BootsnAll Travel Network

Travel, travel, travel... thank goodness I don't do it for work!

Fortunately I do not join my peers in traveling for work. (I've heard it gets old really fast, and by then home cooking takes on a whole new appreciation!) Instead, I work hard teaching for 9 months of the year, and travel in the summers for the most part. (At least for now while I am free of attachments!) This site is my first attempt at journaling a trip while on the road. Hooray for current technology!

Backpacking in April Once Again

April 12th, 2009

self-port-5.jpgimg_2123.jpgcopy-of-img_2098.jpgApril 2-3, 2009

Whoah, so I haven’t written in a very long time! That tells you how consumed I’ve been teaching full-time, and doing the master’s program at night. Throw in fixing things around the house and it all equates to NO travel!

So, in desperation (ha-ha) I coersed a friend who also is obsessed with the outdoors to at least hike somewhere in the Bay Area during the week. She’s out of work due to the recesssion, but it gives us good excuse to hike without worry! 😀

Decided to take off Thursday morning at 8, had to take this date for the trip as the campground was only available Thursday night. Now this was a ridiculously close trip to home… but, that shouldn’t matter! 😀 The point is, backpacking! Yaee! Drove out to Livermore, and started hiking at the Del Val Staging Area to hike up to Murietta Falls. Now in the past I’ve heard from several friends that this is an intense hike. Ha, and we’re doing it with big packs on our backs! Oh well! 😀 I was sure up for the challenge, mainly because I was in backpacking withdrawal! 🙂 I finally invested in my own pack this past September, and recently got an actual WARM sleeping bag, as well as lighter tent. (Yes, I was still hauling my “3 man” Harrier (Northface) tent from back in 2000. While it was always fun to have  alot of space (and somebody along the line called it the “Taj Majaul” as it was so big for just me!)… so, it was soooo nice to have the lightweight backpacking tent! And, hiking up steep terrain like “Big Burn”, it was sure a good workout!

Another fun part about this trip was the fact that we didn’t have to worry about bears. Thought there may be squirrels, maybe a racoon or two, but we ended up not being bothered by any wildlife. Saw a snake, which was great, and some dead crawdads in the pool at the falls, but that was really the extent of it. Nice! 🙂  (I’m not a fan of running into bears- came close last year on a hike down south, and really don’t want to come that close again! : o

Anyhow, it was freezing toward the top, and I waited probably too long to put my gloves and long sleeve on as I was cold for quite a while. But, all worked out, and I was very happy to set up camp that evening. Totally tired and ready to sleep! And, we were spoiled with a water spicket at the campground and actual pit toilet! So, accomodations were good at Stewart’s Camp. The trip down in the morning was pretty intense, as it was obviously the same trip backward, involving going down all the steep hills we’d come up Thursday! Great wildflower collection, as well as plenty of green hills.

It sure felt good to finish, and we rewarded ourselves with nice juicy cheeseburgers and fries and milkshake at In and Out on the way back home. Fun few days! 🙂


Tahoe Desolation Wilderness Aug 1-3

August 4th, 2008

Okay, well, so I’m back from Peru! Now what?

 Well, considering I’m still free to wander for another few weeks before returning to my teaching job at the end of the month, I’m still planning and carrying out trips around California.

Before leaving for Peru, I had decided summer was going to POOF, dissappear if I didn’t plan ahead. So, I signed up for a backpacking trip with the local chapter here of the Sierra Club. I backpacked with group members in April in Stanislas (sp) forest, and had a good time. So, why not try backpacking again! : D

This time, I met up with a gal in her late 20’s in San Francisco (yes, carted my pack on the BART train! It was an adventure!) and then we drove to pick up another trip member a little ways away, and then drove to Tahoe Friday afternoon. Got a little later start than we’d hoped, but nothing was waiting for us, except a great campground at Emerald Bay. Once we arrived, we set up camp, met our other hiking compatriots, and walked to see a great view of the sunset and the lake! Awesome! (If you’ve never been to Lake Tahoe, it is very blue from afar, and very clear up close! It is beautiful.)

