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Inca Trail - Day 1

Written on: Friday November 2nd, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: KM 82, Inca Trail, Peru

Author: Julie

Napaykullayki (Hello in Quechua)!

The Inca trail was part of a larger system of roads developed by the Incas to link their empire. Traversing the Andes mountains and reaching heights of over 5,000 m (16,500 feet) above sea level, the trails connected the regions of the Inca empire from the northern provincial capital in Quito, Ecuador past the modern city of Santiago, Chile in the south. The Inca road system covered approximately 22,500 km (14,000 mi) and provided access to over three million km of territory.Because the Incas did not make use of the wheel for transportation, and did not have horses until the arrival of the Spanish in Peru in the 16th century, the trails were used almost exclusively by people walking, sometimes accompanied by pack animals, usually the llama.

The trails were used by the Inca people as a means of relaying messages, carried via knotted-cord quipu and by memory; and for transporting goods. Messages could be carried by chasqui runners covering as much as 240 km per day, working in relay fashion much like the Pony Express of the 1860s in North America.There were approximately 2,000 inns (or tambos), placed at even intervals along the trails. The inns provided food, shelter and military supplies to the tens of thousands who traveled the roads. There were corrals for llamas and stored provisions such as corn, lima beans, dried potatoes, and llama jerky. Along the roads, local villagers would plant fruit trees that were watered by irrigation ditches. This enabled chasqui runners and other travelers to be refreshed while on their journeys. Inca rope bridges provided access across valleys.Many of the trails converge on the center of the empire, the Inca capital city of Cusco. Therefore, it was easy for the Spanish conquistadors to locate the city. Traversing the trails on horseback proved to be difficult and treacherous for the Spanish in their attempts to conquer the Inca Empire.

5:00 AM came quickly and I was tired from not sleeping most of the night. I kept waking up, wondering if it was time for my alarm clock to ring. I couldn?t believe the day had finally come for us to begin our Inca Trail trek. We quickly packed the last few items, dropped our larger bags into storage and met our guide Orlando at the entrance. Our ride to the trailhead passed quickly and soon we were at a small restaurant for our first breakfast as a group. There was Chris and Lisa from London, Luis from Bacelona, Bettina from Sydney, brother and sister Krystin and Ken from Montana, Toby and Laura from London, and us. From the restaurant we drove to the little village of Piscacucho (2380m) near Ollantaytambo. We were met by vendor women selling toques, mitts, drinks, and wooden hiking poles. We followed Orlando and Raoul to the start of the trailhead also known as KM 82. We quickly pass through the checkpoint after having our passport numbers double-checked and our permit pass issued. Only 500 people per day are allowed on the trail, including guides, cooks, and porters. This ensures the preservation of the trail for future generations.

We crossed the Vilcanota river and walked up a soft incline. We were finally on our way! The sun was shining and we quickly stripped off our warmest layers. I had made the mistake of wearing my thermals and I was sweating a ton. I couldn?t wait to get to a stop with bathroom so I could change out of them. Till then I was stuck with looking super dorky with shorts and a t-shirt over a long-sleeve thermal top and long-johns.

The views of the mountains surrounding us were amazing and far off we could see snowcaps. We walked for about 2 hours until we arrived at the ruins of Llactapata (Town on hillside). It is an ancient Incan village with a number of farming terraces beside the Cusichaka (Bridge of Happiness) river. Our next stop was for lunch. I can?t remember what we had to eat other than it was wonderful. We had a gourmet chef who each day surprised us with delicious food. We are all still in awe on how he was about to cook each meal on a small portable stove. We then walked for another 3 hours till we passed the little village of Wayllabamba (Grassy Plains) and arrived at our campsite for the night located at 3000m. The porters had been there for a couple hours already and had the site set-up for us. Our tents, the dining tent and the cook tent were set-up on a soft grassy site near a little waterfall. Bowls of hot water were set out for us to rinse off the sweat and dirt of the day, as well as hot cups of coca tea. We dumped our stuff in our tent and met up in the dining tent for a snack of fresh popcorn, more tea, and biscuits.

One of the local women, her husband, and two kids stopped at our campsite to sell us more bottles of water, gatorade, beer, chocolate, and other snacks. Kevin who was still feeling a little rough from his previous sickness did not trust the boiled water the porters were providing us, so we bought a few more bottles for the high price of 8 soles each. A bit steep, but worth the price when comparing the risk of getting sick again, 1 or 2 days nearest to the closest road or town with medical facilities.

Supper was served at 7 PM and it was another gastronomical affair. We all ate more than we should have and left the table with full tummies. I'm sure I put on weight during the hike, despite walking 6 hours a day. We retired at 9 PM tired but happy from the day and fell asleep to the sound of the little river rushing only a few dozen of feet away from us.

3 Soles = 1 CAD

3.3 Feet = 1 meter

 

Note: Portion of this blog was taken directly from www.wikipedia.org