Inca Trail – Day 1

On the first day of our hike, we got up at 6 to have a quick breakfast and hop on our bus to the start of the Inca Trail. On the bus we met our second guide, Jesus, who along with our main guide Jose would be leading us and giving us the info we needed.

The ride was a bumpy hour’s trip to get to our starting point at KM 82. Once there we gave our duffel bags to the porters and grabbed our walking sticks.

A quick note about the porters: these guys are machines. The 20 of them carried our belongings (except day packs), tents, food, cooking propane, and everything else we would need. They do not use mules; each of them carries a full 25kg on their backs. They would then run ahead of us (some in just sandals), setting up our lunch and camp sites before we got there.

As for us, we started up the trail at a leisurely pace. It was uphill, but not too steep, and we enjoyed the beautiful weather as we passed through tiny villages.

The hike might have stayed leisurely, except we had a lot of hiking to do. Normally we would have camped for 3 nights, arriving in Machu Picchu the morning of the 4th day. However, it had recently rained for 3 weeks straight, and the resulting mud slides had made the 3rd night’s camp site unsafe. So instead we had to squeeze a 4 day hike into 3 days, and the 3rd night would be spent in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.

This was fine with me, we still got the full hike, and I would soon learn that 2 nights of squat toilets and no showers was quite enough.

Anyway, the first day was not bad for the first few hours. Then it got steep. Really steep. The trail took on the main characteristic of the hike, steep uneven stone stairs going up, then down a bit, then back up, down…

We also got to see just how cold and rainy it can get. The last 2 hours of the day’s hike were very challenging, but if I stopped for more than 30 seconds the cold and wet would make me start up again. Our group of 14 gradually spread out as each person found their own pace.

The trail itself was amazing, when I had time to catch my breath and look at it. The best I can describe it is like an ancient stairway meandering through a mountainous jungle, with every step either completely surrounded by lush vegetation, or a foot away from a sheer drop into oblivion. Maybe my pictures will do it some justice.

I got to camp around 5:30 with the rest of the fast hikers. Although I felt good for being at the front of the pack (surely a testament to my running hobby), it meant we got there before the porters who had our dry clothes, and I quickly became very cold. Luckily, an hour earlier I had purchased a large bottle of Cusqueña (the local beer) from a woman on the side of the trail, and it helped to stave off the cold until my duffel arrived.

After an hour everyone had arrived, Talal (my hotel/tent buddy) and I picked our tent, and we warmed up with some hot tea (made with boiled water from the local stream) before having our dinner of soup and chicken. Once dark set in, we all went to sleep to rest for another long day.

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~ by kilbasar on February 3, 2013.

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