 Anyway, this is bear country. We enjoyed the posh ammenities at Emerald Bay for the night- great bathroom, and a nice bear proof dumpster. That’s always nice, as opposed to treeing everything (hanging it in a tree) for the night. We hiked only about 4 miles Saturday, to Gilmore Lake, taking the Glen Alpine trail. (Hey, this was the guy that ended up bottling the water up there, and we still subscribe to water services years later with companies like this! Amazing!) Anyway, beautiful trail, beautiful scenery. And, of course, trying to save space and not squish my camera, I left it in the trunk of my car. Photos will be posted later if I figure out a way to post photos people e-mail me. 🙂

Not too far from Gilmore Lake, we ran into two parties who were warning us about two bears who had kept them awake the night before, trying to mess with their packs (to find food). And, the bears I guess were still hanging out. One hiker (not in our group but the group talking to us about the bears) said he’d gone down to the lake to get water and filter it, and when he came back, his pack had been opened and contents had been pulled out. Anyway, we Sierra Club members needed to make a decision about either hiking to the next camp area (miles away) or braving it and camping at Gilmore. I figured the bears could be at either location, as they too roam and don’t stay put in one spot. So either way, we’d have the same situation. 

So, collectively as a group, we decided to brave it, and camp there anyway that night. All we had to do was hang our food and toothpaste, anything that had a scent that was “food” to bears. 😀

The lake was gorgeous! 4 of us went to Mt. Tallac, about 4 miles more to see some great views. If you ever want to see a vast collection of wildflowers, this was the spot! WOW! The hills were just covered with them! It was amazing!! Anyway, after backpacking all day though, I got tired, as did another one of our group. And we turned back and headed for camp again. So, we ALMOST made it to the top of Mt. Tallac. Someplace I’d heard about from my friend Jaime in the Bay Area for months! So, now I’ve finally seen it. Yaee! : )  The most hillarious part about this whole journey toward Tallac was that I was thinking the whole time “Wow, Jaime sure was right- it IS beautiful here!” …. and then, I’m not kidding, here comes Jaime walking DOWN the trail toward me! I was so surprised! He was with a group of his buddies, and we ended up both taking a double-take when we saw each other! It was sooo funny! Anyway, we talked as we walked down the trail about this funny encounter, and I filled him in on the journey to Peru and Macchu Picchu recently. 

By the time I returned to camp, it was time for dinner, and for me, bed as soon as possible! I was sooo tired! But, it had been a great day.

And, thankfully, we had no bear friends come visit during the night. All was well. : D

 Sunday, August 3, 2008

Today we packed out of camp fairly early. Got up at 5:45, and were ready to go about 7:30. One of our group members decided to walk back the same way we’d come Saturday, 4 miles back to Emerald Bay. The rest of us carried on with the origional plan, and hiked 9 miles up to Dick’s Pass, then passed by about 3 other lakes on our way back to Emerald Bay.

We met a couple who was walking the ENTIRE Tahoe Rim Trail! And, in only 5 days! They were hiking with their dog, and the man had gone ahead of time and stashed bear cans in trees in several sites. (Don’t ask me how- I’m hoping he could have driven to these ahead of time instead of hiking to them? I forgot to ask the woman how they did this.) Anyway, they were covering like 20 miles a DAY! Yikes! I asked her if she hiked a lot normally, and she said “no”…. holy shamoly! She said she only did this type of thing once a year or so… man… I’d LOVE to be in that great of shape 20 miles a day five days in a row wouldn’t just make me melt! Wow… some people are AMAZING!

Anyway, we arrived back at Emerald Bay about 4:00 after a lunch stop and a few other rest breaks. Awesome weather and views again! It was great!

One thing I’m really enjoying about these trips I’m starting with Sierra Club is that a.) you get a guided trip b.) you meet many people who aren’t afraid to get dirty for a few days and they just enjoy the outdoors and being around all this beautiful scenery and c.) you just never know who you’ll meet. I met some great people, and we all had a great time! It sure beats staying inside watching movies all weekend. (Like I could do that- ha! Not that one isn’t bad every once in a while… but you know what I mean- hiking and being outdoors is just, well, super! 🙂 )

Anyway, backpacking trip #2 complete! I think I need to invest in my own gear now… I think I’m officially hooked! 🙂

Camping and cooking are getting easier these days. Just about all us backpackers had those nifty bagged freeze-dried meals from REI that you just add hot water to, and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Poof! Insta-dinner! : ) Fabulous!


