Thursday, April 18, 2013

Living on the Inca Trail

Although I may not label it as one of the most difficult things I have ever done
I would certainly say that it was one of the most rewarding.

When we decided we were taking this trip to South America,
one of the first things that we all agreed on 
was hiking to Machu Picchu instead of taking the train.
Best decision! ( I will give Carl some extra credit here for planting the seed)

Waking up at 4am,
double checking for the last few items  
you could possibly need while trapped out in the wilderness,
in a foreign country,
knowing you will not see a proper bed, shower, or toilet in 4 days,
we step out into the dark morning and wait for our van,
next to the friendliest puppy in town.

Before getting to the trail head
we stop for some breakfast at a really cool place out in the middle of nowhere.
We played with puppies, (you are probably starting to notice this as a reoccurring event) bought walking sticks, and learned a new game called Sapo.


We had arrived.
Back out now, or forever hold your peace.

Here we are preparing...
Sunscreen - Check!
Hair up - Check! 
Walking sticks - Check!

And no one ever saw them again..............

Just kidding....

Here is our group.
We got real close, real quick....

This is where I should have put a bigger head band on to cover the TOP of my head. Biggest mistake of the trip.
Sun burnt scalp is no fun!
We actually waited in line to start the trail for quite some time.
Something that would never really cross your mind while preparing for the Inca Trail. Waiting in lines...

Then we crossed the bridge over into our new world..
at least for the next 4 days.
Thankfully it was a beautiful world....

... full of jackass's and flowers

What more could you ask for? 

Maybe some ruins??....

There were sporadic ruins everywhere
So at least we had something to take our minds off the trail every once in a while

Just one of the many Carl, model shots from the trip.
Yes, they are all this fantastic.

And when there weren't ruins to distract us... we did something like this to ease the pain.
When there is no one around but donkey's to judge... you really have to take advantage

After a half days walk
we had reached our lunch spot

Juice before our meal became a beloved tradition

Puppies make me happy.

This is the part where we realized 
that the tiny, Peruvian porters that had been passing us on the trail
were carrying all of our food, tents, tables, and basically everything that we would be using
 this entire trip, besides what was on our backs. 
What they did was pretty much impossible
I am still not exactly sure what planet they are from, because they are definitely super human
They ranged from like 14 years old to 75
And they did this trail back to back,
like a normal job. 

Back to the trail...
This is your life now. 

Sleeping puppies everywhere.
Don't worry they are not dead, contrary to what they may look like. 

When we arrived to camp,
dinner was already in the motions (thank God! We were starving!)
so we changed, bathed with wet wipes, played a card game,
stuffed our exhausted faces, and hit the hay.

Contrary to what your eyes are screaming, that is not an octopus suction cup.
Took me a minute to believe that.  

Delicious Caramelized banana!

Day Two on the Inca Trail

This was the longest and most strenuous of the 3 hiking days
We woke in darkness,
drank some coca tea,
washed our faces with warm water,
and had a full breakfast.

Then back to the trail!
We started things off with a series of fierce, stone steps
that never ended.
Fortunately, it was all through a gorgeous, misty forest.

As expected, Derek reached the top far before us,
make that, far before anyone. 
Thus being the moment he decided to try to break the porter's record times
 for each and every part of the trail

Several minutes later...
here we come.
Straggling, one at a time,
crossing the finish line to the first, mini hike
 of our traitorous 2nd day on the Inca Trail

Pullin' up the tail...
Someone's gotta do it. 


We took a few photos
and then we waited, painfully anxious,
in the freezing cold
watching the sun barely creep around and then down this mountain

Spot the llama!?
After hiking up a few more paths
we finally got to the lunch spot
Unfortunately, we stopped in a very exposed area.
No shade. Just sun, beating down on our tired bodies

Thank God there was shade in the tents!

The most difficult stretch of the entire hike...
Dead Woman's Pass
They call it that because the women used to die on it... 
Real comforting to hear as you begin your journey
But as you can see.. 
I did not die.

Look closely..
you can see the monster that we just defeated
disappearing into the canyon.

There were a lot of grumpy faces to be found on this trip, even when you beat the trail!
Then we ate our pre-packed lunches
Yes, I did send this to one of my fave blogs, "Today's Letters" for "Fist Pump Friday"

Derek basked in his glory
Boys and their competitions... 

