It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for! While Kim, Kat, Andrea, and Mike researched the Inca Trail before we embarked on our journey, I purposefully didn’t do any research so that I could encounter every bit of it with an element of surprise. It’s kind of like waiting in anticipation for a big blockbuster movie to come out — I never watch any of the trailers if I know for sure that I’m going to watch the movie. I just love that element of surprise.
So needless to say, I was utterly unprepared for this journey. I luckily was in shape and could speak Spanish, but outside of translating and carrying someone else’s backpack, I was of little use on this journey.
So here we go — day 1 of a life-changing adventure!
Oh, and I’ll soon create a separate post about what to bring on the Inca Trail.
Meet the entire group
The great thing about the Inca Trail is that you meet so many new people along the way and grow a close bond with them. It’s kind of like pledging for a fraternity — you and your pledge brothers grow closer because you have to withstand hardships together. In this case, our group of 10 started out as a bunch of individuals (especially Marko who you’ll meet below), but ended up as one big happy family.
Get your walking sticks!
Kim and Kat are posing above next to our trusted walking sticks. We had a love-hate relationship with them throughout the trail. On one hand, it was great to use them as support while walking, which of course is the purpose of walking sticks; however, because they’re basically just long pieces of wood, they get heavy, slip on rocks when it’s raining, and hurt your hand after a while. Eventually, we all ended up just carrying our walking stick instead of using them.
I’d still recommend buying them just in case because they are useful. We got them in the city of Ollantaytambo, which is a pit stop right before you start the Inca Trail. They cost about 3 soles ($1).
Marko was by far our favorite person on the trail. He was a cross between 007 and Indiana Jones — we called him our personal body guard throughout the trip and everyone believed us. Actually, he was better than Indiana Jones; he was like Macgyver because he had everything we could possibly need during the hike: Andrea got a cut on her arm, he had a bandade and neosporin in his pack; our flashlight ran out of batteries, he had spare batteries in his pocket.
Marko is a professor of engineering in Finland. He’s an avid traveler and conquered Mount Kilimanjaro just a year before doing the Inca Trail. Unlike everyone else in the group, he was on this adventure alone.
As you can see from the picture above, Marko is a pretty serious guy. It was our goal to win him over and get him to laugh throughout the trip!
So you know Kim, Kat, Mike, Andrea, me, and now Marko. In addition, our lovely group was graced by 4 Argentinean women: 2 in their 30’s and 2 in their 50’s.
Yup, that’s right. These ladies were 50 years old and were attempting to do the Inca Trail! To be honest, I was a bit worried that they would slow us down and perhaps not even finish the hike.
And that’s our lovely group: 3 guys and 7 women. The great thing about the hike is that there is always 1 tour guide leading the way and 1 tour guide walking with the slowest person in the group, so you always feel comfortable and safe walking at your own pace.
Here’s my little swamp bride wearing her mosquito net. I made fun of her for wearing this, but it actually came in handy. We of course lathered ourselves up with bug spray, but the net came in handy the day after it rained and mosquitoes were buzzing around.
This picture cracks me up. Our group is full of fun-loving girls that don’t have a clue about hiking and adventures. And then on the other end of the spectrum, we have Marko, the most serious expert-traveler in all of the lands. You’ll also notice that initially Marko is always at least 1 foot away from the group, as he doesn’t want to participate in our fun-loving ways. But sooner or later, you’ll notice that we break down his serious exterior and embrace him into our group.
Porters (the strongest men alive)
So we have a group of 10. Alongside our group of 10, we traveled with 2 guides and 11 porters. In the picture above you’ll see one of our porters. I don’t intend to be mean, but these guys are like human donkeys. Seriously…
The guy above is caring about 100 pounds on his back! No joke.
A normal group travels with about 8-9 porters. We of course needed the additional 2 because the girls had so much in extra supplies! Makeup and clothes do add up in weight.
