From Wasdale to Machu Picchu: The Inca Trail Day 1 and Day 2
Inca Trail Day 1 and Day 2 (review)
Several years ago, Leza Maloney and her partner, John, took up trekking in order to improve their health and enjoy the great outdoors! They became familiar with the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team, a group of volunteers who rescue distressed individuals from the mountains. They admired their work and became intent on devising an ideal fundraiser for the team, and while watching television one night, a program about Machu Picchu provided the perfect answer!
Within 24 hours, their trip to Peru to hike the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was booked, and there was no turning back! Once in Cusco, they met with their tour guide, packed their allotted 5kg bags, and were off to the start of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu… Of this adventure, two lovely articles: the first part just below here and the second part.
DAY ONE Inca Trail: FROM KM82 TO HUAYLLABAMBA
The ramshackle minibus, roof loaded sky-high, collected us from our hotel in Cusco. Our companions for the next 4 days were a couple from New Zealand, a couple from London and a family from the US with their two daughters. From Cusco, it was a good three hours to the start of the Inca Trail at KM 82, to meet our porters, have our documents checked, and passports stamped with the Inca Trail entrance stamp, and then walk across the suspension bridge over the vast Urubamba River.
Our porters set off ahead of us, loaded up with packs, gas bottles, tents, and food – some of the packs looked as tall as them, and they were actually running off into the distance wearing only sandals!
Once over the bridge, we were officially on the dusty trail at 8,528 feet. The heat was already unbearable and it was clear this wasn’t going to be as easy a first day as we´d hoped. We followed the Urubamba River for a while, slowly gaining height. The views and the roar of the river were amazing. Ivan kept telling us to go ´slowly, slowly, slowly´ and it was clear, with the heat and the altitude, we weren’t able to do anything else. I´d wrongly thought that being up in the big mountains in the Lake District every weekend would be enough to prepare us for the Andes in Peru. How wrong I was!
After a couple of hours, we reached the first archaeological site at Llaqtapata. The porters clapped our arrival and gave us each a cool drink and bowl of warm water to freshen up. 40 minutes later, we were off again to our first night camp. Apparently we were on the ´Peruvian flats´– something of a joke for the rest of the trip for flat it certainly wasn´t! Starting to ascend again, it was clear I was struggling with the altitude. Every step was painful on my chest. Ivan insisted on taking my pack. What on Earth had I let myself in for?
We descended downhill, then across a river before another steep climb up. A fantastic vantage point greeted us with views over the valley to the ruins and many terraces of Patallaqta Qentimark. Just amazing! How did the Incas build such beautiful temples and forts in such hard to reach places? A brief rest and water stop then we were off again reaching our overnight stop at 10,137 feet, some 2 hours later. It´s surprising just how good a wet wipe session at the end of every day can feel! After another delicious meal, and not quite believing we´d all survived our first day after seeing some very fit people turn back with altitude sickness, we were tucked up and drifting off to sleep by 8pm, to the sound of the Urubamba and the harmony of millions of frogs.
DAY TWO: FROM HUALLABAMBA TO PACAYMAYO
Coca tea, another bowl of warm water and a hearty breakfast later, and we were on our way at 7am for Warmiwanusca, the highest pass of the Inca Trail, the well known Dead Woman´s Pass, at 13,776 feet. It seemed a million miles away and the heat was unbearable even though most of the first section was under the shelter of trees, glimpses of the Andes jungle peeking through. A wonderful lunch greeted us – though we all struggled to eat it – then we were on our way again. We could see the top of the pass – so high and so far away. Our ascent, cutting its way up the mountain, was going to be long, hot, and hard with no shade at all. Then, as if by divine intervention, a cloud came over, putting us in the shade for 2 hours – just enough time to get to the top. The higher we climbed, the bigger the Inca steps and the more effort required. I wondered how tall were these Incas to have managed all these big steps, or did they make them this way to keep people away?
Slowly, slowly, slowly…if I´d gone any slower, I´d have gone backwards! And still I wondered what I was doing, taking on this challenge and in so much pain with every breath but, taking in one of my many ´view stops´. I knew it wasn´t just for me but for a worthwhile charity, so best just get one foot in front of the other and do it!
Finally the summit was in sight, John went on ahead to video my final few steps. The nearer I got, the more everyone cheered and clapped, but his was the only voice I really heard – he was clearly so pleased for me making the hardest and most painful experience of my life to date. I was too overwhelmed to speak! The sense of achievement was like nothing I´ve ever experienced.
We descended steeply down thousands of Inca steps – with no pain or breathlessness. Every so often I´d look back to my nemesis, Dead Woman´s Pass. Finally after 8 hours, we arrived at Paqaymayo at 11480 feet, our highest camp of the Inca Trail.
Want to see how the story continues?
Here is the second part of Leza and John’s Inca Trail adventure