Day 1 is not awful. It's steep but levels out in places and the scenery, as with every day, in unmatched to anything I've ever seen before. There were so many times I looked around and thought, 'Is this real life? Am I actually here?' It's moments like this in travel that I live for because I'm acutely aware of just how blessed I am to be wherever I happen to be. Truly, the ruins and the scenery are worth every out of breath second but again, I'm getting ahead of myself. We stopped at several ruins and spots along the way. There are a few little outposts with snacks and very limited "bathrooms." We hiked from about 9 am to about 4 pm, it's a longer day but the elevation isn't working against you yet. I could tell you more but I think the pictures speak for themselves for the most part.
We got to camp around 4 pm and had the rest of the night to relax, wash up, and eat dinner. We each got a bowl of hot water which was heaven by that point. Taking off the hiking boots was bliss. The first campsite also boasted a toilet...and by toilet I mean a porcelain shell with no seat and to be honest I'd rather squat in the woods. If I've learned one thing it's I would rather use a nature toilet than some of the d-rity 'toilets' I've seen. Blech. But it's also bragging rights. What can I say? Sleep was fretful in anticipation of the dreaded Day 2...
Day 2 I had read and been told is the worst. We climb to the highest point of the hike, 14,000 ft above sea level, and it's brutal and we start early at 7 am. I was nervous, won't lie. The beginning of the day wasn't so bad. I wasn't suffering from any elevation sickness, always a bonus. Mild incline for the most part and we also get to our last outpost of snack and provisions if you need them...from there on out you're on your own. After that pit stop, it's the hike to the finish aka the top. Average hike time to the top is about 2 hours (it took me 1 hour and 10 minutes) and it's brutal. It is a steep incline, steps galore, and while the first portion is in a wooded area and I felt like Katniss, it eventually opens up to mountainside but regardless, it's all beautiful...and so incredibly difficult. Every few steps I felt like I had to stop and take a breath. Legit. I was so tired I was almost in tears looking at the top, both because I was so tired and the thought of getting to the top was overwhelmingly emotional. The elevation is not your friend and you will be huffing and puffing the whole way through. Totes normal, but as an otherwise active person, it was a little hard on the ego. The views are, again, breathtaking. There is a steep incline and you can see the top and all the people in front of you, it's amazing. It was kinda cloudy that day so it felt like we were in the clouds.
The top though...the personal satisfaction I felt when I got to the top was unlike anything else I've ever felt. I felt like I could do anything at that moment. I was so tired, so out of breath, I cried. I actually cried I was so happy to have said I did this. Absolutely amazing and the most accomplished feeling ever. Looking back, I felt better and more proud on this day than on Day 4 when we got to Machu Piccu. Seriously.
The climb down was pretty treacherous. Steep 'stairs,' one woman actually fell and I had to play nurse. She was fine. And by 2 pm, it was all in a day's work. The exhaustion hit and I kid you not, my friend and I took 2 naps before dinner. It also started to rain and that didn't help. I felt especially bad for the people who took more time doing the hike and had to hike in the rain. That sucks. But again, the food was great, popcorn is always appreciated--it was a personal highlight for me--and we slept early and hard to prepare for day 3.
Stay tuned for Days 3 & 4...