Peru Day 4-The Inca Trail Begins

For nearly two years mom and I had talked about going to Peru to hike the Inca Trail. For nearly a year I had been training for it. And for months I had worried about actually doing it. Then on Tuesday June 22nd the alarm clock on my phone went off at 4 am and it was here.

I wanted to not have to rush so I got up first. I showered (luckily it was nice and warm) and went to the breakfast buffet at the hotel that started at 5 am. I wasn’t necessarily hungry at 5 am but I was about to go hiking for four days I figured it was best to eat as much as possible.

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My mom choose not to eat at the hotel since we were going to be stopping right before the trek began to eat somewhere.

After returning to our hotel room it was a little last minute organizing and then it was time.

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We had the hotel put our big suitcases into storage and we waited for our guide, Marco, to pick us up. A little bit after six arrived and we were off.

When we got into the mini-van we found that we only had one other tourist on our trip a Dutch man named, Kees (who I thought looked very grumpy but then again who isn’t grumpy so early in the morning). It was so early in the morning that it was hard not to fall asleep. I actually didn’t want to. I tried to stay awake as the mini-van climbed out of Cuzco. In all likelihood I’ll never be back to Peru again and I wanted to see as much of the countryside as possible. As we left Cuzco I noticed more stray dogs than ever before, some makeshift landfills and some pretty bad living conditions.

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I also found it interesting to watch the area outside of Cuzco wake up as the morning progressed. At a certain point the fog was so thick that I couldn’t see anything so I did take a little nap.

After about two hours we arrived in a little town. It was here where we stopped to have breakfast.

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The restaurant we ate at was very cold but the food was good enough.

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Even though I had already eaten at the hotel I wanted to begin the hiking with a full stomach so I had a second breakfast. At the restaurant my mom and I found that we were having communication issues with Kees. His English was shaky at best but we all tried.

After breakfast we were joined in the mini-van by our four porters and the cook. Some of the road on the last little bit that morning was dirt.

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Then before we knew it we were at the start of the Inca trail.

Naturally, we weren’t the only group starting out. There were several other groups in the parking lot getting their stuff together.

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I have issues with my knees, back and neck so before I had left Los Angeles I had bought two cans of CVS pain spray. I figured the best way to make sure I didn’t have any issues was just to spray the hell out of my neck, back and knees every chance I got. Since I was carrying a seventeen pound backpack I didn’t waste any time using my spray before we even started.

I was very awake by the time we already started and I was excited.

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As nervous and scared as I was I found that I was in a very good place both physically and psychology as we began our journey.

I had taken two I-Pods on the trek in case I needed music to keep going. I didn’t want to use the music. I wanted to just be completely emerged in the scenery and the journey of the Andes. That first day I briefly used one of my I-Pods but decided that I didn’t really need it and that it would be best to save the battery for later in the trek when I was more in need of music to motivate me.

The beginning of the trek was a little challenging but nothing I hadn’t face in my training.

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I became very grateful for the elevation training I had done in the San Gabriel Mountains outside of Los Angeles when I saw two groups have to turn around because of people having altitude sickness. One woman had to be my age or younger and she practically looked green. This made the fact that my mom (60) and Kees (66) were doing the trek all the more impressive.

There were some Incan ruins during our first half day of hiking.

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Marco told us that they were check points on the way to Machu Picchu. We even got to go inside of some of them. Doing the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu allows you to see so many more Incan ruins than if you take the train. It is a defiant plus to choosing the more challenging option.

Of course even when there weren’t Incan ruins the beauty of the Andes and the Peruvian countryside were really impressive.

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One thing that I was in awe of the entire trek was the porters.

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These men put so much weight on their backs and they haul ass so that they can always be ahead of their group at the next planned stop. That is exactly what our porters and cooks did and how they had lunch waiting for us after about three hours of hiking. I was really impressed with the quality of food that they cooked for us the entire time (except the very last breakfast but more on that on day 7).

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Our lunch was nice rest but it was a little overwhelming to think we had to go hike for three to four more hours after already hiking so much and on a very full stomach. But that’s what we signed up for.

Another thing that was interesting the entire time along the trail was the issue of using the bathroom. Sometimes there were free bathrooms and other times there were local people who would charge you one sol to use their bathroom, then of course there was always the going in nature option. Early on in the first day there was little boy sitting outside of his family’s house collecting money for people who needed to use the bathroom. It was kind of cute.

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Increasingly the bathrooms were kind of more challenging. At first the toilets didn’t have seats and as we went on it got even more interesting (more on that in a later blog).

As we continued in the afternoon we all continued to enjoy the beauty of the Andes but we were very happy to reach our campsite.

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Although it wasn’t the longest day of hiking it was a long day because we had to get up so early to leave Cuzco.

Our campsite was on a local’s property and next to their house. The people who lived there had dogs and pigs kind of roaming around everywhere. I found the pigs both fascinating and kind of annoying. It was amusing that they had DirecTv out in the middle of nowhere Peru.

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We had about two hours to relax before dinner. As night fell on the Andes it began to get very cold. Dinner was excellent, although Kees complained that my mom and I were too loud which kind of pissed me off. We were told we would be woken up at 5:30 am so that we could eat at 6 am and begin hiking by 6:45 am.

After dinner it was time to start getting ready to sleep. As I brushed my teeth I marveled at how beautiful the stars were but I was so cold I didn’t spend much time looking at them.

I made one big mistake the first night. When we first go to camp I didn’t change my socks. So even though I was wearing an extra pair of wool socks over my regular athletic socks my feet were cold because they had gotten wet from all the sweat. I have poor circulation in my feet anyway so this was just making it worse. I was all bundled up in a hoodie, a hat and gloves.

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Still, I couldn’t sleep because my feet were so cold despite the fact I was very tired. I was so upset. I switched my socks out and kept adding more socks, I figured as some point I’ll put enough pairs on that my feet will get warm. Eventually, after blowing on my feet to warm them up and with five (5!) pairs of socks on I feel sleep.

In the night I had to pee but it was difficult to put my sock club foot in my hiking shoes. I figured a way to scoot out of the tent so I could pee. I’m totally blind without my glasses/contacts but even without them I could still kind of see the amazing starts, but only for a second because it was cold and I didn’t want to risk my feet getting cold again so it was back to the tent with my barley warm feet and five pairs of socks….The first day of the Inca trail was quite an adventure. Three more still lay ahead.

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