Inca Trail, Peru

Early morning pampering

I was snuggled comfortably in my sleeping bag when I heard my name being called early this morning. I unzipped the door to my single-tent and out in front of me was Luis and two porters offering me a selection of tea. Oh, am I being spoiled on a supposedly rough adventure?


The day started out great: the sky was a deep blue and the sun was emerging behind the lofty peak of Mt. Veronica. After checking my sack for the porter to carry and inspecting my own daypack for the day's provisions on the trail, I took a hearty breakfast with my group in our dining tent. We're all set and optimistic for the long day ahead. Before decamping, Luis gathered all the porters including the cook and formally introduced each one to us. We also introduced ourselves to them, trying a smattering of Spanish that fly out of our tongues. I'm really amazed at our porters and all the other porters I see on the trail. They epitomize strength and stamina.

At the cloud forest

Not long after starting our steep ascent, we entered into a cloud forest, instantly shading us from the sun already high in the sky. There were plenty of trees, shrubs and bromeliads along the path which was all the more made lovelier by a nearby stream. Everybody walked at each other's pace with one guide at the front and the other guide acting as a sweeper at the back.We rested and re-grouped at Llulluchapampa, a campsite 3,600 meters above sea level.

Looking up at Dead Woman's Pass

From here, we have a full view of the enormous task we have ahead: negotiating the grimly-named Dead Woman's Pass which is the highest at 4,200 meters above sea level. Whoever this woman was, nobody knows. All I could see is her breast and nipple. According to Luis, the trek from Llulluchapampa to the Dead Woman's Pass is a gruelling one hour and a half. Slow ones among us could do it between two to three hours! That doesn't sound very encouraging even if the Dead Woman's Pass look deceptively near enough.

As we began the ascent again, the vegetation changed from cloud forest to an exposed puna.The air was noticeably thinner. Every ten steps or so became a struggle. My breathing was so labored as I hunger for air. My two legs were rebellious as I tried to move on. I had to stop more often while leaning on my walking stick. I could actually see people already up there on the pass and I consoled myself that if they can do it, so can I.

The view from Dead Woman's Pass (4,200 MASL)

After an hour and a half, I finally reached the top of the Dead Woman's Pass! Manuel, Bethany and another Swedish guy in our group were already cooling themselves off as I stagger into this most challenging portion of the trail. I was glad I made it despite all that huffing and puffing.

We didn't wait for the rest of the group as it became more windy and on the other side of the pass, we saw threatening clouds gathering in. As Bethany, Amanda, Laura, Ailse and I started on our way down, it began to drizzle and our ponchos became our dear friends. The stone steps became wet, making the descent treacherous. We just hope nobody falls or slips on these slippery stone staircases.

Our campsite at Paqaymayu

I was the first in the group to reach Paqaymayu, the largest campsite in the trail at 3,500 meters above sea level. The porters, who were huddled at the dining tent due to the drizzle, clapped their hands upon my arrival. One by one, the other members of the group settled in, tired, hungry and wet. Bill, an American in our group, had a fall but thankfully had only small abrasions on his hand.


The plan was for us to have lunch in this campsite and then move on to Chaquicocha where we will spend the second night. However, a thunderstorm rolled in as we were devouring our lunch inside the dining tent. Luis asked our opinion and a consensus was reached to remain in Paqaymayu for the night and then hit the trail again in the morning.

Hyper-efficient as ever, our porters quickly set up our tents as Luis told them so. My tent was perched right next to a gushing stream. What a sound to lull me to sleep!

1 comment:

  1. your porters/guides are really impressive. I was wondering how much you paid for the whole trip.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...