After spending a few days in Lake Titicaca and Cusco it was finally time to start our hike to Machu Picchu. We weren’t sure what to expect. We had heard a million different stories and opinions about the difficulty of the hike. When I first got to Peru my only concern was the altitude, but I hadn’t had problems in Lake Titicaca which was higher, so I became more and more confident as the days got closer.
We left our hotel in a daze at 4 AM to catch our bus to the starting point of the trail, Kilometer 82. Panic set in. What was I thinking? Why didn’t I just take the train? I can’t do this. I really didn’t train. All I did was go to the gym 3 times a week and lightly jog. Deep breath,calm down I told myself. We hit our last “real bathroom” stop and it was time to go. After 8 months of planning and anticipation I was finally accomplishing a life long goal to hike the Inca Trail.
My excitement was back! I was ready to go and determined to conquer the trail in a blaze of glory. We had our passports stamped at checked at the beginning of the hike. The Peruvian government is very strict when it comes to the trail. We had a couple people drop out months before and tried to replace them only to find out that no one else could replace them and the permits were non transferable.
The first day was supposed to be an easy 6 or so mile hike to our campsite about 3,000 feet higher than we started. Our guides from Llama Path taught us about the local culture and some of the native plants around the area.
As we looked back we learned about the mountain covered in snow. The Inca’s used to sacrifice children to the mountain for protection. There is actually a trail to the top but it is very dangerous and no one uses it anymore.
Within a few minutes we were to our first set of ruins. One thing I didn’t know before starting the hike is how many ruins there were on the trail. We found out that the first few can be seen by train but most of the ancient Inca ruins are not seen from anywhere but the hike.
After a few hours it was lunch time. Now I had read on Llama Path’s website that the food was the best. I thought there is no way. I was wrong. I know this isn’t the best picture but we would have an appetizer, followed by soup, then about 6 different main course options every meal every day. A few hours after lunch we reached another checkpoint where they checked that we were supposed to be on the hike. We had finally reached our campsite and it was amazing. The views were indescribable. Little did I know my new favorite campsite would soon be replaced on day 2. Most trekking companies camp in the valley below at around 7500 feet, our company had us hike up to about 10,500 feet. This made it possible to get to the further campsites in day 2 and a very short day 3 of hiking.
We arose very early the next morning for the hardest day on the trail. We would be climbing up to Dead Woman’s Pass with an altitude of over 14,000 feet. The women in our group joked that this was a very cruel Mother’s Day present. The trail started up hill right away. The porters would always leave hours later than us, even with their 50 pound packs, within an hour or so. These men were amazing. I have never seen a group of such hardworking men ever.
I wanted to reach Dead Woman’s Pass as soon as possible. So I left the group and tried to keep up with the porters. Although this lasted for only about 2 minutes before I was eating their dust. I was on a good pace to the top. I thought it would be a cool place to call or text my mom and wish her a happy Mothers Day. Although my phone didn’t get reception it was worth the try.
I arrived with my friend Greg hours before the others so we decided to try on the porters packs. Let me tell you this made me appreciate them even more than before. Guys my same size carrying these bags all day. Wow!
Most trekking companies end at the spot we had lunch but not us. We had another pass (which they call dead man’s pass unofficially) to climb. You can see by the next picture how much of a climb we had to do right after lunch. Burned those lunch calories right off!
I then again headed off on my own to try and beat the oncoming storm and get pictures for our group of one of the largest ruins we would see on the way. The trail was very wet and steep. I couldn’t believe how the porters would run past me will all the gear.
I will post about day 3 and Machu Picchu in a coming post. If you have any questions about the hike or the trekking company feel free to email me. Also if you would like to see more pictures you can go to my facebook album here.