[Read Day 1 here]
Day 2 – 12.5 miles, 7 hours.
Though it felt like I didn’t sleep at all in our tent, I woke up at 5 a.m. feeling alright. My legs were only very slightly sore and I felt pretty good. I asked our tour guide Ivan over breakfast about the mate de coca we all drank many cups of each day to combat altitude sickness and fortify our strength.Coca leaf tea is used widely in Cusco and the surrounding high-altitude mountainous areas. Cocaine is also manufactured from the leaves of the coca tree. Don’t worry, drinking mate de coca is not like ingesting cocaine. At least that’s what Ivan says. Growing coca is legal in Peru, but producing cocaine is not. Mate de coca not only invigorates the body, much like caffeine, but it also suppresses appetite. Incans used to chew big wads of it all day so they could work harder on less. It also keeps the teeth healthy. I didn’t know about the appetite-suppressing power of the tea until today and when I found out, a lot of things clicked.The first day on the trail, I had a hard time eating and never felt hungry. I knew I had to eat to keep my energy up so I could continue hiking, but I just had no appetite and got full so easily. It was weird. But now I knew it was the tea at work. Michael said he felt no such effects though.The second day on the trail, it was a struggle to eat enough to fuel myself when I had no hunger cues. Basically, without Gatorade, I don’t know if I could’ve made it. The first part of the trail was really steep, cold, and Michael was so short of breath he had to stop frequently. I never really dealt with shortness of breath though I did have a persistent dull throbbing headache for a while and difficulty sleeping each night due to the altitude.The temperature fluctuated between freezing cold and sunburning hot. We started out around 7 a.m. and hours later, there was still ice on the ground. I should’ve brought some type of SPF-protecting lip balm because my lips definitely got burnt.
Hiking the Inca trail up to Salkantay mountain isn’t the only way to do it, I saw a lot of people on donkeys or horses. It’s kind of a “cheater” way though. Camilla, Michael, Ivan and I all moved fast the second day. We summitted Salkantay, had an amazingly scenic and relaxing lunch by the river, and pushed on hard. Michael and I even raced after lunch and ran part of the rocky trail. I won. :) But only because he has a harder time leaping from rock to rock and finding sure footing than I do. He definitely beats me on flat ground, no question.Since we moved so fast, we got to our second campsite around 3:30 p.m. and had lots of time for me to try and ride a horse without a saddle, eat snacks, and tell ghost stories. My Spanish is good enough now that I even understood 90% of the stories.