Saturday, June 23, 2012

Peru/Brazil/Argentina Day 5: Inca Trail... go!

May 7, 2012
Peru Day 5: Inca Trail... go!

And so begins our epic tromp (or, is it "trapse"? Maybe "schlep") up the epic Inca Trail!

Ugh... too early!
Cusco at sunrise
We started with an early-to-rise time of 4:45am (uggghhhhhh!!!!!) Crazy. The bus picked us up at exactly the scheduled time, 5:15am (uugghhh!!!!!!!!!!). We picked up some other peeps and then headed on a bus for 1.5 hours to a breakfast place in a little town somewhere near Urubamba or Ollantaytambo. My stomach was a little nervous I think for the hike (or something) so I didn't go too crazy on the all-you-can-eat reasonably healthy breakfast, we're gonna have plenty of great food on the hike in any case. I bought an "emergency Gatorade" :) And also they had walking sticks which I was waiting for, I was definitely keen to get one of those. It was basically a long fat dowel stick but with a cool Peru-y handle. Nice. It was something much less like insane-o'-clock by the time we got to breakfast so I took some time to quickly meet and say Yo to all the awesome people hiking with us.

After 45 min or so it started to get a bit bumpy, but no worries. We got to the area just outside the checkpoint and got our sunblock on (high altitude = strong UV rays) and all the last things we needed all packed up. There was the last "real" bathroom for a while so we all made good use out of it! We got our packs all ready to roll and off we went towards the first checkpoint.

Get 'yer packs on, let's roll!
Everyone a little nervous for the hike, but excited
Our awesome hiking group at the start of the Inca Trail!

As we were waiting in line at the passport check, of course the 2 people behind me were Canadian and noticed my multitude of Canadian flags. And where were they from? Waterloo... of course! :) That was funny. And... OF WE GO!!!!!!!!!! We took a quick group photo at the starting gate and boom, off we went and straight up a dusty, steepish hill. And it begins...

Lots of weird stuff happened just in the first 10 minutes. There were lots of donkeys wandering around. Christy said they were called "Burros" but I thought that was hilarious and started calling them "Churros" instead. Also some dudes walked by us carrying tall wooden doors with them?! We figured maybe they were walking it to someone's house in one of the nearby villages? Funny, and strange. We actually did see a few people on small motorbike things in the first 20 min or so of the hike, I think maybe just the people who lived in the little huts along the start of the path (which were very small farms and seemed there mostly to sell water and snacks to the unprepared, or just hungry, tourists... i.e. us!).
Our guide, Edwin. And a burro. (I was calling them "Churros")

We hiked up a ways and there were some beautiful mountains. Our guide, Edwin, stopped several times to explain plant life and demonstrated a parasite that is squished to create a red dye used in foods and cosmetics.. I think it's the "Starbucks dye!" Starbucks just last month had received some negative press for using "bugs" to colour their Strawberry Frappucinos. I am pretty sure this is the same insect, and it is apparently used everywhere. It was cool to see that. Edwin (nickname "Chory") and Jimmy (nickname "Cucho") were our fearless guide and assistant guide, and they were really cool and welcoming right off the bat. Edwin has these really cool sleeve things, I thought at first they were tattoos but they are arm protectors! An alternative to a long-sleeved shirt! So cool. I gotta get some of these :)

Edwin talking about the trail, and asking people their reasons for hiking it. Also, man those are the coolest sun protecting arm bands ever,
Glorious ravine and mountains already

