The next morning we ate breakfast and weighed bags which were given to us at the beginning of the trip. The bags would carry items we did not need throughout the day and would be carried by Porters. Porters are very common in Peru. They assist many hikers and travel groups in their journey to Machu Picchu. Pedro had stated that despite the exhausting work, many men become Porters in order to support their families as it is one of the best paying jobs in Peru for those living in poverty. Unlike many tour companies who have no weight limit for their Porters, G Adventures does. Therefore, our night bags needed to be under a certain weight in order to be approved. Pedro would take our bags and use a scale to make sure our bags were within the given weight limit. After this process was complete, we boarded a bus which would take us to the starting point of our Inca Trail journey.
I slept very well and was feeling rested and had a lot of energy. My stomach was much better after eating smaller meals. I felt strong and was excited to continue the trip.
Emmie was almost positive she had tonsillitis – her throat got worse overnight and she was concerned about starting the hike. After speaking with Pedro, her plan was to get some antibiotics and try the hike for today. Pedro reassured her that if anyone needs to quit the first day, it is not too late to do so. She decided to give it a try.
After a lengthy drive, with a pitstop to get Emmie some medication, we arrived at our starting point! Dozens of tourists starting on their journey surrounded us, along with Peruvians selling bandanas and souvenirs. Porters from several tour companies began packing their backpacks with the night bags of their tourists. There were also a number of stray dogs. This was not uncommon to see during my time in Peru.
We lined up at the first check point, and began on our journey. Before we officially started though, Pedro insisted we take a group photo first. It would later become an inside joke about how happy and clean we all looked! Not to mention, literally almost everything I wore in this photo, was off in about ten minutes due to the heat.
We crossed a bridge over one of the main rivers in Peru, and I was feeling invincible! I found myself thinking “This isn’t so bad. I can totally do this!” And then we hit our first incline and my thoughts changed to “What the hell did I get myself into?”. The incline hit me like a bag of brinks. It was extreamly steep and I was already needing to take breaks. Pedro led the front of the group, Fletcher stayed at the back to support the hikers at the back of the group and ensure they were safe. I would be hiking a lot with Fletcher.
One of the most popular sites on the first day’s hike, was the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley was an example of the methods of farming used in Peru centuries ago. Each level of land, would harvest a different crop.
We continued walking and took a break under a shelter from the sun. We re-fueled with chocolate, water and fruit. During this time, Pedro found some beetles which are popular in Peru that can be found on cacti. Pedro smashed the beetles and painted our faces. He stated this was a type of ritual. While I was apprehensive and slightly grossed out, I wanted to embrace the experience of having smashed beetle on my face.
After the smashed beetle experience, we headed to our lunch spot. But first – another killer incline! It was at this point, where I began becoming friends with Monica and Phil. Monica and I struggled at the same parts of the hike, therefore, leading to us hiking quite a bit together along the Inca Trail.
Monica and Phil were newlyweds from Australia. Monica was quiet, but sweet. Her and I cheered each other on when we were struggling. Phil, on the other hand, had the energy of a horse and would be able to hike ahead, return to us, and hike back with no issue.
When we finally made it to our lunch spot, we were all shocked to see tables set up and food ready to be served by the Porters. At every meal, we were also provided warm water and soap. If I am correct, this stop was also the first stop with “real Inca Trail toilets”. These toilets, were basically a ceramic hole in the ground, with another hole where water would come out of to wash the floor around the hole. Although my “Inca Trail toilet” experiences were not too horrible (once I got past the feces closer to my shoes than I may have wanted), other members of my group would share experiences of Inca Trail toilets with walls covered in feces and flushes that sprayed everywhere once they pulled the latch. There was also this one campsite where the toilet was in a wooden shed. Which, wasn’t so bad – expect that the shed was behind the donkeys that joined us on our hike. So, really, stepping in feces at one point or another on this hike was inevitable.
The lunch prepared by the Porters was delicious and was concluded with a corn syrup type desert. After lunch, we all tested for a few moments and watched with astonishment as the Porters took apart everything, and packed everything back up within minutes.
After an hour break in total, it was time for us to continue on. Somewhere between the start and end of the first day, I got what I am sure to have been a second degree burn on my neck from the sun. Essentially, I was an idiot and did not reapply sunscreen. Thinking that I would get a tan. Idiot. It was the most painful sunburn I had ever gotten. It was painful, slightly bubbly and itched beyond belief for week after I arrived back in Canada. Any clothing that touched the area drove me mad.
When we finally arrived at the first camping group after a full day of camping, we were greeted with clapping from the Porters who congratulated us on our accomplishment. We were welcomed with set-up tents and hot water with soap. Dinner was also ready within an hour of our arrival. The food had yet to disappoint.
After dinner, Pedro wanted us to introduce ourselves to the Porters, and have us introduce ourselves to them. Many of the Porters were young farmers and/or fathers. Some of them as young as their late teens.
Once introductions had been complete, the group went back into our dinner tent and played cards until it was time to rest for the second day of hiking.
Before bed, Pedro had asked to speak with me. He had stated that after seeing how Monica and I had struggled during the first days hike, he thought it would be best for her and I to have a one hour start ahead of the group with Fletcher leading tomorrow morning. Day two, was the hardest day of the Inca trail hike, so he suggested that this option would give us the extra time to take breaks and take things at our own pace. I left the conversation feeling disheartened, but knew that after years of doing the hike with tourists, Pedro knew what he was talking about and that ultimately, he wanted me to succeed on this hike.
All I could do, is take one step at a time the next day.