With excitement bubbling inside, we started day one - 16kms over approximately 7 hours. We were told it would be an ‘easy day’ but as you come to realise ‘easy days’ on the trail are only comparative.
The first couple of hours were comprised of flats and gently undulating paths which only lulled us further into a false sense of security at the day's ease.
We had started the trail, in earnest, by 9am so it would be at least 2pm before we were expected at our lunch location. Between 9-11am we kept a good pace together as a group and barely noticing any upward slopes. The next few hours before lunch was much steeper than early which had us doubting our guides statement ‘today will be a walk in the park’.
In fact many people had told me how easy day one was. Sure the first half of the day was but that quickly changed.
I'm not saying it was ridiculously steep or undoable, no, but it was far more of a challenge at the outset than I had mentally prepared for.
Just before lunch we stopped at our first Inca ruin for the trail, Wayllabamba, and took photos. In what we came to recognise as typical of Inca ruins, there were; houses, terraces, and sites for worship all overgrown by vegetation.
At lunch we all wolfed down our food, we had been walking for 5 hours and not eaten for 6. Each meal prepared by the chef was delicious, full of carbs for our hungry bodies.
We took off again not long after for another 2 hours of walking. Now it became evident that the easy trail was over and we were in the land of stairs, steep inclines and pain. But it also meant amazing views.
We passed another ruin called Ayapata and got into camp around 430pm. Our camp was located at an altitude of 3300 mts, we had began at 2720 mts that morning.
With every rise in altitude I felt it was harder to breathe, to catch my breath, I felt unfit even though my body was willing.
I became a little worried. When I first arrived in Cusco, some 3 days before commencing the trail, I suffered altitude sickness quite badly. I had terrible headaches, vomiting, and I found it difficult to eat. After a good night sleep and plenty of water, and the help of altitude medication, I felt a little better. But I knew we would go even higher on the Inca Trail, I just hoped I would not suffer too much.
So far so good, rocking into camp on time we sat down to a hot milo, and taught the Brits how it was done and also why Milo is so much better than Ovaltine. We scoffed popcorn. Then dinner came; meat, veg, rice. We all ate too much, a decision most of us regretted in the morning.
The light disappears in the mountains around 6pm so after dinner there is not much more to do than going to bed. Wake up call was to be at 520am so bed was a great idea.
As I was getting ready to sleep I heard the gents in our group shrieking in laughter over the toilets. Your standard squat toilet situation. Someone had exploded all over the bathroom, painting the floors and walls making it unusable for all, and leaving our group in stitches.
We bundled ourselves into our tents and I lay awake convincing myself I didn't need to pee for the 4th time that night before relenting and using the ‘Inca Toilet’ (read: the great outdoors).
My mum had completed the Inca Trail some 2 years prior and had told me day 2 was by far the worst. I must confess it was something that I wasn't looking forward to but looking back it was one of the most rewarding days of my life.
Stay tuned for part 3 of our Inca Trail adventure to find out how we got through day 2 and the dreaded ‘Dead woman's pass’.