Inca Trail: Day 1
Early start from our hotel in Cuzco. The journey to the beginning of trail takes 2 hours by van. Most of our belongings (5kgs worth) are carried by porters. Our guide tells us they carry a maximum weight of 30 kilograms each.
Embarrassingly they overtake us within an hour of us starting the trail.
Our first day is relatively easy going where we have the chance to see Inca sights. Uniquely, our trail passes various local homes and farm steads and you regularly come across locals using the same path as you very often with their donkey or horse. Many of them sell water, cool drinks and other assortments to you if you wish to buy. Its apparent their lives are not easy so any extra income is welcome.
Our guide informs us that these people have been living here for generations, long before this area was declared a national park. Apparently the government attempted to evict the local families because they wanted to fully exploit the money making potential of the trail. The local people resisted and the government eventually desisted but have forced the local people to allow tourists like us to camp on their ground with no compensation. Added to this no local schools are provided and so the children essentially board in the surrounding villages and cities.
The locals are also not permitted to build upon their existing properties which means bigger families would have to make do with their current living arrangements as they stand. These seem shrewd moves on the part of the government because they are working toward a decrease in the population through old age.
We arrive at our first camp site late in the afternoon to find our tents already put up including a main tent where we all eat together. We discover that the "chef" amongst the porters is a gifted cook who provides us with tasty and essentially restaurant quality three course meals which are incredibly balanced in terms of diet. I have not eaten this well since the Sunday roast Ruth's mum prepared for just before the start of our travels.
The porters literally serve us hand and foot and ensure our comfort for the evening. Even though you are paying for the privilege you feel slightly guilty. I'm used to carrying all my own gear when hiking but I get used to this new approach pretty quickly.
We end the evening chatting around the dining table retiring to bed ready for day 2. Our guide tells us it will be the toughest day of the whole trail. I hope I sleep well.