Machu Picchu - Day 1
Ok - so today is the big day! I couldn´t sleep at all in excitement AKA dread for the big trek! Well, not really but I was a bit worried that I would make it through the 4 days.. anyway here goes with how it actaully went! I packed as lightly as I could (or so i thought!) as i was carrying my own backpack, thinking it would be deemed ¨lazy¨ or ¨high maintenance¨ to have a porter....hmmn slight problem right there but i´ll get to that later! Waited at the hostel lobby with some of my new found Inca Trek friends (4 fab Irish girls - Tara, Jill, Susan and Victoria all from Kildare, who were school friends from childhood, and are traveling around the world for a year together!) at 4am waiting for our ¨pick-up¨to arrive. Hamilton and Victor, our 2 guides, duly arrived and we all got into the bus that would take us about an hour or so to Ollantaytambo (which was where i had been the day before on my Sacred Valley tour!). Breakfast time here - a hearty one for all of us (teehee any excuse for food right!). As well as gelling with more of the United Mice team (that´s our tour company´s name -again more on that later!) - we had breakfast with Guy and Charlotte from London, who both work with the BBC, and Angie (soon to become my tent-mate, who runs a non-profit foundation in New York for low income people to be trained in banking and hopefully end up working with companies like Goldman Sachs etc. - very impresssive wouldn´t you agree!) we also purchased the necessary accoutrements for any Inca Trek hike - I hear you ask, what would they be? Well, if you are in the know, it would of course be the traditional Inca walking stick with attractive hand woven handle for the ultimate in comfort, a brightly colored poncho to cover both you and your backpack in the event of any sudden rainfall (in a delightful color of chartreuse of course to match my hiking pants!), coco leaves and this black gungky stuff to help with altitude sickness (you take 8-10 leaves, pick off all the stems, put a wee blob of the black stuff in the middle, then roll them up into a cigar shape and stick it under your gum to help with altitude sickness...(see how much i have learned!). Oh yes and of course about 16 Snickers bars which apparantly all "outdoorsy" types purchase to keep their energy levels up - who knew i was ahead of the game when i was chomping down all that chocolate living in Somerville!..
Oops- I digress as always! So then we all got back on the bus and continued our drive to the beginning of the trek. We went through tons of teeny wee villages waving and shouting "Ola" to the local folks - hmmmn im sure some of them were like - "buzz off you daft tourists", but hey, it feels nice to say "Hi".
So the starting point - we are at the head of the trail which is 2,750 metres (this height is important let me tell you!). I started feeling just a wee bitty nervous after looking around and seeing that i was the only person (apart from Angie whose pack was def smaller than mine! - hence the comment that i thought i had packed light!) who didnt have a porter to carry their rucksack.. hmmn. But I thought hey, get on with it girlie, you are made of strong stuff.. so i grabbed my pack and threw it over my shoulder! Felt fine at first.. yup, I could do this no problemo (see the Spanish coming through there!). Hmmmm but as time went on, and we continued to climb, climb and climb in the hills on these bluuddy massive stone steps (sorry but i thought the Incas were wee people - these steps were made for giants, well, definitely people talled than me!!) things started feeling a little heavier ...
We stopped for lunch at Wayllabamba and what a spread we had! Seriously, we start by washing our hands in these little bowls of cold water and soap, laid out for each of us,, then we get this amazing 3 course meal.. there is a definite weirdness of knowing that lots of these lovely, smiley wee men have to cart heavy heavy heavy (believe me you wouldnt believe it unless you saw what they did each day!) packs each day to make our experience on Macchu Pichu so wonderful - from gas tanks, to plates and cups, to the actual food itself, not to mention our tents. There were 12 of us on the trek and 16 porters and 2 guides.. you definitely feel guilty at times although we talked alot with Hamilton, our guide, about the porters lives and the fact although it is a hard life, it is in fact better than their previous ones of being farmers and that they make more than professional people like teachers etc, in the bigger cities (I still feel bad about it but Hamilton says its quite a privelige to be a porter these days - hmn not so sure about that!).
Wayllabamba was at 3,000 metres, so you could definitely feel the lungs working at that altitude! Lunch was over and it was time to hike the pack on again - everyone was super nice and said i would be the strongest girl in Scotland (yes i was really looking for that title!) but i walked with Rachel, another lovely member of the United Mice team, who had bad knees, so we just took our time and hung out with Victor, the second guide, and i kept teasing him that i would carry his oxygen tank (gulp - they need to have that in case someone needs it - and they did - not me but more on that later!) and he could carry my pack- yeh, good try Stefanie but the oxygen was wayyy heavier so i decided i was fine as is!
Our first camp night was at 4,200 metres, the highest we would ever be at on the 4 day hike and it was incredible - there were no other groups that night so we had this beautiful campsite all to ourselves, with lots of llamas grazing around us not in the slightest bit interested in our goings on, and the stars were just huge and so many of them! We all agreed we were so lucky to have such a brilliant group - as well as Hamilton and Victor, there were the 4 Irish girls I mentioned earlier, plus Guy, Charlotte, Angie and then Rachel and Al from Aberdeen who live in England and are traveling around the world for about 2 years almost !!(they sold everything including their house to do it - yikes!) and then Kiku and Rose from Barcelona - loved them! Kiku and I talked about football - Celtic and Barcelona- all the time and sang¨"You´ll never walk alone" each day - great fun!
To be honest - day 1 was probably one of the most strenuous things I have EVER done in my entire life.. the backpack was a BIG part of it i have to say.. but it was so worth it (ok i wasnt quite thinking that until I talked to Hamilton and he said i could pay for a porter for the next few days - at first i felt guilt, then complete and utter "Phew"-ness that i wouldnt have to carry the damn thing anymore - do i sound awful.....?
Everyone agreed it was a tough day but we all went to bed thinking, yes, bring on day 2 ...so i´ll fill you in on that soon!
Bye for now - Stefanie