The bad and the good....
02.10.2010 - 06.10.2010
Well I have had my first real travel mis-fortune. The day before we left to hike the inca trail I came down with a bad cold, but awoke at 3:30 to get on the bus for the 2 hour bus ride to the starting point of the trail. We began under ominous cloudy skies with a little bit of rain, but it quickly changed to blaring sunshine and the morning was a great hike through relatively flat or modestly uphill climbs. However after lunch we had to climb from about 9,000 feet to just under 13,000 feet in a little over about 2 miles and the altitude plus a cold pretty killed me. Luckily camp was all set up and I climbed into my sleeping bag with some tea to warm up as it was probably about 45 degrees outside. I tried to eat some of the dinner, but had zero appetite with the cold and the altitude - notwithstanding the altitude drugs and chewing on some local coca leaves... That night thunderstorms raged over our little tents with lighting and driving rain, hail and snow. I was convinced we would be inundated with wet, but we luckily stayed dry, albeit still cold!! I probably only slept a few hours with all of the rain and wind noise and felt beyond terrible the next morning with altitude sickness. Unfortunately I decided with my guide that it would be better for me to return and go down rather than continue the hike which was going to climb another 2,000 feet on day 2. So I fully packed my gear (a porter had carried most of it up!) and returned the way I came while the rest of the group of 7 yo continue for the next 3 days. I was really bummed to not be able to complete the hike, but I felt immensly better once I had descended a few thousand feet and I didn't want to be a burden to the group or the porters if my health got worse! What I did see, the views were beautiful and it was fun to come across the local andean people for whom the path is their main road. They would be effortlessly running up and down with loads of gear while we huffed and puffed our way up. We also saw lots of local pack animals to help them out, mostly horses, but also llamas and donkeys. here is a shot of me on the hike.
One happy accident about this was that I spend the night in the close by town of Ollantaytambo on annual election day which is a big deal down here. Peruvians are required to vote or pay a fine so they all turn out to vote. In the smaller villages such as this town the locals were their best clothes representing the region of where they are from. I got to see lots of locals coming together to vote and then spend the rest of the day catching up with their friends. Here is a pic.
Now the good: I moved on and spent the next night in Machu Pichu town so I can meet the rest of the group first thing in the morning. Not much to say here other than I met up with the group without problem and was glad to see they all successfully completed the trip. Machu Pichu was incredible and we had perfect sunny weather. It was so peaceful walking amoung the ruins and it was fun to ponder what happened to this culture and people such that they appeared to have immediately vacated the sight. Guess we will never know for sure. Our guide mentioned a number of times that geologists believe that Machu Pichu lies on about 7 fault lines and a couple of earthquakes happen each year. There has been a degradation of the stonework on the ruins and it is possible that some day it may all fall down altogether if a big quake hits. That would be such a tragic loss. You should try to visit soon!! Here are some pics.
I know in an earlier post I said I was going to try and be very adventuresome in my eating. Well I am sad to say that with my cold and altitude sickness I haven't really been eating the past few days, but I hope that will change soon. Sam and I did stumble across this local villager in Ollantaytambo today who invited us into his mud/thatched roof house to have a look and we came across all the cute little cuy or guinea pigs he was raising. Honestly they were so cute, I just don't know if I will be able to eat one. it would be like eating a kitten, but I will keep you posted.
Off to the amazon jungle tommorrow and hoping for better health!