Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Inca Trail Day 2

Day 2 was not “cutsie.”  Edwin told us at breakfast that we had a 5 hour hike up to the pass in the mountain.  The first and last thirds were gradual, but the middle was steep and consisted mostly of stairs.  I was again very thankful for ibuprofen.  The 1200 meter (~3600 foot) climb would have been very difficult without a painkiller.  Breakfast was tasty but small.  There was no way I could have made it just on that food.  Fortunately, we had prepared with snacks.  We’d stop every 30-45 minutes for a bit of water and food.  It was hard, but our breaks made it very doable.  Slow and steady was a superior option to attempting to go fast and tiring ourselves out.  At first it was sunny, but clouds rolled into the valley between peaks and we couldn’t see anything.  It is slightly harder to motivate one’s self when the views aren’t there.  Reaching 4200 meters (13,800 feet) was a rush though.  It only took us 3 hours and 45 minutes.  We started to learn that the times were set for the slowest of the group in order to make us feel accomplished instead of making them feel slow.  I wish the clouds had parted for us, but there were a few times where we could at least look down and see the campsite where we started.  That was a great feeling of accomplishment.  Next we had to go down about 600 meters (1800 feet) to reach our campsite.  It wasn’t aerobic like the way up, but I’ll tell you what it was still a challenge.  The scenery was great when the clouds weren’t covering it all up, but that wasn’t entirely enough to let me forget the soreness of my legs.  Descending was no easy task, especially after our already difficult morning. 

Meghan and I at almost 14,000 feet

A view of the valley during the decent.  Note, the mountains are not that short, the peaks in the center are just covered by clouds.

We arrived at the camp around 12:45.  We made great time.  Lunch was served around 1:30, then I had the best intentions of writing for this blog but fell asleep instead.  Our total altitude change was about a mile throughout the day, so I suppose that was warranted.  Before I knew it dinner was being served.  I should mention that meals on the trail were really quite good.  Salad, soup, main dish, dessert, and a drink.  And before dinner we always have tea and snacks, my favorite of which is popcorn.  This was only possible because of the 10 support staff who carried everything.  Tents, utensils, stools, food, etc.  All carried on foot by these guys.  One of them was 64 years old and had been doing this for 30 years.  I can’t even imagine that, the physical rigor of that job is almost unparalleled.  They carry more than us, have either sandals or basic tennis shoes, and still they always pass us on the trail because they need to clean up after us then beat us to the next location in order to set up for our arrival.  So impressive.

This night we learned that our campsite for Thursday night had changed.  It was now 2 hours further from Machu Picchu, making a sunrise at the ruins almost impossible.  I was saddened by that, but it wasn’t the end of the world to me.  The probability of seeing a sunrise isn’t great during this season anyway.  However, the Germans in the group were very upset by that.  That made sense to be, because they paid extra money specifically to see the sunrise.  Edwin was thinking of offering an earlier leaving time for them so that they could still get there on time, but it would still be a long hike in the dark.  It sounded like they wanted an earlier train, but they weren’t going to be able to get that either.  I felt bad that so many things were going wrong for them on this trip. 

Another interesting side-note, that extra “c” in Picchu is very important.  Edwin taught us that Machu in Quechua means “old” and Picchu (pronounced pic-chu) means “mountain.”  However, the Quechua word pichu refers to a male anatomical feature.  Lesson learned; pronounce the “c.”

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