I woke up at 5am due to an uncovered skylight in the room I was staying in, but that was fine since the nervous and excited energy would easily carry me through the day. Psyching myself up in the room before breakfast, I reminded myself that day one is the easy one – just 11km and a 300m elevation change to cope with. All I could think was “Can we go yet?!”, but I waited patiently for breakfast.
Selfie before breakfast
Breakfast was the relatively usual combination now – Scrambled eggs, mango, pineapple, and coca tea (to stem off any altitude sickness). After breakfast we were given a few minutes to repack our duffles and hand over any unnecessary possessions to Harold (who would not be joining us on the trail) for safekeeping whilst we hiked.
Frustratingly the bus was running on Peruvian timing and arrived a few minutes late – those minutes went by so slowly though! After picking us up, the bus drove into Ollantayatambo and collected the three new people joining our group for the Inca trail – Mark, Katie and Simone. Mark and Katie had been travelling for 5 months around the world and this was their last stop before heading home to London, whilst Simone is a german doctor (our third doctor in the group!) – no risk of any health issues on the trail!
The hotel that Katie, Mark and Simone had been staying in was right next to the Kwik-e-mart!
After picking up the rest of the group we drove to the famous km82 – the start point of the Inca trail!
We did a final check of our bags, and were passed over our rented items (sleeping bags, sleeping mattresses, walking poles, etc.) -and then a final weight check was carried out. The only person with a problem on the bag weight was Simone, who had somehow managed to bring 9kg instead of 6kg… it was easily resolved by transferring items into her day pack though, so we were ready to go!
Final bag checks
Our snack packs were handed out, and this morning they contained a banana, some apple flavoured boiled sweets and a pack of biscuits. It’s important to keep snacking on the trail since the meal times are quite far apart and the calorie burn is high. And the snacks were yummy.
Last selfie before the start
Km82 – the start!
After the obligatory group photos by the KM82 sign, we joined the long queue to pass through the official checkpoint and begin the trail. There are actually two checkpoints – one for porters, and one for hikers. As we queued, Israel and Javier (our second guide) gave us a briefing on what to expect in the morning – essentially a few steep up and downhill sections but relatively easily. At each checkpoint we were able to stamp our passports to indicate we had passed that point, and it was a great feeling to mark the first one into my passport as we officially began the trail!
My passport, waiting for the first stamp
Bridge, marking the start of the trail
The porters got off to a running start
The weather was stunning for the stat of the trail – really beautifully hot and sunny and the scenery looked spectacular in the daylight. Within what felt like minutes we already reached an amazing view point, and of course stopped for plenty of photos!
Me at the first viewpoint
The first viewpoint
The pace of the hike was good – gentle, with lots of stops for explanations, but not too slow as to get frustrating. We began hiking around 10am and hiked for around 2-3 hours before lunch, passing through some tiny villages and amazing hills and scenery. I didn’t post all the photos, because quite frankly – you’d get bored despite how beautiful the hills were!
Once we stopped for lunch, we were all hungry (despite having demolished our snacks), but none of us were expecting what was waiting for us. On arrival at the rest point, the porters had lined up and applauded us as we walked into the site – such a strange feeling being applauded! The porters had set out two tents at a small rest point, and the chef had kicked into action and whipped us up an amazing lunch.
Corn soup with garlic bread
The kitchen and lunch tents
Lunch – vegetables and rice
There was dessert too, but honestly – it didn’t last long enough to be photographed. It was a purple syrupy dessert which is famous in Peru – it’s made from purple corn and spices, and apparently school kids beg for it for their birthday parties, so we were lucky to have it. My google-fu tells me it is probably Mazamorra Morada.
After lunch, we were given a 40 minute ‘siesta’ break during which time I read some of my book in the shade and topped up my water from the freshly boiled water the porters had arranged. The weather was so hot, i’d already drank 1.5 litres and it was only 2pm!
Israel informed us that we had already completed more than 6km in the morning, leaving just 5km to do for the rest of the day, or as I calculated it, just 39km to Machu Picchu!
Trail map at the second checkpoint
Selfie, at the second checkpoint
Day one stamps!
The afternoon proceeded in much the same way – beautiful views, stops for explanations of the area we were in, and photo opportunities. Our camp site on the first night was actually past the ‘second day’ checkpoint, so we passed through that at the end of day one instead of the start of day two, which was equally as exciting as getting the KM82 stamp at the start of the day. My passport now had two Inca trail stamps on it, and all i’d gone is gently hiked 11km!
Arriving at the camp for the night, we rapidly went into Tea Time mode, which they take very seriously – fresh batches of popcorn appeared, along with a selection of teas and coca leaves for us to drink. We sat around and were taught the rules to Shithead – two games later and Al continued his losing streak at card games!
After tea time we had an introduction meeting with our porters. For our group of 8 hikers (Me, Al, Asfia, Steffi, Ruth, Mark, Katie and Simone) we had 19 porters on the trail, plus two guides! Gadventures look after the porters really well, providing them with the necessary equipment and limiting their weights to just 20kg. Some of the other operators we saw had obviously flouted the rules about maximum weights, and some porters were even hiking barefoot!
It was great to meet our porters, and most of them introduced themselves in Quechua, which is the local language in the Andes. Quechua is an onomatopoeic language, and we learned that the word for Baby is “wah wah” whilst the word for Guineapig is “Cuy”.
After tea time and the meeting were over, it was quickly time for dinner – another feast prepared by our chef including a vegetable soup, eggplant, potato and noodles… they like giving us double carbs, but quite frankly my body was appreciating it!
Once the light faded and dinner was over, it was time for a relatively early night… sleep is important on the trail, and we would be receiving our wake up call at 5am. I was really excited to be sleeping under the stars for the first time in years!