Here is the mandatory group Inca Trail picture that everyone takes. The sign is the official start of the Inca Trail. Again, you’ll notice how far Marko is standing from the group. Oh, and while everyone had walking sticks made of wood that cost 3 soles, Marko of course had professional grade walking sticks made of carbon fiber.
Make sure to have your passport ready at all times. There are about 3 checkpoints throughout the Inca Trail — the last one is at Machu Picchu. At each checkpoint, you have the opportunity to stamp your passport, which is additional proof that you made it through each day of the Inca Trail.
The first checkpoint is pictured above right before a bridge.
The hike on day 1 is not too bad at all. It’s mostly flat like the image you see above. There is one section where you have to climb a hill but it’s not too bad at all. Oh, and be careful of all the donkey poop littered across the trail. You’ll be surprised at how much of it there is on day 1.
During the days of the Incan civilization, the warriors used to paint themselves with the blood of their enemies. To illustrate the example, our tour guide smeared some fruit on his hands and painted my face. I was then on dubbed the “Incan Warrior”.
The first part of the day leads you on a hike to the top of a mountain where you can see the ruins of Llactapata. It’s the first ruins you see, so it’s quite impressive. You of course get ample time to take pictures and catch your breath.
Ok, so one of the absolute best parts of the Inca Trail is the food! No kidding. The food is so unbelievably delicious. Check out the tent above with the tables and chairs. You’d think that this was a set location where everyone camps; but in actuality, the porters carry all of these materials on their back!
Yup, that’s right, the porters carry the equivalent of a kitchen on their back and are able to make lomo saltado, fried fish, soups, salads, and omelettes. It’s incredible.
So that’s how we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We all sat together, told stories, played games, and got real close to one another. Again, you’ll notice that Marko is still not smiling. But be patient, it’s still only day one.
We had split pea soup and lomo saltado the first day for lunch. It was so good I ate Kim’s leftovers and I think another person’s leftovers. Eat a lot because you’ll need the extra carbs to use during the hike.
After each meal we get the chance to stretch our legs and enjoy some tea. Along the way, there are bathroom stalls that you can use, but beware. On day 3 of the hike, Kim and Kat had to go to the bathroom at night in one of the camps, and needless to say, they have had nightmares about it ever since.
It started raining during the afternoon. Good thing Kim bought me a rain jacket!..
Actually, Kim bought me a water resistant jacket, not a water proof jacket. This meant that after 5 minutes of rain, I was completely drenched… thanks a lot Kim 🙂
Not only do the porters carry an entire kitchen on their backs, but they also carry all of the camping equipment! The best part is that we don’t have to wait for them to set up; instead, they sprint on ahead to set up everything before we get there.
And for dinner… check out the picture above! Finally, cui!
Hahaha, just kidding. The first night we stopped at a house owned by a local family. We slept in our tents outside while the porters slept in a room with these furry little creatures.
Dinner of course was absolutely delicious. We had fried tilapia with rice and papa a la huancaina.
Sleeping on the trail
The tents are a good size and easily accomodate two people; however, it’s still uncomfortable if you don’t set up correctly. Our first night Kim and I attempted to snuggle and spoon each other through our sleeping bags. We didn’t have much luck.
Make sure to have all of your gear ready for the morning. The guides wake you up at 5am and you have about 30 minutes to get ready and eat breakfast.
During the middle of the night, I went outside of the tent to look at the stars. Because we were so far from civilization, there were no lights to dim out the stars — it was a beautiful sight.
Tomorrow we take on the BIG climb
Day one of the Inca Trail was a piece of cake. Day two however was the biggest physical challenge of our lives. We not only climb to a ridiculous height of 4,215 meters, but we also have to climb back down another 1,000 meters, which is not easy on the knees.
Kim and I have a rough start to the day. While everyone was packed and ready to go, she was still getting dressed and ready. I of course try to rush her and the arguing begins…
But we don’t argue for long because day two was also the day I won the boyfriend of the year award. More on that next time!