July 26th: Ollantaytambo and Our First Day on the Trail.

We packed up for the hike and first stopped at archeological site of Ollantaytambo.

This was our introduction to the engineering minds of the Incas. The walls are all built by stone and the further you climb the more amazing the craftsmanship is. In the pic above you can easily imagine how they used rocks to form create the walls closer to you. Well, wait until you start to go up.

As we climbed higher the rock construction would change.  Look at the pics below.  It starts out at the “Wow – how did they get the rocks up here and how did they get the rocks to be seamlessly fit tougher – amazing”

Then you get to the “how the hell” section.

And, then the “that’s impossible it must have been aliens” section.

We made a quick stop at a local store on the way to the trailhead and bought my poles and a sun hat- the last two items I needed to start.

We met up with our porters who were packing up for the trip. There would be 32 of them to support the 17 of us. Chino explained to us that the word porter is not the proper word to use since these people are Quetchwan. The way we were asked to refer to them are our Wawqi – or brother of man. So, from now on you will see me use the word Wawqi

We went through 2 check points where we had to show our passports to make sure they match the names on the permits we had to have to climb. This is a controlled park and only 500 a day are allowed on the trail. Across the Urubamba River and up we started.

Our first surprise from Chino was when we came to the top of a pass. All we could see was a big cliff and a high drop off. He made us turn around lock arms and walk backwards. He had Omar and Edu in back of us for reassurance we would not go over. Yea…..He had us stop, turn around and this is what we saw. It was their way of saying welcome to the Machu Picchu Camino!

After conquering my first height challenge i was feeling pretty good.

When we got to our first camp, Tarayoc the waiki’s were all lined up to clap and high-five us. Needless to say, they were always there ahead of us. Camp would be set up including the food tent, our tents and the bathrooms before we go there.

Inside our tents for two were two thermarest mattresses, our green duffel bags and sleeping bags. The waiki’s would bring a small bowl of hot water and soap to our tents to clean up.

Since this was our first night we had an introductory ceremony where the waiki’s introduced themselves to us and us to them. We presented them with a bag of cocoa leaves, which is a traditional exchange, to thank them for the work ahead.

There was tea at 6pm and an amazing dinner at 7pm of trout and vegetables. It is still a mystery how they bring everything up on their backs for 4 days and serve 3 meals a day for 17 people plus 32 Wawqi’s.  The most amazing group of men.

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