Cusco, Peru
3° 16' S 72° 25' W
Jul 21, 2006 13:32
Distance 1128km

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Text written in: English

Inca Trail .. Day 1

July 21st was very dark at 5am. Cusco was already busy (everything gets going so early here). 3 cups of Mate de Coca (Cocaine Tea) and a pile of warm croissants with apricot jam saw me waiting for Peru Treks chap to knock on the door to collect me. At 5.30am Henry, a little wirery Pervian arrived, effortlessly humped my pack on his back and we took off down the 148 steps of the Calle Reablossa,( an none of the 5 old ladies selling goods in sight).. with me puffing behind him. At the Plaza de Armes we called into another Hostel and collected Angela, a young Ozzie girl from Mudgee, somewhere near Sydney (anything within 100miles is near to Sydney). She is travelling alone around South America and on up to Canada to do a years work placement, with the help of the Mudgee Rotary Club.. The 3 of us stood on the corner, waiting for the Peru Treks coach. Every taxi in Cusco must have been out at that god-unearthly time. If they see someone standing still they hoot their horns to attract your attention, and shout at you...."dua yuo wana taxio, amigo?".... Imagine the noise at 5.30am.  Maybe they were just hooting at Angela.

Very smart coach arrives, we pile in, meet Juvie, our guide and a right Peruvian comedian, for the first time. On to a few more hotels and by now there were 10 happy people sitting on the bus. Last hotel call and lots of rapid fire Spanish from everyone except us 10 who couldn't understand a word. When the bus got moving again it transpired that the last 6 of our group had all gone down with something bad, and could not join us. (maybe a doggy cuy). So that left just us 10.  Angela the Austalian, from Mudgee ... Bob & Jane the Yankies, from Washington, ....Ryan & Sharla the Canadians, from Calgery, ....Zoe & Jamie the Brits, from Tavistock, .... Helena & Ian the Brits, from London....and me.  We had also by now picked up about 10 of our porters and were on  the way to Chincero (where I was the other day, and a local community that Peru Treks support).  45 mins and the sun was doing its usual spectacular show for us as we pulled into Cinchero and loaded up with the remaining 9 porters. The coach now had all of us on. 10 trekers, 17 porters, a cook (Wilfredo) and assistant cook, Guide (Juvire) and Assistant Guide (Herbert). Most of us the fell asleep for an hour until we descended down a hairy hairpin road to the big town of Ollantaytambo.

Off the tarmac road went our smart coach and onto a dirt road meant for mules and people only. After lots of backing-ups we bust out into the main square of Chillica and the coach was immediatly surrounded by hords of villagers trying thier damndest to sell us something, including a lad flogging camera films. He needs to catch up with the time as we were all digitalized up! As this was breakfast stop, and Juvie gets a free breakfast if he takes his party to a certain cafe, we collectively agreed to let Juvie go first. We all stood ready, opened the coach door and made a run for the spiral staicase to the 1st floor cafe.. Good move.  Good breakfast, getting to know each other... this is going to be a well gelled group I reckon!

After an hour, new walking poles in hand, ( good old walking pole is still doing the rounds of the Worlds airport carosels), its off again down ever narrowing roads, through, it seemed, local's back gardens, criss-crossing the railway track, until the road came to a dead end at the 82K (the railway marks every kilometer of its track with a kilometer post...this was kilometer 82). This is at 8528ft. We were again besieged by locals trying to sell everything from drinks to chocolate, hats to gloves, and hot drinks to steaming corns.. "non gracias, non gracias"  went onto auto repeat. . Anyone wanting to back out and go back to Cusco this was the last chance as the coach was off. The coach went back empty, and we set off down the path to the Inca Trail Control Point. We were checked in and had our Passports stamped.

Over the dubious suspension bridge across the Urabamba River (past a little cross with fresh flowers on it.. worring) , and made our first steps on the Inca Trail. In an energetic mood (that would soon change) we set off at a cracking pace after Juvie had laid the law down to us what we must and must not do. Within a few hours we were getting into the swing of tramping, we were having regular stops as we passed through little communities all trying to sell us things. (no Devonshire Cream Teas available ...yet).  At one stop, an 'adobe' (mud block) house had a proper funny guy as an occupant; a 3ft window was open with Coke, water, chocolates, etc on display on the window ledge. Above the window he had a sign...'Supermarket now open.  MasterCard and Visa accepted'. I was dying to call his bluff but the team were moving off. After about 3 miles and a 1000ft of contouring the mountains on narrow, rough paths, with vista opening up at every turn, and the snow capped mountain of Mt.Veronica at 19,500ft looking down on us, we arrived at a plataeu 800ft above the remains of the Inca Town of Llactapata with the ever present Urabamba River winding around.  The ariel view was a perfect introduction of all that was to come, in showing us the efficient layout and terracing of Inca towns.

Juvie bombarded us with his Mr. Hiram Bingham biased (against) information. A much needed break. Then onwards and upwards to the 9600ft point and we met up with our porters again.. this time with a big surprise...4 yellow bowls of water, 4 soap dishes, and 4 hand towels outside a big tent waited for us. We all dutifully had a much needed wash.. everywhere is so dry and dusty. Into the big tent..  table (with cloth) .. stools... eating irons and a huge display of food that was so appetizing. It was a feast, and it was only lunch. The Mate de Coca flowed and all was looking great for a 1st class Trek.. if this standard continued. Siesta for 2 hours and then winding our way up the valley to Wayllabamba at 10137ft. At the head of this valley is an Inca Lookout and Supply post, and is the last of the outposts of the locals before the mountain passes start. Again another taste of what was to come. Our porters had beaten us up (the hill, not literally) and our sleeping igloo tents were up, the dining tent was up, table laid, and a great smell of something coming from the cook tent.

By now we were all getting on well with each other and were enjoying the yomp and the company (or at least I was, and I think everone else was). The yellow bowls called at 6pm and we sat down, with our guides, to Pork steaks, (except the 3 Veggies) mixed vergetables (green beans, broccolli, carrots, and corn...all fresh), rice with peppers, peas, and sweetcorn all in potatoes with grilled cheese over. A veritable feast at 10000ft+. Oh I forgot, we started with Aspargaus soup (sprinkled with parsley). We finished with a local pudding of some sort. It was deep red with bits in it and it was delicious. All washed down with Coffee, Milo (a choc. drink that made Bob very happy) or any sort of tea you fancied. Hot water with Coca leaves being the most popular. Just eat, and enjoy. This was the first of 3 great Dinners. No washing up, just a chat around the gas lamp. No one had fallen out and we all agreed it had been a super day.

The stars were so intense in a cold crystal clear night, it was wonderfull to just lie on your back and look at them, so many. The Southern Cross was well visable, low in the sky, and brought happy back memories of Dawn, Chris and I sitting round the camp fire on the beach, way down at the deserted bottom of South Island, New Zealand five years ago.  I  wrapped up well in my furry thermal sleeping tracksuit, socks, and hat, laid out the sleeping mat, and snuggled into the very warm red 'mummy' sleeping bags supplied by Peru Treks. In the total silence of the mountains I was soon asleep, very happy and contented.

Photos / videos of "Inca Trail .. Day 1":

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