Inca Trail: Day One
We woke at 5am in Cuzco and were picked up in a bus by our tour company (Peru Treks). As soon as we were out of town the Andes started to show in the distance, the largest peaks I have seen in my life– sharp and snow covered. The bus took us, our two guides, and the 14 other trekkers in our group to Ollantaytambo, a quaint Quechua town where we ate breakfast and bought our final supplies. After breakfast we rode for another 30 minutes to the start of the Inca Trail where they checked our passports and completed other final paperwork. It seemed to us that it was harder to get onto the Inca Trail than to enter Perú. We were both nervous having only spent two days acclimatizing, but once we started hiking we found the pace comfortable and our fears quickly diminished. During the first section before lunch we passed several ruins and our guides, Percy and Juan, explained about the sites and the Inca culture.
The trail was well maintained and we found the day flying by. In the early afternoon we stopped in a beautiful clearing and a tent was set up for us to dine in. It was amazing how much stuff the the porters (called “chaskis” in Quechua) brought up the trail–40 pounds each. Most trekkers in our group had hired their own personal chaski ($40 extra) to carry their sleeping bags and other gear, and only carried small day packs themselves. Being poor however, we carried everything required ourselves in our big backpacks. Lunch was amazing: avocado and cheese appetizer, potato soup, and then trout for the main. Everyone was very impressed and we stuffed our faces. After lunch we took about 30 minutes to let it digest and drank some tea. I even took a quick nap in the grass.
Following lunch we hiked for another few hours and it started sprinkling a little bit. It was amazing how fast the weather changed on the trail. One minute it was sunny and hot, the next cold and on the brink of snow. We had brought jackets and ponchos and our cameras were in dry sacks, so the light mist didn’t bother us but was actually refreshing. We passed above another large Inca ruin and eventually came to our campsite where we would eat dinner and spend the night. Dinner was again very good and we went to bed with full stomachs, feeling pretty good about how things had gone so far. It got COLD as soon as the sun went down but our tent was warm and sleeping bags comfy. We slept great on our sleeping pads on top of the soft grass. The first day was definitely a confidence-booster, but we were still apprehensive because the guides kept reminding us that Day One was “Warm-Up Day” and Day Two was “Challenge Day!”