The journey home…

July 22nd, 2008

img_1178.JPGimg_1182.JPGJuly 20th

Paula and I took another cab ride to the airport. This was my last chit chat conversation in Spanish with a cab driver for a while. I swear these guys have driven for their entire lives in small spaces… the driver today went up a wrong street, so backed down this small alley, and managed a 3 point turn in the middle of it! Okay, so they all have these tiny compact cars, but still! It’s amazing! I guess even more amazing that we made it through several cab rides unharmed? 🙂

We had gotten up, finalized packing our bags, finished breakfast and after our cab ride were at the airport by 9:45. Our flight to Lima went on schedule at 11:15, arriving in Lima by 12:30. Since we had had that mixup in the beginning of our trip when we had to get our own cab to the airport to fly to Cusco, Footloose travel co. had a represetative come to the airport to provide us with “free lunch” before our international flights. While this wasn’t like luxurious lunch, it was a gesture for the company to make up for the previous mishap I guess. The lunch was paid for by the representative, and we actually got a lot of time to talk with him about Lima and Cusco culture and give him some insight to our corners of the world. That was nice- and interesting. He confirmed that many young people in Lima do try to be like “Americans”- they’re into the latest music, and clothing. I tried to get a better answer for why we’d heard fireworks each morning we woke up. He’d said that this was for the tourists. I thought that was interesting- the fireworks didn’t do anything but irritate me that we were woken up. (Of course, yes, the rooster usually woke us up in Cusco first, then the fireworks!) So, anyway, the lunch with the rep was good. But, we were happy when he left to have time to just aimlessly wander the airport and chat for the last time before leaving for our corners of the world.

7:00 p.m. Lima time

After wandering the small selection of shops for the 5th time or so, Paula and I went to the luggage storage to get her bags. That was nice that we didn’t have to haul our big bags around for the past 7 hours! I left mine in storage still, and Paula and I walked to the airport fee payment area and said our good-byes. It was so nice to travel together- I think we had the same ideas about needs and were both journeying with a certain level of flexibility. This is great, as you never know what will come up when traveling! After our good-byes, I prepared myself for another 4.5 hours of waiting for my own flight.

By 9:30 p.m. and reading some of this good book “Tortilla Curtain” I was getting tired. I’d had a super dinner at this little cafe in the airport- an empanada, bowl of soup, and the most delicious dessert called Tres Leches. Yes, some concoction of different pudding types and whipped cream, with nutmeg on top I think. A great recommendation based on my brief conversation with the waitress. I paid in soles, and got ready to wander some more.

Okay, since my flight was at 11:50, I could check in at 9:50. It was time to get my bag and get to the gate. Like I said, I was tired, and after reading my book a while on the upper level of the airport in this quiet area, I started downstairs to get my travel backpack, lugging my daypack with me. Looking both directions, I totally couldn’t remember where the storage was. Upon trying to explain what I was looking for at the information booth in Spanish, the lady trying to help me only could refer me to a map across the way where I didn’t see the storage area. The dumb part was, after giving up on the map, I walked behind the information booth, down around the corner, and found what I call the storage area… but it was called something like the guard station for luggage! Aye! Okay, next time I’ll ask for the guards of the luggage and get there a lot faster! The trials of being exhausted.

What happened next was ultimately embarrasing. (at least for me since I hate to ask for anything!) I went to the area of the airport where you have to pay this fee in order to fly. I think in the states this is taked onto our tickets so it’s all said and done by the time you get to the airport. So, anyway, I got up to the window to pay my $30 or so… only to find that I had 10 soles left and only $20 in my pocket! I then thought of my yummy dinner that had cost 50 soles (about $16) and cursed myself. From past experience getting money, I knew my ATM card wasn’t working here. I’d gotten money directly from a bank while in Lima and Cusco in larger amounts. I tried the ATM anyway. Didn’t work. I went to the “bank” there in the airport, and the man there said he couldn’t get me money, as they weren’t authorized to do that kind of thing. (Well then why the heck are they there in the airport then? Like who would be opening an account right there at an airport!) So, my next and only option was to find some people to bum money off of. This was crazy!!

