Inca Trail Day 3: I am not a happy camper

Trip Start Sep 28, 2006
Trip End May 04, 2007

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Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Last night and today I suffered so much! I think between the altitude, having exerted myself hiking, and having eaten myself into oblivion, my body decided to stage a MAJOR rebellion and rejected everything that had entered my body in every possible way. Sorry, I don't mean to gross you guys out. But I seriously have never been more miserable in my life. Okay, I probably have and I am clearly still alive, but I was in REALLY bad shape and faced my third day having no clue how I was going to drag my dehydrated, weak, and still very ill body 18 km to our next campsite. In the freezing rain in freezing wet clothes, I should add. In other words, be warned: this entry will contain MUCHO bitching. My apologies, but at least you know now and can skip to the happier ending if you wish.

After we went to bed last night, I started to feel worse and worse and I tossed and turned for a couple hours before I finally had to leave the semi-warmth of my sleeping bag (I had on every article of dry clothing and was shivering inside my silk liner and arctic sleeping bag), find my flashlight, put on my wet muddy boots and run in the pouring rain to the nasty campsite bathroom. I was very sick, I'll spare you the details. I ran back to the tent, curled up in a ball wishing for it to all end and trying to get warm again. After dozing off for a bit, I woke up again, feeling worse than before and having to once again get dressed and run out to the bathroom. I tried calling out the names of my guides at around 3 am, mildly freaking out, but everyone was of course asleep (or at least pretending not to hear me so they wouldn't have to go out into the rain and deal with me). So I spent most of the night alone in the awful bathroom, freezing and miserable, until about 4 am, when I headed back to the tent, took a Cipro, and shivered half-awake in my sleeping bag for the next couple of hours. Needless to say, I did not get much sleep.

I felt horrendous when Efrena "woke me up" at 6 am. He took one look at me, asked if I was okay, and I burst into tears, as I was so dehydrated, tired, in a huge amount of pain and absolutely freezing. I had one oral re-hydration pack in my medical kit, which he prepared for me. My stomach was in no way prepared to accept any food, and even getting down the nasty salty-sweet mixture was a bit difficult. But I forced myself to drink it, as I was so weak I could hardly move and was freaking out about the hike ahead of me...and the fact that there would be only one bathroom, at lunch time. I made it to the breakfast tent a little late and tried to eat some plain, stale bread for energy as I jealously watched everyone else enjoy hot chocolate, omelettes, french toast, banana chips, and coffee. For those of you who know me, I am sure you can imagine that not being able to enjoy freshly cooked banana chips was such torture! I love anything with bananas. Definitely was being punished for my previous day's gluttony. Apu, our cook, made me a special tea, which tasted pretty nasty and did not really help all that much, but it felt nice to put something warm in my body.

We left at 7:45 am and immediately began our ascent up to the second pass, Quchapata (3950 m). The rain still had not stopped since the previous morning. I saw a nice waterfall as we started hiking and thought to myself, well, I wouldn't get to see this in the dry season! Ha. I also kept telling myself, THANK GOD I hired a porter for today, as I could hardly carry my own body weight let alone a backpack. I seriously don't know how I would have made it otherwise, and admire all the people in our group who carried their packs the whole time. I suppose I would have made it because I had no choice, but today was REALLY hard for me, especially the climb up to the second pass. The only thing keeping me going was the thought of warm tea and reaching a real bathroom at our lunch site. I ran into Mick at the top and he was so sweet, offering to carry my huge water bottle for me, which made a big difference. Apu boiled water for us this morning and since he would not be giving us anymore water until tomorrow morning I had to completely fill my 2.5 L bottle. The other people in my group were also really supportive and frequently asked how I was doing. I practically ran down the hill and during the rolling hills after the pass, so determined to get there as quickly as possible, only stopping briefly to follow the rest of the group up a steep set of stairs to a small Inca site. Once again, I can only imagine what the views must have been like, but it was still raining and the clouds were so thick we could hardly see several feet in front of us.

When we arrived at the campsite around 11 am, I booked it to the bathroom and then collapsed in the lunch tent as Jubinal discussed the ruins we had just seen as well as some other Inca topics for an hour or so. As soon as I sat down I totally crashed, my legs throbbing from pounding downhill in the cold and my stomach still churning. I tried eating some crackers and drinking tea to re-energize but my body would not cooperate. I felt terrible and extremely rude, but couldn't help but rest my head on the table and pass out as Jubinal spoke. Lunch was great, but I of course could not enjoy much of it. I ate some rice, quinoa soup, the crust of pizza, and some pasta, which was both good and bad for me I suppose. I did feel quite a bit better or at least more alive after eating but my stomach was still killing me. As we were about to leave the tent, Jubinal reminded me that much of how I felt was in my head ("Todo esta en la cabeza, senorita")...not implying that I wasn't legitimately sick of course (although Efrena did tell me that many tourists apparently pretend to be sick, for god knows what reason), but that my attitude greatly affected how I felt.

