When Matlock Bath couple Anne and John Gill set off on the adventure of a lifetime, it’s safe to say that neither of them had bargained for what was ahead of them.
The couple, along with two friends, left England for Peru on March 28 to trek the legendary Inca Trail up to the summit of Machu Picchu.
“We had planned the trip to celebrate my retirement from teaching,” said Anne. “We’re not a package holiday kind of couple and we couldn’t wait to experience this adventure.”
It was on April 3 that the couple embarked on the Inca Trail – determined to reach the breathtaking summit of Machu Picchu.
“We were just over the highest pass on the second day of walking – about 20 minutes from the next evening camp – when it happened,” said Anne.
Unfortunately for the couple, an awkward tumble over an ancient Inca stepping stone was to unravel into an adventure far surpassing anything they had anticipated.
“I knew straight away that my leg was broken,” said Anne. “I could see my bones poking through the skin in my foot and was in a great deal of pain.”
Anne’s self-diagnosis was correct. She had broken her left tibia in three places and was a two-day walk from any form of civilisation.
Husband John used walking poles as splints and gave Anne the only painkillers available – paracetamol and ibuprofen.
Before long, eight local porters ran to meet Anne, armed with traditional Peruvian blankets.
A makeshift stretcher was assembled and the reality set in that the couple would have to part ways.
John said: “There was no way I could come back with Anne as I would have held everybody up. It was upsetting, but my only choice was to carry on as planned.”
The porters – carrying Anne between them –immediately started running back down the trail the couple had just spent the last two days walking up.
“I think I must have been in shock as the journey back is all a blur to me,” said Anne.
“When it got dark, though, I remember looking up to the starlit sky, hearing the creatures and the rivers.
“But I remember having absolute confidence in the people carrying me. They were fantastic.”
The porters made it back to the start of the Inca Trail in a remarkable eight hours and an ambulance arrived 15 minutes later to take Anne to hospital.
“The drive to hospital took around three hours and, as all the roads were either cobbled or dirt tracks, it wasn’t the most pleasant of journeys,” said Anne.
The ambulance arrived at the hospital at 3.30am – almost 12 hours since Anne’s fall – and Anne was immediately given proper painkillers and slept until her operation in the morning.
The surgeons screwed a metal plate onto Anne’s tibia and she stayed in the hospital for seven days, before setting off on the next challenge – getting back home.
“John carried on to Machu Picchu and met me back at the hospital a few days later,” said Anne. “In that time our travel insurance had arranged our early flights home.”
Despite a few upgrades, it took the couple 36 hours – and three flights – to get back to the UK.
“When you’ve been through something like I had, all you want to do is get back home. And I have to say, the flights back were far worse than anything else I had been through.”
Upon her return, Anne was checked over by English doctors who praised the Peruvian medics’ work on her leg and confirmed that she had not picked up any infections. A new cast was fitted to her leg and Anne is currently back home in Matlock Bath, where the couple have lived for 40 years, recuperating.
“I won’t let this incident put me off similar adventures in the future and I will definitely see the summit of Machu Picchu,” said Anne.
“And, to be honest, we wanted an adventure and that’s exactly what we got. I’ve certainly topped all my children’s travelling tales anyway.”