Monday, March 17, 2008

Inca Trail

The girls of the group day before the trek

So, the infamous Inca Trail. Everyone knows about it, its probably one of the main reasons we decided to book this tour, but here's an account of the reality of the Inca Trail, well our side of the story anyway.
Looking fresh before the trek!

DAY 1: After being taxied to Ollyantaytambo where we spent the night and got stuffed on veggie lasagne and then banana pancakes the next morning, we headed to our starting station where 20 porters loaded 30kg onto their backs (tents, food, our duffkle bags etc). After a quick passport check we embark on our journey!

Day one isthe most deceiving as its literally a walk int he park! An occasional stop to carefully observe the native medicinal flora or for a story on the incas and how they lived. Our guide Ruben is passionate and infinately knowlegable, he's done the inca trail 300 times ad you can tell he lives and breathes everything inca! Lunch is served in mess tents surrounded by chickens and donkeys next to a gorgeous little stream - quinoa soup, rice, tuna lasagne and an avocado cocktail to die for! Nope -no slop, no eating out of acan, this 5 star service in incredible! The meals on the inca trail were better than some of the meals we've eaten in restaurants!

Our first Inca site! Yay!
Our first campsite is in a gorgeous clearing next to a stream, our tnets are ready when we arrive, along with roll matts and afternoon tea with hot chocolate!!! The dinners are just as awesome, although the toilets leave a lot to be desired, but at least we have them!

DAY 2: This makes day one seem like a lazy stroll! We're awoken at 6:15am, pack our shit, eat breaky (fruit salad, popcorn-like cereal, porridge and pancakes!) and head up the mountain. When I say up...I mean UP!!! 7hrs of steep, rocky incline in the form of hills or steps (I hate steps with a passion now!!!). The group becomes scattered, the competitors first, followed by the fit, the us!! Delayed by lack of oxygen, beautiful scenery or an obsession with photography (not naming any names Jemimah!!) we make it to the campsite between 12 AND 3.

Now, those not familiar with the effects of altitude, let me paint a nice little picture for you! You start off fighting fit, charging up the stairs. After 10 seconds, you start sucking air, you fill your entire lungs with air but find only a tiny shrivel of oxygen in each breath. You breathe harder and faster, your body realises its not getting any O2 and starts to slow down. Almost to ahalt. This is when your brain realises you still have 9km to go with f"%k all oxygen and steps the height of your thigh. Walking sticks provide some leverage, but all in all you're in struggle street! However, the stream trickling next to the path, the misty clouds covering the gigantic mountains, the view of the camp you're coming from looking like tiny ant villages in the distance and good company long the way makes you realise, this isn't difficult. Sure, its a challenge, but you're having the most amazing time and seeing the most increadible sights!!!
With this in mind, you manage to drag yourself to the summit (otherwise known as Dead Woman's Pass, how comforting!) at 4200m above sea level. At first your're relieved. Until it starts pissing down,drenching every item of clothing, despite the fact that its all waterproof! Your knees start creaking as you descend down an enormous amount of stairs, and a small waterfall follows you down due to the amount of rainfall. However, again, you don't mind. A curious llama greets you along the way with giant eyelashes, you pass a waterfall that relaxes you, and you realise the ones who should be struggling are the porters that pass you, running, looking like tortoises with their load. You realise that the two jolly Canadians behind you are struggling just as much as you are or in Jem's case, the journey is helped by a random guide who's lost his group and decides to be your personal buddy along the way.

By the time you reach camp, the best thing in the world is adry tent, a warm change ofclothes, a hot chocolate and a piece of bread with butter and jam!!! The porters applaud your arrival to the campsite every afternoon, weshould be applauding them!!!
DAY 3: This is the day known as unforgettable. The first inca ruin is awatch tower, circular and on the top of a hill looking at the trail, monitoring its pilgrams, reserved exclusively for the religious members of society. The incas had a very interesting social ladder, we learn fromRuben. As usual, there were royalty, followed by nobles of blood, nobles of privelege, the army, working population and then servants. However, unlike ancient Egyptian and African societies, the Incan government treated their servents very well. Once a servant had completed ajob, they were allowed to join the working population, or in rare cases, sometimes even nobility!
Aseries of short inclines and declines leads us to another site, this time a religious site where we learn that the icna religion originates from several pre-inca societies. This mono theistic society was based around the 'Spiritual'or 'Flying' god. This then developed into poytheism, where deities from the pre-incas were re-incorporated (puma, condor, snake, mountains etc) and promoted to gods in the process.

After lunch, we keep trekking for anotherfewhours through beautiful rainforest (at 3000m??) and massive100m drops off the side! This is 90% original inca stones and mortar which makes the walk all the more surreal!
The the motherf"%king steps! 3000m steep, mossy steps, some which, despite the general natureof a step, are round! Knees, calves and any other leg-part are dying, people are stacking it all over the place which provides a bit of a laugh!!!
We're told to look out for a tunnel, but once we get there, its dutch-ovened by one of the guys in front of us, meaning we have to stall our journey until the smell disperses and causes us to believe that Matt is in need of some immediate medical procedure to cure whatever the hell is wrong with him!!
The walk home is amazing and excrutating at the same time, until we FINALLY reach camp for acoke and snickers to undo all the good work we've just done!!
DAY 4: We're awoken abruptly at4am and due to the fact that our torch has run out of battery, are forced to pack in the dark! After a hot breakky we head out blindly to the Sungate, about 2hrs trek from camp. When we arrive, however, instead of being able to see Maccu Picchu, all we see is white!The mist is supposed to clear at 8am, 2hrs from now! So we wander around in the mist until we start our tour. Like clockwork, the mist clears at 8 to reveal the most amazing place I have ever been in my entire life!! There'sno way to describe this ancientcity so I will use photos instead (see above post)


Baino said...

Oh Sweetheart, it looks amazing. I'd die with all those steps. Are you on a mission to star-jump at every location? Gorgeous photos and I'm still glad you're having a blast. Food doesn't sound to shabby either! Bet you're glad you bought your walking shoes and didn't wear THONGS!

Clare & Jem's Excellent Adventures said...

Yeah, food was pretty unreal considering we were in the middle of nowhere! The star jumps are Jetstars, inspired by my boss!