Monday, July 23rd, 2018
I went on another journey of inspiration. I traveled to Peru for two weeks. This trip is to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first JOI climbers to Kilimanjaro. The 08’ers were kind enough to let an 09’er tag along for the trek. The first week included a 4 day, 43 km hike on the Inca Camino through the Andes to Machu Picchu. The second week will be a bit more of a relaxing tour of Cusco, Puno, Lake Titicaca and Lima. Though on a Rick French (Pack, Paddle and Ski) trip there is always a bit of adventure in everything we do. I am writing this after completing the first week and what a week it was. It was one of the most physically and emotionally challenges I have had and filled with some of the most loving, beautiful and spiritual moments too. It is hard to explain the combination of hardship and joy at the same time – but you know me, I will give it try. Let’s start at the very beginning…
The plane trip that would not end —
The pic from the air is to help tell two stories. The first one is that the trip here did not start out nor end as expected. So, I will tell you the second one first. This was the first time we saw a glimpse of the Andes. I was not expecting them to be so grand and of course did not consider that I would be trekking through them in a few days. They are spectacular from the air and from the ground.
The Andes is the longest mountain range in the world and the only ones taller are the Himalaya Mountains. I have never experience such majesty and beauty.
The part of the flight story is that our 7am flight was cancelled out of Rochester. They shipped us up to Toronto for a 6 hour layover. When boarding the flight from Toronto to Lima they would not let us the flight because American Airlines never issued us a ticket. Once we got that figured out we got on the flight and sat for 3 hours. Finally taking off we got to Lima at 530am instead of 1030pm the night before – just in time to meet the rest of the group for our flight to Cusco. Oh, wait it gets better. We land in Cusco and no luggage. I did not get it until a week later. Yes, with all my gear, clothes, boots, you name it. Ended up borrowing a little bit from the group and buying at local markets to get me through the trek. So the outfits you see me wearing on the trek are not of my choosing. It was awful but got through it. So enough of that.
Tuesday, July 24th, 2018
We arrived in Cusco and met by our guide Chino – real name is RRRRRRRRRRubin.
Chino would be our main guide for the first week. He became everything to us, our tour guide, our trek leader, our historian, our supporter, our cheerleader, our problem solver, our friend and family. We were also joined by Omar and Edu other wonderful and amazing guides that I will introduce to you later.
First stop was Pisac Citadel – our first Inca site. We quickly learned that there are 1000’s of Inca sites across the country with only a small percentage discovered and accessible.
Pisac, a word of Quechua origins, means “partridge”. Inca tradition dictated building cities in the shape of birds and animals, and as such, Pisac is partridge shaped. The Inca ruins included a military citadel, religious temples, and individual dwellings, a cemetery and overlooks the Sacred Valley, between the Salkantay Mountains.
The “ridges” on the hillside are called terraces and we would soon see them everywhere. These terraces are how they developed farm land on mountainsides. The terraces leveled the planting area, but they also had several unexpected advantages. Here is a great site to learn more about this farming technique.
It is hard to see in this pic but this is the side of a very steep mountain next to the site. It is a cemetery. If you look hard you can see holes in the side and steps leading up to them. You can’t tell from the pic, but there are 100s of them. When people died they were embalmed with local herbs, put into a fetal position and placed in the side of the mountain. The mountains were their father and the earth their mother. This way they would be reborn. We will come to learn how important the spirit of nature was part of the culture and part of their souls – an apparently mine.
After a lunch of llama — yes, you read that right we went to the Villa Urubamba. Exhausting first day but already an amazing journey.
Wednesday, July 25th, 2018
We were up early and went to the archeological site of Moray.
It was a fascinating to learn just how advanced the Incas were. Yesterday, we learned about the terraces. This site showed the terraces in circles. The full purpose behind these concentric terraces isn’t fully known. However, it is widely believed that these ruins were once an agricultural laboratory. Each one of these terraces are a different depth, design and orientation to the sun, wind and temperature. These different micro climates at the different levels allowed them to study wild vegetation.
From there we walked to help get acclimated to the elevation and low and behold we came around the corner and there was lunch and the grey tent. For all my Kili climbing friends this will look so familiar and brought back such wonderful memories.
We even got a demonstration on how to use the grey tent since this would be our bathroom for 4 days on the trail. After lunch Chino “schooled” us about our days ahead and what to pack.
We then went to the Maras Salt Mines. This is an association of 350 families. Each of these pools are fed by an underground spring that starts to fill the bottom ones by a series of channels As they get filled rocks are placed to stop the flow and the next one is filed and so forth. It can take from 7 to 20 days to harvest the salt depending on the winds.
We stopped at a local market to see the Wegmans of Cusco.
So my luggage is not going to be here in time for my climb. We started looking for sweats, a jacket and underwear. Have you ever tried to shop with a group of people especially men for underwear and pants? You are lucky if you haven’t. I was also lucky – more then you know, and blessed. My lady gang of Linda, Linda and Char formed a pride around me, kicked the men to the curb and found me some things to wear.
After that experience, Chino took us to a Checharina where they make Checha of course. It is a traditional drink made of corn. They also had a flavored one of strawberries which was much tastier.
Our last meal was at a wonderful restaurant in town called El Huacatay. Then home to pack for the trip.
We were given one small green duffle that we could fill with what we wanted to have on the mountain. The porters would carry these along with our sleeping bags. Since I did not have one I needed to rent one from the touring company. We also would carry our daypack and that was it for the next 4 days. The rest of the luggage would be waiting for us when we returned to Cusco the following Monday which for me…….we still did not know where mine was.