Although the next five hours were far from enjoyable, I was trying really hard to stay positive and managed to psyche myself out of my misery, at least enough to enjoy parts of the trail, such as the Inca tunnels , to make it up to the third and final pass, Phuyupatamarca (3670 m), and down to our campsite. I had ridiculous stomach pain however and finally broke down at the third pass to go to the bathroom. As I was trying to find a good spot I took a really nasty spill in the mud (as if my clothes weren't wet and dirty enough) and practically slid off the mountain. Efrena was waiting for me and heard me scream as I slid down on my butt. He had to pull me up (thankfully this was before I had pulled my pants down). After chastising me for being a total klutz, he instructed me to climb up this huge hill above a bunch of campsites. I am pretty sure the group of porters at the campsite below saw me, as they were laughing hysterically when I came back down. Whatever. Totally didn't care at that point.

Although today it definitely rained less than yesterday, the weather was far from nice. It stopped raining briefly below the third pass, where we explored a beautiful Inca site and listened to Jubinal talk. Normally, since this site is a watch tower and faces North, you can see Machu Picchu from here. We of course only saw clouds, which occasionally thinned out and revealed silhouettes of the surrounding mountains. From here, I walked with Justin for the rest of the hike (except for the last half hour, like yesterday, during which I ran down the hill to get to the campsite as quickly as possible). Most of the 3 1/2 hour hike was steep downhill--the usual treacherous, slippery, and narrow Inca stone steps and paths (unlike yesterday, about 90 percent of the trail was original versus reconstructed). However, those last hours were BRUTAL. I didn't let myself look at my watch and tried to go as fast as I possibly could without killing myself. Thankfully it was only raining lightly (except for the last twenty minutes), but my legs were hurting so badly from all the pounding downhill. Plus every time I would land on a step my stomach jolted around, which didn't feel so nice. Whoever said the second day is the hardest was definitely wrong, in my opinion at least! Many other people in my group agreed that the third day was the most challenging. It was just so long! I practically cried out of joy when I saw Jubinal waiting at a fork in the path and discovered that we were only a half hour away from the end.

I ran to the bathroom and then crashed once again in my tent as soon as I arrived. My muddy boots were hanging outside the tent and it had started to pour again, but I could not move for a good half hour. It's not like it really mattered, as everything was already soaked and dirty. I finally motivated myself to get up and find my backpack, change, and have a snack. I also took some pictures with our porters. Here is one of Justin and one of his friends , both of whom were SO sweet to me today while I was ill, a picture of our oldest porter , and one of Justin and me . Our campsite #12 was pretty far down but in a great location, right next to the restaurant/bar and the hot showers (yes, that's right, we could pay 5 soles to take HOT showers!). You might wonder what the point of showering was when all of my clothes were dirty and I only had one day to go...I thought the same thing, but then after tea time decided to check them out. I caved and took the longest, most wonderful shower (despite the muddy puddles and somewhat gross facilities). I had brought some Kiehls samples in anticipation of wanting to shower, and it was so nice to use sweet smelling products on my hair and body. I felt semi-human again!

By the time I returned it was dinner time. Our last supper was fried rice, a huge platter of veggies and eggs, beef, a fancy chicken dish, cream of corn soup, and this amazing massive cake that was decorated with colorful icing and read "Buen viaje!" or "Happy travels." The cook boiled it I suppose--it was very dense, still warm, and incredibly tasty. After dinner, we thanked our porters and our cook (Jubinal gave us a not-so-subtle reminder at tea time that we had to organize and present our tips after dinner). We each chipped in about 23 dollars to cover tips for the porters, cook, and our guides. Being the only Spanish speaker of the group, I was elected spokesperson. They all definitely deserved great tips! I seriously was impressed with what Apu had done in the middle of nowhere with minimal equipment! Everything was so nicely presented and delicious. And how the porters were able to carry flat cartons of eggs for three full days (and all the other stuff too of course) is beyond me.

After organizing my stuff in anticipation of our 4 am wake up (I will be carrying my pack tomorrow of course), I joined the rest of my group, including our guides and cook, and all the other groups at the nearby bar. Everyone sat around drinking beer and listening to the very strange compilation of 80s music and old pop hits. Justin, the porter, walked me over there but didn't go in. I think the porters were not allowed in, as I later saw him waiting outside for me, which made me feel bad. Justin (the Aussie) and I headed back to our tent around 9:30, although we didn't actually go to bed for an hour or so, singing and just being silly again. It did not rain much for most of the evening and we are all praying that we will be rewarded for all of our suffering with ONE day or at least a morning of sunshine. We are almost finished, and I am really excited to get back to Cusco! Um, I mean, to see Machu Picchu... :)
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