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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Peruvian Adventure 2016 - Inca Trail Day 1 (Piskacucho to Wayllabamba)

Our alarms went off at 5am. Gotta love planning adventure trips! We quickly showered and finished packing and prepping our gear for the next few days. Both of us were a little nervous about what was in store for us!

A few minutes after 6am, our ride to the start was at our hotel. We loaded our gear and headed off to pick our partners in this journey, Hannah and Brenna, not to mention our porters. Only about 1.5 hours of car time until we stopped for breakfast at Ollantaytambo in the little square we drove by the day before. Since we had driven this same road the day before at night, it was nice to see it in daylight and try to notice things we missed the first time around.

Finally, we made it to Ollantaytambo and got out at a little cafe on the square to use the restrooms and eat breakfast. It was quite delicious.

By the time we were finished, the van was fully loaded with our porters for the trek, and we set off to Piskacucho. To get there from Ollantaytambo, we had another 30-40 minutes on a dirt 1 lane road that supported two way traffic. Our van got a little close to other cars trying to squeeze past the other way. We passed through a few small towns as well.

Once we arrived at Piskacucho, the porters quickly got to work as we posed for a few pictures before heading to the control where we had to show our passports to gain entry to the Inca Trail. We only had to wait a few minutes before we could begin our crossing of the bridge and officially begin the Inca Trail. Of course we posed for more photos before we took off on our way.

During this first part of our trek, we saw a lot of farms and along the side of the trail. The trail followed the Urubamba River, and the train tracks that led to Machu Picchu, as it snaked in the bottom of a valley between the mountains. The combination of farms, the river, high tension power lines and the train tracks was certainly not what I was expecting. Granted, we did not do much research. We just figured that we wanted to see Machu Picchu, and this was there more adventurous way to get there. Besides, it was always interesting when a horse, donkey, or cow came up the trail either in front of or behind you! Added excitement!

Our first real rest stop was in Miskay, a small village that seemed to cater to tourists. There was a snack stand on the trail that sold all sorts of snacks and beverages, including bottled water. We took it as an opportunity to nibble on some snacks in our pack, and Kari got to experience her first squat toilet. Upon her return, she mentioned that she was ready to go to India!

After our quick break, we began climbing up out of the valley. Another lung opener for what was about to come. We also got to see our second Inca site of the hike at Llaqtapata. Our first was a small spot near the train tracks prior to Miskay.

While we did not get to walk around, we had an awesome vantage point on a cliff up above. It was beautiful. There were some pre-Inca ruins on top of the cliff that we did get to explore. Our guide, Christian, mentioned that the higher class Incas used this spot to be able to look over the city. Not far away were two sacrificial spots. Both were relatively flat and away from the rest of the city.

Llaqtapata was the primary city for all the farmlands in the surrounding area. Christian mentioned that this city supported about 1000 Incas during its time. Pretty impressive!

Throughout the trek, Christian would point out various plants and provide a little history and/or information about them. One of the plants he pointed out was the prickly pear cactus. Both because of the prevalence of it as well as the bacteria that grew on it that produce the deep red color when killed. Luckily, we passed a little girl near Hatuncancha, another village on the Inca Trail, and Christian paid her for one prickly pear. We were able to try the prickly pear and, boy, was it delicious!

As we continued our journey, we were in awe of the beauty surrounding us. It was absolutely magnificent. We were also fortunate to have relatively cloudy skies with only a couple quick drizzles. It helped keep us cool without getting super wet. Probably the most entertaining part was a donkey jam we got ourselves in before lunch. We caught a family of farmers hauling their loads home on the backs of some horses and donkeys, plus a few dogs for good measure. When they stopped, we would pass only to be passed back by some. Eventually, we were completely surrounded! Wild!

We were all excited to walk into the lunch spot. Everything smelled delicious and we had some time to rest. Our chef, Mariano, made trout with rice, bread, and other goodies. Despite not really liking fish, it was not bad. We all ate up and finished lunch with some more coca tea to help with the altitude.

Following lunch, we had our final hour hike to camp for the night. It was nice to walk and enjoy the views. Peru is a very beautiful country. To our porters surprise, and I think ours too, we beat them to camp by about 20 minutes. We were laying and relaxing when Julio Caesar, one of the youngest porters, came strolling into camp, all smiles and congratulating us on a job well done. Really, the porters were the studs of the day. They start early, hike fast, carrying all the gear, and work until everything has been cleaned up from dinner. It is super impressive to watch them work.

Once camp was set up, we were able to relax for a bit until tea time and then dinner. It was nice to try to recuperate after our first day of hiking. One of the super fun things about this camp site was the little sheep behind our tents. It would occasionally make noise when we were inside the tents. Only mildly creepy.

Dinner for the evening was chicken with rice, mixed veggies, and bread. We followed dinner with more tea and introductions with our porters. Our porters were Andres, Julio Caesar, Beltran, Juan, Ignacio, Mariano (chef), and Cosimé. Most came from the same area and are related to one another in some way. It was pretty neat sharing a little about ourselves and learning a little about them. Afterwards, we all went to bed early, tired from the day.

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