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Tales of Peru (Part 5)

Day 5 (Monday, Inca Trail I)

We greet the bus that will take us to the start of the Inca trail with a potent cocktail of excitement, apprehension, and sleepy.  I got 3000 free steps on my UP as we drove along the beautiful but incredibly bumpy single-track dirt road to the trailhead. Upon arriving the bus was quickly unloaded and left. There was no turning back now.

The porters deftly scooped up the camping supplies, tossed them on their backs, and tore off down the trail, leaving us, the tourists, to finish putting on our sunscreen, bug-spray, and hats. It wasn’t hot, but at this altitude, it was soon to be the first time I had been sunburned in fog.

We started to walk. Words do not do the beauty of this place justice. Just open this picture as big as you can and stare add. Imagine the soothing rush of the river and the calming, meditative hike along it’s banks. This was going to be amazing.

After an hour we stopped and got a lesson in how to chew coca leaves. A plant with many uses, most famously of which is producing cocaine. The chewing relieves altitude sickness, and the leaves contain many valuable nutrients, energy, and protein. Not to mention they make your mouth feel all tingly - like sucking on a menthol cough drop.

After another hour we stopped for lunch. Incredibly, the porters had already arrived, set up lunch tents, tables, chairs, cooked us a three course meal with tea, and did the dishes. LUXURIOUS.

After a few more hours of hiking, we arrived at our campsite for the night. It didn’t feel like reality. The world was saturated with beauty. It felt fake it was so pretty and serene. Like watching Planet Earth with your entire body. Which makes me kinda sad when I think about it. But anyway, there was no way to be sad in these surroundings.

We ate, we talked, we bonded, we slept. Well, we were going to sleep, but as I climbed into my sleeping bag my feet became soaking wet. After a few moments of panic, I realized I had set my pack down on top of the mouthpiece of my camelback and a liter of water had been absorbed into the foot of my sleeping bag. WELP. Luckily, Laura remained calm and suggested I wrap my feet in a garbage bag. It was cold, but dry. Success!!

During the night, I was awoken twice, once by the sound of pouring rain (luckily there were no leaks in our tent - not everyone was so lucky), and once by the sound of dogs fighting, and one of them crashing into the outside of our tent. Isn’t nature great!

But sleep we did. And we would need it. Rumor had it that tomorrow was going to be the hardest day of the trip.

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Andrew Carman