Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Inka Trail

This morning started with less tension and with warm sunshine energizing us as we ate breakfast in the most amazingly scenic place I've ever had the pleasure of dining. This makes the walk up worth it...that and the fact that we're only halfway up to the trail head, so at least we have a head start. After breakfast, everyone is excited to start the hike. Ricardo (our other guide) says we have to put on war paint first. He has some exotic fruit and uses a cotton swab to paint designs on our faces. Apparently the paint is also sunscreen.
Painted and ready for war, we hit the trail. The first half hour starts where yesterday left off...straight up hill. Switchbacks and vertical. My mind is trying to freak out, because there is no way I can do 6 hours of this.
We learn that there are two forms of time in Peru: Peruvian time and Inka time. Peruvian time is very loose. If you say an hour it could mean 4. Inka time is apparently more accurate. This uphill climb is suppose to take about a half hour. I'm praying that's Inka time. Turns out it is. It's amazing how hard this is. After climbing the second highest plateau in the world at Lake Titicaca I felt like a super hero and the altitude here is about 5000 feet lower,so it should be easy...but it's not.
After about a half hour of climbing, we see a sign that says, "Inka Trail". It has a name, but it's too foreign for me to remember which one it was. Here, the trail flattens a bit.
The path is fairly narrow, at times maybe two and a half feet wide. As the trail flattens, it also leaves the area of the jungle where the path is flanked on both sides with ground. At this point our left side is a sheer cliff that drops hundreds of feet straight down. I can't enjoy the magnificent scenery because I'm too concerned with my footing and slight worries about Dylan. He's doing fine, but if he falls my sister told me I had to bring back two kids of at least equal value. I have no idea how I'd pull this off. The walk isn't bad. The trail goes up some then down some, then flat for a bit. The path is generally made of well placed stones, but they can be slightly uneven. And considering one bad slip and you're gone, this seems pretty extreme. My mind drifts occasionally to some perverse memories (RIP Angela). I try desperately to rid my mind of any such thoughts. After a good while of hiking, we come to small area that jets out from the trail. This is a good place to stop and rest a bit although it's in direct sunlight and quite hot. Ricardo tells us more stories of the Inka past. Dylan, at 15 can't allow for such learning in the Summer so he is fooling around behind the group. I look over after a while to see what he's doing. He's balancing on a wobbly rock RIGHT FUCKING NEXT TO THE CLIFF!!! This cliff drops straight down for HUNDREDS of feet. I just about shit and have a heart attack at the same time. "Dyaln, come here please." I say as calmly as I can, trying not to startle him into falling to his death. Then I come unscrewed. "WHat the #$^* are you doing?" He seems satisfied that he had one foot on stable ground. UGH! Sun weary the group is ready for more hiking. The lunch spot is not far.
We hike for another half hour and arrive to the lunch spot. There are some hammocks and a water spigot. We wet our hair and relax a bit before settling down for lunch. What?? No chicken, rice and french fries??? This lunch was spaghetti with an appetizer of avocado and hot sauce. SOO GOOD! Especially with our hungers being what they were.
We're all in good spirits. Our group is diverse. Three English fellows, a dutch man, four Germans, two Israelis, a French couple, and a hand full of Americans.
The Dutch guy and I are hitting it off well. He's a very interesting guy who was traveling through Asia recently, stayed at various ashrams was accepted by a famous guru as a disciple, met Mother Meera twice. I really like him and we began sharing stories.
After dinner, we continued our long day of walking. The sheer cliff narrow path of death part of the trail seemed to be over and replaced by a more reasonable and relaxing path. Again the path had some ups and downs,but nothing like the extreme vertical to the villa.
After a couple of hours we come to a stream. We cross the stream via a rickety wooden bridge. On the other side our guides encourage us to stop and swim in the water. After hours of hiking in the hot sun this is welcome and refreshing. Dylan is playing at full kid level. They begin to build a small dam to pool the water for better soaking. It's never actually used, but it's enjoyable watching the construction as they slip on the rocks and splash in the cold water.
Because the day of hiking is so long, when they say it's only an hour more, that seems really close. Normally an hour walk would mean we're driving.
As we walk the last hour we get excited as we approach the town of Santa Theresa. We are on the opposite side of the river from the town and have to take a hand/gravity propelled cable cart across the river. This is mildly thrilling and on the other side there begins another vertical trek. SERIOUSLY!?!?! There are only a few switchbacks, however and we arrive at the hot springs, worn and ready to relax. There are three pools of water, each with a slightly different temperature. We all enjoy the soak for about and hour and a half. Then we crack open a few beers and reflect on the day. The sun is setting and serenity is taken us over.
We then go to dinner in Sant Theresa. I order spaghetti again (so tired of rice and french fries). At this point, our group is joined by another Israeli and a woman from Australia. They are a fun couple.
The English group asks me for permission to buy Dylan a beer. "Of course, but I doubt he'll drink it."
After dinner, I'm spent. I go to bed. I'm alone in this geriatric display, however. The rest of the group continues to party. Apparently Dylan has his first beer (maybe his second too). Word has it he was shy about buying it, but the English fellows assured him it was okay. He went to the store, order it, paid for it. Drank it, and all accounts suggest he crushed the can on his forehead in macho fashion. The group loves Dylan and his 15-year-old-ness.
Tomorrow, zip-lining. Although I'm looking forward to this, I'm particularly excited for Dylan. I think he'll love zooming across the jungle on a cable.
Viva mas amigos!


  1. Such a great post! Exactly what I needed today. Wish I was there!

  2. Love, love love it! no beer, no Dylan?!! So excited to see you and share this awesome adventure face to face. Te amo

  3. This is an excellent piece of writing....avid reader of excellent writing. .... How is Dylan? What did his mom say about the cliff? the beer? these are the questions I have after reading this.