Well, my time here in Cusco, Peru has been very productive. I have seen many different things and met many different people. And of course what would my experiences be without adding a little humor and looking at the lighter side of things.
So here we go. In this blog entry you are going to learn a little bit about the Inca Trail, the porters on the trail, the StairMaster, some people who had no business in the wilderness as well as some other folks that I have met along the way. Oh, you will also learn about a girl named Dorkas, a boy named Linus, as in the Linus from Peanuts. Lots of good times and lots of great stories.
Lets get this thing started. I started the Inca Trail last week with one backpack and everything I needed to complete the four day and three night excursion. I packed everything that the tour company suggested, right. Extra change of clothes, long johns, three or four pairs of socks, sun block, water tablets, snacks, bla bla bla bla bla. I took everything they suggested and used everything. But I didn't get a warm fuzzy when I look at everybody elses pack and realize that mine is huge compared to theirs. I did have the option to hire a porter to carry 6kg of my stuff, but I'm a thrifty guy and decided to save that 25 dollars for a rainy day. People in my group were like "um, you really gonna carry that...good luck." Now im in reasonably good shape for the shape im in and it the pack was around 20 percent of my body weight. Not too bad. In fact I was lookin forward to feelin the burn. And I sure did feel the burn. It wasn't until the last day that I asked the porters to actually weigh my bag. They first picked it up and were wagering between themselves how much it weighed and were right on the mark when they brought the tool in to weigh my pack. My pack came in at a mere 20kg. Awright! The 20kg club, baby. I actually met a guy from California who was doing the trek with a backpack that was larger than mine. Chris from San Fran was carrying 23kg for him and his wife and was walking without the assistance of a walking stick. The walking stick on this trip saved my knees and helped me keep my balance many a time. It was the best 1dollar investment I made that first day of the trek.
The Inca Trial is a 26 mile adventure that travels through the Peruvian countryside. It is a trail of cobblestone rocks and dirt paths that starts at km 82 near the city of Urubamba and leads to the lost city of Machu Picchu. Normally the trail takes four days and three nights to complete. I asked our guide what is the record for running this trail and he said that the porters have a competition for pride and the winner did the trail in about 3 hours and 15 minutes. Pretty amazing since these guys are running on a steep cobblestone path that can go 9km uphill in some parts. One thing that I must mention is the respect I have for the porters. All of us on this trial are kinda like posers. Posers in the sense that we have the high tech backpack, super sturdy shoes, the latest Adidas ultra moisture wicking clothing apparel and the trail is kickin our fanny. The porters on the trail are sometimes carrying fourty percent or more of their of their body weight and they are not hiking the trail. They are running the trail in sandals, a tshirt, and shorts. One of the porters was learning English and I asked him if I could wear his backpack. Barney obliged. I put on the 27kg rucksack and was amazed how a guy who was only 5 feet 5 inches and maybe 70kg could run up the Inca Trail. You gotta hand it to these porters because they are the ones who make the trip possible.
Our group was pretty interesting mix of folk from all over the globe. There was a joker from South Africa, a coupla guys from Ireland, a Dutch couple, some Australians, and this tall gringo from the USA. I was beginning to doubt whether our group had ever seen a tent or had hiked on something other than concrete before. For example...there was one guy in our group that had bought a pair of hiking boots for the trip. He bought them and that is all he did. Im not really sure if it ever occurred to him that you should prolly break them in a few months in advance because hiking in new shoes are a nightmare. After the first day he removed his boots to find quarter and half-dollar size blisters on both heels. Yaowza, that has gotta hurt! So to make matters worse he began to walk on his tippy toes the next day which was just a short 12 or 13km hike, 9km of which was all uphill. You know how it goes if you injure one part of your body and try to compensate for the injury, you could injure another part. Well, he did. About an hour into the third day, blister boy, could barely walk because his calves, thighs, and knees were killin him. The blister overcompensation was takin its toll and created another problem. He could barely walk. Fortunately there were two Aussie doctors in a nearby group that diagnosed the problem as muscular and applied some athletic tape to his thigh. Blister boy could walk again. You gotta give this guy credit. He went though a heck of a lotta pain and had a great attitude about it. Our group had a great attitude and that made the trail a little more bearable.
The first day of the trail wasn't too bad, just a short 8km. It was more of a training day and a chance for the guides to see if everybody was gonna make it. Dead Woman's Pass was the name of the next little hill we were gonna climb. It was just a 9 or 10km uphill ascent that peaked at 4200 meters elevation. Our guide, Washington, said before the day begain "Oh ah kay, ladiez and gentlesman...we are going toobee doin de StairMaster tooday...level 5 for five hourz. Annie quiestions...Oh ah kay letza go." He was right. Five hours of climbing is what it took to get to this pass. The views from the top were amazing. On one side you could see where we camped the night before and on the other you could see our next campsite. Just a short three hours down some steep rocky steps.
