An early kick, up and out for 6am after the porters had double checked the weight of our bags. Our bus actually  repeated much of the route of the tour yesterday but today the bumps seemed to stand out just bit more, perhaps it was the suspension or perhaps just the time of day. We had a short break for our porters to grab some breakfast and any last minute shopping before continuing onto the start of he walk, some way up a dirt track. Not being the first group there was already several buses and many porters jostling for space but after a short faff we were queuing up to get a ticket and a stamp in the passport. From the check point we immediately crossed a narrow bridge and started walking up the trail in lovely sunshine, just below was the train line which we would be returning on a few days later. The Inca trail follows the route believed to have been taken by pilgrims up to the sacred site of Machu Pichu. Overall it winds it's way into the mountains and along the way a progressively more impressive set of temples had been built, designed to impress the pilgrim steadily more as they climbed up to the final destination. Luckily for us it has the same effect on modern day walkers traversing the trail with the lower purpose of enjoying the scenery than worshipping the gods.

Our guide was a lively guy with an intimate knowledge of the trail and had a lively manner to entertain us. At our first stop up the trail he arranged the group in a line holding hands and walked us forward with our eyes closed. At this point it wasn't clear if this was his way of getting rid of his last group quickly and  sealing a rapid retirement. Thankfully he told us to stop walking and on opening our eyes there was our first temple at the bottom of the hill nestled at the bottom of three valleys. It's exact location was just above the river at the bottom which made the water running down the steps a little puzzling until it was revealed that the Inca's had built a small aqueduct from a glacial stream on the far side of the valley to supply the water - am impressive achievement. The Spanish had come as far as the bottom of this valley but the Inca's had destroyed the path up the Machu Pichu and led the Spanish further into the mountains on a different path and hence it was not discovered until much later. Interestingly during the retreat the Inca's destroyed much of the pottery and textiles as they went but left the gold  and silver. Why? Gold and silver had little value compared to the pottery and textiles as these were used to record their history and to communicate, so little original records remain of the Inca's.

We continued up the trail which was easy going at our steady pace. By the time we arrived at the lunch spot the mess tent was up and a lovely meal laid out, including a particularly memorable avocado starter; so much for losing weight on this trip! With a few minutes to recover from the food we moved off. Shortly after, thanks to our guides sharp eyes, we saw a green humming bird going about its business just near the track although it was a little camera shy. Finally we rolled into camp where the porters, who had overtaken us, had set up out tents on a series of flat patches of ground by a village. A local had already arrived with chilled beers ready to sell - not such a tough life after all! To break the ice with the porters our guide ushered us all into a big circle to introduce ourselves, with the guide doing some rapid translation. The porters are all farmers in the wet season and porter to top  up their income. The oldest was 63 and still going, the most children was 10 and one had three wives which attracted some mocking comments - we weren't sure who wore the trousers but statistics would suggest his chances are low. It seems that the conditions for porters used to be unregulated but now there are strict rules that a porter can carry no more than 25kg, which they seemed to think was as vast improvement but I thought was still a lot to pull up the hill on a hot day.

The evening routine, soon to become familiar, was to sit in the mess tent playing cards followed by more food than we could possibly eat and then going to bed early to prepare for the morning start. This was only broken up by the odd trip to the toilet, altitude making this more frequent than normal, which was at the end of a narrow track out the back of the tent area and was sometimes stoically guarded by a couple of donkeys making for a bit of careful shuffling to get by. The toilet block was split into male and female and here is where I think being the latter had the natural advantage of both numbers and on average, given that all the porters were male, a better aim. Nose plugs would have come in handy. However, Russell assured me that compared to a sleeper train in India these were gleaming examples of hygiene.