03.09.2010 18 °C
Sunday 22nd August 2010 - Day One
We woke up, tired but excited, at 5am. Needless to say that when Miguel (our guide) arrived to pick us up at 5:30am we weren´t quite ready, but not far off. We checked our bags in to the store at Hostel Pirwana and- armed with just our duffle bags- we set off to the bus. We were greeted by a humongous coach, which we had all to ourselves as the rest of the group had stayed in Ollantaytambo the night before. An hour and a half after setting off and we made it to the small town of Ollantaytambo where the first stop was breakfast! We went for the auld ham and cheese omelette, laden with ketchup and a glass of orange juice. We stocked up on water and got back on the bus- this time with the other four people from our group (Nathan, Megan, Mill and Doreen), nine porters and Miguel. Suddenly the massive coach made sense!
It was another 45 minutes until the start of the trail and when we finally got off the coach we slathered ourselves in suncream and insect repellant, bought our wooden walking sticks and set off. We had to go through a control desk- where we got our first stamp- and then we were there. The famous Inca Trail start sign.
The first day is the easiest, though it didn´t feel that easy all of the time! Along the way there were indigenous women selling snacks and drinks, locals wandering around with their donkeys and kids and we had plenty of rest breaks. However, Miguel assured us it wouldn´t be like this the entire way. The hardest part of the day was a `gruelling´(we realise now it was nothing of the sort) 15minute uphill walk, at the top of which we were greeted with some immense views. A little further and we saw the ruins of an old Inca town and sacrificial altar and then we started going downhill.
After a few hours of walking we finally reached our lunch site. Our amazing porters had started the trail after us, with up to 20 kilos of weight strapped to their backs, over taken us along the path, got to the campsite, set up the tent AND cooked us lunch before we could even get there. It was unbelievable and over the next few days we never quite got over the physical and mental strength these men must have to do a job like that. Lunch was served over two courses (the first soup, the second meat and carbs) and was pretty damn good! A short while later we were back on our feet and going up and over small inclines. We made it to camp (the porters had washed our dishes, dismantled the tent, packed everything up, once again overtook us, got to camp, set up the four tents for us, the cooking tent and made us snacks before we could get back!) and were very relieved to finally get our shoes off!
Camp was in a decent location and the tents were really spacious (two people to a tent- handy as we were three couples). We were treated to snacks of popcorn, hot chocolate and crackers and shortly after it was time for dinner. Once again we started with soup and followed up with a delicious main. Come 8pm it was time for bed- we were to be woken up at 5am the next day to start what is notoriously the hardest day of trekking- the ascent over `Dead Woman´s Pass´at 4,200m altitude.
After being unable to properly fall asleep, Jaz awoke properly at about midnight with a familiar feeling. Liam, woken by the unzipping of the tent, asked what was wrong. "I feel sick" was the reply. "In what way?" "The same way as last time". It was food poisoning AGAIN and the nice pile of vomit outside the tent the next morning made sure everybody knew about it.
Monday 23rd August 2010 - Day Two.
It turns out Jaz wasn´t the only one who had been ill the night before- Megan was complaining of an upset tummy. Breakfast looked great (pancakes filled with fruit) but Jaz wouldn´t know as she didn´t even manage to stomach a nibble of dry bread. At about 6am we started off on the dreaded Day Two and were immediately going uphill. It took about an hour and a bottle of Gatorade before Jaz was throwing up off the side of a cliff and with nothing left in her stomach she was void of energy. Liam lent her his walking pole and she dragged herself up through the stunning forests, barely even noticing the scenery around her. Liam stayed with her most of the way, occasionally going on ahead only to be waiting around the next corner when she finally appeared.
What felt like a million uphill steps later, we made it to lunch. Most other groups didn´t bother with lunch (as we weren´t going to until the girls got ill), so the lunch site was really empty. Liam managed all of his food, Jaz and Megan managed about two slices of potato each, but that was all they needed and the group set off, ready to tackle the challenge ahead. Just looking at Dead Woman's Pass was tiring, so it was to our surprise that we al managed the first half pretty quickly (needless to say, not as fast as the porters though!)
The second half treated us all differently- Liam powered up it, Nathan, Mill and Doreen weren't too far behind, Megan was feeling the effects of the night before and the altitude and Jaz was just exhausted. But we all made it up in our own time (I, Jaz, am going to point out here that I was only about ten minutes behind the rest of the group) and the feeling at the top was one of sheer accomplishment, helped by our team of porters and the rest of the groups cheering each person as they took those last steps up to the highest point of the Inca Trail.
We had a brief rest before group photos and Liam and I wandered off over to the apachetes. I think we have mentioned before that an apachete is an offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth) and traditionaly people would take a stone from the start of the trail before placing it at the highest point. Having remembered to take our stones from the bottom of the trail, we dug them out of our bags and made our offerings. Rather than feeling ridicuous, it actually felt like it meant something due to being surrounded by such amazing scenery and the things we had seen over the last few days. When we told Miguel what we had done, he thanked us.
We started to make our way back downhill after about 15 minutes (longer for Liam) on the top of the pass. It was a horrible feeling to be heading straight back down after all the hard work it took to climb up there. We were going down stone Inca steps for 2.5hours, which were some of the most boring and knee-wrecking 2.5hours of our lifetimes. The views were breathtaking, but by the end we were eager to rest our knees, ankles, feet, legs, you name it!
Camp was set up perfectly when we arrived (Liam first, Jaz second) and dinner that night was soup (again) followed by pasta with cheese sauce and grated cheese- perfect for the sickly ones (without the cheese sauce!) We all passed out as soon as our heads hit the pillows. But with the hardest day over, we weren't dreading the next day too much...
It's time for bed now, but we'll finish the tale as soon as we can.
Jaz and Liam xxx