Day 2 of the Inca Trail was to be the hardest day of the trek as we would be climbing up from Wayllabamba village for about three hours through gorgeous wooded forests and spectacular terrain to the treeline and lovely meadow known as Llulluchapampa at 12,073 feet/3680m. 

Then it takes another hour and a half of slow walking and short, heavy breathing to reach the highest point of the pass, known as Abra de Huarmihuanusca or “Dead Woman’s Pass” at 13,779 feet/4200m.  At this point in my life, it was the highest elevation I have ever been and I felt it.  My lungs struggled and each step upwards was grueling.  Looking back now after having gained more experience at altitude, I realized this trip didn’t really give my body enough time to fully acclimatize.  But I made it and didn’t get altitude sickness (some people do and if so, you need to descend back from where you came from and fast).

The day didn’t start off too well given our lack of sleep from the night before.  A few hours after we were happily tucked into our tents after beers, popcorn and laughs, we were reminded about our crazy accommodations right next to the old farmhouse.

At about two am, for a reason unbeknown to us, the group of stray dogs living outside starting barking in sync.  At first I was irritated and thought they’d stop after a few minutes, but then just when I thought we’d be going back to sleep in peace and quiet the good old donkey joined in the fun with his “hehaheha” right outside of our tent!  Well, that of course got the dog gang barking again along with the “hehaheha” and it was complete chaos.  Needless to say, we had to laugh but we certainly did get much if any sleep especially once the roosters started going off at 4:30 am when the sun began to rise.  What a night!

By 7am after a light breakfast of toast with jelly, hot chocolate and tea we were packed up and off for our grueling day.  Our campsite was at 8851 feet/2700m and would be climbing up to our highest point of the trek at 13,779 feet/4200m.

Leaving the campground, the scenery was spectacular.

The trees provided a nice shelter against the hot sun and began to change as we ascended higher up the trail.  The foliage was extremely green and lush, loaded with beautiful flowers and we could see several waterfalls off in the distance rumbling down the hills.

I was sweaty, tired but had a huge smile across my face for I was in my element and doing what I love best.

We took at short break before making our one and a half hour ascent to the highest point of the trail “Dead Woman’s Pass”.  I didn’t like the sound of the pass but by the sampling of the stunning scenery we were entering, I knew it would be heaven.

Our wonderful, hardworking porters took a rest for a moment.  They each carried 62 pounds on their back and made only $4/day.  I felt terrible about the low wages and heavy loads, yet this is a way of life for them and being a porter is actually a better job than farming.  It pays more and guarantees three meals a day.

Climbing up, up, up on the real Inca stone-carved steps that were placed here hundreds of years ago.  It was grueling work and slow going but exciting all the same. The scenery changed dramatically as we climbed higher as well as the temperature.  I continually put back on layers moving from shorts, to a long-sleeve shirt and finally hiking pants near the top.  The temperature also varied a bit depending on clouds, sun and wind.  Thank goodness for convertible hiking pants!

Finally, we made it!  My Dad and I are at the top!   The views were incredible!

We took a short break and our fellow Swiss man, a young guy named Johnny of course had to celebrate the Swiss way….with a bottle of wine!  He informed us that the Swiss always carry a bottle along for celebration at the top.  Whether or not this is true, I have no way of knowing but I thought it was a great idea!

Our group at the top feeling cold, tired and exhilarated to be here.

Swiss pride:  Not only do they carry a celebratory bottle of wine, they also bring their flag.  I was so impressed!

Feeling part of the gang.  It is amazing how quickly you develop friendships while hiking.  I truly enjoyed the people we met and we had so much fun talking about our unique lives and the differences.  Lots of laughs as well.

After a zillion pictures, a glass of wine and a rest, we were off again for the rest of our hike.  The descent from the pass was very steep but not difficult except for the pain in my knees.  We hiked down for about ten minutes until it was time for a much-deserved lunch.