The second night was by far the coldest and temps reached around 45F. We experienced a little bit of rain but not enough to dampen our spirits. "eye roll." Day three was not the hardest day but it was by far the longest. We were late to break camp and hiked about 15km up and down through the tree line and into the jungle. The jungle is actually called the cloud forest because the clouds just hang in the dense jungle air and thick moss dangles from everything while collecting cloud moisture. Along many parts of the trail there were thick walls of moss you could push against it and only feel the soft and squishy resistance of moss.
Lunch everyday consisted of something just incredible. Chicken, lamb, alpaca, trout, rice, garlic bread, veggies, and a little apple pie are just a little bit of what we ate along the route. Ya gotta hand it to the chef on the trail. He creates a heck of a lot of good food for being out in the middle of nowhere. The diet on the trail was very high in carbs. Lots of potatoes, bread, crackers, and rice. You know, all the good stuff to give ya some energy for the trail ahead. I didnt know what to expect with the food at the beginning of the trek, but was very surprised to find sliced avocados topped with a salsa and cheese as well as a veggie soup and trout for our first Inca Trail meal. It was like we were eating at a restaurant in the middle of the on the trail. All this food is makin me a little hungie!
Day four consisted of getting up at the crack of dawn, maybe even a bit before that. Since we were late to break camp yesterday Washington made it a point to be up at 330am and be the first group to the checkpoint. The checkpoint opened at 530am. Breakfast was ate in an unusual silence. I seemed to be the only one that was actually giddy to be up that early. I mean, cmon...we were on the edge of completing a four day trek and people seemed to be a little ho hum. Our group was the first to arrive at the checkpoint and got to wait until the park ranger made his way down to the station. With our ur trail passes were stamped we jetted for the next hour to the sun gate. What makes the sun gate and the Incas so mysterious is that during the summer solstice the sunlight shines directly through these massive stone structures and directly to the temple of the sun located three miles away at Machu Picchu. How these guys built all this stuff with just basic tools is very cool. We were gonna see the sun rise but thick fog made viewing impossible. We rested and then continued to Machu Picchu. Fog was still covering up the Lost City when we arrived but we were lucky enough to have it clear up by mid afternoon.
After a two hour tour we had some free time and I scaled Huana Piccu to get a better view of the Machu Picchu. Another thing has been crossed off my list of things I gotta do in this life. Yeeee haaaaa!!!!
The people I have met along the way have been interesting to say the least. For example there was a group a Peruvian students who where studying tourism in Lima and had come to hike the Inca Trail and to see what it is all about. In this group there was this one guy and he kinda just joined our group for about two hours and went from person to person practicing his English. But it really wasn't his English that he was practicing. It was more of his knowledge of Rocky and Sly Stallone. Now, I'm a fan of Rocky. But not so much that I go up to complete strangers and begin discussing the rematch of the century between Clubber Lang and the Italian Stallion. So this guy hung out with our group for about two hours as we explored some Inca ruins and took a break. I later learned that he had talked with nearly all our group members about the plot intricacies Rocky and how there is a chance that Rocky VI might begin filming this spring. Everybody at home , please keep your fingers crossed. It wasn't until after the trek that I learned our adopted friend had earned the nickname Linus. He earned this name after carrying his half-opened sleeping bag around while he joined our group for the two hours. I also learned from our group members that the tattoo he was so proud to show off was actually Sly Stallone. I had no idea. It just looked like some guy in a fedora. What is going through your head when you decide to get a tattoo of someone. Was this guy like "Gimme Sly Stallone. But with a fedora!" Or perhaps he carried the picture in his pocket for a few days and then went to the tattoo parlour to get the picture permanently printed on his shoulder. "Hold on a sec, this pic is a little wrinkly...lemme flatten it out a bit" "Yea, its a little wrinkly, but do the best you can." I was lucky enough to capture a pic when I saw him at Mama Africas the day we got back.
well, im gettin a little hungry and am gonna get some breakfast before i finish this epic story.
more to come in a bit...laters
ok...back for more.
Another interesting person that I met on the trail was a girl named Dorkas. In Spanish the name doesn't have any real meaning like the shortened version in English. This was kinda of a weird name but to actually live on Dorcas street in Omaha and then meet someone named that is just plain weird! Of all the days to choose to do the Inca Trail and of all the people that I could have met on the trial I meet someone named Dorkas. Now that my friends may be a little more than coincidence. So never being the shy one we talked and even did a little dancing the third night at the bar. We had coffee Saturday afternoon and talked for a coupla hours. Good times. That is what I like about this trip. You never know who you are gonna meet or how things might turn out. I now have a new friend in Lima.
Today or tomorrow I think I am gonna cross the border and head to Boliva. Lake Titicaca will be my next destination. I originally thought about heading to Puno to visit the floating islands but havent really heard anything fantastic about the place. Im looking forward to Boliva. Heard some good things about it and I have a few places that I would like to see and some great adventures I would like to experiences.
catch you all on the flip side....