Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ancient History, Volume XVI

If you missed the last episode, it featured the first day of the Inca Trail and you should probably go and read it first so that you're not horribly confused. Just saying... (Also, this is going to be light on pictures, because we've gone over our internet downloads, which means uploading happens at 2002 speed. So...sorry.)

On the morning of Day 2, we were woken at about 6.15am by the porters banging on the outside of our tents and offering us coca leaf tea. While coca leaf tea is meant to help with altitude sickness, it mostly just made me feel nauseated, so I spent about five minutes trying to convey that I wanted hot water instead of tea. We had to be up and packed and in the mess tent by 6.30, which meant it was kind of a rush to do while juggling hot beverages. But there was porridge and pancakes calling to us (not literally, because that would be creepy...), so it wasn't too much of a struggle.

We started out along the trail at about 7.15,  and even the slog from our campsite up to the control point was painful. We saw a bunch of people (note: I did not say 'passed'. We SAW them as *they* passed *us*) doing it with full packs (there were porters carrying ours), and I still have no idea how they didn't die.

From the control point, the climb to Dead Woman's Pass started. And it was absolute and utter Hell. Within a terrifyingly short period of time, Ness and I had fallen behind. The only person we saw from our group was one of the guides, who'd been sent back to walk with us and "improve his English". As his English was pretty good, that was probably code for "make sure the girls who didn't do anywhere near enough training don't die, because that would be bad". So poor Eddie had to crawl along at a snail's pace, listening to me wheeze like an old set of bagpipes.
The Andes are HIGH, y'all. (Note: we did not actually climb this)

We finally reached the first designated rest point just before 11.00. On the plus side, about ten minutes before that, we overtook Mr and Mrs Watermelon. After their less than stellar performance on Day 1, they'd been made to start walking at 4.30 IN THE MORNING. So at least after that, we knew we weren't the absolute slowest in the group!! About 15 minutes after we got into the rest stop, Mr and Mrs Watermelon arrived. They sat down next to us, and within a couple of minutes, we heard snoring. Mrs Watermelon had toppled over sideways and was fast asleep. So that was...interesting.

As great as it was to reach the first rest stop, the problem was that from there, you could see up to Dead Woman's Pass. And it was A MILLIONTY MILES AWAY. As we were leaving the rest stop, we ran into the head guide. He told us that at our speed, we were probably about another hour and a half from the summit. That was more than a little depressing. And from this point on, the trek was actually WORSE. Because you'd reach a hundred metre-ish stretch of flat ground and convince yourself that it was the top, only to turn a corner and see another stretch of uphill ahead of you. 


About half way between the rest stop and the summit, I lost my shit and burst into tears of exhaustion and pain and "I don't want to do this any more". At which point Ness demanded that I stop before she start crying too. Shortly after that, it started to get colder, which made things even more uncomfortable.

We eventually reached the summit of Dead Woman's Pass (4,215m/13,828 feet above sea level) at about 1.15pm. The head guide was waiting for us, and informed us that Mr and Mrs Watermelon were still about two hours away, so that was a small moment of smug. The summit was FU-REEZING, so we stayed long enough for a photo and a celebratory Sublime, and then headed down the other side.
Don't I just look so thrilled to have another hour and a half to walk?

The other side was straight downhill. I lost Ness not long into the downhill section, because I got stuck behind a group of rude Scandinavians. Turns out the downhill part was much easier going, but also really freaking hard, because any time I stopped for a drink or to take a photo, I could feel my legs shaking uncontrollably. And I knew if I stopped for more than a few seconds, I wouldn't be able to keep going. Basically? I have very few photos from Day 2.

We eventually staggered into camp at about 2.45pm, and were brought MASSIVE plates of food, which was more than a little welcome. The afternoon was spent playing more cards, and eating enormous quantities of popcorn. At about 5.30, we found out that Mr and Mrs Watermelon were SO far behind that porters had had to run back with food supplies. They eventually staggered into camp just as the rest of us were sitting down to dinner, and were taken straight to their tent on the verge of collapse.

