So the day has finally arrived! After not the earliest morning of the trip and a 40 minute bus ride to the start of the trail, our group arrived for last minute items. We got to watch the porters load up everything for the first time and weigh our bags. After some last minute bathroom breaks with real latrines for the last time for a few days, we hiked down to the infamous hut to check in and stamp our passports. And we wait and wait and wait. We are all jazzed up with nowhere to go. Finally, after 10am, we take our last minute pictures with the start sign and we get moving. We all take so many pictures at the start, everyone is stopping every few minutes to stop and enjoy the scenery and capture the moment.
Along the first day of the hike, there are lots of little shops that the locals have set up for people to buy stuff. Food, drinks and souvenirs are available at a premium and the prices go up the farther up the mountain you go. Before we set off everyday, the porter provided us with a snack for our packs and got to fill our bottles up with boiled water, so I never bought anything along the route. But I always asked how much did people pay for small cans of Pringles (s/9 = USD$3) or water (I think the most was s/12 = USD$4 for a large bottle, when they go for about s/2 = USD$0.66 in city markets). I didn’t expect there to be that much to buy along the route.
Another thing along the route that there was plenty of were various animals especially an abundance of dogs. Wild dogs are everywhere in Peru and even at this high altitude where less people live, there were still tons of dogs begging for food, which is was surprised to see. Of course, burros, donkeys and llamas are everywhere, being used as pack animals. The funniest (and maybe saddest) scene I saw on the trail was a donkey carrying just tons and tons of plastic bottles of trash down the mountain, going to opposite direction we were coming from. It was just crazy how much trash is up there and just goes to show how much work going into maintaining the trail.
The first day hike was hard. Lots of up and down and I was just not used to that type of daily activity. Every day effected people differently and I didn’t think the first day of the hike was the hardest, but some did. I kept up a good pace even though I am not in the best shape and while the other American couple and I lagged it pretty bad and were technically the last group to show up (the older Canadian couple lagged it the worst, about 90 minutes behind us and turned around and went back the following day), we weren’t that far behind everyone else. I was pretty pooped out by the time we arrived and only had enough energy to “wash up”, change into my pajama’s for dinner, eat and then headed to bed before 8pm. It was how everyone was!
Moral: Every day affected everyone differently. I powered through the first day and while super tired at the end of it, I was feeling pretty good. The food served was perfect and delicious. Since we were doing so much exercise and at such a high altitude that none of us were used to, ideally you should eat everything on your plate at every meal and it would be enough. I ate most of my meals and felt pretty good. The first day was varied in terms of scenery and the trail. And having all the stores, locals and animals around helped a lot.