27 May 2014

Paul McCabe

Paul McCabe - Kidneys For Life patient.

Machu Picchu. A place I had always wanted to visit since I was a boy. Last year a good friend of mine, Eddy, sadly passed away, so I decided to put it off no longer and booked in January to go in October, giving me time to organise. Eddy lost his kidneys as a boy and so had been a long term visitor to the Renal unit in Manchester. Unfortunately it was cancer that took him from us. Therefore I decided to combine my holiday with a charity collection for the Manchester Renal Unit through Kidneys for Life.

I set out on October 16th with a short flight to Amsterdam and then the long haul to Lima, the capital of Peru. After a couple of nights in Lima It was then another flight to Cusco, ancient capital of the Incas. We were now at 3,200 meters (10,500 feet) above sea level and were starting to acclimatise for our trek along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.

After a relaxing day in Cusco we set out in the morning by bus along the sacred Urubamba river valley for Ollantaytambo, a small, still very Incan, town, visiting many ancient sites along the way. Ollantaytambo was an old stopover on the original Inca trail and contained many lodging houses and food storage houses along with temples, all now mainly just ruins. Here we spent our last night in a comfortable bed before the trek.

We set out the next morning again by bus to get to the start of what was the original Inca trail, used by many pilgrims and also messenger runners who used to carry information around the old Inca empire. We were told that the record for someone running the 45 kilometer (28 miles) trail was three and a half hours. It would take us four days!

As we were setting out from the valley floor the first day consisted of mainly going up and at first the trail was loose scree as it was used by the many villagers, and their pack animals who lived along the lower slopes. When we reached our camp for the first night the views were stunning. Many mountains all around us and even a glacier in the distance also there were more stars in the sky as we were in the southern hemisphere, amazing!

The second day was the hardest climb as now we were on the original stone steps. The climb was steep and the steps many different heights and uneven, so it was difficult to get a rhythm. We reached the highest point of the trail, Dead Woman’s pass, at 4,200 meters (almost 13.800 feet), and then a long steep descent to make camp for the second night.

The third day was another climb over a pass, this time only 3,900 meters (12,800 feet) and from now on it would be a steady descent to Machu Picchu. We made camp for the last night and then it was up early, 3am to get to Machu Picchu early to try and beat the crowds. By about 6.30am we made it to “The Gate of the Sun” and our first view of Machu Picchu and within 30 minutes we were there. We had made it!

It was a hard slog but it was worth it. To make it to that magical place after so long and make a dream a reality. I am glad that I made the decision to go and not put it off any longer.

I want to thank Irene Chambers for helping me organise the charity side of things and all those who gave to the charity and in all raised over £2,390. Eddy was an inspiration to me as he was always happy no matter what he was going through, and I know it was tough at times. That’s what kept me going when I thought it was tough.

Paul McCabe