Saturday, 9 October 2010
Forewarned is forearmed, so as the title of this post suggests I'm going to be engaging in some Inca Trail loo chat on this fine and sunny Saturday morning in Manhattan, so if you are squeamish about this sort of thing, look away now - yes Miles I am looking at you ;-) - however I feel I owe it to my fellow hikers to provide some of this information, because Lord knows I really wanted to know what the loo situation would be on the Trail, but could I find much information, could I 'eck as like.
It teemed it down while we were having lunch, you could hear it bouncing off the tent, but thankfully it stopped just as we were ready to start walking again. After all that food - I rarely ever eat a two course lunch, or dinner for that matter - I was ready for a snooze quite honestly, but we had to press on after a quick pit stop at the loos.
Almost all the toilets on the trail are of this variety.
Although you'll be lucky if they are quite that clean.
Sometimes there'll be just one loo at the camp ground, but more often than not they are housed in blocks - with no lighting mind. Imagine trying to use one of these in the dark while wrestling with your garments, a torch/flashlight and trying to hold onto your loo paper - you need to bring your own by the way. Knowing what I know now I would highly recommend investing in a headlamp for anyone pondering the Inca Trail.
Mostly there are separate facilities for men and women and more often than not there are sinks with running water on the outside of the block, although no soap, but sometimes there isn't water either. Hand sanitizer is your best friend on the Inca Trail.
As a woman these types of loos are most definitely not my favourite - what can I say, I'm a traditional sort - because if you position yourself as the footplates suggest, how can I put this delicately, you - or at least I, and Melissa as it turns out, we further bonded over our mutual ineffectiveness at using these loos - have a tendency to get a little bit of pee on the bottom of your hiking pants - I don't know about you, but my flow is not straight down, it tends to veer off to the right - and if there is no running water...well you are going to finish up the day smelling like an incontinent old lady. Not fun. Now for the good of humanity Melissa and I experimented with a variety of stances on the trail and we've found that sumo squat is the most effective, so go ahead and ignore the suggestion of where you are supposed to place your feet and place them outside of the porcelain area. The only risk you have now is potentially slippery tile - the consequences of which just don't bear thinking about - but I find placing a hand on the door - I was wary of touching the walls - tends to increase your sense of security and if all this sounds too much, maybe consider investing in one of these.
Okay there endeth the public service portion of this blog post. To those of you that were closing your eyes for the last few paragraphs, it's safe to look again.
By the time we'd all used the loos and crossed the stream to get back on the trail the porters had pretty much dismantled our lunch camp and would soon be passing us on the trail. You very quickly get used to the sound of porters behind you and are told to step in towards the mountain to let them pass, but during the first day the guides will shout "Porters" to indicate their approach and signal for you to yield.
After lunch, I practiced my Quechuan lady walk - as observed during my home stay on Amantani - and discovered that a slow steady pace really does make a difference and I gave up on trying to keep up with the 22 year olds in our groups and focused on the beautiful surroundings instead.
The guide and assistant guide on the trail take their turns to lead or bring up the rear and if necessary they push the stragglers so that they make camp before sunset and not end up hiking in the dark. I suspect this is the reason the hikes end so early in the day, since you are typically at camp for the night between 2pm and 4pm. Melissa and I lagged the rest of the group on the trail, but only by an hour at most, which I didn't think was too bad for a couple of old birds ;-)
At 2.15pm we arrived at the second rest stop where this confused pig could not be deterred from making advances towards this poor dog...
...that was until Efraim began massaging the pig with his walking stick, "Inca massage" laughed Efraim. Pig heaven!!
By 3.20pm we were at camp for the day and instructed to come to the dining tent for 'happy hour' - cream crackers with butter and jam, freshly popped popcorn, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. I was famished.
After our 'happy hour' Efraim introduced us to the team that were looking after the 11 of us hiking the trail. As you can see it takes quite a crew to take care of 11 hikers.
By 6pm it was pitch black and cold outside - there are no lights at the camps, so take a good flashlight and/or headlamp. We headed over to the dining tent for a delicious dinner of vegetable soup, trout stuffed with spinach and cheese and served with boiled rice and potatoes followed by apple pie - apple pie!! Honestly we were so well fed on the trail, the food impressed the hell out of me - and tea and by 8pm we were tucked up in bed!!
One day down, two and a bit more to go!!