13:26.60S 72:44.85W 1st camp @ 9,900ft

Sat 7 May 2016 04:59
27th April. We drove through Andean Peru as it awakened to another bright sunny day of toil. Shiny clean, uniformed school children rushed down to the main road from their farm homes to catch the school bus, as their grandmothers, tall hatted in their thick, knee length woollen skirts made their way to the fields for another stretch of scything and stood making.

We passed through passport control, stood in our new group of 12 trekkers for the mandatory photo and then set of for an 11 kilometre training day. We left behind us the raging, muddy Urubamba River and shared our path with donkeys and horses, one carrying an injured young lady back down from the heights.

For our own safety we kept to the mountainside so the tough and loaded porters could run or walk past us without risk of us toppling over the edge.

They used to carry up to 50kg loads but now the poetry are limited to 25kg loads and lamas are much kinder on the mountain tracks than horses because they can only carry 20kg.

We reached a farmyard for lunch, where the porters had our dining tent already pitched. Soup and main course was the order of each meal. Some of our 23 porters will have gone to the nearest stream of clean glacial water and collected 5 gallon plastic containers full before boiling it on gas stoves to kill any bugs and the cooling it in the same stream ready for us to drink, wash our hands and replenish our water containers.

Ducks, geese, chickens, cats, dogs and a black pig wandered around as we sat, relaxing and chatting before setting off once more.

We had frequent breaks, including official breaks where there were flushing toilets with fabulous views. The weather was perfect with clear blue skies and warm sunshine, visibility sharp to the mountain peeks.

Frequently our guides Roger and Elvis would stop us to tell us about some interesting flora and fauna, beetles, spectacled bear's,  medicinal plants etc. An aloe Vera lookalike could be used for fishing line and dental floss.

Our first camp in our orange Eureka tents was in the company of braying donkeys and crowing Cockerell, near and far. In the fading light before supper we watched the young porters enjoying a game of football next to roosting chickens perched on the bannister of the farmhouse balcony.

We jelled as a group very quickly, two Australian couples, a brother and sister amongst them, two Argentinian lads who have been friends since they were nine, a couple from near London, Karen was training for a sponsored walk in London for Breast Cancer, and Sonia and Anne from Falmouth who'd been friends for donkeys years.

During the night light from headtorches, human glow worms, fireflies, shone through into our tents as campers peed around the edges of the field.

Our second day was due to be the most strenuous, Dead Woman's Pass. Would this dead woman make it I wondered as I relaxed in my cosy sleeping bag. I reckoned I would have to pace myself a bit better than on the first day. I had struggled to keep up with the vanguard movement at the front, and ended the day breathless and aching.