The whole gang celebrating the fact that we have defeated "Dead Woman's Pass" It's all downhill from here.
Literally. It was all downhill. And I about cried. My legs were just DONE. 
Annnd... then you JUST KEEP HIKING.

Deceivingly enough, downhill is as terrible as uphill
Thank God for more RUINS!
We finally arrived at camp on the victorious completion of Day #2!! Woot woot!
Popcorn and crackers never tasted so good.... partly because it had Dolce De Leche on it. 
And chocolate pudding.... 

Day Three on the Inca Trail

Derek's fave pic! Jensen's are not morning peeps.
                                                               Wake up to coca tea
                                             wash your face with warm water from dog bowls,

Eat breakfast
and HIKE.

Oh, and don't forget to sun cream up! (As Jamie would say)

Like brother, like brother
I had to put those in because it is just too funny how perfectly in sync they are! Love it!

We weren't exactly lookin' pretty at this point of the journey

Day three we didn't take a lunch stop
so instead we took a small break at this neat 
high point camp area

We played around with panoramas for a bit

And then we ran into more ruins... 
The Red Army
This photo of the Red Army is the only documentation that I have of the torture that followed our small break on what was supposed to be the easiest day of the journey!
We were tricked!
My most painful moment on the entire trail occurred in the last 2 hours that it took us to get down to our camp!
And when I say DOWN... I mean devastatingly dreadful, never-ending, ankle twisting, fire in my soul!!!... kind of downhill.
with the powers of the earth against me... 
I got to the bottom. 
Shaking legs, wobbling ankles, and tears of anger, happiness, pain, and relief all at once, in my eyes....
I had made it to camp!
( Now, beware, I will not be deemed dramatic by anyone other than those which have earned the right (you know who you are). So until you have hiked the entire trail to Machu Picchu, bite your tongue!) 

And in third place, no less. Not that this was any sort of competition. :)

Now feast your eyes on these beauties...
The Inca Trail really takes a toll on your appearance.

Rewarded with our victory juice, I began venting all of my "downhill hiking" angers into this journal that I bought for our "South American Adventures".
Traveling tradition. 

To our surprise we were also rewarded 
with these awesome ruins right by our camp. 

The lone flower

The last night's dinner was a little more special than the rest. 
They made a cake
and everyone came over and introduced themselves to us. 
All of the porters and cooks had to leave much earlier to catch the train back.
It was the end of their journey,
so we had to thank them for everything and tip them. 

Day Four on the Inca Trail

The moment we have all been waiting for....

Today we will achieve the goal
Today we will reach our desired destination.

Today we will set our eyes on one of the "new" wonders of this world.
 (# 3 out of 7 that Derek and I have experienced together) 

Before sunrise

They call this last feat the "Gringo Killer". 
I'm sure you can see why.


We have finally made it...
Lunch time
You'd be surprised how difficult it is to put on a super thrilled face
when you are as dirty and tired as we were. :)

The gang, waiting to get story time about Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu picture overload has begun.... brace yourself.

The stonework is unbelievable!
Perfected and seamless stone work is a sign of
worship or royalty
Versus sloppy stonework, such as the above. 
Our "recent" attempt to explain how the Incan's may have accomplished their masterful stonework.
Really, we have no idea how they did it. 
They recreate the mountains with stone

Llama butt

Moments before Derek's scolding.
You know he couldn't go through the whole trip without getting into some mischief

Insert here:  One of those fairly annoying statements blabbing about how unbelievably breathtaking it was, and how pictures cannot even begin to suggest the beauty and creation that is Machu Picchu

It is as big and hideous as it looks...
Here's a little perspective!

We explored for about 3 hours and then all met up in Aquas Calientes for lunch. 
(Mini Aquas Calientes post to follow)

After spending the rest of the night there, we finally caught our trains back to Cusco.
Filled with the strange sensation of relief combined with sadness
Very annoying combination. 
Although we were thrilled to get back to civilization; meaning showers, beds and sandals (without socks!! So sick of socks!!). We were also terribly aware of the fact that we may never experience something so amazing again. 
Of course, we are free, we can do what we want. But the world in it's vastness, nearly laughs at the idea of experiencing anything more then once. 
There is just too much amazing in this world. 

So we suck it up, hold onto our memories, and be thankful that we were so annoyingly camera happy for the entire trip. Something to look forward to!

And then you start planning your next trip!!  
Best way to get over the "trip ending blues"!

*Many, many photo credits to Jamie 

April 18th

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