Considering the amount of kilometres we’re about to cover in the coming days, this probably wasn’t required, in retrospect, but it gave me the opportunity to explore some areas that I know the rest of the gang hadn’t and wouldn’t get to.
Morning exercise out of the way, I headed back to the hostel to grab some breakfast, meet up with the rest of the gang, repack everything for the 4 day hike one last time, and sit back and relax while, as predicted, a number of the girls fretted and panicked about the packing weight allowances for the bags set to be carried by our army of porters all the way to Machu Picchu.
With everything seemingly squared away, we made the short bus trip from Ollantaytambo to the traditional tourist “head” of the Inca Trail in an area called Piccacucho, or simply “km82”. A bunch of VERY excited G Adventurers piled out of the bus and onto an assembly area that was bustling with numerous different coloured teams of porters busily assembling their gear ready to hit the trail ahead of us.
We all took some time to make final adjustments to our own hiking gear and to take in the breathtaking views of the raging Rio Urubamba and the valley the river was cutting its way through. Ultimately we were looking to assemble at the bridge shown in the photo below – the official start of the famed Inca Trail.
Pausing more than was probably necessary to take WAY too many photos along the way (let’s put it down to nervous energy), we eventually made it to the check station where our park passes were checked, passports were stamped, more pictures were taken from the sturdy cable bridge by pretty much everyone, and we were off chasing the river down into the valley ahead of us.
For the next few kilometres, we pretty much followed the river, eventually rising from the valley floor and heading up into the flanking mountains stopping occasionally to say hi to some of the locals in transit, to let groups of amazing (and did I mention TINY) porters get past us, and also to gulp down some water and assess how we were stacking up against the altitude at this easy, relatively flat stage of the hike.
For me? So far, so good!
Roughly 6kms into the trail at km88, we came across the first of the Inca ruins we will be encountering over the next few days. Known as “Llaqtapata” the site, made up primarily of large farming terraces, was probably used to supply a number of the smaller Inca Trail sites. Our knowledgable guide, Nancy, spent some time explaining the significance of the site and what it meant to the immediate region, as well as take the opportunity to sit us all down and chat a little about what we are likely to encounter in the coming days on the trail.
I suspect the chat was probably somewhat of a stalling tactic with lunch being the next stop on the schedule. Our well drilled team of porters and cooks were well ahead on the trail and no doubt had things well and truly under control setting up camp for our arrival, but the extra time afforded them by our educational pause was probably appreciated.
Pushing on ahead for a few more kilometres covering a series of gentle climbs, we arrived at the lunch camp which was very professionally set up and ready to go for our arrival complete with washing bowls and a food tent we could retreat to for a little respite from the sun.
Funnily enough, no sooner had we all got snuggly within the confines of the tent and a small sun shower hit the area. With anticipation building over what food we were likely to be served today and in the coming days, a little wet stuff outside was of no consequence to us at all.
And boy, were we ever pleasantly surprised. Within 15 minutes of being seated a yummy meal of fish, rice and vegetables was delivered to each of us by our ever smiling lunch crew. You’ve never heard a tent full of hungry hikers fall silent so quickly before as plates were literally licked clean! Haha!
With suitably full bellies achieved, we had some time to make a decision whether or not to switch to “wet weather” mode with shell jackets and backpack covers, or to just take our chances as the clouds above continued to change in colour and density from minute to minute.
The remaining couple of hours afternoon hike to the final camp for the day was a relatively easy one, so I knew a bit of rain wasn’t going to hamper my progress at all and I opted for keeping everything packed away in my daypack where it would definitely stay dry regardless.
Before we knew it, we’d covered the couple of kilometres left to hike on the trail for today and we arrived at “Huayllabamba”. At 2,912m above sea level, we were still pretty much at a comfortable level as far as altitude goes. To put things into perspective, however, Australia’s highest lump of rock, Mt Kosciuszko was already well below us at a paltry (in comparison) 2,228m. And we still have the largest altitude gain of the entire hike to cover in a supposedly tough day tomorrow!
Once again our porters had been well and truly busy ahead of us on the trail and the entire camp – food tent, individual sleeping tents and more were all neatly erected on a grassy terrace, set amongst rows of corn, awaiting our arrival. As far as the entire camp area was concerned, I may be biased, but I’m pretty sure we had the pick of the real estate in terms of proximity to toilets, cover from weather etc. Sweet!
First things first though. Time for a wash. Delivered to us in our tents by our still smiling porter friends, was a bowl of warm water which we could use to bath to the best of our ability and desire. After a pretty warm day 1 on the trail, I had both the ability AND the desire!
Freshened up, I grabbed my camera and wandered off around the small camp while some of the lads from a number of the groups camping at the site for the night headed down to a dirt strip where a pretty intense game of soccer broke out between them and a passionate group of porters.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but soccer does nothing for me (ice hockey (CAN) and AFL (AUS) is where it’s at) so it was easy for me to slip away and explore for an hour or so before dinner. Enough time for me to be convinced that we are already in a stunning part of the world, regardless of what lies ahead of us on the trail tomorrow and beyond!
Another great meal capped off a fantastic day on the trail en route to Machu Picchu! I still have to pinch myself knowing that I’m but days away from a dream encounter with not only a treasured bucket list item for me, but also one of the most amazing archeological sites on the planet!
But first, some rounds of cards in the mess tent by gas light with Rob and some of the crew, followed by hopefully a good night’s sleep ready for, by all accounts, a tough day of climbing tomorrow. Night!
Posted in: Travel