Not surprisingly, the porters were already up and at work and soon our first cups of coca tea were arriving to our tents. The elevation is approx. 9,780 ft. at this campsite and the hot tea is very welcome upon waking.
This morning after tea we are served toast and jam, Quiñoa in an oatmeal like form for starters and potato fritatta, wow! Fortified for miles!
It was warm and rainy last night and a few of us are groggy having not gotten a complete nights' sleep. We started out at 8:30 and hiked an incline of 1,200 ft in an hour. Stopping along the way to take pictures, we then arrive at Ayapata at 10:30 for a rest. A riot of bright red bromeliads covers the trees here. There is a local toilet here for pit stops by the way.
We continue and climb through the dense Polylepis forest and along the glacial stream on the stone steps. It's getting really steep as we switchback up the mountain and you find yourself thinking how in the world did they do this, especially inside this thick, dense forest? The Inka Trail, or the Qhapaq Ñan as it is known is actually an immense road system spanning thousands of miles. Please see the Qhapaq Ñan link above the Archives for more information on this ancient road system of the Andes. The Inka Trail to Machu Picchu is only a small portion of it.
There are mosses, lichens and all manner of incredible looking things growing all over the the tree trunks and you keep walking, looking and taking a break every 8 or 10 steps or so, taking it all in. If you like plants, this trail is amazing and ever changing! The Polylepis themselves are amazing and foreign looking and it's all fantastic! The trees grow at or above the natural tree line in the Andes. An endangered species, they are quickly disappearing as they are often cut for firewood or building materials.
We are now ready to ready to start our accent towards the highest pass, Warmiwañuska or Reclining Woman's Pass at 13,850 ft (4,221 m).
Eddie, our guide, gives us 2 hours to reach the pass. "Walk 8 or 10 steps and stop for a quick rest but don't stop too long". I keep reminding myself of this fact as I huff and puff but keep going, keep drinking, keep looking up towards the pass. We continue each at our own speed of walking, resting, walking, drinking. This section really requires concentration and perseverance and the view delivers when you reach the top!
Approaching the pass we can see small dots that look like people in between the fast moving clouds and it looks so far away!
I am near last as I keep on trudging, almost there and I can hear the cheers and shouts of encouragement. Most of the group have been waiting for me but not too long. As a group we made this section of the hike in about one hour and 45 minutes, not too bad! We made it over the big one!!! We just covered about 3,900 ft of increase in elevation in approximately 4 1/2 hours.