Group at Breakfast (Minus this Irish gals)
4:30 came around ridiculously early and it was a good thing I had packed my things the night before because I was almost incoherent. On top of that it was beastly cold and I had to wait an extra half hour because the taxi that the agency sent got lost (in spite of precise directions). When we arrived it became clear that a lot of different agencies were combining their trekkers into one or two groups. I sat down next to a pleasant English girl named Claire and struck up a conversation, as I stealthily looked around the bus trying to find my trek-mates. I was supposed to be with 2 Dutch, 2 Argentineans and 2 Americans but I wasn’t sure. I bought Claire and I a piece of banana-chocolate “cake” and orange cake. Either they had been sitting out for days or more probably, like many of the “sweets” in this part of the world, the recipe called for cooking it to the texture of sawdust.
Only hunger kept me from chucking it out of the window.
We got underway but less than an hour out of Cuzco the bus broke down and an emergency call was made for help. Two busses finally arrived and the guides decided that we would drive further than the usual starting point otherwise we wouldn’t make it to the first camp by dark. The ride was pleasant and I sat up front and chatted with the genial bus driver until I finally succumbed to a jarring sleep as we started into the switchbacks that would bring us up to Mollepata. We had a sunny breakfast and made acquaintances. I was with a German couple, Jan & Katerina (Kasia) who were on their honeymoon (as we would find out the next day!), 2 Argentineans both named Carolina who were probably a couple, an English girl, Claire, the one I sat next to on the bus, an Australian couple of mixed background, he being Indonesian and she Lebanese, and two Irish girls, Sarah and Karen, who had a special breakfast separately as part of their tour package, although they’d be with us for the rest of the trip.
It turned out that there was no bus for the second leg of the trip, that would take us to our starting point so we all herded like cattle onto the back of a truck and endured a rough and bumpy ride for about a half hour or so.
The day was beautiful for walking and it wasn’t too much of a chore until lunch, which rewarded us with a gorgeous sweeping view of the valley and hills and distant peaks. A condor soared in the distance and we sat down to some tasty soup and spaghetti. The rest of the day was fairly flat but as always on the first day we were really tired when we finally reached camp. Just before camp we passed a luxurious lodge, no doubt reserved for high-profile customers, but not us. We had tents and sleeping bags and a frigid night to look forward to it.
Start of the Walk
An expensive Twix bar tasted like the finest food on earth when we arrived, and there was also steaming mate de coca. We arranged our things and then waited for dinner. The other groups were also camping in the same area with us. We ate and then I taught them the game 20 questions which we had a lot of fun with. The first few items were Yoda, the Titanic, and clouds, so we definitely were tested, but it was a lot of fun. I loaned a thermal turtleneck to Sarah, and the next morning she was eternally grateful as everyone put on every stitch of clothing they had to endure the frigid night at 4,000 meters. Even in the down sleeping bag I had rented and with all my clothes I kept waking and tossing and turning all night.