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March 26, 2006

Camino Inka

Well, calm stomach or not, we press on with the adventure of South American travel. The travel agency sent a mid-sized minibus to pick us up, but it couldn't navigate the narrow Calle Fiero where we were staying, so we carried our packs up the block to the corner and were the first on the bus.

The driver then slowly and stubbornly made 8-point turns and drove on the sidewalk to the next hotel to pick up our guides, nine other trekkers and nine porters, many of whom came by taxi. It took 25 minutes to get down the narrow street and around a 90-degree corner partially blocked by a large Rover. The bus kept bottoming out on the curb at the corner; at one point it looked like the guide was going to make the porters lift the Rover and move it out of the way.

At 10:30pm we were finally on the way. Rather than catch the train at Ollantaytamba to the trail head, we blew through a little after midnight and drove alongside the tracks. The road was almost a single lane, dropping off at the left for several hundred feet to a raging and particularly chilly-looking muddy river.

The ride was sketchy at best, and occassionally the porters were discharged to clear rockfall or direct the driver down a particularly narrow bit, where, say, a large chunk of the road had washed away. At one point we met a full-sized tour bus face to faceā€”and somehow our driver convinced that guy to back up along the narrow dirt path and get out of the way.

None of the guides or porters seemed fazed by any of this, going straight to sleep in the bumping bus as soon as they sat down. One guy snored for the last hour of the trip.

Our campsite at last was a gravel parking lot with a pay toilet (1 sole for its use and 10 squares of TP handed to you upon entry) and a lot of vendors, and other tour buses coming through. This was the trailhead, and we had about four hours to rest up for our big first day.

At least my stomach wasn't complaining too loudly.

Posted by sedda at March 26, 2006 10:46 PM