Monday, December 5, 2011


I finally have a chance to update the blog. Internet connections and time are hard to come by these days. Now we're in Puno, Peru, and we just returned from an overnight trip to three islands in Lake Titikaka. I'm going to back up a bit and post photos from last week, including our Inka Trail trek.

Our home away from home: The Pariwana Hostel in Cusco, Peru. In total, we stayed five nights here. By the last day, we knew about half the people at the hostel.

Overlooking Cusco. The Plaza de Armas is in the lower-middle part of the photo.

A day trip to the Saqsaywahman (pronounced "Sexy Woman") ruins just outside of Cusco.

This school group wanted to take a photo with us. Little did we know it was going to turn into a half-hour photoshoot with different combinations of people wanting individual shots with us. At one point, I was handed a baby. At another point, a little girl started crying. Monica asked why and she said she was just so excited.

I believe this is white granite, the material the Inkas used for their stone walls.

A day trip to Tipon to see more ruins. This was a worthwhile trip. The ruins consist of twelve or so terraces and an intricate irrigation system that still works today. Above is one of the stone canals that delivers water to the lower terraces.

Enjoying the view at Tipon, surrounded by mountains.

Every day in Cusco and the surrounding areas it would be sunny and warm until about 2:00 p.m. when--all of a sudden--the air would get a cold chill and the wind would pick up. Most of the time it would start to rain lightly for an hour or two.

Tipon is known for the local Peruvian delicacy, cuy (guinea pig), so we decided to try it with some other visitors. The Austrian 19-year-old we ate with was fascinated with the animal and started playing with his food. Pictured here is the guinea pig hand holding its own eyeball. This was the first and last time we will have guinea pig.

And so it begins: The four-day, three-night Inka Trail (Camino Inka).

The first of more ruins (day one).

The first day of the trail was different from the rest because we saw domesticated animals (donkeys, horses, chicken, dogs, etc.) and there were locals using the trail to pick up items from the small stands that sell basic foods and drinks.

A local woman heading home.
Magical valley.
Puppies playing at our first campsite.

Morning of day two. We were brought tea around 5:00 a.m., delivered to the tent.
Here we are drinking coca tea, a local staple item.
Day two was the most challenging day and it was split up into two parts. The first part was tolerable: I put in my headphones and blasted some music to get me going. Then we stopped for a break. I ate a ton of snacks and started feeling dizzy and getting scared about the second half of the hike up the mountain. Sure enough, I was feeling the effects of the altitude. I could barely take ten steps before I was out of breath and my heart felt like it was going to pound its way out of my chest. My stomach hurt on top of all of that, and I really had to concentrate and give every ounce of energy I had not to pass out and fall of the side of the mountain. I was struggling along with an Australian couple in our group, so at least I was not the only one hurting so bad. It's funny (looking back on it) that the pass is called "Dead Woman's Pass," I was trying not to think about dying as I was scaling up to 4,200 meters (13,800 feet). After two hours, I finally made it to the top where the rest of my group was waiting to take a group photo. I didn't have my camera out for the group photo, nor did I really take many pictures at all on the second day. Perhaps Monica will post some of hers...

Day three: Flora on the trail.

Our guide, the "Cocaman," pointing something out across the valley. I had trouble understanding him a lot of the time, and I think this was one of those times...

More ruins...

Day three was sunny and hot, then it was chilly and foggy, then it was wet and a bit muggy. It was the best!


More trail...

And we made it to the jungle.

Everything was damp and lush, thick and vibrant.

The third day was the longest. We hiked a total of 15 km with lots of ups and downs.

A resting spot.

More ruins...

Another resting spot.

Our final campsite.

More ruins: A 15-minute walk from our final campsite. Monica had had enough, so she stayed behind and chatted with the porters in Spanish while I went on to see more ruins.

Classic photo of llama with ruins and mountains. Here's your postcard from Peru, if you haven't gotten one yet!

We really had a mental bond. He was thinking about grass.

And finally we arrived at the Sungate, the first viewpoint of Machu Picchu. I hate to say it, but it was actually not that impressive. I think we had just seen too many ruins by this point.

Monica, me and the Cocaman.

Close-up of part of Machu Picchu. It was really huge and much more impressive when we were inside the "city."

Amazing stonework.


This tourist was a great source of laughs. Can you see how white his face is?
I think he wanted to be ready for his clown gig later that night.

Tourist and guide.

One last photo...
The Inka Trail turned out to be not so much about Machu Picchu as it was about the journey getting there. It was challenging, and there were moments when I asked, "Why did I do this to myself?" but looking back on it, I have fond memories and I think I'll soon forget the struggles. We've had other adventures since then, but I'll have to post about those later because it's getting late and we need to watch an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."