Upon waking after a less than stellar night’s rest (there was a very loud river right next to our camp site), I realized every single muscle in my body was aching. Muscles that I didn’t even know I had been using on the first day of the trek were screaming at me. The crazy thing though? It never crossed my mind that this would hinder me in what needed to be accomplished today. Here we were, in the middle of the Andes Mountains and it would take just as much effort to go backwards as it would to go forwards at this point. So, no matter how hard it got at times…and believe me, Day Two is the KILLER…I never once thought I wouldn’t make it.
It’s worth reposting this picture as a reminder!
This was the day we forged towards that peak far (really far!) in the distance from our campsite. I should mention that they call it Dead Woman’s Pass. A very telling name indeed! This is the day that any hint of ego I had left went right out the window. On the first day, you were keeping tally of what place in line you arrived back at camp. You didn’t want to let people pass you on the trail. You tried to keep up with people you shouldn’t have just to prove you could. Really silly stuff like that. Yeah…that second day, all focus was on trying not to let your heart explode. My legs were jell-o. If you ever decide to hike the Inca Trail, I beg of you: Do NOT turn down the opportunity to rent walking poles. You notice I said poles = plural. They will let you rent only one if you want. RENT TWO. They were my saving grace that day!
The biggest change today was that just an hour or so into the day, we came to the last water and candy stop. There were no more villagers beyond this point. It was just you and the trail. And yes, we totally let ourselves get ripped off by buying lots of overpriced candy bars because we knew it was our last chance. What can ya do?
Dead Woman’s Pass is the highest point you reach on the classic Inca Trail trek and will take you to almost 14,000 feet. Remember those steps I was mentioning in my post about day one? There were lots more of those. I was literally using my walking poles to hoist myself up onto each step. The majority of the hike is uphill until you reach the top of the pass. There are not many pictures of this part of the trail because, well in all honesty, my focus was on survival!
We were high enough to see snow!
Sometimes you would start to go downhill only to look up and see that you would only have to hike back up to the altitude you already were! We were told the Inca Trail was designed like this on purpose to intimidate their enemy. Well played ancient Incas…well played, indeed.
This is was the day I felt that you bonded the most with the others on the trail. Believe me, there was a lot of stopping you catch your breath and often when you saw someone already doing just that, it gave you the perfect excuse to “stop and chat”. There was one man from Denmark who must have been at least 70 years old and he was practically dancing up the mountain! He would always stop and chat it up with you, sing you a song, give you a high five or maybe just give you some encouragement as he passed by. Thankfully, his energy was contagious and you found yourself back on the move shortly after your run in with him.
The best part of the day? Upon finally reaching to top of Dead Woman’s Pass, everyone who has already made it up is killing time and cheering on each and every person as they make it to the top! I had never spoken to a word to half the people up there and they were cheering me on like I had just brought home the gold! And next thing you knew, you found yourself cheering along with everyone for the people that arrived after you. It was such an exhilarating feeling!
The obligatory group photo at the top
Now, don’t let those cold weather clothes fool you. I got a sunburn like nobodies business up there! Because you don’t feel hot, it was easy to forget to keep reapplying your sun screen as the day went on. Big mistake. So, there is my public service announcement for the day: WEAR SUN SCREEN!
However, once our little rest was over, it was time to move on. This time, downhill. You would think that would be a welcome turn of events. Not so much. Our legs were so tired that downhill almost seemed harder than uphill at times. Did I mention that there are many portions of the trail that are actually steps? Yeah…not fun going down a million steps after having just climbed uphill for several hours.
Needless to say, we arrived back at camp earlier than the previous day and were extremely happy for the added rest time. We spent our evening trying to make it sound like we were having a whole lot more fun than the group camping next to us (which included the Denmark guy) that were easily 30 years or more older than us…but truth be told, we threw in the towel long before they went to bed. It’s a crazy world up there in those mountains!