As luck would have it, sheepishly I went up to a group of college-age Americans who were traveling with a Denver Catholic group. “I hate to ask you this” I told this group of 4, “but I am short money to get back to the US…is there any way you can lend a few dollars?” They all chipped in and provided my $14 shortage, and I rushed back to the fee area and paid. Talk about ridiculous! I can’t believe I ended up in that situation, but so glad these folks could help me out! Ah yes, the perils of being tired. <:)

I was happy to be able to sleep on the plane for about 5 hours. I sat with a boy who was attending Jesuit High school in Portland, Oregon. Small, small world. (I used to teach for the Archdiocese of Portland.) He and his grandmother were returning to Oregon. She, of course, as part of the older generation, did not speak English. No matter, we were all so tired, conversation was not as popular anyway.

I was anticipating a tight connection between my international flight and my flight back to San Francisco. About an hour’s time, and since it had taken forever to get through customs in Lima, I was a bit nervous about the connection in Houston. So, I practically jogged to customs in Houston, daypack on my back. The guy in customs scanned my passport, asked how long I’d been in Peru, and said “Have a good day”. Seemed sort of casual for a customs guy, but that’s okay. By the time I got to my gate for the San Francisco departure, it had been delayed until 8:25 a.m. So, I hadn’t had to rush after all! Aye!

To make a long day shorter, our flight was delayed once again. We didn’t leave Houston until 11:15, arriving in San Francisco by 2:00. After getting luggage, I took a BART train to Walnut Creek (a loooong train ride) and then a cab to home. In total, if I count from when we left our room in Cusco at 9:15, my journey home was about 28 hours. I was in desperate need of a shower, and good night’s sleep!

Tuesday, July 22nd

I really appreciate two things:  drinking water from the tap, and when you go somewhere, you are not being asked to buy anything. I went to REI today, to pick up things that had arrived too late for me to take on the trip, and was sort of surprised of how “in their own world” everyone was. No one was asking me to buy anything, and of course I really had no reason to ask for directions or anything in another language. I almost miss speaking in Spanish. (It was funny, but yesterday in Houston the same thing occurred to me as I accidentally told the lady who made my coffee “Buenos Dias”, and thankfully she was from Spanish descent and we exchanged a few more formal greetings before I left the shop.) I really think I’d love emersing into a culture for longer than these 12 days…who knows, perhaps next summer I will try that. One traveler in our hiking group had talked about his experience in the Peace Core in Africa… and while I’m not sure that’s for me (I’d rather be in Mexico or something) I think I’d enjoy an opportunity like that on a shorter time scale. Hmm… food for thought for next year.

I am so happy we got the chance to do this… go to Lima, Cusco, and of course Macchu Picchu. As I look back at photos, I’m reminded of the beauty we saw, and the kindness of the people.

I’m keeping my account with the blogg here… who knows where I’ll go next!    – A.


Cusco July 19th

July 19th, 2008

Today we got up actually on time enough to have more options for breakfast at 9 a.m. It was good to feel refreshed truly. The only things that´s driving me nuts is a series of mosquito or some such bug that I ended up with after sitting in the grass at Macchu Picchu on our free time the other day. I have tons of bites on my legs, and the strange thing is that I didn´t even feel the bites when they occured like you often can with mosquitos!

Today we just wandered the streets. Paula wanted to get a few souveniers, and we ate lunch at an upstairs cafe on the street of our hotel. We even happened upon a St. Peter´s church in town, and walked in to see it, only to realize there was a wedding going on ! Now that´s a first, I´ve never walked in on a wedding! No one seemed to notice us lurking in the back of the church, but it was sort of neat to witness a wedding in Spanish. We only stayed for about ten minutes before wandering up the street to other shops etc.

About two thirty I think our beer we shared at lunch and just the unscheduled day got to me, and while Paula went to relax in the sun outside, I got warm and cozy in my bed here at the hotel for an hour nap. This building is amazingly cold, so you almost feel you are hibernating under the many covers on the bed when you rest! Such is life in Cusco… varied temperatures through the day and evenings.

