I know what I'm doing.

I now know what I am doing. Well, I know the itinerary for my trek and what I will be doing. I don’t necessarily know what I am doing about anything else, but at least that’s a start.

My information pack arrived yesterday, so I can now confidently talk about my big challenge and where it will take me. My memory for details isn’t too great so I’d forgotten pretty much everything that I’d been told, and after telling my dad that I was quite sure I wasn’t going to Lima, where do you suppose is the first place I go? Yep, first destination in the southern hemisphere is in fact Lima – didn’t do so well there did I?

Well, now I have my pack I will hopefully remember, and if I can’t, well I’ll just have to refer people to this post!

Here is my little kitten Nala helping me out with the information pack, she seems to be very interested in my trip, either that or she is interested in shredding up all that colourful paper!

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Day 1 (Fri 22 May) – Fly to Lima (doesn’t really need any further explanation!)

Day 2 (Sat 23 May) – Fly from Lima to Cusco. I don’t really know much about Cusco other than it is 3400m above sea level and helps prepare you for the high altitudes on the trail, so I’d best do a bit of research before I go! To help us acclimatise to the altitude we will take a gentle guided walk around Cusco to see the sights.

Day 3 (Sun 24 May) – We’ll be stretched a little further today, taking a longer walk up to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman (I have seen this spelt in at least 8 different ways, so not knowing which is the official spelling I’m just going to use this one) (3700m). My knowledge of Peru is very very limited (in fact I didn’t even know the Inca Trail was in Peru until two weeks ago!) so I’ve had a quick search on the Sacsayhuaman ruins and there seem to be quite a few theories out there that these ruins may have in fact been built by aliens – this is going to be an interesting trip!!

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Day 4 (Tue 25 May) – the day when the hard work really gets under way! We will be up early to leave Cusco and travel 82km to the start of the trail. Apparently the trail will begin gently allowing us to warm up nicely. Two hours in to the trek we will reach the first archaeological centre of Pallacta. After lunch we will continue ascending to a semi tropical valley, for two hours, until arriving at our camp, Huayllabamba (3000m) where we will spend the night in a tent….. I don’t like camping in tents,,,,. hmmmmm…… didn’t think this one through….. bugger! At the end of the first day on the actual trail we will have trekked for 5-6 hours and covered 12km/7.5 miles, at a maximum altitude of 3000m

Day 5 (Wed 26 May – my 5th wedding anniversary!!) – Today (and every day on the trail) we will be woken up with the hot drink of our choice – tea, coffee, hot chocolate or coca tea (made from the same plant which cocaine comes from and is apparently good for altitude sickness!!), this will be a nice treat – I’m always up first in our house so I very rarely get a cuppa in bed. After a three course breakfast we’ll start hiking early, ascending to Warmiwañusca. Also known as Dead Woman’s Pass (because it looks like a dead woman, not because women die there thankfully!) it is known as the world’s highest cloud forest. After the toughest part of the journey, and an ascent of nearly 5 hours, we will arrive at the highest point (4200m), where if luck is on our side we will see the flight of the condors. We then start to descend as we head towards our second camp at Pacaymayo (3500m). By the end of day two on the trail we will have trekked for 6-7 hours, covering 11km/6.8 miles at a maximum altitude of 4200m – what a lovely way to spend my wedding anniversary, 6000 miles away from the other half!!

Day 6 (Thur 27th May) – This will be the longest, but apparently the most interesting day as we pass through numerous archaeological sites and lish cloud forest. We will have a short tour of Runkuracay, a building thought to have been an astrological site, and continue our ascent towards the Abra de Runkuracay (3970m)

On the far side of the pass the trail changes to a narrow stone roadway containing the exact stones that were in place when the Incas walked the trail. We will then visit a second Inca site Sayacmarca “Town in a Steep Place” (3642m). After lunch we will pass through Incan structures including Phuyupatamarca Cloud-level Town” (3700m) and learn about the ritual functions that took place here, and see the baths the Incas bathed in before they reached Machu Picchu. Soon after we will reach Wiñay Wayna “Forever Young” where we will make camp. At the end of the day we will have covered 16km/10 miles, trekked 7-8 hours and reached a maximum altitude of 3970m.

Day 7 (Fri 28 May) – The last day of the trek will see us rise very early (I’d quite like an idea of how early very early is!) and trek for an hour and a half until we reach a narrow flight of stone steps leading to Intipunko “The Sun Gate” where we will see our first view of Machu Picchu (2400m).

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We will then descend in to this ancient site where a guide will provide us with a thorough tour. Later we will take the bus to Aguas Calientes for dinner and to take the train back to Cusco.

Day 8 (Sat 29 May) – We have the day to spend however we choose in Cusco. I have a feeling I’ll be so tired and stiff I won’t want to do much!

Day 9 (Sun 30 May) – Fly back to Lima and spend the afternoon exploring the city before flying back home.

Day 10 (Mon 31 May) – Arrive back home, and have a nice long hot bath 

Phew, that was lengthier than I thought! Thanks for sticking around and reading it all the way through :o)

 

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All wrapped up! (Well, some of it at least)

I spent last night wrapping up Christmas presents, yep, that’s right, Christmas presents. While it may seem that I am all prepared for Christmas, in reality I am not. It’s all part of my fundraising scheme. This Christmas I am going to be offering up my gift wrapping services (note that I state services and not skills – just in case anyone thinks that this means I can wrap up any obscurely shaped object and create a masterpiece, as I cannot, I am only human after all) in return for donations towards my cause. 

