What to expect on the hardest day of The Inca Trail

I'm sure the chef made us pancakes that morning to soften the blow of hiking straight upwards after rolling out of bed.

The only thing that made me walk faster the entire four days, was a fire we saw spreading out across the hills when we were finishing up lunch. We were outside the tent, putting on our packs, when someone pointed upwards. We all looked up to see chunky smoke clouds pouring out into the Andean ranges, while orange-yellow flames jumped around beneath them. The sight of that fire coupled with the strong wind spiked my anxiety up more than a few notches. I pushed the Nikes far that day.

The only thing that made me walk faster the entire four days, was a fire we saw spreading out across the hills when we were finishing up lunch. We were outside the tent, putting on our packs, when someone pointed upwards. We all looked up to see chunky smoke clouds pouring out into the Andean ranges, while orange-yellow flames jumped around beneath them. The sight of that fire coupled with the strong wind spiked my anxiety up more than a few notches. I pushed the Nikes far that day.

Day 02: Wayllabamba to Pacamayo (12km)

After making it to the first pass, we followed the left bank of the Llulluchayoc river for an hour or so to arrive at Tres Piedres (three stones).

Time for a break and a snack.

I have never snacked so much as I snacked on that 4 day hike. It was a continuous cycle of walk, refuel, drink water, repeat. The food provided on the trek is a three course banquet each meal but if you know your a snacker, pack an ample amount.  My Canadian tent buddy had come prepared with over 50 (yes, 50) different chocolate bars from home. She could of opened her own stall up there. 

Three hours of trekking later and we arrived at Llulluchapampa, which sits at 3,680m.

From there, comes the hardest part of the trail. The hike up to Deads Womans’s Pass (Abra de Huarmihuanusca).

Great name, right?

It takes around 1.5 hours of steady uphill, lung busting, hiking to reach the 4,200m top. 

Made It!

Made It!

It’s a one foot in front of the other kind of a climb. When I’d look up at the top, it looked so close it was as if I could reach out and touch it, yet the altitudes invisible force prevented me from walking any faster. Your excited to see it, but you can’t move any faster to get there.

All along the trail I was in a constant wardrobe layer change. When the suns out, it’s hot, then the wind comes along and it’s as freezing as only an Andean mountain range could be. Pack layers. 

By the time I made it to the top of Dead’s Women Pass, my lungs were crackling, but I was smiling, the hardest part of the trail was done. It was all (literally and figuratively), downhill from here. Well, for the second day, at least.

I sat down to enjoy the view and the photo op's while the rest of the team arrived.

It's all downhill from here ( The Inca Trail, Day 2, headed to Pacamayo )

It's all downhill from here (The Inca Trail, Day 2, headed to Pacamayo)

It was an easy descent to the second nights campsite at Pacamayo. Our porters had prepared a hot home-brew that had me flying after one drink. The culture divide was strong that night. The English and the Kiwis stayed up in the main tent, chatting and eating popcorn. The Americans and Canadians went to bed. The porters took to their own tents to try and get wifi to find out the score of the football. When we were there, some unknown stroke of the football pool had matched Peru vs New Zealand. From that night on, the porters stopped calling me señorita, and started calling me la competencia. The Competition. 

We all went to bed early most nights, everyone knackered from that days hiking. Most mornings are an early start, day three, the longest day of the trail, is no exception.