Peru 2: The Inca Trek

Waking early, Simon and Ang went out into the street.  There, the team waited at the appointed pick up time for the Peru Treks bus to arrive.  No transport showed, so the team returned to the warmth of their hostel lobby, and had just sat down when a bus sped past their building.  This would later turn out to be their pick up.

Cuzco, early morning. Only the dogs and racers are awake

One hour went past without any bus arriving at their accommodation.  As per the instruction sheet, the team telephoned the Peru Treks office.  Rapid directions were given and the bus soon arrived.  Unusually for a tour that was typically solely for gringos, the team were spoken to in Spanish by the guide.  It would later be revealed that the office had put Ang and Simon’s nationality as Argentine, so the guide had naturally defaulted to the national language.  With these mix ups resolved, the team along with other teams from Australia, France, America, Ireland and the UK were driven up into the hills around Cuzco.

After three hours, the bus arrived at the Village of Ollyambanto, where an average breakfast was had before the bus continued off road to Km 82, the starting point for four day Inca treks.  Here last minute supplies were purchased and the group of 15 walkers, 15 porters and two guides set off.

The Amazing Exclusive Race teams pause for a photo at the start of the trail Porters getting their loads weighed

The walking initially was easy as the group got to know each other and the guide Caesar.  It was soon clear that Caesar’s extreme passion for all things Inca that this would be an enjoyable four days.  The group marvelled at the majesty of the countryside and walked their way up from Km82 to the small village of Wayllabamba twelve kilometres in the distance.

Ang with her fashionable walking poles

Arriving at the lunch stop, the team found out about the third office communication problem.  The trek staff had not been told about Simon’s dietary requirements, however surprisingly they quickly adapted.  Simon would later say “I was initially concerned because if you are walking for hours at a time you need a lot of food for energy.  Usually I have to go without on flights, buses, and often miss out on breakfasts.  But the Peru Trek cooking guys provided the best meals I’ve had yet in South America”.

Walking into Wayllabamba the team found their tent already set up and dinner near being served.  These three course meals were enjoyed and soon all teams went to sleep, to rest ahead of the next day, the hardest of the walk.

The racers’ tent

The group was woken by hot tea at the tent door.  Simon and Ang quickly readied themselves for the day ahead.  They would be climbing to the highest altitude of the trek, 4200m.  After a delicious breakfast, the group assembled for a coca ceremony.  Simon opted to not take part as the taste of the leaves was less than desirable.  Simon would complete the rest of the trek without coca assistance.  Ang completed the ceremony, but didn’t find the altitude a problem so didn’t try any more.  Others in the group seemed to almost be addicted to chewing the leaves, chewing many over the next three days.

With the ceremony completed, the group started walking up the long hill to Abra de Huarmihuañusca or Dead Woman’s Pass.  Soon one by one the porters raced by, with each carrying up to 25 kg on their backs.  Simon said at the time referring to the efforts of the porters that “they left us for dead.  Amazing”.  The altitude slowed Simon and Ang down and they enjoyed taking in the spectacular scenery, despite being in a race.

Inca trail stream On the way up to Dead Woman’s pass

Lunch was had in a meadow below the pass and it wasn’t long before the team finally reached the freezing top.  A couple of quick photographs were taken and then it was time to descend the wet slippery rock steps past waterfalls to the stunning second campsite of Pacamayo.  Oddly, the last and highest water sale point was the cheapest of all on way up the mountain to Dead Woman’s pass.  Other teams took advantage of this and also purchased some alcoholic beverages to celebrate summiting the pass.

The racers pause for a photo at the top of Dead Woman’s pass On the trail goes…
Another waterfall near the second night camp site

Once again a fantastic meal was had at the Pacamayo campsite and again the group was surprised at the high quality food being provided, including for a solo member of another team Australia, a birthday cake complete with piped “Happy Birthday” icing.  Rum was consumed in celebration, but owing to the increasing cold, the teams soon made their way to their tents.

Day three of the Inca Trek began similar to the first with Simon and Ang being woken and offered fresh hot tea at their tent door.  After quickly packing, and yet another delicious breakfast, the teams set off once again.  The passes for this day were lower than the previous, but there still was 15km to cover.

Packing a Peruvian backpack Note the pratical footware
Panorama showing the mountains above the campsite

Caesar enthusiastically explained each of the major run sites, detailing their significant and stressing the importance by saying things like “oh my god you guys have to know this.  This is amazing”.  He also liked to remind everyone that “you’re young, you’re on holidays. Why do you want to rush? Take your time and enjoy”. Simon and Ang liked the advice, and really enjoyed the trekking eah day. The walk continued through yet more spectacular scenery made even more so by the misty conditions.

The racers pause for a photo
Simon completes the Pachamama offering challenge Ang leaves her offering
An Inca outpost The dashing Caesar, points out a really interesting Inca artifact to the various Exclusive Race teams

As they reached the end of the day’s walk, after a three course lunch that included Alpaca, the weather closed in.  Not wanting to walk in order to keep warm, Simon and Ang raced down the famed “gringo killer” slippery and wet original Inca steps, past well preserved ruins before they walked into the valley next to Machu Picchu valley.

The racers are introduced to the porters in the meal tent
Ang kitted out in her patented rain protection ready to take on the gringo killer An Inca cave
The valley next to the valley with Machu Pichu in it

Views here were spectacular. The last hour of walking was savoured, with exception of one section where Simon tried to race a fully loaded porter down a section of the trail (and failed).  This mostly original trail descended from 4000m to a sedate 3000m culminating in a spectacular view of mountains and Inca terrace ruins.  After multiple group photos, the group walked the last twenty minutes into the camp of Wiñay Wayna.  There they found their tents once again erected at the last campsite for the trek.

The two guides just love taking group photos with everyone’s cameras Ang and Simon complete the jumping photo challenge
Inca trail orchid

That night, after dinner, the porters and cooks and guides were thanked and a token of appreciation was given.  Simon and Ang were so impressed with the quality of the food and their accommodation of Simon’s dietary requirements given the difficult circumstances (there are no supermarkets on the trail) that they provided a little extra privately to the cook and his assistant.  Then all teams went to sleep to prepare for the next day.

… To be continued.


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