Monday, September 24, 2012

On the "Camino Inca"

August 22, 2012

I spent the night packing all my stuff. We're permitted 6kg pp which must include any of the equipment we might have rented: like sleeping rolls or hiking poles. Six kilos isn't much, really. Each porter that works on the trail is regulated to bring a maximum of 25kg on their backs which must include things like stools, tents, cookware, food, personal belongings and our 6kg duffel. My day bag contains a rain coat, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a sweater.

The bus ride is a build up of what's to come; we see the country side whizzing past us as we approach a wide rushing river: the Urubamba River flanked with the periodic groups of what remain of small Incan village settlements. With a flick of my head back, I pop my next dose of altitude pills and get ready to start the trek of a lifetime: we arrive at Kilometre 82.

Day 1 of the trail is relatively easy: the incline isn't intense. The expectation is to hike for approximately 6.5 hours before we reach our first camp site. On the trail, we pass lots of locals who actually live along the trail and farm this way as well as traverse these trails on a regular basis. To them, this is just another day.

Unfortunately for me, I probably opened my mouth while taking a shower and I'm experiencing some gastrointestinal distress. I pray that I can keep in control for the duration of the hike where there is no toilet. The plan for us to ease into the 4 day hike, before we really get challenged, is well appreciated.

This representation of the hike is taken from a website that we read before coming out this way. As you can see, day 1 is a steady climb up the mountain. Day 2 has us leaving the tree line and making our way to the highest point in the entire climb: Dead Woman's Pass--which is 1500m up from where we started. During 1 day, we hike ~1000m; but, that's tomorrow and today, we're easing into our trek.

Our first stop is a rest stop where I'm desperate to use a toilet. Keep in mind that I have never had a true camping experience that involves a small hand trowel and toilet paper. I'm told the bathroom is around the green patch, behind the rest stop. I skip to the open green patch and see fresh water rushing past part of the path as it makes its way down the mountain--something I'm not used to seeing. I hop over this little stream and make my way to the simple buildings which house the facilities. I brace myself for what's to come; I get flashbacks to my first time using a squatter toilet in Taiwan. I take a deep breath and push open the door and see a porcelain sink in the ground?? This must be some sort of mistake, I think. How am I supposed to do this?

I exit the stall with a defeated frown on my face since I wasn't as successful as I hoped to be with this challenge. I quietly drag my feet back to the rest stop where I eat a snack and relax before starting off once more.

We are blessed with several Incan ruins along this first portion of the hike--maybe to keep things interesting for me. Or maybe even to help the nobility who took this trail, get through it in some form of luxury. That's right, I forgot to mention that we're told that the 45km trail we're on was originally reserved for nobility and that the much shorter, and less dramatic, trek to Machu Picchu was reserved for the common class--why anyone would want to do the longer more challenging one is beyond me. But that's modern day westernized thinking. I'm sure that the Incans coveted physical fitness and the natural beauty that we witnessed.

Patallacta is the first significant Incan ruin we see. The town, with its 115 dwellings guarded by a hilltop fortress, probably served as "a pit stop for Incas traveling between Cusco and Machu Picchu".  Despite the altitude of 2,438m, its agriculture was sufficient to support about 5,000 people because of the dozens of Inca stone canals that transport river from glacier-fed streams.  However, today this irrigation has been lost (A Trip to Ecuador & Peru).

We don't get to see Patallacta up close but we visit this other Incan station.

We walk for some time along the Urubamba River and by the early afternoon, we stop for lunch near the river. What's on the menu? Trout.

Since the altitude also slows one's metabolism and digestion, we have an opportunity to rest after lunch before starting back out again. The hike of this portion is starting to become a bit more challenging--but nothing that I don't feel I can't handle--given plenty of rest stops!

I make a friend when we take a rest in front of one of the local's home:

Our guide Dimas tells us that the first camp site we'll be staying at is a great location because it's just past a large incline and it's also away from the small farms (see roosters) and noisy animals... as long as we can get past the fact that this will be the most challenging bathroom situation we'll endure for the entire trail. How could this be worse than the sink in the ground?

The camp site belongs to a local lady who rents out her land for tourists like us. We arrive and our tents are already all pitched for us. Amazing.

Now, I was talking about that bathroom situation? I don't know how long you've tried to keep it all in before but there is no way you can survive without needing to go at least once. And let's face it, guy or girl, we'll each need to do our number 2 business in the exact same fashion. So get ready for the true Andean outhouse: a hole dug out of the ground with sticks placed sturdily across the sides without a door but a wall of twigs and leaves. Lucky you, I didn't snap a picture for you!

The weather is pretty chilly and as night falls, it doesn't get better. I decide to sleep with a sweater and heavy pants on. Good thing we got our sleeping bags to be rated for -1C. I'm not the praying type but before turning in for the night, I say a little prayer, to ask whomever would listen, to let me get through the night without needing to get up to use the "bathroom". I'm unsuccessful... :(

No comments:

Post a Comment