Tails of the Inca Trail

Trip Start Oct 15, 2013
Trip End Apr 15, 2014

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Flag of Peru  , Cuzco,
Saturday, November 30, 2013

So we did it! We completed the Inca Trail- the whole family made it, we are all feeling very proud of ourselves and if I'm honest, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

Day one is known to be the easy day, where there are no major hills, you trek 10 km to get you into the swing of things. The weather was lovely, which is such a blessing and super good luck as it's the rainy season, and we were told that the group before us had rain the whole way to Macchu Picchu. We have two guides, one at the front and one at the back of the group to help people at different speeds and fitness levels. We stopped for lunch, which was served in a big tent on a long table, it's amazing to be sat restaurant style in the middle of a mountain range. Another truly amazing part of the trek are the porters- these guys carry massive packs on their back, between 20 and 25kgs of stuff to keep us comfortable, and the packs are nearly as big as them! They race on ahead of us to set up camp, get our tents ready, get our food ready and generally do anything else they think we want them to do. This is their second job, as most of them are farmers and their fitness levels and ability to trek is truly something to be admired.

The only struggle of the first day was the hill at the end, but once you get to camp, you are greeted by the porters who clap you in (yeah- they clap you, you who only carried a day pack and took longer to get their than they did with all your crap) and there is even a guy with a little flag to make you feel all special- bless. There was a toilet at the first camp, and it did kind of flush, but it was between a lot of people, some of who were suffering with altitude sickness and by late afternoon, it was not a place you wanted to be. The girls resorted to going back to nature and 'poppin a squat' in the field- not the first time this trip and probably not the last, life would be easier if we were boys sometimes.

The second day is the day everyone dreads- Dead Woman's Pass, or if you are me, Dead Ladies Crack. This is 4 hours of uphill, and when I say up hill, I mean mostly giant steps, some of which I struggled to get up because they are so tall and the higher you get, the thinner the air gets,which adds to the struggle. I am reasonably fit, but had to stop every couple of minutes because I couldn't catch my breath due to the altitude. I would liken the sensation to trying to sprint with the flu. The uphill was relentless, no flat, just thigh burning for an hour and a half until we got to a clearing. Once I got there, we all collapsed in a big sweaty exhausted pile, relieved that we had done the hard bit and enjoying the view, that was until our guide congratulated us on doing the first half, and that we only had the hardest part to come 'shut the front door, did you say hard part?!' We were only bloody half way up, and we had the steep bit to come- and he really wasn't joking. The second part was gruelling. It just kept going, and the last 30 minutes were super steep steps, at some points, I thought I wasn't going to make it, my legs felt like lead and I had run out of steam, there was nothing left in the tank! The top was 4000 meters above sea level and the air was so thin that walking on flat would leave you short of breath, but I wasn't going to let some dead ladies crack beat me, so a gritted my teeth and got there- eventually.

Once we rested, we had the descent down hill to go, for some this is worse than uphill because it's really hard on your knees. We had two hours of down, down and more down, but we took this slowly, and as it takes less puff to go down than up, we all had a natter and before we knew it, we were at the camp. We were told at the last place that that was the last time we would see a proper toilet until we made it to Machu Picchu, and they really weren't joking. There were toilets, but they were squat toilets (heave) why on earth they couldn't have put a normal one there is a mystery to us as the last thing you want to do after hours of trekking is hold your own weight squatting while you are doing the necessary. Again we were blessed with a dry day in the rainy season, there were a few showers at night, but the sound of rain on a tent was never going to keep us weary walkers awake.

The third day was the longest, as we had 16km to go, with both up hill and down hill, but this for me was the best day as we were going through the jungle at some points and the mountain side at others so the views were great. We visited some archeological sites along the way, stopped for our last big lunch, the Cook had made us a cake which is quite impressive as we were up a mountain, three days from civilisation, using nothing but a campfire (crumb texture was a little open and the icing was a bit loose but that's only my opinion ;) ) We were hit by a small shower and a thunder storm, but it had cleared by the time we started walking again. The next part of the trek was downhill over uneven rocks and at some points, steps that were over 700 years old which were really worn away- this was tricky and some fell down, but the porters actually ran over these, so nimble, in trainers carrying our crap- so impressive to watch but I couldn't help shouting 'careful' even though they don't speak English.

The fourth day is the easy day, apart from the 3:30 am start to beat the crowds. We got up and lined up to start the walk through border control (only 500 people are allowed on the trail so I guess this is how they control that) and then it's a 2 hour easy trek to the sun gate. Everyone was in order as the trek was pretty much single file, but there were some idiots that jumped the queue, apart from being a compete prick for not waiting their turn, it's really dangerous and people have died from doing that and falling off the cliff side. When we got the the actual site of Machu Picchu we had a proper sense of achievement. It's hard to take in as it's quite big, and it's hard to get your head around the fact that nobody really knows anything about it for sure, and that it's in the middle if a mountain range, over 700 years old. We had a tour, and well earned sit down and reflected on our 4 day achievement.

All in all, I am really glad we did it, and I would even do it again. I think this is the most physically challenging thing I have done and I'm so grateful we got to do it with the people we did it with, for me, the best thing about doing it was sharing the experience with our new found friends.

Thought/fact of the day- I know some friend and family are thinking of going the trail, so here is my packing list of things that I couldn't have done it without.

Hand sanitizer- this is my number one especially now I am one of the very few who haven't gotten ill over the trip, so so handy when there is no water, and even after you have washed you hands in soap and water, the water is full of bacteria
Wet wipes- festival washes are the only way to keep marginally clean ( Nath even gave Betty Swollox a festival shower, whoever she may be)
Toilet paper- two rolls per person because there are no shops up mountains, and dock leaves are few and far between
Sweeties- energy sweets and chocolate are essential to get up those tricky bits and to keep your spirits up
Factor a million sun lotion- you are really close to the sun, even if it's cold, you need to cream up
Blister plasterers- for some reason these come in odd numbers, which I strange because I have an even amount of feet
Clean t shirts- I'm not a sweater, but omg do you get hot! I only took 2 tops to keep the weight of my pack down and regretted it
Sleeping bag liner- extra warmth for those cold nights
Proper hiking socks
Very well worn in hiking shoes- ankle support insist essential if you don't have ankle problems, but you can buy ankle supports from sports shops and they are light and easy to pack
Trainers- I live in my freeruns and really missed them in the evening when my feet were sore from being in boots all day. I would not recommend flip flops as your comfy evening footwear- not when you have to use squat toilets!
Again on the Nike front, dri-fit leggings, I slept in these, they are warm and dry really quickly if they get wet. These are my general travelling essential.
Zip off trousers- there are no fashion police up there, so you won't get arrested for crimes against style, and they are so handy.
Head torch- if you are luck enough to have toilets, they won't have lights, and using squat toilets are traumatic enough without having to fumble in the dark
Things to keep you warm- hat, glove, etc
Waterproof everything's- trousers, jacket, poncho and daypack cover- seriously, these are all essential
Bin bags- put everything in them inside your duffel bag, having to use wet stuff at the end of your trek would suck big time
Buff- these are so useful, as a headband, bandana, scarf, eye mask
Swiss army kNath- this is so so handy for reaching high things, keeping you warm at night, making you laugh, couldn't have don't it without one.
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