Tomorrow we head for the airport in Cusco for our flight to Lima. Paula then leaves for Belgium at about five. I don´t take off for San Francisco until eleven thirty or so… getting to Texas by six a.m. or so… then to San Francisco by nine or ten. Something like that. Sure thing, it´s all on my ticket confirmation upstairs. I´m looking forward to returning home and sharing stories again. Viewing my photos without worrying about my battery energy remaining.

This has been the most amazing trip… I am so glad that I got the opportunity to go!

I hope to add pictures once I get home… so check in later to see some!


Aguas Calientes and saying goodbye

July 19th, 2008

img_1155.JPGimg_1149.JPGimg_1137.JPGGosh, sorry, I think the date was July 17th when we ended our trek. I´m losing track of time now. After we´d celebrated in Aguas Calientes, the next morning it was time to explore Macchu Picchu with a guided tour from Carlos. It is truly great to have his expertise on all the tradition and history of this place (as you can probably guess based on this statement, he is from Incan descent). He talked about the connections between how organized the Inca society was in order to build and manage this site as well as other ruins we had seen. And how their agiricultural abilities were so impressive for the time. It was a wonderful couple hour tour of us walking through the ruins that we had admired from above yesterday. We had free time for a while to explore on our own. Many of us decided to leave and head back to our meeting spot in Aguas Calientes, where we would eat a late lunch and then take the train back to Cusco.

The train ride back to Cusco was about three hours on the backpackers train. (we had too much stuff to go on the regular train). It was good to visit with people for a little while longer before saying goodbye in Cusco. After we got off the train we took our tour bus back to the main square or Plaza de Armas in Cusco. With hugs of goodbye, and ¨see you´s¨we all boarded taxis to get back to our specific hotels.

Was it ever good to sleep in a bed again! And, have a real shower!  Hooray!


Macchu Picchu !

July 19th, 2008


Wed July 16th

Last night you would not believe the rainstorm we had at high altitude! Fortunately we all had admired the view atop a mountain at our campsite that overlooks the town of Agua Calientes where we will camp next. We had all gone to bed at our usual nine oclock or so, as its already dark and were all tired. Then about ten thirty the rain began. True it sounded worse being in a tent, but I thought we were all going to float away! Paula and I were cold… I ended up putting on almost all clothes I had with me, including hat and gloves and wool wrap I´d bought on the bus ride to the trailhead a few days ago. After a bit, we could hear the porters around our tents…it turned out that they were digging little trenches under our tents so that the rain water would not flood our tents. Ingenious! How lucky we are to have their expertise! 

We got up after our wrestless night in the morning really early… four thirty a.m. came Admiel´s rooster call that now is ¨coca tea! coca tea! and walked with Carlos to the top of the mountain to see over the surrounding mountains, all fogged in with clouds. It was like being on top of the world!!! It was amazing!! We did not see the sunrise as I had hoped, but it was still amazing!

We hiked back down to a great french toast breakfast made by our cook Benadicto. His meals have impressed all of us, I¨ve even taken a few pictures I will try to load when I get home since I have limited time here.

Today´s hike covered miles of jungle territory as well as several ruins sites. We got the treat of eating inside at a group site I think made specifically for backpackers to have a break here along the Inca trail. I met some GAP tour members today (another company that does tours similar to ours) and want to check out that company as well for future travel. Their porters were on the trail with us a lot today. Did I tell you the way we have to watch for the porters as we hike, giving them the rite of way? When we glance behind and see a porter, we´re supposed to move to the left and let the porter pass on the right, calling ¨porter!¨so that others ahead can move aside for these strong folks to move along. They practically fly down the mountain, jogging! It is incredible! They all have, as I mentioned, a lot on their backs, and it is amazing how gracefully they go down the mountains in nothing more than sandals a lot of the time! One member of our group joked today that with the wet rock from last night, the sandals must be the snow tire version of rubber as these guys never falter! It is truly amazing!!!!!

When we finally reached Macchu Picchu´s Sun Gate, as I said it was incredible! We were walking along the trail, and would hear footsteps behind us. Instinctively I was about to shout ahead Porter! And then realized these were tourists behind us who had ridden the bus to Macchu Picchu. They looked clean, and I was envious of their morning shower. Soon, soon, we would get ours too. Tonight in fact! We will camp at a campground here in Aguas Calientes.

