Our 3:30AM alarm went off and we painfully rolled out of bed and into the shower…after all, this would be the last shower we would get for the next 4 days! Once we were ready, we grabbed our packed lunches and got into the hotel’s complimentary car to get to the meeting spot in town. We walked onto the charter bus and saw our 18 porters welcoming us by clapping from the back of the bus. They were all dressed in bright red Llama Path shirts. We found a seat, smiled at our fellow trekkers and rested our heads against the window to get a little shut-eye.
As the bus drove for 2 hours through the dark, along windy roads, everyone was silent until we arrived in a small town. We were all told to get off the bus and sit down for breakfast at a small restaurant. They served us pancakes, fruit, yogurt, cereal and coffee. We enjoyed getting to know each other over our first sleepy breakfast together. After breakfast we bought some dried coca leaves with a bit of thick black salty paste which they said would assist in the breakdown of the coca leaves up in the mountains. They also sold toilet paper thankfully since Giff and I forgot to pack it…a minor detail! Once back on the bus, it was another hour before we were at the starting point.
Once we arrived, we got all our things off the bus and bought a $1 bandana from one of the local Peruvian women to block the sun from our neck. We put on sunblock and bug spray and took a group photo by the Inca Trail sign. This was the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime trip together and we were very anxious to get started. As we walked through the Inca Trail gate, we were all asked to give our passports where we were verified as registered to walk the trail that day since they only allow 500 people per day to enter. They gave us an Inca Trail stamp and we were officially on our trek.
Just walking a few steps through the mountains and the scenery already seemed so beautiful. We were walking at a pretty slow pace, stopping often as our guides pointed out various plants and trees along the path. One that particularly stood out was a cactus plant which had several little white balls clinging to it…almost like a mold or fungus. The guide picked off one of the little white balls and popped it open into his hand. It was a deep cranberry red color. He explained it was actually a parasite feeding off these cactus plants. The Peruvian people learned to use these parasites as a dye for their crafts…it is still used that way today.
We continued to walk through the valley with towering mountains above us. It was already getting hot and we were all taking layers off as we continued our hike. We came across two Incan ruins and stopped to listen to the details of what they thought the buildings were used for etc. They specifically pointed out the structures which use to be used for crops. They looked like shelves carved into the mountains…we recognized the style right away from our Sacred Valley tour yesterday. It was classic Incan style…grass of course was now growing over them but centuries ago they were used to farm their food.
After walking for about 4 hours we stopped for lunch. Our porters who carried huge packs on their backs filled with our tents, food, cooking equipment, sleeping bags etc. etc…had hiked way ahead of us and already had the food tent assembled and bowls of hot water with a bar of soap next to them. We arrived to the camp site, the boys rang out the sweat from their shirts and hung them on the clothes line. We washed up and sat down to eat. The food was impressively good for camping…We started with a fresh salad served in a half avocado followed by a homemade soup and then a couple of options for the main course…meats and rice and potatoes. Forget about hot dogs and hamburgers…this was great food considering we were camping!
After lunch and a bit of resting, we were on the trails again hiking through stunning mountain views. We continued for another 3 hours or so going up and down the path and seeing a few other people trekking as well. We saw some of the locals who live along the Inca path walking with their donkeys and some trying to sell bottled water and Gatorade to the trekkers.
When we finally arrived to our camp site…our porters had all our sleeping tents assembled with warm bowls of water and soap sitting outside each one. They not only trekked ahead of us and had the whole campsite set up with gorgeous views for us to stare at, but they had already started cooking dinner! We all picked our tents, washed up and dressed in additional layers including winter hats because the air was much colder from being higher in altitude and almost sunset.
The guides had us come in for what they called “happy hour” which included coca tea and popcorn. We sat around and chatted amongst each other while the porters were hard at work preparing dinner. They gave us about an hour between happy hour and dinner time to relax. Today wasn’t very hard as far as the trekking was concerned…the altitude wasn’t too high either…but everyone had gotten up very early to be on the bus by 4:30AM and then we had hiked for about 7 hours. We were more sleepy than exhausted at that point.
For dinner, we were again impressed…they served us a starter, a soup and several entrée options and the chef wearing his chef hat came into our tent to present our dessert as he lit the bananas on fire with the rum in his saute pan.. We of course ended again with a cup of tea. It was really important to drink plenty of liquids throughout the day not only because of the hiking but specifically because of the altitude we would be tackling over the next several days. I didn’t have as much as I should have and on top of getting only a few hours of sleep…I started to feel a little “off”.
After dinner, we all went into our beds, which were thin air mattresses with a sleeping bag. The guides said it was bedtime and that they would be waking us up at about 6AM for breakfast and then we would hit the trails for what would be the most difficult day of our 4 day trek.
