Our alarms rang at 4:15 and we hurried to pack the last tid bits of stuff. Ethan took our extra bags to the front desk and I came down last to find Primo patiently waiting us. We hopped on the bus and Richard (the 74 yr old), Maaike and Oliver were already on. We picked up Wendy and Desda on the way out of town. We were all so tired that we didn’t really talk. And I think we were all a little nervous. We drove for about an hour then picked up our crew of porters, the cook and all the gear.
We drove another 30 minutes or so to our breakfast stop. This meal wasn’t included in the price of our tour, which we found odd. We thought it might be expensive since it was a touristy stop, but it wasn’t. Ethan and Ali had avocado and tomato sandwiches and I had a banana pancake. After breakfast we drove another hour to Ollantaytambo, where we would begin walk from. We got off the bus and the porters laid out a big sheet of plastic for us to organize our stuff on. We gave them our sleeping stuff to carry and they packed up there enormous bags. Some of the bags I swear were bigger than the porters themselves. They carried all the food, the tents, the cooking tent and meal tent, stools, utensils, pots pans and everything else we would need. It was amazing how much stuff we needed.
Once everyone was packed up we walked down to the first check point. The Inca Trail is heavily regulated and only 500 people including porters and guides are allowed on the trail per day. You have to have a ticket and it gets stamped at each check point. At the first check point we had to show our passports and our tickets. There were several other groups waiting as well, but the process didn’t take long. Before we knew it we were on the Inca Trail! We stoppes to take a few pictures with the entrance sign and headed out.
We walked for about 2 hours until we reached our first Inca site. It was down in a valley and we stopped above it so Primo could tell us about its history. Not gonna lie… I wasn’t really paying attention. It was 2 more hours until lunch and that’s all I could think about. So far the trail had been mostly flat with a few very small hills. After the Inca site it was a lot more uphill. With the altitude and being out of shape it was not easy. I fell behind the group a bit and ended up going at the same pace as Richard. We finally reached our lunch spot and I was soooo happy.
The food was awesome. We had chips and guacamole, soup, fresh vegetables and potatoes and rice. We let them know ahead of time that we were vegans and we were worried we would just be eating rice the whole time, but if this lunch was any indication of the rest of the meals, we knew we were in good hands.
While we were eating this little boy came up and starting wandering around our stuff. Primo said he was looking for snacks in our bags…. little thief! We have him some food and he sat down on one of our stools. He was so adorable and didn’t speak any English. Ali and I both had to use the bathroom and he followed us as we left. He walked all the way to the bathroom with us and while I was in there he was trying to get ali to go behind the building with him. She had no idea what was back there, so she didn’t follow him. When I came out he was up on the balcony of this little house and started spitting down in my direction. I made a few gross faces hoping he would stop. I guess that only encouraged him because the next thing I knew he had his pants down and he was peeing through the railing! So weird. Ali and I made a wide loop to get past him so he didn’t spit or pee on us and joined back up with the group. The kid just followed us though and grabbed a walking pole that he wanted to sword fight with. He was cute but I was definitely grossed out.
After lunch it was two more hours uphill. I struggled to keep up and hoped that our guide wasn’t too annoyed. Richard and I fell behind and I was super worried we were going to get to camp really late. We ended up getting there right at 5:30, which is the time that Primo said we would. Everyone else got there about 20 minutes before us. Phew!
The camp site was host to several other groups and was set up in series of terraces. Each group had their own level. At the bottom was the public bathroom and an outdoor sink. Some groups carry their own camp toilets, but our group used the public toilet. They were super gross and right next to the jungle. Anywho, the porters set up our tents already and were working on our tea time snacks and dinner. It was so nice to walk into an already set up camp. We got our sleeping stuff from the porters and set them up in our tents. Then we had a few minutes to hang out and get to know our group a little better.
Then it was time for tea and the best part of the day… popcorn! I don’t know how they made the popcorn or why it was so good, but we devoured it in minutes. We also had piping hot tea and crackers with jam. Primo briefed us on our next day as we waited for dinner. Day 2 would be the hardest with 4 hours of uphill walking to the top of the highest mountain pass on the trail. Primo tried to give us slow pokes a few pointers, such as “walk 10-20 minutes then take a break, rather than taking a break every 3-5 minutes” and “breathe normally.” I appreciated his concern, but neither of those was gonna work for me. I was also a little nervous that he was frustrated with how slow we were going.
Dinner was delicious and I felt 1000 times better after getting off my feet and having a hot meal. We went to bed almost right after dinner since we had to wake up at 5:30 to prep for our long and difficult day 2.