  I can honestly say that this archaeological site is the most amazing thing! It is enormous! Carlos and Admiel took group photos of all of us to commemmorate our survival of the trek. We made it!

After encountering several tourists on our walk from the Sun Gate, I am so thankful and really feel blessed to have walked the Inca Trail instead of just taking the bus to see the site. We saw more ruins, and got more history than I ever would have if we had just stayed in a hotel in the area and visited on the bus. (No offense to any of you who have done that in the past… it´s just that with all our efforts hiking and getting up early, etc. it was just amazing to look back on it all and realize how much we´d seen and experienced. Magical almost….)

We took the bus to Aguas Calientes once we walked the rim of Macchu Picchu. We went to the hot springs, walking from where the bus dropped us off, through the tourist shop area, up the hill to the hot springs. After so much walking, we all were whining under our breath ¨no more stairs please!¨and were all relieved when we finally got our suits on, took a mini rinse shower (actually many of us had soap! Real soap and shampoo! It was a miracle!) Then we all celebrated in the warm hot spring pool with a beer. It was wonderful!!!! What a way to end our trek!

We ended up having dinner together in Aguas Calientes at a great place Carlos had been before. Great Peruvian food… I had an amazing dish of Ilpaca and vegetables and their customary serving of thick french fries. During dinner, eight oclock at night we could hear the starting of a parade in the streets! I was amazed there would be such an affair at night… but Carlos said the locals were celebrating a Catholic feast day of a saint. (one of the Mary´s). We went out into the street after dinner, to walk to the campground and stopped and watched the parade for a few minutes. Truly festive!

It was great to camp in a huge grassy park area tonight. It was much warmer down here at lower elevation, and we actually had a bathroom and mirror instead of our portable toilet tent we´d used for the past four days. True the toilets here are often very simple, and you have to bring your own TP, but that´s life here. Simple.



Trek Day 3

July 19th, 2008


Each day we´ve been woken in our tents by Admiel…last night we were camping near a village community that had a rooster that woke us bright and early before Admiel came with morning cocoa tea to our tents. We´ve been spoiled, getting tea in bed, and hot water to wash up right outside our tent. We are actually traveling with a contracted-out company, Andean tours. (So when I mentioned Trek America or Footloose divisions at first, I´d forgotten to mention that some of the trips are contracted to other local companies.) Anyway, it´s been fabulous! Though we are getting up around six each morning, it´s been easier with the tea and positive people waking us up with a ¨Buenos Dias!¨.  We are usually hiking after a breakfast of rolls, jam, tea, fruit and either pancakes, or eggs… typically by eight a.m.

Today was much much easier on our legs. And beautiful scenery! Carlos gave us lots of historical insight on the Incas. Though I´d studied the history before this trip, it was just amazing to see the ruins and hear more tid bits about how the Incas lived. When the Spanish came, the Incas welcomed them. The Incas tried their hand at training wild horses, but were not successful. They believed the universe was divided into three worlds, the earth, monitored or managed by mother earth, a spiritual god that was the organizer of everything, and a spirit of the underworld. They believed in this sacred trilogy, which makes sense why the Spanish introduction of Catholicism flowed fairly well for the Inca. Interestingly, the Inca buried their dead in the fetal position, as they believed in something like reincarnation where the dead were born into eternal life. Also, on earth, when a man and a woman married, they were not husband or wife, but rather named one another´s ¨compliment¨and worked together. Great way to think about it, and live as a partnership! Any written records kept by the Inca were destroyed by the Spanish, and the Incas escaped from teh mountains little by little as they realized that the Spanish were not interested in joining their culture and meshing their ideas as had happened before with other people who had come into contact with the Incas.

Anyhow, the day was filled with history and just fabulous landscape… and not to mention more amazing food! (Check out the presentation by our camp chef Benadicto! He is amazingly talented! Can you believe some of our “camp food” is like this?! More tomorrow!


Trek Day 2

July 18th, 2008

img_0913_2.JPGimg_0912_2.JPGimg_0912_2.JPGimg_0911_2.JPGimg_0881.JPGimg_0878_2.JPGMonday 7/14/08

We began hiking at another checkpoint today. This time we didn´t have to show passports, but had to wait for Carlos to show our other tickets before leaving the checkpoint. They only allow 250 people on the trail per day, and that includes all porters, guides and travlers. It is in an effort to save the trail from erosion and litter, etc, which is good. It´s part of the reason the travel company asked for us to sign up for the trip in Jaunary, or six months ahead of time I hear.

