The Inca Trail Day Two

By Issy Goode - 19:36

The hike over Dead Woman's Pass and the descent into the valley of Pakaymayu

Day two is quoted by Exodus as the hardest day of the entire trip. We started our second day walking at around 2,800m and needed to work our way up to Dead Woman's Pass at 4,200m. The only real practice we had done was Mount Snowdon in Wales which is 1,085m above sea level. We had already been sleeping well above that and boy didn't my cold body know it!

It was 5am when we woke to Bobby making bird noises and torch lights shining through the lining of our tents in the hamlet of Huayllabamba. The porters poured us a cup of boiling hot coco tea which was so lovely and warming. At this point, the hardest part of the day was mentally preparing myself to get out of my sleeping bag. Getting changed into my hiking gear was a despairingly daunting idea. The coco tea was the only thing stopping me from crawling back into my sleeping bag and burrowing down there for the rest of the trip. I'm well known for being very prone to the cold so this was one of the hardest things for me.

Once I had pushed myself into dressing and squealed in my tent a little whilst doing so, we were served porridge followed by an omelette and more tea if we wanted it, which I did merely for warmth! I couldn't wait to get started on the hike just to get my blood flowing more than anything. We set off around 6:30am and stayed together as a group before the first check point. Here, Bobby stayed at the back of the group to ensure no one was left behind and we were left to make our own pace throughout, all Bobby asked was that we waited at certain points along the trail. Michael and I started off fairly quickly, but not so fast we missed out on the views.
We passed many animals on our trip wandering quite freely. Whilst these donkeys were saddled up ready they weren't carrying anything at the time and apparently they were never heavily loaded, which was lovely to know. They looked very healthy and well looked after and travelled in huge groups around the park.
The photo probably makes you wonder what the hell I'm on about when I talk about the beautiful scenery, but this is part of the Cloud Forest. It was an area of woods along the path that's very sheltered from sunlight with thick moss covering all of the trees. Very little lives in this part of the trail and it was fascinatingly creepy!
It wasn't long before I started to drop back. My sinuses were hurting from the pressure due to the altitude and whilst I hadn't any comparable experiences I felt confident my acetazolamide, a drug for altitude sickness, was working it's magic as I wasn't feeling nearly as bad as others had back in Cusco. 

Michael carried on ahead taking loads of photos and videos along the way whilst I stayed with the sisters and chatted with them, if a little breathlessly at times. I'm not much of a cardio bunny and I openly admit we didn't practice as much as we planned to, but I don't think you could ever prepare for that many steps! We were all so grateful for the walking poles we'd taken with us as they saved our knees so much torture.
Getting close!
As we climbed higher I could really feel the pressure on my lungs. A breath began to feel short and sharp and at some points it felt like deep breaths were becoming less effective. We had stops here and there along the way including a wait for all of the group to catch up, including Bobby who had stopped to chat with other guides and porters. Michael stopped with us for a while and I picked up the pace when we began to walk again but it wasn't long before I abandoned my post by his side in favour of going a bit slower. We powered through to the 4,000m mark where we could see what we thought was the peak of Dead Woman's Pass, however it turned out to be about 50m before the peak, and whilst the view was beautiful we desperately wanted to have it in our sights to encourage us. It was a lot tougher than I expected.
Most of the photos I have are from the open area heading directly towards the summit, but a lot of day two was also spent  walking through the Cloud Forest and the meadows of Llulluchapampa. Most of our memories there are captured on video so I'm really going to have to pull something together!
I believe this is Salcantay mountain in the background...
Up ahead we met back up with the fastest members of the group so far; Michael, Mirran and Megan. Stansa also had the pace but stuck back with myself and Annette chatting. We waited in a beautiful spot for everyone else to catch up as it was nice and sheltered compared to how the peak would be. Bobby came around the corner and then led the group up to Dead Woman's Pass, which was of course up many, many more steps.
Just off from the centre of this photo is where our hike began - from this scale it doesn't look so far but you just try and spot the people on the path! 
Not satisfied with the peak of Dead Woman's Pass Michael chose to climb up higher onto the rocks for an even more scenic view. Here is a few of our group, other hikers and also porters taking a well deserved break at the peak
The view on the other side of Dead Woman's Pass. What looks like a thick fog on the other side of the mountains is actually the smoke!
It was the most amazing feeling when we reached the summit. Dead Woman's Pass is an intimidating name but the view is just incredible. I could have stayed there all day and taken it in had it not been for the wind! From the peak we could also see the spreading fire mentioned in my previous post. We could see it's path of destruction and that it was still burning its way across the mountains. The smoke was thick in the air deep into the valley. We stayed in the area a short while taking as many photos as we could to remember the moment before approaching the dreaded descent to our next camp.
Feeling like champions! 
I look like a giant in comparison to my surroundings here - I promise I hiked 4,200m above sea level and I'm not just 4,200m tall! 
My handsome man Michael looking somewhat less mighty than me in the above photo due to his love of low angled shots. Everyone was really impressed with how easy Michael found the hike and thinking back on our training I was flabbergasted at how much easier he found it compared to me! Hats off to him though, he could have done it in 6 hours or less if we hadn't held him back! 
It took us around two hours to reach the valley of Pakaymayu and the lower we went the more smoke we could smell and see in the air around us. Whilst walking, Bobby told us that if the smoke continued to blow in the direction it was we may be stopped from entering Machu Picchu and asked to turn back, to which we all gasped. None of us could face going back down all the steps we had come up to reach Dead Woman's Pass. With little in the way of signal all we could do was wait to hear more from the Park Rangers.

We arrived at our camp by the Pakaymayu River around 14:30pm meaning the ascent and descent took us around 8 hours in total, and boy didn't my legs feel it. I was glad to have descended from the height of Dead Woman's Pass and be able to take a deep breath again, but it was so worth it.

We had a late lunch upon arrival at camp of vegetable and quinoa soup for starters and chicken with rice and vegetables alongside a slice of cauliflower pizza for main. As always, it was delicious. Post lunch we were treated to a nap in our tents. Most of the group were exhausted and Michael and I had a short nap before playing a game of cards.

For dinner we had chicken and tagliatelle with sweet and sour sauce. After watching the stars again for a short while, we headed for an early night.

And guess what? I was absolutely freezing cold again!

But we'd done it. We'd climbed to Dead Woman's Pass and it had felt like we were on top of the world. Whether the fire was going to stop us or not, we'd already had an incredible journey.

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  1. Wow, your trip sounds absolutely amazing! Peru is on my bucket list of places to go, particularly Machu Picchu... I'll get there one day! Great photos too!
    Kate xx |

    1. It really was, come back for the rest of the post as the fourth and fifth will be all about Machu Picchu!

      I highly recommend it, it's a beautiful country and the people are lovely!

  2. Oh, my God, this is such an incredible trip! I would love to do an Inca Trail trek one day. I definitely want to wait until I'm a lot fitter to do anything like that, though, I get out of breath just running up and down the stairs!

    Yours pictures are absolutely incredible.


    1. If I were you I wouldn't wait! We weren't remotely ready and nor were a lot of our group, it's hard to practice for it and even the fittest people struggle because of the altitude. We weren't initially planned on going until our late twenties but I'm so glad we went this year. I really do recommend doing it as soon as you can!

      Thank you, really appreciate it! x

  3. Wow, this sounds absolutely amazing! Your photos are stunning ☺️ I’m excited to read more about your trip! Have fun xx

    Bexa |

    1. Thank you! It was incredible :) There's plenty more to come! xx


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