Famished, we all thoroughly enjoyed another delicious lunch that was waiting our arrival.  The porters and cooks had passed us on the trail in order to get to our lunch spot ahead and have everything ready.  We ate hearty homemade corn soup and a veggie stir fry.

We only had an hour left of the hike until we reached our second night campsite is at Pacamayo at 3600m.  It was only 2:30 pm yet we were all completely worn out and ready for a break.  The campsite was beautiful with lush, tree-covered mountains surrounding us.  It was much higher than our first campsite so we felt a little bit of the altitude still.  I was extremely pleased because there was an actual toilet and shower at the campsite, a nice luxury after two days (much better than using the “toilet tent” with a hole in the ground….yuck!).  The shower was ice cold since it was fed by a neigboring river yet the shower made me feel clean.  The porters had even carried up a big surprise for us…..a few bottles of Argentine Red wine!  What a treat!

Our Swiss friends never seemed to make us smile and laugh.  They even put up their flag outside of their tent.  What a riot!

Our wonderful guide Limas and I stood for a photo just after sunset.  It was starting to get cold up here in the mountains but it was so incredibly lovely.  There were waterfalls, birds singing and the air was as fresh as could be.  This was heaven on earth in my book.

I sat down in my tent to write in my journal for awhile (these are the notes which I am now using, ten years later, to write this post!) and enjoyed the fantastic view.  What a place and so incredibly peaceful.  No wonder the Incas choose this trail to lead to their hidden, sacred temple.

As the sun set, I pondered on what an amazing country Peru is.  I felt sad that the people are so poor, and live on less than $125 a month.  It was hard for me to fathom how difficult these people’s lives are.  They work so hard for so little.  Yet they are so happy and so wonderful without all the material stuff we have.

Traveling like us for this kind of adventure or even leaving the country in itself is out of the question.  I felt so privileged to be here and pinched myself several times while marveling at the rugged, raw beauty of the Andes.  I told myself to remember what I’m seeing and what I’ve learned.  For we are so fortunate and so spoiled.  Never take anything for granted, that is for sure!


  1. I am booked to do this trek at the end of October. However, I am going to do the lodge to lodge hike so that I won’t have to campout each night. I guess you can call it luxury hiking. Are you currently on the hike? Or is this a recount after you returned home? I am interest in finding out the time of year you were on the trail, because it looks like your weather was good. One other question, how many days were you in the mountains before you hiked over the “dead women’s pass”? The altitude is the one concern I have since I live in Florida at sea level.

    1. This hike was actually 10 YEARS AGO! Can you believe it? It was my first one and I’ve done several more since which I’ve written about on my blog (Nepal, Argentina, Chile). I went in early November and it was perfect weather. October should be great. Just bring lots of layers for changing conditions. Now that I’ve done a few of these trips, I feel like I didn’t have enough time to properly acclimatize. Everything was a little too quick but I did ok despite the fact. We only had one night in Cusco which is I believe 11000 feet. I think an extra day there would have been fine for preparing to make it over the pass. This was post was Day 2 of my trek as I did it in four days meaning we really didn’t have much time before crossing the pass. I would go with either an extra day in Cusco perhaps. I’m not sure if you can sleep anywhere or not on the trail that offers a higher location since we gained a lot of altitude the second day. If you are worried, I’d go with the extra night before the pass. It all depends though on how well you do with altitidue. Good luck and keep reading if you like! 🙂 You’ll love it. just remember to watch your back in Lima and cusco! See my earlier post…

  2. Thank you for making me feel us if I went with your Inca adventure. Must been a journey beyond words. The camping and meeting friends looks like a lot of fun. Wishing you a safe and wonderful travel. Keep walking life’s exciting journey for us. Great pics.

