DAY 2: WAYLLABAMBA –PACAYMAYO
Distance: 6.83 miles / 11km
Time: 7-8 hours
Maximum altitude: 13,799 feet / 4,200m
After a fun and successful first day hiking the Inca trail, we awoke on Day 2 knowing that the day would be intense – our main goal was to hike up to the menacing sounding Dead Woman’s pass, the highest elevation we would reach in the 4 day trail. This meant we would be climbing about 1200m for the first several hours of the day, and then come down another 800m after crossing Dead Woman's Pass to reach our campsite.
Anyone who has done the Inca trail will tell you that Day 2 is the toughest of all – beginning with the ascent to Dead Woman’s pass, then a descent down almost all the way to the campsite.
We woke up to the porters greeting us at our tent with a cup of hot coca tea before breakfast. Luckily, we had all managed to get a good night’s sleep so we were feeling refreshed, and surprisingly, not sore at all.
After breakfast, we started the morning portion of the hike with a gradual ascent through the first cloud forest. This was the (relatively) easier part of the day, and was absolutely beautiful. But then, the ascent keeps going. And going. And still going. Forever. And then the crazy Inca steps start. The stone steps, which are basically rocks strewn about, are a crude version of an extremely steep staircase. At this point, everyone in our group was split up and going at our own pace. As the altitude increases, our breathing got harder. Everyone was going at a slow pace of 2-3 steps every 10 seconds.
I found it easiest to go at a slow pace, but not stop. The minute I stopped for over a few seconds, I got cold and the pain crept in. Keep. On. Going.
Despite the physical strenuousness, it was absolutely wonderful to walk through the Andean forest, see fields of llamas in the distance, and know that you are following the path of the Incas.
After a few hours of climbing up, we heard folks cheering from the summit of Dead Woman’s pass. Almost there! Well, not quite – it was at least another 45 minutes away, at a crazy incline climb. However, it was nice that you could hear people cheering you on – I definitely needed that the last 10 minutes!
After what felt like forever, I reached Dead Woman’s pass – Kris and the rest of my group were already there, and were dancing and cheering us on!
At the pass itself, it was crazy windy and cold, so after taking a few pictures, it was time to keep going.
What goes up must come down.
The next few hours was a descent along awfully slippery and huge stone steps, which was a nightmare for me mentally and tormenting for my knees. I have a morbid fear of heights, and while going up was absolutely fine, coming down was very hard. (Wait till you hear about Day 3!).
On top of that, it was raining all the way down, which made it worse. Oh, I also slipped and fell, but managed not to get hurt.
A couple of hours or so, and we reached our campsite for the night! WE MADE IT!!!