Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Saturday 12th - Monday 14th December

Inca Trail

1/2 day getting provisions, picking up cook (!) and getting to start of trail to meet donkey team of 3 (!!) and donketeer (!!!).
Guide: Miguel
Cook: Pablo
Donketeer: Secundo (yes, that does mean what you think it does)
(This is an embarrassingly large support party...but apparently everything is "essential". We resign ourselves to camping luxury.)

The rest of the day consisted of a relatively short hike (~8 km) to a set of exceedingly decrepit Inca ruins. Not much to see of the Inca Trail itself in most places, it's almost non-existent. The ruins are surprisingly large for a way post. Trail has upper (for normal people) and lower (for postal runners) routes. We've been taking the lower route.

Set up camp (~3700m); our little tent is rather dwarfed by its companions all of which are pitched in what was probably the courtyard of the ruins. The cooking / dining tent is enormous and Miguel seems intent on running the rather dodgy three-ring gas stove continually because the gas bottle doesn't have a regulator. It gets rather hot inside as a result. We go fishing in the stream running alongside the campsite. After an hour in the increasingly low temperature we give it up as a lost cause and hope that Pablo isn't relying on fish for supper. Luckily he's not and the three course supper is remarkably good.

After a surprisingly good night's sleep we discovered that Miguel has been listening to Caroline's comments about breakfast. American-style pancakes and syrup appear and are greedily consumed; it's the first time that Secundo has had pancakes. He seemed to approve.

The second day is a fairly hard 20ish km including the high point of the trek somewhere in excess of 4200m. The views are spectacular, again difficult to capture on camera. Camp overnight is next to some slightly more intact ruins which we reach feeling quite tired from the reasonably high altitude climbs. According to popular myth, the last inhabitants lured, killed and cooked passing travellers. Our tent is pitched on the burial site.

The cook tent is even hotter than before, due to some injudicious setting of the gas valve, and whilst the soup is superb, the main course has gone slightly wrong. Smash "potato" needs to be handled with care at the best of times. When it ends up the consistency of single cream you know it's not a good start. When it is subsequently boiled vigorously in an attempt to reduce it somewhat you suspect that it won't be a good end. Pork chop with Smash sauce it is then...

There is no nearby stream so washing is a non-event & we don't sleep quite so well, camp is at 3800m and we've had quite a dose of sun during the day. But we catch a few hours and are up early for more pancakes before the final day.

The final day's trekking covers about 12 km, mostly downhill, to Ingapirca; the most well preserved set of Inca ruins in Ecuador. The site is actually a bit of a mish-mash of construction from different cultures, some of which date back to around 500AD, but much of which is Incan from around 500 years ago. The fit of the stones on the Inca parts is really impressive. An area rebuilt following the collapse of a wall a few years ago is not done nearly as well.

And finally to Cuenca - the home of Panama hats, but more importantly a hostel room with a shower and bed. Sadly Cuenca's electricity is currently rationed so at 7pm we find ourselves stumbling around the room with a mag-light...somewhat like camping me-thinks.

PS: Emergency kit is now in full use.

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