Day one of the INCA TRAIL (12km, 5 hours walking - EASY)!
Bright and early we were picked up and started the journey to Ollantaytambo, and it wasn't long before our bus encountered a few difficulties and then overheated so we had to get another one. We love Peru! After a while, another bus arrived and we set off again. Had breakfast and bought some cool walking sticks to aid our mammoth task ahead.
Day one was pretty easy and lulled us into a false sense of security (despite our guide specifically pointing out that day one was easy and day two was "challenging"). We enjoyed beautiful scenery and saw some Inca ruins. Our guide was called Victor (we named ourselves Team Victory in his honour) - he was lovely and when the going got tough he proved to be very supportive and encouraging. He liked to say "only another beautiful 5 hours left" and kept high fiving us. He also knew a lot about Inca ruins - always useful in an Inca trail guide.
We had a brilliant, multicultural group of 16 trekkers and had 21 porters to carry all the equipment for the group. Most of our group hired porters to carry their sleeping bags, roll mats and most of their clothes but we decided to be hardcore/stupid and carry all of our bags which weighed about 9kg in the end. The porters are allowed to carry up to 20kg (they used to carry up to 28kg before the law changed) and they practically run the whole way so they can set up camp and afternoon tea (lots of luxurious snacks) for us before we arrive. They also clapped every time we arrived at a campsite which was really encouraging for us when we arrived panting after struggling with our backpacks. Victor told us about the porter race which used to happen every year until 2004 - the porters run the Inca Trail and the current record is 3 hours and 50 minutes (this is the entire Inca Trail that we do in four days!).
After a nice first day of walking, we ate some great food and played some interesting and violent card games with our group (who we love!) in the dark with our head torches. Our campsite was surrounded by mountains and we could see lots of stars during the night - we spent most of the night unable to believe where we were and what we were about to embark upon as we had heard a lot about "day two".
What got us through day 1: knowing that it was defined as "easy"
Day two of the INCA TRAIL (12km, 7 hours walking - CHALLENGING)!
We were woken at 5.30am in one of the nicest possible ways - with a cup of coca tea in our tents. Breakfast was amazing - pancakes, toast, fruit salad, tea - to prepare us for the walk ahead. It didn't exactly break us in easy as the path from the campsite began as it went on for the next five hours - UP. We climbed 1200m over five hours and 7km over a combination of wonky Inca steps and steep inclines. We walked through a forest and then came out to see Dead Woman's Pass which had people on top of it who looked like ants to us as we were so far away! It's called Dead Woman's Pass because the hill looks like a dead woman - not because women die on it but at some points we felt like that could be the reason. As we climbed higher, you could feel the altitude as the highest point of the pass is 4200m above sea level and the air felt really thin. This day was definitely a challenge and we felt like we were walking for 30 seconds only to stop to catch our breath for 10 seconds. However, we made it to the top and somehow were the second group to the summit...and by far beat the average time that Victor set for us. We felt like we were about to die when we reached the top but were extremely happy. From there we did the necessary jumping photos
and then walked the next 5km down very tall and uneven steps until we finally reached the campsite. We insisted that having afternoon tea only an hour before dinner was absolutely fine, and so after napping, we had afternoon tea of tea, cookies and popcorn. We then played some fun group games to fill in the time before our next meal. The food was all really good and very healthy.
Sadly this is the point when Jill became ill, she did not sleep a wink that night, but did have a nice time listening to the frogs sing!
What got us through day 2: for Hev, Super Trouper by Abba, and for Jill and Georgi, will power, good banter and stopping every 10 seconds.
Day 3 of the INCA TRAIL (16km, 10 hours walking - UNFORGETTABLE)
This was probably the nicest day of the Inca trail, beautiful cloud forest, lots of Inca ruins and not TOO challenging a walk. The day started of with a gentle variety of up and down hill walking (well, gentle as far as the Inca trail goes, we still were at altitude and were walking on very uneven paths). Then there was about 4 non stop hours of down hill walking, we descended by 1000m. This was tough as it was a long way and Jill was really nauseous. In this time we walked with the lovely South African couple, Willie and Tanya, and they really helped a lot. Willie carried Jillīs sleeping mat which was very kind! However, the views of the mountains were amazing and we could see the campsite far below us which gave us something to aim for. We made it down to the campsite and, while Georgi and Heather went to visit the Wiņay Wayna Inca ruins, Jill went to her tent to vomit. Luckily she made it out the tent and the kind porters cleared it up. After dinner we celebrated with a nice cold beer (coke for Jill) under the stars with our lovely Team Victory!
What got us through day 3: For Hev and Georgi the thought of beer at the end of the day, and for Jill, coca toffee donated to her by Liam and the concentration it took to not throw up on the genuine Inca path.
Day 4 of the INCA TRAIL (6km, 2 hours of walking - UNIQUE)
This day was the day we did all the walking for, it was the day we got to Machu Picchu. We got up at the ridiculous hour of 4am and had some breakfast (Jill was very happy as she managed to eat for the first time since day 2) and headed off on a nice easy 2 hour walk in the rain. We didnīt mind that it was raining as we had been so lucky with beautiful sunshine the rest of the time, despite the forecast for rain and the fact that we started only 2 days out of the rainy season. When we got into Machu Picchu we couldnīt see that much of it due to heavy cloud, but as it started to clear it definitely added to the atmosphere and look. Machu Picchu was absolutely amazing. It was built by the Incas to be inaccessible and it definitely felt that way! It was completely surrounded by huge mountains. It was way more impressive and beautiful than any of us expected and it made all that trekking worthwhile. In the afternoon we had some lunch and went to the thermal pools in Aguas Calientes for a well deserved soak of the muscles.
FINAL HORSE/LLAMA SCORES:
Runner up...Hev: 4