How far we've walked so far...
Edwin was amazing and was very good at explaining things right off the bat. He also said just the right thing at the beginning of the day to set a very nice mood - he made us very comfortable by saying "This is not a race" and telling us we had come all this way to enjoy it and we should feel very comfortable to go at our own pace, stop, take photos, drink lots of water, and other great advice. He said "There's a train that goes all the way to Machu Pichu from Cusco in 2 hours... but you guys chose to do this tough and strenuous hike. Why take the longer road?" It was a great question and we had some different answers ("To prove I could do it", "To experience the beautiful nature", and some funnier ones like "Wait, there's a train?!!!") It seemed like a fun and motivated group right from the start, lots of people joking around, laughing, having fun and taking care of each other already. Awesome times. And we are definitely in good, capable hands... Edwin has done the hike approx once per week for 5 YEARS!!! Insane. We walked onwards past some little farms with chickens walking around. Edwin also mentioned that we should not call these "Incan Ruins", they are not ruins as they were demolished by the Spanish. Rather, they should be referred to as "Inca Sites". Interesting and good point to note.

After a bit we arrived at a bigger ridge, quite steep and a little taste of what to expect tomorrow I think. It was tougher, definitely, but doable. Defffinitely had some more water and a snack at the top of it though! We walked for a bit longer and got to a cliff area with a view of another bigger Incan Site. Edwin asked us to compare this site to the one we had seen previously, and commented on the history and discovery of the site as well as giving us some futher history of the area. Learning!! Very awesome.

Lens flare!

A quick break on a cliff to look out at an Inca Site.

Edwin showing us the the parasite/bug that is used to make red-coloured dye

a weird bird/duck thing

Awesome walkways


Kev looking very hikey

Me and Grrriits!

I love it
Lunch: wow!! We arrived at our lunch stop already quite tired and hungry and ready for a break. The tents were already all set up on our arrival... epic. There was even water ready to wash your hands with! The porters were waiting around for us, and were clapping for all of us as we arrived. It was funny, we should have been clapping for them! The food was truly fantastic, so gourmet. I have never had food this good at my own house, let alone while camping! We got some sugary juice to start which was great and exactly what we needed. We had a Caribbean salad and this amazing Asparagus soup, The soup was nice and salty, very good for us given the 4 previous hours of sweating. These guys are so well organized. And then, the main course! Rice, awesome veggies, fish in great sauce, onions and tomatoes. Even garlic bread!!! So good!!!!! After lunch we all hit up the bathrooms (while they exist, it's good to take care of briz-nass) and they are the squatter toilets. Some of the girls looked super grossed out and I had my handy Purell container in my pocket. I have a feeling I'm gonna be making good use out of that during the trip! After that "adventure", it was back to our hiking.

Lunchtime... mmmm
Eating like royalty. Sweaty, sweaty royalty.
Fun times
We walked down to the water again and saw a cow along the side, that was surprising! The glorious sweeping views continued and we were just soaking it in. I chatted with one of the girls named Stephanie and as we were chatting my Nalgene straw ran out! I thought it must have been just caught up on something so I checked in my bag and yep... empty!!! I'd drank 2.5 Litres already and it wasn't even the end of the day. Plus all that juice and soup and stuff at lunch! I must be burning it off hard here on this trip. They said at least 1.5L of water per day was recommended, but looks like I am drinking way more than that.

The view in the later afternoon as the hike continued
We continued onwards and upwards (quite literally, though the grade is pretty reasonable today), past some gorgeous views of the mountains. We soon after arrived at the campsite!! The porters had amazingly set up our tents and everything for us, the kitchen tent, etc. It was spectacular. They were so nice and so organized too. Dinner was, as we guessed it would be, FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!! The Chef came in at one point with a chef hat on an with a pan on fire, as it turned out he was making bananas flambee, but with Pisco!! It was really amazing. After dinner and a quick bathroom break, we all headed to bed early-ish, at 9:30pm... that's enough hiking and adventuring for today. They'll be plenty of time for more of that tomorrow.

Dinner time... time for this epic asparagus soup!
And then the CHEF... yes... CHEF... made us Bananas Flambee with Pisco.
What an awesome day!!!!

1 comment:

traveling girl said...

The Salkantay Trail is a hiking in south America and an alternative to the traditional Inca Trail for reaching Machu Picchu.