Dead Woman's Pass. Aptly named.

October 3, 2013 - Inca Trail, Peru

In my last post, which was aaagggeees ago, I promised an eventful first night on the Inca Trail. So, briefly, here we go:

I woke up around midnight absolutely busting for a wee. I lay there not knowing what to do because outside was cold, wet, pitch black dark and, I can't stress this enough, filled with the howls of savage dogs. True story. I ultimately decided I couldn't wait 7 hours to pee, unsuccesfully tried to coax Louise into coming with me, and unzipped the tent with my boots half on and half off. I hadn't even stuck my head out through the tent when I heard the dogs coming for me, literally snarling and whispering "Rhian Greener we're going to rip you to shreds". Not so true story. I started desperately fiddling with the zips, but didn't have time to finish because Louise found some incredible upper body strength from somewhere and hauled me back into the tent by my collar. Hero. I was freaked out. Big time.

Anyway, day two began with some impressively fluffly homemade pancakes (I really don't know how these guys do it) and a top ho cho. We were stocking up on the calories because today was going to be major. It was the infamous day two, plus making up the faffing time from the day before. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the porters actually showed up in the middle of the night! Bizarre! Now I think about it, they managed to set up their tents at 2am without being eaten by savage wolves... More on them later though.

So day two. We were having to ascend 1200m up the "Dead Woman's Pass" to 4250m above sea level. To make things a bit more arduous on day two, we were walking pretty much through rainforrest the whole way. Which sounds cool, don't get me wrong. But it means there aren't any spectacular views to keep you occupied, and you can't really keep tabs on how far you've climbed and how much more of this bloody mountain you have to endure. You just can't see anything.

After a couple of hours we came to a little checkpoint with lots of local ladies selling out of date snacks and outrageously priced bottles of water. Our own supplies were running low and we were in need of some energy so I popped over to buy a bottle of gatorade each for the two of us. The guide had told us the drinks were expensive because the locals had to transport everything halfway up the mountain on foot etc etc. Which I totally get. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a bad person. And when she asked for 13 soles, I thought, yep, cool, you have earned these thirteen soles. Enjoy, lady. However, five minutes into my gatorade, the scary little Peruvian woman approached me. I was in trouble. From her angry little face and broken English I gathered they were actually 13 soles each. 26 soles would feed a small family with a dog for three weeks down the hill in Cuzco. 500 people start the inca trail everyday, and this woman was perfectly placed in the middle of the hardest mountain on day two, where EVERYONE needs a bottle of water. She may look shabby, but this woman is a bloody millionaire. I take my hat off. And drink my gatorade down both bitter and amused.


After walking up steep steps for five hours, we reached open space and the snow line! We passed a local man playing a wooden flute (really badly, sorry, but it was). Louise tried to strike up conversation, to tell this man who spoke no English whatsoever, that I played the flute too. "But her flute is metal and goes this way (motions to the side) rather than that way". Needless to say, this was entirely lost in intranslation and the man decided what Louise really wanted was for him to play me a solo. After which he asked for 1 sole. This was vetoed by me, one more gatorade incident and we'd be bankrupt. Although, 1 sole did seem like a bargain given recent events.

After five hours walking steeply uphill and being completely out of breath the entire time, we reached the top of Dead Woman's Pass. Yes! We were itching to get going again, we had another 2 hours or so of descent before we hit camp and were allowed to eat again. The guides don't allow the groups to stop for lunch during the climb, because if you stop, your legs are likely to seize up and you won't be able to walk again. You can only stop for a couple of minutes at a time and then you have to get moving again straight away. Also, the change in altitude means that stopping, eating, and walking steeply uphill again will make you vomit. Nice.

So, now for the easy part. Downhill. Ha! What a joke! It was almost as hard as uphill. We had to descend by 600 metres or so, (when you've climbed that high you have to descend again to sleep to avoid altitude sickness) so this was the steepest downhill walk I ever hope to encounter. It was both physically and mentally draining, because you had to really think about where you were putting your feet, and we really relied on our walking sticks for support. Going downhill is also when your knees start to ache and your ankles start to twinge.

Anyway, it only lasted two hours and we were at camp by 3:30pm. Kind of on schedule-ish. We had great ideas of sitting around in the sun and playing cards, but as we were now camping quite high, it was bloody freezing. We snuggled in our tents to keep warm whilst we waited for dinner to be cooked, rubbing deep heat on our various ailments and nearly gassing ourselves in the tent in the process. Louise tried to keep me awake but I'd fall asleep mid sentence, I was so shot. Finally, after a well earned dinner, we hit the hay, all feeling completely done in after an epic day. It was cold, but there were no dogs/wolves tonight. So I slept like a baby.









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