due to an urgent appointment with a cheese sandwich, and I was hugely disappointed not to get a laugh when we finally rocked up late and I asked the guide "So, could you repeat from the beginning please?" in a comedy German accent.

No sense of humour, some people.

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