The bus left the hostel at 7 am to take us to the area where the porters were busy organizing our gear and duffel bags. They also had snacks available for us to take for the hike such as juice boxes, oranges, apples, bananas, and cookies. This was our only chance to get the snacks, so I think out of worry of getting hungry on the trail, I overpacked on the snacks, which weighed me down a bit and tired me out quicker than I expected. We hiked over to the 82 km (yes, we hiked a hard 82 km in four days) starting point at the Inca Trail. I was full of positive thoughts and determination so far. We waved to passengers on the train to Machu Picchu. We all thought they were lazy. I’m sure the passengers all thought we were crazy.
This first stretch of the trail was our training day trail, to get us used to the long days of hiking, get a rhythm going. Aside from our own personal breaks, we did have some rest areas at certain areas in between, but sometimes I felt the breaks weren’t that long enough. There were even a few little stands at the beginning of the hike where you could buy Gatorade, water and various snacks to replenish your supply. What was really rewarding was reaching the campsites. It is absolutely amazing what the porters and the cooks can do so high up in the mountain. Imagine carrying all that heavy equipment and having to set up tents and cook a fabulous meal for 17 people. We’re not talking just franks and beans here. Some examples of what we ate for breakfast: crepes, toast, eggs, sausage. Lunch and dinners consisted of pasta, turkey legs, fried rice, just normal food you would eat at a restaurant. One of the hikers celebrated her birthday during the hike, so the head cook BAKED a cake for her. I wonder what kind of special Peruvian easy bake oven does that!
The second day was the most challenging day of the hike. This was where you really had to test your mental, physical and emotional strength. The summit was at 4200m, for those of you who use the imperial system, this translates to a whopping 13,778 ft. Say what?!?!! I was still tired from the 6 hr hike the first day, so imagine doing an 8-10 hr hike, where the majority is a STEEP, UPHILL climb and other parts being very rocky. I would go uphill for a bit, take a break at a flat portion to catch my breath, go again for another bit and take another break, etc. I would get to what I thought was the top, go around the bend, only to find that there was another hill, waiting for me that was even steeper. It was almost as it was laughing at me saying, you thought you were done? Yeah right! This is where the mental toughness came in. At times, it was best to not look what was up ahead because I would automatically think, that’s impossible, how the “beep beep beep beep” am I supposed to hike that. I had to break it down into chunks and focus on what was just in front of me, not several metres ahead. Even after taking some of the weight out of my backpack the night before, it still felt like a ton of bricks. Everything feels like a ton of bricks when you’re exhausted.
As I mentioned before, the weather changed constantly and your best bet was to dress in layers, in breathable and waterproof clothing. I would get sweaty from hiking, but as I continued to hike higher up, it became much colder, to the point where I had to put on a toque and gloves. The great thing about hiking in a group was like it was sort of like running a marathon (which I have never done). You feel like you can’t go on, you feel like you’re going to die, but then you eventually see the summit and people are at the top screaming your name and cheering for you.You’re sweaty, cold, exhausted, your heart is racing, you can barely move your limbs, a little light headed. But somehow, because of all that screaming, it gave me that extra push I desperately needed to make it to the top. When I got up there, I thought OMG. I can’t believe I did that. It’s such an amazing feeling and I was just overcome with all these emotions. I took it all in, and then took a look at the really rocky downhill path to our lunch campsite. Insert another swear word here.
Are you afraid of heights? Have you conquered that fear? Do you have any other fears? (Me: scary movies, snakes, and spiders are just a few)