Friday, December 19, 2008

Inka Trail Trek Day 1: The Beauty Surrounds You

The morning of the trek, our guide company picked us up at our hostel for a two hour van ride out to the start of the trek. Since our party was small (4 guests, 1 guide, 3 porters and a cook), we all fit in the van and got to know each other. The drive was beautiful, just beautiful. Two hours through what is known as the Sacred Valley area which consists of many small farming communities where indigenous Peruvians build their houses out of the same red mud they farm and plow by hand. Where mountains full of glaciers tower over villages and huge rushing waterfalls carry water down for drinking an irrigation. Did you know that Peru is one of the hardest hit places due to global warming? They are predicting these glaciers will disappear in our lifetime. Anyway, if you were wondering, Peru is magically beautiful, and I am not being overly extravagant in my compliments.

We stopped for breakfast in Ollantaytambo about 1.5 hours from Cusco and picked up two of our porters. There is an Incan ruin in this town and it was bustling with tourists and tour companies preparing for the trail. We then had another 45 minute ride to Piscacucho at Km 84 where we began our trek. The day was sunny and warm even though we had been warned that this was the "rainy season" and everyone was pumped to begin.

Little kids at the trail head checking out the blondie. They kept peaking at me from around the corner. Can I take one of these home with me?

This women sold Tom a last minute hanky. The red guys in the back ground were all porters for a large 22 person group from another tour company. We much prefered our small group and three friendly porters.

The beginning of the trail is mostly a level dirt trail that winds along this river. When the Spanish invaded this part of the world, the Incans destroyed this part of the trail so that they could protect the location of Manchu Pichu which is why it is not built with the legendary Incan stones. The trail winds though many little indigenous housing settlements and we passed a lot of local traffic with people carrying their crops out on their backs to sell. The kids living in these little houses were so adorable, I couldn't stop taking their pictures. We also passed our first Incan ruin and Frank showed us how to chew coca leaves the proper Incan way. He was so cute, he brought a lot of photos to explain things as we went, teaching us about Incan history and the history of the pilgrimages that had occurred along this very trail. We loved Frank!

Frank (our guide) told us that this was our training day where he could see what kind of shape we were in. We soon proved that we were accomplished hikers as we just about beat the porters to the lunch locale. Our cook ran by and yelled "speedy gonzales" to indicate that they had to run to set up our lunch tent and cook before we arrived there. We ended up just deciding every other day to skip the lunch until we were done with the hike for the day and just eat lunch and dinner at the campsite (this saved our porters a lot of extra packing and unpacking of the food tent).

Burgers for lunch. Tom was pretty excited about the ketchup, but it was no Heinz but it was much better than much of what he got. Our cook Roberto here was a funny guy who wore a lot of funny hats. Here he is giving us some coca leaves for tea (we drank this many times a day).

After lunch we had another couple of hours before reaching our campsite. This day was really quite easy and we all felt very refreshed at the end of it. It didn't hurt that our campsite was beautiful with a view of amazing glacier capped mountains and its own accompanying Incan ruin. It was situated at around 10,000 feet above sea level and therefore the weather was pretty mild and not too cold.

These porters are hard core with their sandels and their 55 - 75 pounds on their backs.

Relaxing at the campsite. Our view from our tent was amazing... see below.

We played some Incan ruin soccer with some little boys and cards with another little girl who just came right into our tent area and sat down while we were playing eucre. She taught us a game with no apparent rules where we all seemed to win and then we gave her our extra cards (2-8) that you don't use for eucre. She was pretty excited about it. Dinner that night was delicious beef stir fry with chocolate and a plantain for desert. We went to bed early due to rain and to prepare for the big climb which awaited on at the beginning of day two. Training day was over.

1 comment:

Jonah said...

Beautiful place and photos. Those sandal-wearing porters are inspiring.