Llamas, quinoa and not enough oxygen

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Okay, does anyone know where I may have taken my pictures that are showcased on my blog? Right, I’ll tell you: Peru.

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I went to Peru last year with a group from The University of Sheffield for the charity, Childreach International. I decided to do something completely crazy and different! After taking up Spanish at university, I thought this would be an unmissable opportunity to go to South America, something I wasn’t going to do on my own anytime soon, learn more about Hispanic culture outside Spain and practice some Spanish.

Together, our group raised an amazing £33,000 for charity over the year and challenged ourselves to trek the Salkantay Trek in Peru, i.e. a much MUCH harder version of the Inca Trail, to reach the beautiful Machu Picchu, one of the 7 Modern Wonders of the World! It took us a flight from London-Madrid, a 12-hour flight from Madrid-Lima and then from Lima-Cusco, but we got there and back with lots safe and sound with lots of souvenirs to take back and tighter thigh muscles for a few weeks.

I knew it would be challenging, but perhaps I didn’t realise just HOW MUCH. It was mostly because I suffered quite badly from altitude sickness; symptoms included shortness of breath, lack of appetite and dizziness which was pretty rubbish when we were trekking all day every day. We were warned of this many times before we left but I didn’t actually think I would be the one to suffer so much. Altitude sickness is so bizarre: you get short of breath after only walking a up a flight of stairs for example. You feel like you are really unfit, but it may just because there is less oxygen in the air than what you are used to where you live, e.g. the UK. When walking around Cusco, I saw some people jogging who were obviously used to the altitude – it looked like torture as there was no way that I would have been able to jog in those conditions!

It was an incredible experience and I am so proud to have achieved what I did. I guess, finding it so difficult made it so much more rewarding for me. I look back on what I achieved and I am so glad I persevered and pushed through to the finish line. I managed to crawl up the steps to Machu Picchu at 4am in the morning, something I felt I would not be able to do at the beginning of the trip. When I got to the top, all short of breath and near collapsing, some tourists looked at me in disgust; they believed I had suffered just walking from the coach drop-ff point to the Park entrance (I am not THAT unfit! #insulted, some of us climbed our way up!)

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Machu Picchu: The most beautiful view 

I took selfies with llamas, ate alpaca salad and LOTS of quinoa (quinoa porridge, quinoa salad, quinoa breaded chicken, quinoa quinoa…).

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Alpaca Salad/Ensalada capestina

I haggled in Spanish; much to my surprise, the Peruvians have a very lovely accent that I found no problem to understand after only studying Spanish for one year. In fact, speaking to the locals in Peru was easier than going to Valencia during Easter this year where they spoke so quickly and I felt out of my depth. I think that all I understood was when some people walked past commenting on our pasty legs, saying ‘que blancos están!’ (yes we know, this is why we are here – to get a tan!)

Peruvians are lovely people and very welcoming, I would love the opportunity to go back and discover other parts of South America sometime in the future. Especially now I speak Portuguese, Brazil would be amazing to go to as well.

If you have the opportunity to do something crazy yet incredible, something you think is too challenging – do it! You’ll never know unless you give it a try and it will be all the more amazing when you have crossed the finish line. 

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Me with a llama friend at Machu Picchu 🙂

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Mountain sketches in stone at Machu Picchu

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