When I first queried with my Facebook friends whether anyone would be interested in a gift wrapping service in exchange for charitable donations, it was suggested that I take photo’s of gifts I have wrapped so that people know what kind of quality to expect. I hadn’t considered this element at all, and thankfully I am a half decent gift wrapper so I am not embarrassed to share some photo’s of my wrappings (not sure if that is the right phrase, but I quite like it so I’m going to use it!). Now there are one or two people out there who are going to look at the photo’s and wonder whether one of those presents is for them. Well it might be. It might not be. Maybe I didn’t buy your present yet so you will just have to wait and see! Anyway, here are some photo’s of my Christmas shopping to date.

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If your local to Durham and impressed, (or you just want to off load a Christmas chore, and my wrappings will do) just get in touch and I will take on your Christmas wrapping for 2013 like a handy little elf!

Challenging times ahead!

Well, here goes with my first ever blog post!

Earlier this week I signed myself up to the challenge of raising a minimum of £3800 for St Cuthbert’s Hospice, to take part in the Inca Trail Trek  in May 2015, ending at the iconic Machu Picchu ruins.

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The trek itself will take 4 days, it will include trekking for up to 8 hours a day, over rough terrain, at altitudes of up to 4200m and involving extreme temperatures and climate. And yet the challenge which has me more concerned is the challenge of being able to raise the minimum funds to take part! I’ve raised money for charity in the past, but not on this scale. In 2010 I took on the Ben Nevis Challenge, raising over £650 for Breast Cancer Care, and I’ve also taken part in sponsored walks and runs. But this challenge is in a totally different league to anything I have done before, and I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty scary, but exciting at the same time.

So why I am I putting myself through this? Good question.

It feels to me as if St Cuthbert’s Hospice has always been around, even as a kid I had a good awareness of the hospice (particularly as it is located right next to the park by my grandad’s house) and had a basic understanding that they looked after very sick people. My nana died as a result of breast cancer when I had just turned five, and the newly opened Hospice provided home care to her during her last months. 

After my nana’s passing my grandad became a volunteer for the Hospice, driving patients to and from their homes so that they could receive the essential care and support they needed. As a child I remember meeting some of the patients that my grandad provided transport to, they were always nice and friendly, and I recall that one lady gave me £1, which was promptly spent on sweets! I couldn’t understand why these lovely people needed to go to the Hospice, they didn’t look very poorly to me, they were out of bed for a start, and at that young age I thought that all illnesses made you automatically bed bound! From that point on, I always understood that my grandad valued the work which the Hospice does for the community, and that he supported their work.

I didn’t need the services of St Cuthbert’s myself until a year ago, in 2012, when they helped and supported me through a very difficult time. In the space of just a few months I lost three family members to cancer; my Uncle Mark, my husband’s Aunty Jacqui, and my grandad. I found the death of my Uncle Mark very difficult to cope with, and was struggling to come to terms with all that I had seen throughout his illness. It was only a few weeks after his death when my grandad’s health deteriorated and we discovered that the bladder cancer he had been diagnosed with two years earlier was no longer treatable. As his health declined, we discovered that Jacqui’s cancer had also returned and that she had been diagnosed as having terminal cancer. 

I found it harder and harder to cope with all that was been going on, and eventually had a bit of an emotional breakdown at work. Not knowing which way to turn I called the MacMillan helpline who told me to contact my local hospice to discuss bereavement counselling – I didn’t think that this was an option as none of my family members were patients at the hospice at the time (my uncle lived in Telford and was cared for by the Severn Hospice). From the first call to the St Cuthbert’s I felt that I was in good hands, a counselling session was made for me within the space of a few days and the counsellor was lovely. Our first session overran well past the working day, but I was never made to feel hurried or rushed, I knew I had all of the time in the world. My counselling sessions went on for a few months and I can’t tell you just how much of a positive impact it had on my life, and really turned my life around.

Now that I have come through such a difficult time and have lived to tell the tale, I want to give something back to St Cuthbert’s, so that they continue their great work and continue to help people through difficult times. That is why I have signed myself up to the Inca Trail Trek, a huge personal challenge for me that will require lots of hard work and dedication – to raise the minimum funds, and to do the Trek itself! I am doing the Trek in memory of my grandad, it seems fitting to take this challenge on when I’ll be raising funds for a great cause which meant a lot to my grandad, and means a lot to me.

Through this blog I aim to keep you updated with the highs and lows along the way, and anything else I can think of! Be warned though, I do have a tendency to talk about my pets, and films quite a bit so I may throw in a few surprises along the way.

To raise the minimum funds I am going to be asking all of my lovely friends and family to sponsor me, (so if you are reading this and you are a friend or family member, or indeed a kind stranger, please take a few moments to visit my JustGiving page), as well as any fundraising activity I think I can successfully pull off (more about those ideas in future posts)! If you have any suggestions on how I can raise funds, or can offer any support to help me achieve my financial goals then please get in touch.

Thanks for reading

xx