The day had arrived to start the Inca Trail. We felt nervous and excited all at the same time but your mind plays games with you, fear steps in. We are 57 and 56 years of age. Jane has never trekked or camped before. Duncan has had experience as a Sea Scout in his youth, a 3-day trek across the moors of England as a teenager and several camping trips to Europe in his 20s.
Since leaving Sydney on the 21st February we have walked many kilometres daily on our adventures. We believe our fitness levels are up to the steep climbs and descents that we are going to tackle on the trek, but you just never can tell. Had we done enough? Day two climbing up to Dead Woman’s Pass at 4200m is supposed to be a killer.
We already knew the feelings of altitude sickness. Duncan succumbed to this on our very first day in Cusco as we landed from our Lima flight. The breathlessness coupled with the headaches made walking around Cusco a chore. Drinking plenty of coca leaf tea and chewing coca leaf sweets certainly worked. We were pleased that we had arrived in Cusco two weeks prior to the trek to acclimatise.
The challenge in front of us is 43km of trekking that will lead us to the “Lost City of the Incas”.
The alarm rang at 4.30am. It was dark and very cold outside. By the light of our head lamps we managed the steps down the San Blas area of Cusco to our tour company at the bottom of the hill. It was spooky and misty.
We were the only ones waiting, and 10 minutes later other trekkers came towards us through the dark. We wonder if they are in our group, and try to recognise them from the orientation the night before. After a few more minutes waiting more trekkers join us but they belong to different tour companies. Shortly, our tour leader Victor arrived and we boarded the bus and headed off to other pick up points collecting other trekkers as we go.
We drove through the stunning Sacred Valley past the Urubamba River and reach Urubamba where we stopped for a cooked breakfast. In Ollantaytambo, we stopped to collect our porters and last minute supplies and then headed down to Piscacucho, or KM82 which is the official starting point of the Inca Trail.
On our arrival at KM82 we were met by the rest of the crew and the porters. We hired an extra porter to carry our change of clothing and snacks. This turned out to be well worth it, leaving us to trek only with water, daily snacks and gloves, hats etc. The temperature changes as you ascend and descend and you need to be prepared for all variances. We stocked up on chocolate bars, nuts and dried fruits. On certain parts of the trail on the first and second days you can purchase energy drinks, chocolates and chips but choices may be limited.
Our group was ready and we headed towards the check point where our passports and trail permits were officially stamped. We crossed the suspension footbridge over the Urubamba River to where our trail began. We followed the course of the river and headed off through the country side which Victor called the relatively flat terrain – Andean Flats. Do not be fooled by the word ‘flats’: the first small hill up from the suspension bridge had us gasping for breath. This was not a good start and we became a little worried at this stage. Trekking Machu Picchu was not going to be an easy stroll through the valleys. The group moved on at a steady pace, falling into a natural rhythm as we learned how to trek with our walking poles. Llamas grazed beside the path as we passed several Inca ruins.
For three hours we trekked and admired the snow capped peaks of Wakay Willka (Veronica). In the distance we could see the Inca Fortress of Willka Raccay.
As we crossed the river, the tents for lunch were set up, ready and waiting for us. We sat down to a starter of guacamole and local bread. Jane is a vegetarian and had concerns regarding the availability of vegetables and the variety of the menu, but she didn’t need to have worried at all. Local grilled fish was served with salad and vegetables and Jane had an omelette. The meals over the next 4 days consisted of local Peruvian vegetable soup, eggs, chicken, pasta, vegetables, popcorn, pancakes, porridge and hot chocolate.
After a satisfying lunch we continued onwards and upwards towards the settlement of Llactapata, and admired the impressive Inca farming terraces. Our trail led us steadily up hill, some parts steeper than others, towards the village of Huayllabamba, 3000m above sea level where we spent the first night.
On arrival we had just enough time to be shown to our two man tent, drop our day packs and head towards the dinner tent for our first evening meal If all the meals at dinner were like this one we were definitely on a winner here. After the exhilaration of the first day, we headed off to bed early, knowing full well that we had an early start tomorrow morning.
Today we trekked for 5 hours and a distance of 12km.
Originally published here