DAY 1: 5 hr/9 km Trek to Ayapata (elev. 3350 m)
NOTE: The Machu Picchu trek is usually done in min. 3 nights/4 days, however due to issues with the trains since the recent floods, our guides decided we would do 2 nights/3 days, so we would have more time at Machu Picchu. This essentially meant more hiking per day, given we have one day less to complete it! **
Today we left Ollantaytambo at 5am and began our trek at KM 82 (trail head) at 730am after receiving snacks from the porters. There are strict regulations about the weight each porter can carry (25 kg) so our duffel bags had to be 6kg of less. In our day packs we had all the necessary items for the day, as we would not see our duffel bags until we reached the campsite for the night. The porters were weighed down and always had to be ahead of us to setup lunch (tents, chairs, and an amazing 2course meal) as well as the campsite for the evening.
After passing the check point (where guards check permits and passports), we began our hike! It was a gorgeous morning and we hikeda few hours until reaching lunch. The porters cheered us as we came in, which was embarrassing given how hard they work and how incredibly resilient they are!
I can´t even describe the food these incredible guys cooked up for us! They setup a big tent with stools, had gatorade ready .. and then brought us: asparagus soup, garlic bread, chicken patties with lemon sauce, pasta, avocado and tomato salad, cooked vegetables and scalloped potatoes. I don´t even think I could cook such a meal up at home let alone in the middle of the mountains!
Something interesting I noticed on the first day was that there were children coming down the mountain, and several small villages along the way. These are the people of the highlands, and the children commute more than 1 hour to school. There were a few vendors along the way also, selling water or snacks. There was even a stall that had sunscreen and bug spray! Of course as we ventured higher up this ended and the trail felt much more ¨wild¨.
We arrived to the campsite around 4pm, as we had several rest stops on the first day. There were washrooms there (not used to that!) with squat toilets, no TP, and no lights. I personally prefer the nature option .. but later at night it is hard to find your way!
We had another impressive dinner of chicken noodle soup, mashed yuccas (deep fried and battered), salmon steaks, chinese vegetables (ginger stir-fry style), potatoes, and caramelized bananas. After dinner we always have the option of tea, but we were all so beat – all we wanted was to go to bed (i.e sleeping bag)! Before we retired, everyone admired the night sky – you could see EVERYTHING! I have been at my cabin, and up in the mountains away from city lights .. but this was even more spectacular. Not only was the big dipper clear, I was able to see the Southern cross and the milky way without difficulty! It makes complete sense that astrology was such a huge part of the Incans´ lives .. it is such an ethereal experience to feel so close to such an unfathomable concept (i.e burning balls that are light years away..).
As for my actual sleep .. well, I did not sleep well! My bag (borrowed from another traveller who had gone back to England) was not warm enough .. so I got around 2.5 hours of rest, and wore 2 pairs of pants, gloves, tuque, ski socks, thermal underwear .. you get the picture 🙂 In any case, no real complaints given that the porters are up after we are, to clean the dishes etc .. and then get up an hour before us to prep breakfast and provide us with hot coca leaf tea (for energy) and water to wash with.
We got up at 430am the next day to begin our 2nd day – the longest one – and got going by 530am!