Again, as soon as we arrived, we were given juice and then shown to our tents which had all been put up for us. Then a bowl of hot water arrived for each of us so we could have a wash and change before dinner. It all seemed very civilised. It was so good to wash the dust and sweat off our faces and wash our hands and feet.
Although this was the ‘easy’ day – only a total of 12km with an elevation gain of just 350 metres, we were still hot and tired. And we had been plagued by bugs all day – swarms of them which got up your nose, in your mouth and even in your eyes! It felt good to wash and change for the night.
Then we had a ceremony where the porters and chefs introduced themselves to us. There were 20 porters and 2 chefs – looking after a group of 15 hikers and 2 guides. It was so nice to hear a little about the porters, ranging in age from 19 to about 56. They were mostly short and thin but very, very strong.
Incredibly, Javier (one of our guides) re-appeared just before dinner – after taking our drop-out back and putting her in a car to Cusco, he had got back to the start point and then trekked to the evening camp in 2 hours 45 minutes – whereas we had taken all day! It was good to have our rear guard back and he would prove to be invaluable over the next couple of days!
Then we had an incredible 3 course meal in our dining tent (which also doubled up as the dormitory for all the porters). It was a great atmosphere and we were all happy to have made it to the end of day one. The celebration even included a spectacular dessert of flambed bananas in chocolate sauce! We were also very aware that it would be much harder tomorrow – we faced the famous ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ – and another 12 Km with an actual elevation climb of 1215 metres (more if you account for the undulations!)
We were also told that our wake up call would be 05.30 so after dinner, we headed straight for our tents and bed.
My night was a disaster! I got absolutely no sleep at all. I’d been told that the sleeping mats were very thin and pretty much just foam yoga mats, so I invested in a blow up airbed. But we were actually given air mattresses. But since I’d bought and then carried mine, I figured I would use it on top of the provided airbed and have double comfort – but it didn’t work out like that and I just kept sliding around. I couldn’t get comfortable, was over-excited, nervous about the following day and kept needing to go to the loo (not an easy feat in the dark, even with a head torch). Then I got leg cramps! Standing up to relieve the cramp was impossible, so I ended up doing a strange kind of downward dog in my tent trying to get the cramp out of my calves and the front of my lower leg!
However, as I lay there, reflecting on everything, I still couldn’t believe that I was actually finally on the Inca Trail and had got to the end of Day 1. I thanked the stars, the sun, the moon, the Universe, God and Pachamama (mother earth) for the incredible experience I was having.