Ruben told us that as far as distance goes, Day 3 is the killer. Day 1 and 2, we’re walking about 10 kilometers. Day 3 we walk 16. He told us that it would not be the brutal uphill climb of Day 2, but there would be a lot of up and down and lots and LOTS of steps.
47 decided to walk with me. She said her knees were bothering her and she wanted to take it slower. We let the rest of the group set off on their breakneck pace, while we lollygagged somewhere in the back. Actually, with her walking with me I did end up picking up the pace a bit. I also didn’t take as many sympathy breaks.
Day 3 brought rain. I opted for a poncho, but I wish I had had a rain coat. The poncho was hot. Rain does not equate cold. A poncho is essentially a plastic bag trapping the heat inside. Also, ponchos are made for tall people. I truly felt like a Hobbit in an Elven cloak, only my poncho did not have all the magical properties of the Elves. Basically, you are in the clouds here. It is actually magnificent because you can touch the clouds. Not really, but hopefully you understand what I’m saying. As you start to descend, the clouds are beyond reach, leaving this mystical feel about the place. Ruben stopped us several times to discuss key features. There were some Inca sites and a lake. He showed us the weaving techniques the Incas used on the grasses.
He was accurate (of course) that were was a lot of up and down, a ton of steps and uneven terrain. There’s nothing for it but to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. The rain was a non-issue. I ended up using the poncho to cover up my daypack. It was not a drenching rain and I had plenty of dry clothes so I did not care if I got a little bit wet. My feet stayed dry, and really, that’s what’s important.
If 47 had not been with me, I seriously would have given up. I was just so tired. I kept tripping over rocks. I stubbed my toe a hundred times. I rolled my ankle 1000 times. I was too hot, then I was too cold. It was always something, but when we started out together we kept up a steady stream of chatter. We just talked for hours up and down the mountain. We both decided that our next adventures would be luxurious. That is a joke between us because the only time we come together is during some horrific conditions.
When we stopped for lunch Katie and Chris are still mad at each other. Gina and Martin are holding hands. Sam and Jessica seem normal. 47 and I just laugh because we really hoped to meet some new friends. It just didn’t work out that way. Gina suggested they clear out the lunch table so they could do yoga.
If this bitch says yoga one more time….
Day 3 is a really long day. We did the best we could but I am not sure that I can say that I enjoyed it. It was more like enduring, just doing what you have to do to get through it. For the better part of the day, there aren’t even any good views to lift your spirits because it’s really cloudy and then sections of the trail are heavily buffeted by foliage. The rocks were slick because of the moisture and I never got proper footing. Every five seconds I was tripping over something. I just wanted to stop walking. Really, I was miserable. By the time I made camp that night I just wanted for it to be over. “It is over,” 47 said. we have to do is wake up really early and after about two hours we would be at Machu Picchu. I remember thinking there had better be some gold left in the ruins to make it all worth it.
The third campsite was my least favourite. The sleeping area was downhill from the food area. After all that up and down, I don’t want to climb up some steps for my food. Then the tents were on this incline. It was uncomfortable. It was also a lot warmer and wetter at this campsite.
The evening at the campsite was very weird. First, I was too tired to participate in afternoon tea but Ruben said Señor Alfredo had a treat for us. I was like, “Unless it’s booze…” Of course, it wasn’t. It was popcorn (ugh) and some kind of fried banana thing. The banana thing was pretty good but I didn’t eat too much because sometimes my face swells after eating bananas.
The surprise was a cake. And by cake, I do mean an actual cake. A two layered cake with buttercream frosting and real fruit decoration. I don’t even understand how this man did this. I believe they were carrying some kind of oven, like an EZ Bake oven, or some shit. I do not know any other way to make a cake except in an oven. The only other thing I can think is maybe they had a cast iron pan over a fire. An experienced person would know how to gauge how much heat to give it to bake, but now that I’m writing this I’m going to discount that idea because open fires were not allowed. I give up. I have no idea how they made a goddamn cake on a mountain.
We took a bunch of pictures with the porters, the chef and the cake. Ruben also talked to us about tipping the Quechua for their hard work. AK and I believed Wayki Treks had really done an outstanding job and that we should tip well. As far as Wayki Treks is concerned, there is absolutely nothing to complain about. We both observed other tour groups on the trail. We agreed there were some that appeared just as good as Wayki, but there were a few we noted that were clearly very feeble.
When we arrived at the campsite for Day 3, we saw that there was one tour group that did not have their tents set up yet. A few of their hikers had arrived but were waiting for their stuff. We saw one group have to continue hiking on the brutal Day 2 because their tour company did not have permission to camp at the second campsite, making for an even longer day. Ruben was knowledgeable and extremely informative. Wayki Treks is awesome because it’s indigenous owned and the porters appear to be treated properly. We did see other porters from other companies getting yelled at. Maybe they had done something wrong, but I feel like adults should not be yelled at like toddlers, no matter what.
47 and I were quite pleased and were prepared to tip generously. The other members of our group did not feel the same way. Rich people kill me with how much money they spent on shit and all the amazing things they do, but then when it comes time to paying people what they are worth suddenly they are broke and they don’t give a fuck. The married couples did not come out and actually say they did not want to tip well. It was just their attitude. Then Martin went on this shit about, “I’m a socialist, and everybody should get paid the same.” What? How does that even make sense?
Not sure why he felt the need to bring up his political leanings, but clearly he did not do his research. The thing about the tipping was very specific. There was an order of precedence: the guide, an assistant guide (if any), the cook, the head porter, followed by the rest of the porters. Whatever we believe in from our native countries does not matter.
Usually I like to argue when I feel that people are wrong, but for whatever reason I did not say anything. Now that I’m home, I’m ashamed of myself because if you know me at all well, I never let a perceived injustice slip past me.
The rest of the group did not seem to care one way or another. It was like nobody wanted to argue about it, so we went along with this stupid idea to give the porters an equal tip. Then I felt like the tip was miserly. I think they thought the same thing.
Martin ended up being the appointed spokesperson for the group. During the final good-byes at the end of the night, he said to them, “It is our wish the money be distributed equally.”
When Ruben translated Martin’s words into Quechua, I was watching Señor Alfredo. I don’t think he was pleased with what transpired. He and Señor Condor have done the Inca Trail over 400 times. Some of the younger guys had a lot less ticks on their belt. Señor Condor ran up the mountain carrying a sack of eggs in his right hand. Señor Alfredo made pizza and a CAKE, for heaven’s sake. It wasn’t right.
Later, 47 and I agreed that we should do the right thing and tip them separately.