Machu Picchu, to Dead Woman's Pass
We were a happy group of 12 trekkers, with two guides, Roger and Elvis and 23 porters. Four Australians, two Argentinians and six British, we set off alongside the rapid glacial waters of the Urubamba River with mules and donkeys our company. At some rest stops women look after the toilets and sell you loo paper while knitting their latest garment.
Our first camp was in a farm yard with all the associated sounds of chickens, ducks, cockerel and a snuffling pig.
Checkpoints control who uses the trail, now limited to 500 per day over the 40 odd kilometres to MP. Roger is checking us through. Trekkers are no longer allowed to proceed up the trail in the dark as too many fell over the edge.
Porters used to carry up to 50kg loads but new laws limit them to 25 max. Alpaca can only carry 20kg. Many porters are middle aged or over, farmers augmenting their income and are immensely strong, sometimes running down the steps to lessen the jarring on their joints.
On the second day of four we climbed for four and a half hours up steep steps to Dead Woman's Pass (an apt name on my part as that's how I felt at the top!) 628 is the view from the top, 629 shows we all made it and 631 gives an idea of the stunning views we tried to soak up and remember while keeping our eyes on the path. The real strain was descending the steep steps on the other side. "What ever you do" Roger said "stand sideways to step down." Good advice but even then each descent of the bodyweight onto hard stone jarred hip and knee joints. I'm not complaining mind, it didn't do us any harm. Aches I had at the start soon disappeared because of the extreme exercise.