Friday, May 29, 2009

Camino Inca - Day One Travel Journal

Today we started the Inca Trail. After waking up at 5AM, and eating a quick breakfast of cheese, toast and coffee, we met David (our tour guide) and the NC State Group at the Hotel Garcilaso. We saw Carlos Schwalb again (the organizer for Casey's study abroad trip) and he say all was well with his family and the Study Abroad Program.

Leaving from the Hotel, we took about an hour and forty minute bus ride to Ollantaytambo to get a few supplies (Gatorade, bathroom breaks, and coca leaves). We also picked up a walking stick and some choclo, which is a large-kerneled maize varitey that is native to the Andes.

The Inca Trail (or at least the most popular part) Trailhead begins at a location known as "Kilometer 82", where we passed through a checkpoint and crossed the Urubabma River and were on our way. Because the Inca Trail is so popular, the Peruvian Government only allows a maximum of 500 people a day to begin. This number includes Trail Guides, Porters and Hikers so if you're thinking about going, you should expect to reserve your trail permit at least 3-4 months in advance during the busy season (May-September).

The first few km's were relativley easy and offer a great view of Mount Veronica. Mt. Veronica is so named for the first person to climb it (An Australian Lady, named Veronica). At over 6,000 meters, it's snow-capped year round.

Back in the valley, we bagan our short ascent for the day, followed by a few up and down climbs that followed the river.

Passing by two Incan Ruin Sites (used as agricultural centers to support the Royals/priests that lived in Machupicchu) and several small villages (where you can buy water, fruit and even Gatorade), we were able to see alot of the Peruvian Mountian wildlife. During the 11km hike on Day one, we saw more varieties of chickens and several types of short-legged horses (better to climb the mountians with). Most of the people here appear to be of native descent and live a subsistence life; but all are very friendly and happy.

Our last few Km's were over a sharp climb that lead us over a small mountian and down to the first campsite. The porters (mainly native people hired to carry supplies for the group) had already run ahead (literally) and set up the tents on the terraced hillside. They were also already preparing dinner when we arrived around 6:00PM.

We ate a delicious dinner of vegetable soup, a plate of rice, potato and stuffed pepper. Because of the altitude, it's easier to digest a vegetarian diet, so our meals consisted of mostly starches. Of course, the night was capped off by sevearal cups of tea.

The view of the stars here is amazing. No picture or words could ever describe the sight of the stars on the first night. Without the presence of light pollution that we see so frequently near the cities, we were able to see constellations and even the Milky Way! Also, we could see the Southern Cross. Everything here is magnified: Taller, Steeper, Bigger, Sharper.

(LINK WORKS NOW) Pictures are posted: Here!

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