El Camino Inca

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October 25th 2009
Published: October 26th 2009
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The easy wayThe easy wayThe easy way

For the peeps that don't want to suffer, you can take the train in comfort.
Inca Trail

Wow, what can we say? We had the most amazing hike. It had everything, mountains, altitude, ruins, and a bit of jungle…as well as lot’s of interesting people.

Our first morning we were all picked up in a bus, and taken to the start of the trail…I really wasn’t functioning so well as it was about 5:30am when we were collected. We arrived at the trail, and got a group photo just before starting. The trail starts where the train starts, so many people here are going to see Machu Piccu, however we were hiking for 4 days and 3 nights on our way up. Penny was very nervous, and on the bus she met two English gals Jo and Ally who were quite nervous also, so at least she had company! As we progressed through the first day we passed cactus in a long dirt trail that wound between valleys, and slowly started to climb. Our guide stopped to show us many things, old ruins, the other Inca trail (one for royalty and one for common people) and we were on the commoners trail. He showed us a white parasite that grew on one of the
Cactus FlowersCactus FlowersCactus Flowers

Who would have ever thought cactus flowers could be so beautiful.
cactus, and when you rub it between your fingers (it was kind of like a mould) it went red. The Inca’s used this as a dye for make up and fabrics. We stopped briefly after our first ascent which gave some people a bit of an idea as to what the trail was going to be like. While we were waiting there were to Quechua women sitting on a wall getting pissed on Chiche…I’d been looking for Chiche but not had any luck. It was an alcoholic beverage made from corn. So I was curious, but didn’t get to try any as we were off as soon as the last body made it up the hill. We carried on uphill a little more and stopped for lunch in a small valley with a river. At this point Penny had blisters on her feet. The girls, Jo and Ally had blister stuff so Dr Jo dished out some second skin for Pen. Next stop was our first campsite, and the end of Day 1, the easy day. We all washed up and changed into our dry clothes, and realised that there was beer chilling in a cold water bucket…whoo hoo! So
Cactus in the sky with diamondsCactus in the sky with diamondsCactus in the sky with diamonds

These are the cactus that we saw that had beautiful flowers on them, they were some of the highest ones and last ones we saw as we kept climbing higher.
we all had a few beer, and enjoyed a first class meal in the food tent the porters had set up…then we all crept of to our tents where I slept like a log but Pen and everyone else heard dogs, things going crash in the night…and roosters. I did eventually hear the rooster, but it was almost time to get up….so not such a big deal for me, but I still wasn’t happy.

Day 2
We got up and had breakfast and found out that one couple was dropping out as they struggled a bit on the way up. So after brekkie we headed off on our second day which we were told was going to be the hardest day. It was. We didn’t have any ruins, just climbing up to 14000 feet, or 4200 meters. There was a halfway point that had people selling juice, water and snacks, and there was a rasta dog waiting there too. It just looked like a matt with knots in it…except it moved and I realised it was a dog. Pen made it up on her own, blisters and all and I was actually teary eyed because she made it, she
Penny in the sky with diamondsPenny in the sky with diamondsPenny in the sky with diamonds

Wow, what an achievement! This was really hard going. Although I have to admit the diamonds were left in Vancouver lest we get robbed for them.
wasn’t suffering, and I was soooo proud of her. We headed off after a few minutes with Dead Womans Pass in our sights. The last 15 or 20 feet was the most difficult, for almost everyone. You’d see the peak, and some of our people ahead of you, then you’d take a few steps, take a few steps, look up and not feel like you’d gone any further, but you’d feel like you’d gone half way at least. So as I was at the top I watched Pen struggle up the last few feet to the highest point on the hike, and my little heart swelled with pride, because I knew how far she’d come from her ruptured calf muscle at Nelson’s bbq to the highest point she’d ever climbed in her life. My eyes teared up again, and I just gave her a big hug and helped her get her pack off. Once everyone was up we got a group photo, and magically a bottle of rum appeared, it was John, one of the guys in our group who had a bottle of rum for his birthday which he celebrated a) in the morning with a cake the cook
Lunch baby....Lunch baby....Lunch baby....

I did it, I did it. What a physical challenge, and now time for lunch on the first day.
baked for him and which we had for breakfast, and b) with a wee nip of rum for all of us at the top of the pass.

Next was our second camp for the night, I legged it down and made it to our camp in 30 mins. It took Pen one hour 30 and I was by far the fastest fellow, I was racing porters and having a grand ole time. When everyone caught up we all took a nap, and Pen and I got up first, and taught some of the porters how to play 7’s a card game from college and we played cards for a bit till everyone else woke up. We all sat around staring at the view as the clouds covered the highest peak of the mountains in front of us on and off, then settled down for dinner and bed, we were all exhausted as it was a tough day for everyone.

