May 16:  Inca Trail

Couldn't sleep.  My room was right above reception and there were some loud people there and in the bar, and then later I had general insomnia and a stuffed nostril.  The beers didn't help.  I woke up at 4am fully refreshed, but suspected my brain was tricking me.

I took a last-chance dump but it failed.  The burrito from last night was converted entirely into gas.  I wanted to avoid dumping on the hike, but que sera sera.  My last-chance shower was a success.  There are allegedly cold showers on day 3 of the hike, but I don't go that way.

We were supposed to leave at 5am but the bus got a flat tire, so we hung out at reception doing nothing for an hour.  Some people checked Facebook at the desk but I resisted.  I can do 4 days without Internet.  I know I can.

Finally left at 6am (the Lares people left shortly before us) and arrived near the start of the trail to arrange everything with the porters and get our gear (sleeping bags and walking sticks).  Women were selling stuff like hats and gloves.  I really really wanted to ask one woman "how much for the little girl?"  She'd be a good source of entertainment along the way, until we ran out of food.  The walking stick reminded me of the wooden jogging stick my dad used to have with a tiki-style face carved in the top.  I just e-mailed him to ask about its whereabouts.

Went through the checkpoint around 7:15am and got our passports stamped.  I don't like giant non-border stamps.  Seems like they serve just so you can prove to people that you've been somewhere, if you otherwise lack credibility.  Same goes for posing for photos in front of tourist attractions.  I'll get into that later.

At km 82.  Matt, Rob, Rosie, Sophie, me, Kelly, Dush, Zvez, Alex, Debbie, Roger.  The hike is on!

Salapunku ruins.

The group hiking.  Oh yeah, That's Edith in the front.  She's training under Dimas.

Gotta say the best part of the hike so far is black stretch pants.  I kept wanting to stop, stroke my chin and nod approvingly, but that would have slowed down the whole group.

Looking back at the trail we just came up.  This is nothing.

Patallacta ruins.

Mountains from Lllactapata ruins.  I said when I took this that the contrast wouldn't come through in the photo.  This looked so much awesomer in person.

Llactapata ruins.  Pre-Inca.  A thousand years old.

More Llactapata ruins.  There was horse/donkey poop in every nook and a lot of crannies.  It was like the hike to the Hollywood sign, but with more poop.  Odessa would love the piles and piles of poop.  Less so the horses and donkeys.

The map we got at the checkpoint says "don't pick the flora or catch the fauna".  I assume there was an incident.  And then I had to admonish Edith for picking flora!  But it was a natural insect repellent she was showing me.

We stopped at 12:35pm for lunch, set up by the porters who ran ahead.  That's how they work.  Astonishing physical specimens.  I was surprised at how quickly they could pitch a tent.  Then again, I was pitching a tent for most of the hike.  Garlic bread, cream of asparagus soup, trout (freshly caught?) and veggies, followed by tea.  I had coca again.  Then we rested for an hour.

Before lunch we'd gone downhill and lost the 200 m we'd gained, and after lunch we had a steep 400-m climb in the last 40 minutes that almost killed me.  But surprise--campsite!  Done for the day.  Hiked 11 km, ascended 400 m.  Just a precursor.

Arrived at the campsite 3:10pm.  I just laid down next to my already-pitched tent.  The one the porters set up, I mean.  Played 20 questions with Alex and Kelly.  I got Mila Kunis and Tina Fey, and sort of stumped them with Steven Tyler, so I pretty much won.  Then it started to rain, so we hid in our tents.

At 5pm we had our 5pm tea (a regularly-scheduled thing for the next 3 days), and went around doing introductions.  I mentioned the comedy thing, and that I wouldn't be doing the comedy thing on this trip unless the group got me really drunk, and how poorly I fared after 15 shots of rum last year in India.  Then I just laid in my tent from 6pm to 7pm and rested.

At 7pm we had dinner.  Chicken, rice, potato.  Dimas told us about tomorrow.  Wakeup 5am, very tough hike, arriving at Dead Woman's Pass around 11am, then downhill to the campsite.  I kept looking forward to 11am and thinking the most physically brutal experience of my life would be behind me by then.  Kelly was wearing a yellow jacket, which freaked me out, because lawyers in yellow jackets are especially my type.  I have a 100% conversion rate to a second date with lawyers in yellow jackets.  And a 100% trivia score with such lawyers, under the trivia team name of the Frankford Yellow Jackets.

Bed 8:15pm.  I guess that's when people went to bed when there was no electricity.  It was tough writing in my journal or taking out my contacts (or anything) in my tent in the dark, even with a flashlight.  First time camping since Wiffleball a few years ago.