The evening was spent playing more cards, including a game called 'Nervous', which involved slapping other player's hands. After several rounds resulting in bruises, it was decreed that all rings must be removed before someone ended up with a broken bone...

And so ended the second day. Well. Apart from the fact that when we finally left the mess tent to head to bed, the stars. Oh my God, the stars. I've never seen anything like it. And I imagine the only time I'll ever see anything like it again is when The Doctor turns up and takes me for a wee jaunt in the TARDIS.

So yeah. If you're wondering whether to do the Inca Trail? Day 2 will nearly kill you. But the stars make it totally worth it.

K xx

7 comments:

  1. "But there was porridge and pancakes calling to us (not literally, because that would be creepy...)" <----LOL

    I did the Pyg Track at Mt Snowdon in the UK last year. Granted it didn't take 2 days, but it put me on my ass and I'm fairly fit. One of the girls I was with was in charge of figuring out which track we were doing..she "selected" one of the easier tracks, but then tricked us into doing one of the hardest tracks (for more professional hikers) I got about 90% of the way up...I had been on the verge of tears from about the half way point...and gave up. I sat down and said "Im not going any further..I'm done!".

    It was only when I was sitting there and I saw a...slightly large gentleman trudge on past me that I thought "F*** this...if he's going to make it to the top then so am I" and I did.

    I like hiking because it makes you realize that somethings in life are hard and things get put in your way to make it more difficult and challenging. But at the end of the day, when you put your mind to it - it's not so hard and there's always a way to achieve our goals. Even if it does take an obese person walking past to trigger that motivation.

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    1. I think for the whole of the second day, my brain just kept reminding me that you can take a train to Machu Picchu. The first and third days weren't so bad, because there were awesome archaeological sites along the way, so that kept me going. But the second day? Is literally just a millionty kilometres of uphill, followed by much the same of downhill.

      And good on you for finishing the Pyg Track!!

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  2. I can totally empathise with the whole "turning a corner and finding more hill" thing, although my experience wasn't quite as epic as yours. It was just a local parky, bushland reserve-type thing but its main feature was: hills. Every time we reached another corner in the path, we assured each other we must surely be near the top now... but no, THERE WAS STILL MORE AROUND THE CORNER.

    Then there was no view once we reached the top, due to what I thought was an unncessary excess of trees.

    In short, I am happy to experience South American mountain climbing vicariously.

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    1. Well that's just RUDE!! If you have to trek up a massive hill, there should at the very least be a spectacular view from the top to make up for all the pain you went through getting up there.

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  3. OMG, I actually felt pain while reading this. Ack!

    I totally would've burst into tears as well. Was there an option to roll downhill? ;-) You're a freakin' champ for doing this. Oh, and I totally laughed out loud when I read that Mr and Mrs Watermelon were made to start 4:30am, BWAHAHAHAH! Brilliant. Poor sods.

    Also, this:

    "[...] were SO far behind that porters had had to run back with food supplies. They eventually staggered into camp just as the rest of us were sitting down to dinner, and were taken straight to their tent on the verge of collapse."

    Hahahahahahah. I wouldn't laugh if not for the fact that they're mean. ;-)

    XOXO

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    1. The story of Mr and Mrs Watermelon gets even more inadvertently hilarious on Day 3. Just you wait and see!!
      <3

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  4. I think my memory of this hike is what reminds me I can do anything. Even though I didn't know at the time that I had a dodgy heart, and I do now, which kind of proves that most of it is phsychological! Hiking in general for me is about proving that my mind can control my body (except for that pesky arrhythmia thing), and the sense of achievement is incredible :)

    PS - I'm so glad you stopped crying when I told you to. We'd probably be there yet if you hadn't! And soz I left you behind on the downhill, but I thought I should go with gravity and not fight it.

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