  3. Thank you for the reply. Wow 10 years ago, time does fly. Ten years ago we were in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, seem just like just last year. I will check out you other post. If you haven’t been to New Zealand you would love it. They have some really great treks and the scenery is fantastic. My first trip there I didn’t have much time for hiking because it was with a tour group. The next time we went on our own and we did some half day hikes and in Auckland I did the coast to coast walk (16k) while my wife looked for real estate.
    I am going with the same tour company (Betchart Expeditions) that we used for our Galapagos Islands trip. They are really well orginized and we leave from Miami with the group so I am not concerned about Lima or Cusco because we will have guilds with us most of our time. We will have a day and a half in Cusco, then the following day we a 4 hour warm up hike the following day. We will go over the pass 2 days later, so it sounds like I should have enough time to adjust (but as I mentioned in my earlier post this is what you might call a luxury hike, they will even provide a horse if you don’t want to hike over the pass). But where is the fun in that? I will forgo the camping for a lodge with a hot tub each night, but I want to hike the entire 39 miles. I am doing this trip for my 53rd birthday, which is on the last day of the trip. How old was your dad when you went? It looks like he might have been close to my age.

  4. Thanks for the reply! I had just responded to your last comment and now I see you have been to NZ. Yes, my husband and I felt the same way that we could easily live there. It is so beautiful. Your trip to Peru sounds fantastic and also the way to go! There is nothing wrong in the least bit with luxury!!!! That is what my husband and I did in Chile at Torres del Paine and it was fabulous. What a great birthday present and how cool your wife is going! To answer your question, my dad was 58 then and he just did a 100 mile trek with me last November in the Annapurnas in Nepal at 68! He is a rock star and I aspire to be as in shape as him when I hit the 60s! I am turning 40 this year and hope to do Kilimanjaro this year to celebrate if I can make it work. Have you ever done that one? Your plan sounds great and you should be just fine having that extra time. We did all get a case of the “runs” however perhaps you will have better conditions given your tour company. Make sure to bring some imodium just in case! Your blog looks interesting too so I am going to subscribe.

  5. My wife is not going on this trip. Too much hiking for her. I can get her to do half day hikes or walking around cities we are visiting, but a week of hiking is not going to happen. We spent a week in Paris in May for our 20th wedding anniversary. We walked about 6-7 miles each day visiting the various sites. That is about limit and as you know most of Paris is flat (no 15,000 ft pass). She was the one who encouraged me to do this trip on my own and then when I get back she is going to do a week cruise with her mother.
    We have been to both Argentina and Chile but we were on a Cape Horn cruise so we didn’t do much hiking. Although I did get in a whitewater rafting trip in Chile.
    Looking at your blog, it doesn’t look like you have been to the Canadian Rockies or Oregon. Unless you just have not posted on then yet. Both places are almost in your backyard. The Banff & Jasper National Parks are well worth a visit and some hiking. In Oregon there are many great spots, Columbia River Gorge, Mt Hood, Crater Lake NP. We really liked Bend and were thinking that when we retire that we will buy a place in Oregon. Then we can spend half the year in New Zealand and the other half in Oregon. Of course during the summer time for each place.
    We have not been to Africa yet nor Nepal. Africa is on the list but it won’t be hiking Kilimanjaro. We are thinking South Africa and a safari in Botswana.

    1. It was wonderful and I’m so glad I went as it sparked my interest for getting off the beaten path a bit and exploring the world! It was ten years ago and since then I’ve done several hiking trips with my Dad. 🙂

  6. I’ve always wanted (yes, always!) to go to Machu Pichu. In my opinion it’s one of the most stunning archaeological sites in the world due to its height. Imagining how the Incas built it up on the mountain still impresses me, even until now. Such a great adventure that you had!

    1. Yes it is an amazing place. I was so impressed with it that i immediately bought a book on how it was built and discovered. Fascinating history and even more impressive when you see it for the first time!

      1. Seeing world’s great places for the first time always brings indescribable feeling for me. I believe when one day I see Maccu Pichu by my own eyes, I will feel the same spark again (or even more? who knew)

  7. What a wonderful trip this must have been! What’s up with those 3am donkey-calls? We get that all the time in Mali 🙂

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