Monday, November 5, 2012

Peru Chapter 4 - Inca Trail, Day One

The Inca Trail! 

What an experience this was. Words just don't do it justice. 
The scenery was beautiful. Beyond beautiful. Each section of the trail has its own unique look, as the elevation, humidity, and sun exposure is different on each mountain. Parts were dry, others humid. Some parts looked a little like the Rocky Mountains, and other parts looked absolutely nothing like them. It was a challenging hike, with seriously steep uphills and perilous downhills. In kilometers, the hike doesn't look far. Which means it doesn't look too tough. 

But it was tough. 

Very tough. And very, very rewarding. 

I tried, unsuccessfully, to compress the whole hike into one post - but its just not possible. So without further ado - Day 1!

{Our amazing group at the very beginning of the hike. We had only just met, but we were all friends in no time}
{The first major Inca site we encountered, Llactapata, just a few hours in on the first day.}
{Sharing the trail with the locals. Families live along the trail, and we passed houses until halfway up dead woman's pass on day 2. Many people charged 1 Sole to use toilets near their homes and sold bottled water, gatorade, candy bars, and homemade corn beer, called Chicha, along the way.}
{Our guide, Ruben, is amazing. If you do the Inca trail, book with Llamapath and request him. Seriously.}

{Day 1 enthusiasm! Yes, we carried our packs the entire way. Everyone else hired an extra porter. Crazy? Maybe. Cheap? Decidedly. And no, it wasn't that bad!}
{"The Red Army", our porters, who each carried 25 kilos worth of camping gear to take care of us. These men are hardworking, focused, and dedicated. They definitely have my respect.}
{Ruben bought us a glass of Chicha from a woman with a Beer Stand close by. It doesn't look so great, but was surprisingly tasty. Especially after hearing how its made.}

{Just in case trail photos aren't your thing, here is a photo of an Inca trail puppy. You're welcome!}
{The view at our campsite. Stunning, isn't it?}
{Meeting our Chef and Porters}

{sadly, this is the best picture I have inside our breakfast, lunch, "happy hour" and dinner tent. The porters always set the table for us, bringing our meals to us course by course. We were very spoiled.}

We booked our hike with Llamapath, and I can't recommend them highly enough. Each step of the way we were well taken care of. Our guides were amazing. The porters were incredible. The food was delicious. And absolutely everything was done for us - tent set up and tear down, meals, clean up, etc. They even brought hot water to our tents in the evening so we could wash up. And in the morning, we were woken up with steaming mugs of coca tea. Not to mention the awesomeness of (non alcoholic) happy hour - the perfect way to end a day of hiking. Hot coffee, tea, milo, popcorn, and toasted buns with jam. Yes please! 

After seeing porters from other groups on the trail, its obvious that Llamapath takes good care of their porters. They carry proper packs, have good uniforms, and wear decent shoes. We were introduced to them by name, and introduced ourselves back. We were always reminded to show our respect and appreciation for them. It was great. 

The whole experience was made that much better by the specific group we hiked with. Our group of 13 were all similar in age, all vibrant and interesting and just generally great people. I haven't laughed so much, so hard, in a long time. Jo, Wei, Bhavna, Hitesh, Thi, Tina, Khuong, Huong, Cara, Andrew, and Matt - and of course Ruben and Silvio - you're all fantastic, and I'm so glad to have met you. Let's get together again somewhere, what do you say? 

Stay tuned for Day 2, 3, and 4 - Machu Picchu! 



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