Day 3
This day was still going to be tough, but there were going to be stops so it wouldn’t be so bad. We started off with some climbing up out of the valley we’d slept in with even
More flowersMore flowersMore flowers

Desert flowers.
better views of the mountains. There was only about 30 mins of tough climbing before we hit our first ruin, then more climbing up to a beautiful lookout that showed us a whole range of mountains. From there it was down to lookout over a beautiful valley with a large ruin high up the hill on the left, mountains straight ahead, and another ruin on the right down in the valley. It was so beautiful that I spent about 40 mins there just looking out and appreciating why it would have been a sacred place to the Inca’s 800 years ago. Our guide Miguel showed up so we went off to the ruin up on the hill to wait for everyone else. I got about half an hour in the ruin to myself to get a few good shots and enjoy the silence. There was definitely something magical about this particular ruin, could be the view of the clouds above the valley, the trees below, or the sense of peace within it. Just as I was on my way out some of our group showed up, along with another group…so I headed down to wait for Pen. After we had
More Cactus flowersMore Cactus flowersMore Cactus flowers

There flowers were so weird, who would have ever known that cactus flowers existed.
all had a nosy around we headed to our lunch stop which was in the valley, and was very different from the other parts of the trail we’d seen…it was actually very jungle like with dense foliage, vines and butterflies everywhere. We carried on for lunch, and a brief rainshower before carrying on, it was very hot down in the valley, but the rainshower helped to cool things off a bit.

We kept going with more uphill out of the valley, but the grade was a bit easier, and we had a chance to split into two groups. One along the main Inca Trail and the other up a steep seldom used trail that still has original Inca stones carved into the trail. Of course I opted for the tougher less used trail, and it was awesome…we got to the top and there was an Indiana Jones type temple. There was a natural cave, or overhang in rock then the Inca’s built a little wall to close it off, and the jungle had done the rest, the trees and vines almost entirely hid the entrance. Inside were sections that were carved out for idols, and with a little imagination
Cactus MagicCactus MagicCactus Magic

This parasite grows on certain cactus. It is a white mouldie looking stuff but once it is rubbed together it turns into this amazing vibrant red colour. The use of this is for dyeing clothes and for certain medicines.
you could almost imagine gold idols shimmering in candle light. Our little group carried on and came out at the top, where we could see the Inca trail stretching on in front of us, we made our way down and caught up with the rest of our group who had continued along the Inca trail and passed through jungle sections and came up to a tunnel that was carved into the cliff and was about 3 meters down into the tunnel, then the second tunnel was about 5 meters long. It was very impressive for both groups. We climbed up for another 45 mins or so where we got out to a large open section which had 360 degree views of the mountains. Our guide took us out along a short, steep ridge and we all gasped in surprise as a temple/ruin showed up in a forested section a few hundred feet below us. It was in the shape of a heart which was unusual. We carried on down, and I caught up with one of our guides, Rosa and we hammered down the trail, and since we had loads of time before anyone came up we went to explore

Traditional woman, wearing traditional clothes and doing traditional farm work
the terraces we’d seen from above. We got into the terraces and I couldn’t get over how big they were…about 200 feet of terraces, and at the bottom they got closer and closer to each other, and the stairs got steeper and steeper. After the terraces we flew down to the campsite almost racing each other, but I slammed on the brakes when I saw a wasp attacking a spider….I’d heard of a wasp that would paralyse it’s prey, then lay eggs in it…then when the paralysis wore off the eggs would incubate in the host and eventually hatch and feed off the host….I couldn’t help but wonder if this wasp was that kind of wasp..it was cool to see nature at work either way. I got down to the site and grabbed my first shower in a few days of very sweaty hiking, and it was awesome…then I found out Pen had come down while I was in the shower so I went back to the campsite to get her, and we went back to the showers where she was going for a shower, and I was going for a beer! While she was showering we also went to
Fuel for the machineFuel for the machineFuel for the machine

Penny filling up on liquids for the hike
see one final ruin just outside the campsite, and it was getting dark so I only just managed a few photo’s, but it was very very impressive. I also heard one of the guys say that there was a secret stone door that opened like something out of Indiana Jones….damn, I missed it! After a few more beer, showers, and dinner left all of us pretty tired. I said a thank you to our porters on behalf of our group, we gave them their tips and we all went to bed….the next morning we were up at 4am to get up and out to see sunrise at the Sungate, and then head to Machu Piccu. It was going to be an early morning, but finally Machu Piccu!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 63, Displayed: 29



Penny found her refreshment...I found mine. A traditional corn based beer like drink...tasted...different but was welcome in the middle of our first days hike.
Puir wee DonkeyPuir wee Donkey
Puir wee Donkey

Forced to carry the load...the donkey carry's on.
Terraced RuinTerraced Ruin
Terraced Ruin

Inca ruins behind us...

Two ladies getting trollied on Checha it was pretty funny
Moose and the BurroMoose and the Burro
Moose and the Burro

Moose riding a donkey thanks Pen!
Donkey AlertDonkey Alert
Donkey Alert

Hey Donkey, where's Shrek?
Sole disappointment....Sole disappointment....
Sole disappointment....

My poor feet. So this was after day one. I had 4 blisters on my right foot & 1 on the other. The only disappointment to the day though!
1st Lunch1st Lunch
1st Lunch

Pretty impressive for the middle of nowhere! Rest those feet Pen...there's still lots more days to go!
Camp 1Camp 1
Camp 1

1st campsite after an easy day, with a few climbs, a few ruins, and great views....bring on the cervesa!
Some of the CrewSome of the Crew
Some of the Crew

Some of the folk we hiked with
Sheepskin at 12000 feet?Sheepskin at 12000 feet?
Sheepskin at 12000 feet?

Hmm....what can it be?

29th October 2009

Hey guys - great blog - brings back lots of amazing memories! Let's do it again! ;-) x

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