22.11.2012 - 22.11.2012 24 °C
Maximum Altitude: 4,200 m/13,776 ft
Minimum Altitude: 3,000 m/9,840 ft
Distance Travelled: Approx. 16 km
Approximate Walking Time: 7-8 hours / Ascent up: 900 m
Starting at Ayapata, ending at Chakicocha
Day 2 - The biggest climb of the trek
Day 2 we were woken up by our porters with coca tea in bed at 6am – lovely. After brekky we met our porters. We formed a circle and introduced ourselves with names and where we're from, and going around the circle and shaking hands. (On a side note, I had to stop and consider which country to say I was from – Australia or Chicago? It felt weird but good to naturally consider Chicago - my second home). It sounds like a corny exercise, but it was really, really nice. The team was 15 men in total - 12 porters, Head Porter, Chef and Assistant Chef.
Our group of chasquis (porters) and chefs
After a slip, slop, slap, we were off again. The first half of the day was all uphill – a 900 m ascent. Our guides explained to us that we’d be going through several different ecosystems. It was cool to see and experience the distinct differences. At the start of the day, the environment around us was cooler, with more a rainforest-type feel. Then we moved to more dry climates, with more sunshine and dry plants.
A rainforest-y part of the Inca Trail
The whole time along the trail there would be shouts of “Chaskis!!” (Porters!!) and everyone would move to the mountain side to allow the porters to speed past us with their massive packs. Still baffled at how they do it. I don't think you could be a porter and have a fear of heights!
Dead Woman’s Pass
When I was planning the trip, my friend who’d done the Inca Trail had warned me about the challenges of Dead Woman’s Pass. I had no idea what to expect, but when I saw it, I knew we had reached it. It looked like a never-ending uphill, with no shade, just sun beating down on you. After Aldo and Danny told us we had reached Dead Woman’s Pass, we continued, all silent except for our panting; sighing when we’d turn a corner and saw more uphill. It was nice to go at my own pace, and I felt the competitive side in me keep me going. I was not going to be beaten by this hill! Every time I turned around and saw how far I’d gone, I felt like I was on top of the world.
The start of Dead Woman's Pass
Periodically on Dead Woman's Pass, porters would run past with ease, carrying their big loads and being light on their feet. I also watched Nick with his full backpack breezing up the hill. I was very glad that I had opted out of that challenge and had the porters carry my stuff
For the last part of Dead Woman’s Pass, I walked with Becca. She asked me if I found this part of the trek harder than the marathon. I can’t remember what I said at the time, but looking back, it wasn’t. But, the feelings were similar to the feelings at mile 21 - you’ve come so far, and you feel like you’re close, but you can’t see the finish line. Also, for me, the sense of achievement after conquering Dead Woman’s Pass was a sliver of the feelings at the marathon finish line. Feeling adrenalin from the phenomenal view, and feeling as high as the sky being at the same level as the clouds.
View from Dead Woman's Pass
It wasn’t over after Dead Woman’s Pass. After a quick break and some pictures, we started going downhill. This was a whole other experience that my knees did not appreciate. When running, I find it harder running downhill than uphill because it feels like the impact is harder on the knees - it was the same for me when hiking (sounding like an old lady now!). I was really glad I opted for the trekking poles that helped me balance and took a teeny bit of the weight off.
Doesn't look like it, but the start of a steep downhill climb
We stopped for lunch before starting another ascent to the ruins at Runcuracay. These ruins were small, but it’s cool to know that you can only visit them if you trek the Inca trail. The view from the ruins made you feel really secluded and hidden. The guides said it might have been used as a lookout, which totally made sense.
Ruins at Runcuracay
After Runcuracay, we did another descent to make our way to the ruins at Sayacmarca. Before heading off, Aldo and Danny told us about a sacred stop we'd pass along the way. I can't find any details on the origin, but I think the explanation was that one should bring a stone from the valley to leave at this point and make a wish because the Inca Trail was a sacred pilgrimage for the ancient Inca. We all brought a stone and made a wish.
Inca wishing rocks
After making our wishes and arriving at Sayacmarca, I was just plain tired, and when I’m tired I get a tad bit grumpy. It had also been a day and a half of being with people all the time, and I was beginning to crave some alone time. Unfortunately, to welcome my tired and grumpy self was massively steep and narrow staircase to get to the ruins. Wooh!
From the Sayacmarca ruins, I could see across the valley, getting a great view of Dead Woman’s pass and the massive mountain that we had just climbed. Wow. At this moment, I thought, what a wonderful world we live in and how lucky am I to be physically fit enough able to experience it. It was re-energizing. (Yeah, I'm cheesy).
The view of the mountain we had climbed to get to Sayacmarca
Our second campsite wasn’t far from Sayacmarca. I decided to take it slow, stopping to take photos and enjoyed a nice chat to Katrina. When we arrived, we were welcomed with more beautiful views of the Andes. I felt that where our tents were set up, was engulfed by mountains and clouds - again I felt like we were in the sky. No matter how many photos I took, I couldn't capture that feeling. More delicious food and drink, and another early night to bed. Only our second night and already we had gotten used to the 7:30/8pm bed time. Tomorrow would be a “sleep in”, with a wake-up call of 7am.
View of our second campsite