[The beginning of the story is here: Inca Trail. Day 1]
What an incredible scene to greet your eyes when you wake your first morning of camping along the spectacular Inca Trail! Last night you slept so close to the stars it felt as if you could reach out and touch them. This morning you will say hello to the new day surrounded by the glorious vista of the jagged peaks of the Vilcanota mountains softened by misty clouds, the lush emerald greenery of the exotic forests and orchid-filled green meadows, with glimpses of the sparkling waters of the Cusichaca River.
On the second day of your four-day adventure hiking the world famous Camino Inka, you can expect to test your endurance somewhat as the trail begins to steepen through the dramatic landscape around the farming village of Wayllabamba. As you trek out of the Cusichaca valley, you face the most difficult terrain of your journey to Machu Picchu. After about three hours of walking the climbing trail, your guides will call a halt halfway up the pass at the edge of the tree line in the verdant green meadows of Llulluchapampa, 3,680 meters above sea level. This area is a wonderland of moss and vines, waterfalls and tropical flora and fauna, and you may even catch a glimpse of donkeys, llamas and alpacas grazing in the meadow. Some of the tours use this campsite and continue the journey on the following day. However, on the Classic Trail four day hike, Llulluchapampa is a resting spot where your group will recharge with coffee and snacks before continuing upward toward Abra de Huarmihuañusca, (Warmiwanusqa) or Dead Woman's Pass.
Physical Challenges and Altitude Sickness
As the trail progresses the danger of oxygen deprivation and “Acute Mountain Sickness” increases. Hypobaropathy (the medical term) can occur at 2,400 meters, although there is no way to tell who will suffer from this condition and who will be immune to the effects of acute exposure to the low air pressure of a high altitude until symptoms appear. Symptoms of mountain sickness resemble the flu or a hangover, but can often be alleviated or even prevented by maintaining your blood sugar by consuming high energy snack bars or local cocoa leaves. Hikers also need to make sure to stay hydrated, and inform your guide of a headache, weakness, nosebleed or dizziness, and they can provide you with some emergency oxygen that they are required to carry when trekking the Inca Trail.
Rules for Visitors in the Machu Picchu National Park
Before leaving Llulluchapampa, make sure to pack away any garbage or debris from your snack. Park regulations strictly prohibit leaving any litter along the trail, and hikers are required to bag their garbage and carry it with them to be disposed of at the end of the trail. This may be a good time to go over some of the other regulations imposed on visitors who are privileged to be permitted on the Inca Trail by the National Institute of Culture of Peru.
- Inca Trail trekkers are required to always carry their trail ticket and their passport. These documents are checked by gate authorities at the trail head and upon arrival at Machu Picchu.
- No depredation whatsoever is allowed at archaeological sites, including removing or altering the position of stones.
- No overnight camping is allowed inside any monuments or archaeological sites.
- Campfires are prohibited along the trail or anwyhere within the boundaries of the park. Forest fires pose a real threat to the various fragile ecosystems within the historical sanctuary.
- All plants and animals are protected by the Heritage of Humanity agreement. No collecting plants or hunting is allowed.
Some of the Sights in the Area of Llulluchapampa
Besides the marvel of historical Incan ruins, the natural beauty of this region is remarkable, including the wonderful diversity of flora and fauna. In addition to the opportunity to see native creatures like llamas and alpacas, there is an incredible diversity of other wildlife and plants within the Machu Picchu and Manu National Parks system. Monkeys are prevalent in this region, including red howler monkeys, black spider monkeys, pygmy marmosets and woolly monkeys. There are also many birds, and bird-watchers have the opportunity to enjoy sightings of parrots, hummingbirds, as well as the more rare and exotic Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Highland Motmots, toucans, quetzals and barbets.
There are also several very rare flowers that you may chance to witness in bloom as you hike along the Inca Tril. The Winay Wayna Orchid (Forever Young in Quechua) is an incredibly gorgeous orchid that only grows in certain microclimates along the trail, such as areas on Waynu Picchu Mountain and Intipata. AN image of the Forever Young Orchid was used as an Incan military insignia. You might also see the halluconigenic Angel's Trumpet, Llaulli, used to make Incan cough medicine, as well as Begonia, Tarwi, and Bomareas.
Continuing Your Second Day's Travel on the Inca Trail
After a rest and refreshments at Llulluchapampa, the trail ascends toward Dead Woman's Pass for about another hour and a half climb, leaving behind the warmth of scorching sunlight and approaching the freezing winds that prevail at the height of 4,200 meters, the highest pass on the trail. Reaching Dead Woman's Pass is cause for celebration, as you've accomplished the hardest portion of your journey.
After crossing Dead Woman's Pass, hikers must face a steep but not very difficult trail descending to the valley floor until reaching your campsite alongside the Pacamayo (Pakaymayo) River at 3,600 meters. You'll feel as if you've earned your rest tonight after a hike of 11 kilometers, and you can congratulate yourself on having accomplished the most difficult portion of your Peruvian adventure. Tomorrow is another day of trekking in the footsteps of the ancient Inca priests as you make your way up the mountainside toward the ruins of the circular ceremonial center of Runkuracay, and you come another day closer to Maccu Picchu.
More Inca Trail photos are here, on our Flickr page. Welcome.