Published: November 26th 2009November 19th 2009
The first day was relatively easy and was either a warm up for what was to come or it was to lull us into a false sense of security of how fit we were. The day started with a visit to a large Inca ruin where we were introduced to our assistant guide Chill and learnt a lot more about Inca history. We made our way to the start of the trail where we had our photo taken; now all we had to do was complete it! As previously mentioned the walking was easy with a few small hills but mainly all level. Along the route we saw some horses, one with a foal only three days old, so we figured that if a three day old foal could do the Inca trail then so could we! We arrived at the campsite to find the tents ready and waiting. After Doddy lead a revitalising stretch he, Jon and Peter along with Percy, Chill and some of the porters went and joined some locals for a game of football. For the first 5 minutes they could easily match their skill level but soon the altitude took hold and after
about 15 minutes of playing they looked absolutely shattered while the locals were still sprinting after the ball.
We returned back for afternoon tea of popcorn and crackers, perfect refuelling food. A 3 course dinner of some yummy food soon followed. We spent the rest of the eve getting to know the group and the porters (a team of 20 plus 3 cooks) who would carry our gear, set up our tents and prepare our food over the next few days. We went to bed at a respectable 9pm ready for tomorrow’s trek which was forecast to be the hardest of the 3 days.
Hard was an understatement. I would quite happily say that the second day of the trek is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done and I’m sure Doddy will agree it is his also. We started walking at 7am and we walked up steep steps, step after step for 4 hours. The steps were relentless, each corner we got to I was convinced it was going to plateau but with each corner turned more steps became visible. They were all uneven and at different heights which made for even more difficult walking. At 11am
we reached the first resting spot where the porters had the table laid and sandwiches waiting for us. Everyone’s legs were feeling weary but were in good spirits and ready to take on the rest of the trek. It took several more gruelling hours to reach the first pass (Dead Woman’s Pass) at a height of 4,215metres (13,769ft) above sea level which was the highest point of the trek. At such an altitude your lungs feel tight and the lack of oxygen makes it difficult to breathe with ease. That, combined with legs that feel like they’re on fire from all the steps, make it a great achievement when you finally reach the top of the pass. It felt brilliant to finally reach the top and the encouragement from those around you and those already at the top spurred us on for our final few steps. We waited at the top until the whole group had reached the top of the pass, cheering them on as they got closer. After a team photo we started the decent to the campsite, luckily all down hill this time.
Arriving at the campsite was a joy to say the least with the
porters doing a remarkable job of setting up camp for our arrival where we were able to climb straight into our tents and give our feet a rest. After Doddy and I took a wash we relaxed playing backgammon and also introduced the porters to hacky sack, they loved it, so Doddy gave them his spare one and they were over the moon. I t was quite unbelievable watching the porters carry 25kg packs up the mountain in sandals at the speed of light and then put them down and immediately play football, or in this case hacky, don’t know where they found the energy.
We sat and ate tea almost in silence with everyone both hungry and tired, a good nights sleep was in order as a 5 o’clock wake up was on the cards to trek the required distance the next day. However, this wasn’t the case as we couldn’t sleep. Don’t know if it was the altitude or what but either way it was flipping annoying!However we should count ourselves lucky as altitude sickness had taken hold of some of the others in the group.
Doddy taking over the writing...
The night brought rain
but in the morning it had cleared and we set off again. At first I thought my legs were fine as awoke with little soreness but after only a few steps I realised they were still very tired. As we climbed once more Bowks and I began chewing Coca leaves. Coca leaves have been chewed for centuries in the Andes and greatly help with the prevention of altitude sickness. Percy our Andean partner had showed us the chewing technique the day before which consisted of chewing a golf ball size of coca leaves for up to half an hour which both Bowks and I foud beneficial on our asscent. We trekked to the top of the second pass only briefly stopping at some small Inca ruins and to listen to Percy play his Andean recorder down the valley. It sounded beautiful echoing around the valley. The scenery was beautiful too as we were now perched above the clouds looking down on thick vegetatuon and the valley below.
At the top of the second pass we stopped for, of all things, a big group hug and to think of our reasons for wanting to do the trek and about others.
Sounds kinda airy fairy but it was really quite touching and what added to it only minutes later I was able to catch a wicked photo of a humming bird. Onward we trekked down into the changing scenery and into the thicker vegetation that embedded lower areas of the trail turing into jungle. It was spectacular following this little path that wound and weaved through such beautiful scenery. I know we talk a lot about differnet sights we´ve seen but this really as something special. We passed through caves and trees that arched over the path as if making a tunnel for us to pass through. Photos a many but even those don´t do it justice. Eventually we climbed once more to reach the top of the third pass where we stopped for lunch in the slight drizzle of rain that had come in. Afternoon, we trekked down the last pass down steep steps passing a natural spring and more Inca ruins whilst watching the porters do the steps in a sprint.
We dropped out of the cloud and drizzle and taking the choice of the slightly longer route to our final campsite. This allowed us to see the
valley below and the mountains beyond with a huge rainbow passing through the middle. Arriving at the campsite was well received, not only for the hot showers but also so that Bowks could rest as she was now not feeling too well. Bowks rested whilst I joined a few of the others on the terrace for a beer which went down a treat. We later ate our last tea on the trek and said our thank yous to the porters. Then it was a hop into bed for an early night for a 3.45am wake up.
There are more photos below