A hearty breakfast later (including grapes the Peruano way, peeled) and we are ready to hit the road. We start up, passing villages along the way. Many of the inhabitants were displaced when Machu Picchu was made a National Park. They receive support from the government for this inconvenience, we pass a fish farm which was constructed from government funds. It is maintained communally by the villagers who grow mostly subsistence crops. The more entrepreneurial offering bottles of water and Gatorade to the weary hikers.
I pass a mule. It ignores me, standing stoically facing the path but I am left with a feeling they know more than they let on.
We are overtaken by our porters. They carry 20-25kg each (controlled, there are weigh stations to ensure there is no porter abuse). They power past us in a group hardly breaking a sweat. Other porters charge past us as well. With the rush over we feel alone on the trail.
As we walk through the Cloud Forest it feels like we walk above Eden. The trees are covered in moss and there is a river beneath us that occasionally breaks out into a waterfall.
Leaving the Cloud Forest we continue our upwards climb. The air is thin and we seem to have no endurance. It's a strange feeling, my legs are not tired (we are climbing quite slowly) however each step leaves me breathless. If I wait to catch my breath I feel fine, but the next step leaves me breathless again anyway.
Another delicious lunch stop. It starts raining as we continue up the mountain. My Poncho is earning my admiration. I am able to prepare my camera under it and whip it out quickly for a couple photos before putting it back under protection from the rain.
We find our first Llamas on the hike. They are being farmed by the last family before Dead Woman's Pass. Beyond them no one is allowed to farm the land. The incline increases as approach Dead Woman's Pass, so named for the rock formations visible on the approach looking like a woman. If you use your imagination. About 15 minutes from the peak my left hand begins to tingle, a sign of oxygen depravation and altitude sickness. After resting it lessens and eventually goes away before reaching the pass. Uneventful but certainly attracting my attention at the time.
We reach Dead Woman's Pass, at an altitude of 4,200m (13,780ft). The clouds move quickly here, the scenery changes as the valley below becomes covered in cloud, then clears, then a cloud is pushed up the pass and we are surrounded in a white haze. Out of this haze a dog seems to materialise. It follows us down to our campsite, keeping it's distance. We camp near a waterfall and are treated to a spectacular sunset down the valley, clouds moving at such a speed that the view is changing constantly. I need to keep my eye out for an iPhone tripod so I can take timelapse videos. My attempts so far have not been very successful, somewhat limited by the need to find an appropriately shaped rock.