My Journey in Peru: Day 4 – Sweat and Altitude

I heard Fletcher whispering my name at approximately 6am “Jessy…Jessy”.

I was pissed. It was early and I was cold. And sore. And not ready to start my day of hiking up the mountain.

Day two of the Inca Trail hike is said to be the hardest day of hiking by most who have completed it. It is uphill for six of the approximate eight hours of hiking.

No time like the present I guess.

I reluctantly awoke from the comfort(ish) of my tent, got dressed and ate the generous breakfast made by the Porters. They had made pancakes and had drew designs on each one with custard.

Monica, Phil and I started our journey to Dead Woman’s Pass together. One step in front of the other.

I mostly remember a lot of uphill, as well as, very sore and shaky legs. We stopped often to rest, rehydrate and eat candy. The altitude was increasing. The rest of our group caught up with us around the official morning break.

One of the distinct features of the second day hike, is hiking through multiple ecosystems. After the morning break, the hike lead into a rainforest for the next few hours. Again – all uphill. The scenery was beautiful. We walked through lush forests of tropical trees and a bubbling stream flowed by us. If I stood quiet and closed my eyes, I would hear the exotic bird sounds, the leaves of the trees rustling and the stream trickling. I was thousands of miles away from home. I never felt more disconnected and at peace. And sore. My legs were still very sore. And my back was sore and wet from sweat.

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Hiking through the lush rain forest – The tree stumps formed mystical shapes.

During this walk in the rain forest, Fletcher and I began talking more. We communicated fairly efficiently, considering his strong-accented english and my less than coherent Spanish. He shared stories about his experience once working as a Porter and his goals working with G adventures. Fletcher was the quieter between him and Pedro. Pedro would often rag on him – and I would rag on Pedro in return. Fletcher and I seemed to bond over the second day as I significantly lagged behind the group. Having said this, his options were limited. He either had me to talk to, or the exotic birds.

The rain forest led to our official morning resting stop were there stood wild llamas and alpacas.They would be casually eating grass and drinking water and at times, would look up and stare at you until they were bored with staring at your face and continue on with their lives.

After the morning break, Fletcher instructed Monica, Phil and I to get a head start and that he would catch up in about 20 minutes. We felt pretty confident about our head start…then Fletcher appeared about 20 minutes later behind us. Show-off. We hiked on until we reached our lunch resting spot.

After eating another delicious lunch prepared by the Porters, the hardest part was ahead of us. The four hour non-stop incline and stairs to get to the highest point of the Inca Trail. Dead Woman’s Pass.

Monica and Phil and I split up at this point, all going at our pace. It was time to hike on my own and hike to the sound of my own breath and footsteps on the rocky path. As I walked, I would look to my right, and see pastures below with sheep scattered and grazing. Occasionally between my deep breaths, I would hear “baaaaaa”. I thought to myself how foreign, yet soothing that sound was to me, coming from the city.

As the hours of hiking carried on, the altitude got higher and the air became thin. My lungs were working overtime and every step felt excruciating. “What…the hell…am I doing?”, “Who goes on vacation and hikes for four days in a foreign country? Me….because I am ridiculous”. These were the thoughts in my head. Until I was so tired, that all I thought was to put one foot in front of the other and take breaks when I needed them – no matter how often that may have been. I would get to the top dammit! During my many breaks, I would hand out candy to the Porters passing through with the large bags on their backs. “Quieres dulces Señor?” I would ask, to which they all would eagerly reply “Si!”. I passed out candy until I was out. As I would catch up with members of my group, I would chat and enjoy their company until they moved on and I was on my own again.

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Photos: The left – A view looking behind me of countless stone stairs with mist and clouds rolling in up the mountain. The right – A view looking ahead of me at what I have still to hike to get to Dead Woman’s Pass (the ragged looking range of the mountain).   

Approximately four hours later, I reached Dead Woman’s Pass. This was undeniably one of my proudest achievements. Members from my group cheered me on and I could not stop smiling. I did it! I hiked to the elevation of 4215 metres above sea level!

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Photos of me at the top of Dead Woman’s Pass – one of my greatest physical accomplishments!

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A photo of the group after reaching the top of Dead Woman’s Pass.

After we re-hydrated and ate our fair share of chocolate and candy, we begun on the downhill part of our trek. The stairs were so large and steep, that many of us needed to use our hands to brace ourselves to avoid falling forward. As the clouds continued to roll in, we hiked at a quicker pace to avoid the eventually unavoidable rain as much as possible. We succeeded as far as the last two hours or so of the hike, where the rain finally caught up with us – making our clothing damp (even with our ponchos) and the stone extremely slippery. With caution, we completed our second day of hiking and reached camp early. We had the rest of the afternoon and evening to recover from the days activity.

Alongside completing the most difficult part of the hike, my favourite memory of this day was shared with Emmie. Despite my many layers of clothing, I froze that night in our tent. I learned at this point, the purpose of the mattress pad which I decided to cheap out on, thinking I would have no use for it. I learned as I shivered non-stop, (trying to get as close to Emmie as possible while being the least creepy as one can be in that sort of situation), that the mattress pad not only adds comfort, but insulation. Shortly after I finally fell asleep, I heard rain. It was probably around 4am. I couldn’t believe it. Not only did I not sleep well, but now it was raining and the stones were going to be slippery on the day which was predominantly a downhill trek. Without thinking, I said out loud “Emmie!”. Emmie sleepily awoke, responding “huh?” “Its fucking raining Emmie!” Emmie bursted out laughing and fell back asleep. This became one of our fondest memories together – my angry outburst at the rain.

 

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