As predicted, the sun DID come up on Thursday morning. I got up early to take advantage of the limited hot water, and had my last shower (and hairwash) for four days. Muchos yuckness. To say that I had butterflies is an understatement. Those butterflies felt like they were wearing brick-filled backpacks and spiky stilettos and were having a party in my tummy. Ouch.
At breakfast, everyone was looking a little nervous and anxious. People seemed to be avoiding coffee and not eating a huge amount. Why? One word. Toilets. After breakfast, there was a mass exodus, to take advantage of that one word. In the peace and privacy of ones own room. Fun times.
Our bus arrived at about 7.30am and we piled on, headed for Km 82, the starting point for the trail. We met our porters and they bundled up our duffle bags with sleeping mats and bags and food and chairs and tents and pretty much EVERYTHING. These guys are flipping amazing. They’re all tiny, nuggety little men who carry about 20kgs on their backs. And. They run most of the way along the trail. There was one porter who did the entire Inca Trail in just under 4 hours a few years ago. He was 57.
We collected our walking poles, and went through the first checkpoint. Our passports were stamped, and a group picture was snapped under the notorious (to me) Km 82 sign. This was it. We were doing it.
The first few hours were beautiful. We strolled along flat grassy land, donkeys grazing by the path, cacti and trees and flowers all over the place. We passed ladies in traditional dress selling water and Gatorade and Inca Kola and chocolate. We passed clean toilets. The last we’d see for a few days…
Most of the stroll for the first few hours was pretty gentle. There was one looooong, steep incline up the side of a hill, with a lovely view at the top, followed by a loooooong, steep decline down the other side. Rich and I huffed and puffed quite a bit at the top. And again at the bottom.
At about midday we steered off the path, across a bridge and onto a farm for lunch. When we arrived, the porters all stood around clapping and cheering, welcoming us with cups of purple cordial. A tent was set up with a long table down the middle (set with tablecloth, cutlery and cups – sheesh!!) and we sat down to vegie soup, followed by fish and rice and vegetables. All delicious. Ridiculous!!
Unfortunately during lunch, a wild eee-aww-ing from a nearby donkey started up. One of the boys asked “I wonder what makes a donkey eee-aww like that?”. At that exact moment I stood up to take my empty plate out, and espied two donkeys COPULATING right outside the tent. I was at the worst possible angle you can imagine (don’t even try to imagine it – please), and I fear I will be forever scarred by the sight. Ew. Donkeys.
On we went. A herd of llamas passed us on the path. Followed by some non-sexing donkeys carrying heavy loads. Followed by some horses. The rider at the back of the horses said “Taxi?” and if I knew then how hard the trail would become the next day, I reckon I would have taken him up on it.
After lunch the path got significantly steeper, and higher. By the time we made it to camp at 5pm that afternoon, my legs were starting to burn and my lungs were starting to scream a little. Everything had been manageable and fine, but something told me (ie. guidebooks and the internetz) that tomorrow would be very different.