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Inca Trail Day 1 (Peru)

Our four days (9/1-9/4) with the Machu Picchu tour group, Llamapath was one of the most unique experiences I have ever had…

As you may have read from the previous post from the night before our departure, I was feeling pretty apprehensive. This apprehension carried over to the next day, the beginning of our hike, but I carried on anyway, perhaps in an attempt to convince myself that I would be okay.

The night before the hike, all participants of the four day trek attended a briefing by our two guides at their office. During the briefing, our leader, Elvis, explained what we would be doing over the next four days. He confirmed that the second day of the hike will be the most difficult because we would be hiking 14000ft above sea level, and then hiking back down to 12000ft . The third day was going to be pretty relaxed, as we would only hike the first half the day and then take it easy. And then of course, the fourth day is when we will see Machu Picchu. I discussed my fears with Elvis and our second guide, David, after the briefing, and both patiently listened to me voice my fears and offered encouragement that they have never had anyone fail to complete the trail.  Armed with hope (but still carrying doubt), we went home to try to get some rest before our 430am rendezvous the next morning.

I slept fitfully, and soon 3am came and we woke up to begin preparing to walk over to Recodijio Square (sp) where we were going to meet our guides and hiking mates to take a bus over to Ollantaytambo. We were greeted with some hot coca tea from our guides and porters, and at 430 am we all piled into the charter bus to head over. The drive took a couple hours, and we drove through the bumpy countryside in the dark, on and on and on. Eventually we arrived at our breakfast place, where the 13 of us hiking buddies introduced ourselves over a buffet of eggs, pancakes, bread, and hot beverages. After breakfast, we all piled back into the bus and went over to what was the square. Unfortunately, Llamapath had run out of porters for our group, and so they had to emergency hire men to help us. We waited there for a long time, I had fallen in and out of sleep, but by the time we were all ready to go, the town was already bustling with activity, so it must have been about 9am then. The bus dropped us off near our starting point and we all piled out to put on sunscreen, change jackets, buy any last minute items, and watched the porters pack and prepare everything they would be carrying for us over the next four days.

After ensuring that everyone was coated in SPF 30+, we walked over to the entrance where the park rangers checked our passports and tickets. Our porters passed by us on the way, and it wasn’t until then that I realized how much they would be carrying these next few days. Our clothing items, sleeping bags and sleeping mats were distributed amongst the 19 porters, but in addition, they were also carrying metal poles and the plastic covers for our sleeping tents, their own tents, our dining tent, eating utensils, plastic stools, foldable dinner tables, table cloths, buckets and towels, cookware including pots, pans, and a two-stove burner, AND all of the food ingredients the 35 of us (13 hikers, 2 guides, 19 porters, and 1 chef) would be eating over the next four days. It was a humbling and inspiring sight to see these men carry 80-90lbs on their back and know that they would be enduring the trail just like us. I remember thinking that this is why all the TripAdvisor reviews say to tip your porters well.

Once it was made known to the Peruvian government that we would be inside the park and responsible for any damage to the trail over the next few days, we crossed the bridge hanging over the huge Urubamba river and began our hike. I was seriously freaking out at this point, but there was no turning back now!

The trail started off pretty harmless (the first ruin we saw was Llactapata), but there were many uphill treks too. I remember a particularly bad part, where I had lagged far behind the others as the sun and the altitude was making it very hard for me to breathe as we pushed uphill. I had to stop often, but luckily the Lion and Elvis stayed behind to encourage me. We saw the snow-capped peak of Mt Veronica, which was absolutely gorgeous.

I made it eventually somehow and we stopped at a village for lunch. The porters had laid out bowls of cold water for us to wash our hands and a towel-line draped with towels for us to wipe up or dry our hands (no pix here because I was practically dead at this point and too relieved to break out the camera). We all sat down inside the dining tent, and I noticed that the table was covered with a red tablecloth and on the tables were a place setting for each of us complete with an origami napkin. And then the food started coming. I didn’t keep a record of what we had eaten, but every lunch and dinner consisted of at three courses: a cold appetizer (guacamole, ceviche, egg salad) or a hot soup (pumpkin, vegetable, congee), main entrees which we all shared family-style, and some warm, nonalcoholic chicha.

After lunch, we set off again to hike to our campsite. I don’t remember too much from this day, other than that the hike was fairly difficult for me, though not as bad for the others. I was feeling pretty sick still, maybe from the altitude but also from the fear of Day 2, so I hadn’t eaten much during lunch at all, which didn’t help me climb those hills at all. I was also slow to socialize with the people we were hiking with because I felt so miserable from anxiety… Needless to say, Day 1 was unpleasant for me when it didn’t have to be. We hiked a total of six hours on Day 1, and about 9 miles. The views were nothing short of spectacular though, and we were very fortunate to have gorgeous weather (when it had just been sleeting and snowing a few days before we arrived!).

When we laid down to sleep that night on Day 1 at Ayapata (11000ft) I felt a mixture of emotions (and a really hard and rocky ground). I felt relieved that the day was over, appreciation for the generosity of the Lion’s family for lending us clean sleeping bags, pillows, and rain jackets, happy that I made it thru the day, a little sad that I didn’t feel up to socializing with my hiking mates, and of course, fear about the next day. The good thing was, Day 2 was coming whether I wanted it to or not…

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