Published by Brandey Kabat
What I like: Dark chocolate, yoga, fresh squeezed juice, laughing, hiking, wine, travel, food, lush products, being warm, having long hair, the ritual of drinking something hot first thing in the morning…
What I don’t like: When people smell their fingers, pushing elevator buttons, confrontational situations, not being able to fall asleep quickly at bedtime…
Most random job ever: Plastic surgery consultant
As for my love life: I met my husband mid way through my junior year in college, as soon as I laid my eyes on him I was attracted to him. In fact, I made the first move which was a bit out of character but there was something about him…probably the fact that he was smokin’ hot!!
Where from and where to: I grew up in NY, went to college at The Ohio State University and then headed to CA after graduation. My boyfriend (Giff) and I had a map, a borrowed van and used stuff from his mom’s basement aka a vacuum, silverware, old Christmas ornaments etc., and about $1000 each. We thought it would be a good idea to head straight to CA since neither of us had been. Being we didn’t know anyone there nor did we have a job or job interviews set up or a place to live…I would say we did it the hard way! However with a bit of help from Giff’s mom who flew out to put us up in a hotel, bought me a suit for interviewing and co-signed a lease to get us a place to live we eventually found jobs and an apartment and have been in CA for 10 years.
Our story: After moving out to CA and living together for about 3 years we got engaged. He popped the question while down on one knee on the beach at sunset after we finished our picnic he had packed of bread, cheese, shrimp cocktail and wine. He even had the ring in a box that had a light shining down on it when opened so as it was getting dark, this amazing man was asking me to be his wife as he handed me a huge rock…Yes! Yes! Yes!
In 2005 we were married (I am biased but our wedding was absolutely amazing). By the end of 2005 we were new home owners. 2006-2009- we were both happily married, attached to our 3 cats and were focused on building our careers.
Giff and I got pregnant mid year 2009 with our first baby but what should have been one of the highlights of our life was soon distracted by the news I received at the doctor’s office.
The lump in my breast that had been dismissed the year before as nothing was now being diagnosed by a different doctor as breast cancer. Thankfully Giff is a persistent person and when we went in for our ultrasound (to hear our baby’s heartbeat) he brought up the request for testing to be done on the lump rather than dismissing it based on feeling it.
The going gets rough: Things began to move so quickly at that point, it was hard to breathe. I was 30, pregnant with my first child and going into surgery to remove breast cancer. I was about to go through what would be the worst year of my life. The plan had been discussed, we were going with the most aggressive regimen possible- double mastectomy, port surgically placed in my chest, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiation. We also had to terminate the pregnancy. This cancer was estrogen positive and the hormones were actually feeding the cancer. That little angel whom was the cause of our going into the doctor saved my life.
Giff was my rock through every step…interviewing a team of the best doctors, memorizing which medicines I needed to take and when, driving me to chemotherapy and sitting next to me while I was so scared, telling me I was beautiful when I was bald, and so many other things…words cannot express. When you say your vows, in sickness and in health…you would never guess sickness of this magnitude at this age would be in the near future. In addition to this hardship, Giff’s dad died of a complicated prostate cancer the day we came home from my surgery. I could not hold my husband as he mourned for his dad because of the pain I was in from the mastectomy. How did Giff handle all of this pain at one time? How was he so strong for me? He is amazing. Giff’s dad was one of those people whom you naturally wanted to be around…his smile was contagious, his love for life was invigorating and he listened so intently when you talked in a conversation with him. He made you feel special. We think about him often and will miss him so much.
My family and friends were also by my side…my mom flying out from NY several times to help us with cooking and cleaning and holding my hand. It must be one of the most awful things in the world to watch your baby girl be diagnosed with breast cancer. My girlfriends also flew out to take care of me and help with anything they could. Other friends living closer would come by just to sit and talk or watch movies. There were so many cards, letters, flowers, cookies, and other gifts that came from all over the country. It’s amazing to have such great people in my life. In addition to my amazing circle of friends and family, there were the strangers with whom crossed our path. Whether it was a letter in the mail from a breast cancer survivor, the anesthesiologist who called Giff during my surgery crying happy tears that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, or our fertility doctor who promised to watch over our frozen embryos as if they were her own. There were so many small gestures that made such a big impact on our lives.
Looking at the bright side: Thankfully this was caught in stage 1, had it been caught a year prior by the first doctor I had gone into about the lump, it may have been caught at stage 0. Please learn from my lesson…insist the lump be tested – a lump cannot be diagnosed by touch. They were able to cut all the cancer out and after I finish the entire regimen including a pill I take over the next 5 years, they said there is a 95% chance the cancer will never come back.
Our exciting future: We’ve decided to re-prioritize, we are taking 400 days starting February 7th of 2011 to travel the world! We will travel to new places, eat new foods, taste new wines and meet new people. We will focus on healing ourselves both physically and mentally. This will be one of the best years of our lives.
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One Reply to “Day 196 of 400: Machu Picchu Trek (1st day) – Peru”
What a great post! So wish we could have joined you on this once in a lifetime journey hiking Machu Pichu. Hope you guys are having fun and had a great Christmas. Where are you now? Where will you celebrate NYE??? xoxo Ber