Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Inca Trail, Day One

A hideous 5:20am roll-call found us struggling for consciousness in the hostel lobby. However, despite the wicked hour we were excited to be embarking on the journey to South America's premium tourist distraction. On the bus we were introduced to our guide, Gilbert Puma (never has the name Gilbert sounded so cool), a Peruvian encyclopedia with a passion for archaeology and nature.

The starting bridge

Delay struck when, after breakfast in a nearby town, our bus became crippled and could go no further. While we were waiting for replacement transport introductions were made around the group of 16- our new 'fameelee' as Puma was fond of calling us. When the bus finally came we were taken to the starting point of our four day hike, where we bought sticks of eucalyptus to use as walking poles, had our passports stamped and set off. Behind schedule, but happy to be on our way.

Inca Trail drinks for sale

The first day of the Inca Trail is the easiest, a gentle ten kilometre up and down with the occasional pit stop for an Inca ruin or botanical lesson. We rambled into the campsite near dusk, tents waiting patiently and dinner already bubbling away on the stove. The food was exceptional, much of it better than the fare we've encountered back in civilisation. How the cook managed to prepare such handiwork for 18 people on a portable gas stove is the greatest mystery of the trip.

A sample menu:

starter: corn fritters with spicy salsa
soup: vegetable
main: rice, vegetables saltado (stirfry), fried chicken, soy steaks and eggplant milanesa (like a schnitzel)
desert: banana flambe
tea and coffee

We fell asleep under the influence of a carton of red wine with the rain beginning to drum on our tents. We'd been warned of nasty weather for this time of year, and as the pitter patter became a roar, we prepared for the worst in the morning...

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