Well today I would embark on the adventure of a lifetime, South America´s most fabled trek, the Inca Trail (Camino del Inca). This morning we woke up nice and early. I had one last shower and ate a quick breakfast before heading to the bus. Thankfully I had prepared all my gear the night before, so I felt nice and relaxed in the morning.
At 7:00 am our bus departed the hotel in Cusco and we made our way to the town of Ollantaytambo, where we would have the opportunity to stock up on snack food or any other last minute items that people felt were necessary. I bought several Snickers bars. We all then hopped back on the bus and headed to Km 82, the start of the Inca Trail.
Once we arrived at the drop off zone, everything seemed so chaotic. There were trekkers and porters crawling all over the place. After a few minutes spent going to el baño and applying sunscreen, ourguide for the Inca Trail, Henry, called us over to where he was so that we could get a move on. We made our way down a path that ran alongside the Rio Urubamba (Urubamba River). Within a few minutes we approached the official starting point of the Inca Trail, which was indicated by a large wooden sign that you must pass underneath. After taking several photos, we all passed through the starting point and made our way down the path alongside the Urubamba.
After a few more minutes we arrived at the first control station at 9:45 am. At the control stationwe were given our Inca Trail permits and our passports were checked and stamped. Once everyone successfully passed throughthe control gate, we made our way across a swinging bridge that crossed the Rio Urubamba. What a great feeling! We were finally on our way.
Once we all crossed the bridge, Henry gave us a little speech and welcomed us to the Inca Trail. After the speech we began our jourey. As we began walking, I couldn´t believe I was actually trekking the Inca Trail. This is something that I´ve dreamed about since I first learned about it in junior high, and now I was actually living it! What an amazing feeling!
The first portion of the trail passes by local families´ homes who live along the trail. Occasionally the local people have stands setup to sell trekkers candies and beverages.
As we hiked on, dozens of porters flew by us at incredible speeds. These guys are amazing! Each porter is only allowed to carry a maximum of 20 Kgs (44 lbs), but when you actually see some of the loads that these guys are carrying, it´s pretty evident that they´re carrying more than they´re supposed to. To top it off, most of the porters will run, not walk, in poorly designed sandals. And guess what else? They do it with smiles on their faces. It seems that they all take great pride in their jobs. It probably also helps that being a porter on the Inca Trail is a decent way to earn a living in this region of Peru. Let me tell you, the porters definitely earn their money. In fact, after seeing these guys work, I feel that they´re grossly under paid. My hat goes off to all the porters! You guys are amazing!
At around noon we arrived at the first set of Inca ruins along the trail, Llaqtapata. After Henry gave a brief explanation of the ruins, we continued along the trail for approximately 30 minutes before arriving at a small village for lunch. Upon arrival at the village, all of our porters clapped, cheered, and gave us high fives as we each arrived at the dining area. This would turn out to be a reoccuring event everytime we would reach a new destination. It felt great to be greeted this way.
For lunch we had rainbow trout. After lunch we continued along the trail for a couple more hours until we arrived at our first campsite, Huayllabamba, at around 3:30 pm. Today we travelled approximately 11km and climbed from 2,500m to 3,000m. Huayllabamba is a small village and even has a small store.
After setting up camp we were treated to tea and popcorn. Before dinner Georgina, Ross, and myself explored some local ruins and briefly watched a soccer game being played by some of the locals and porters.
The evening was pretty relaxing. After dinner several of us were awestrucked by the moon and the starry sky. I took several photos of the night sky. Craig and Ellen, a couple from Seattle, were also inspired to take photos. I even managed to get some photos of the Southern Cross.
Ross and I each bought a cerveza from the local store. After drinking our cervezas and relaxing for a bit, we all called it a night and went to sleep. Tomorrow would turn out to be a big day as we would be passing the dreaded Warmiwañusca pass, also known as Dead Woman´s Pass.