As I said before, I knew to expect it would be tough. But the sights were amazing! The mountains huge (my legs confirmed that) and the landscape diverse. We passed several ruins sites, where we would stop and CArlos filled us in on different facts on the Incas. It´s amazing, there are streams, even cactus here. It´s such a contrast, I took a photo of cactus in the foreground, with a snowy mountain range in the background! Ha! Who would ever think that would go together! There are also a multitude of wild flowers that are neat. We pass by local little villages along the way, and it amazes me that people live so remotely. And, again, I am amazed that even here we have little stations where the people are selling water, candy bars, gatorade. Carlos says there are a few along the entire trail, which is good, just in case we need refills. (At camp each morning we are given boiled water that is first filtered, then boiled, somewhere in between it is treated, so I¨m glad we don´t have to carry that much more than a liter each day.)

We saw some wild Ilpacas, and I´m surprised to see dogs around the villages. Not something I expected. (Did I tell you that we ate Ilpaca in Cusco the other night, it´s good, like steak.)

It was tough after a while going up so many stone steps. All of today seemed to be step after step after step. One man, the one in the single tent, didn´t continue on today. He had been dragging behind so dramatically yesterday, and mentioned something of having asthma like condition, so I wasn´t surprised that he didn´t continue. Why one would sign up for something like this in the first place is beyond me, but at least he listened to Carlos and decided to go back down and meet us later in the week for dinner at our ending point in Aguas Calientes.

 I could finally see people standing at the top of the mountain, called Dead Woman´s Pass… no nobody died on the trail that I know of, but the mountain range is supposed to look like a woman lying down. I didn´t see that, but some guy must have in the past. I was starting to make mental goals for myself to get up the mountain. I would look toward a point, and think, ok, I´ll get there by the count of fifty. Counting, mostly to each step I took, I always seemed to make it to that visual point by fifty. I would take short water breaks here and there, and by the end, when I saw people at the top, and still so many steps in front of me, I started taking photos of the top, in an effort to realize that I was actually getting there!  I made it til I had like three stone steps left. Carlos was standing there with many other of the group, saying, ¨what, only three more steps!¨ I ran the last few, giving him a high five on his outstretched hand. We had all finally made it to the top of Dead Woman´s pass! We took a group photo, then relaxed there admiring the view for a long while.

What I didn´t know was not only did we have to climb down the other side of the mountain, (on fewer steps, but more flat areas of rock, some flat stones, others more slightly raised so you had to still be careful of how you stepped…but also, after that hill was some more flat area of stone walking. I started taking more breaks to take pictures of wild flowers that were amazing… I hope my photos do them justice! We´ll see!

By the time I got to camp, my legs were shaking, and I was so ready to just lie in my tent and take a nap! I arrived at three forty five… we´d put in a long day. The amazing thing about this trip is the porters and cooks. They set up toilet tents, and the dining tent, and we eat lunch over an hour around between eleven and twelve. We had a delicious dinner that night… as many other of our nights, mornings and lunches. This is definitely cushy camping… arriving to our camp set up, then being cooked for, and we just roll out our own beds. It´s fabulous!

Tomorrow, day three, is supposed to be the most spectacular for taking photos, and an easier day for hiking. Thank goodness!

More later… A.


Trek Day 1

July 18th, 2008

img_0850_2.JPGSun 7-13-08

We had a meeting yesterday afternoon to debrief about our trek. I may have written abou that already. Anyway, our group of hikers is mixed in age. 4 men who are dads just turning forty, away from their families for our trek to have some guy time. They went to high school together and kept in touch. They, as well as two other gals who are also named Amy are from Boston.  There is a couple from Australia, Robin and Bruce, as well as two other guys from there. The rest are Canadians, one of whom is more Swiss than Canadian as she lived there longer. Anyhow, there are 17 of us, including our guide Carlos and assistant guide Admiel. Bigger group than on our trek last year when we had eleven in Canada, but I think this will be another great chance to learn things about other areas of the globe.

We take off on a bus ride toward Macchu Picchu with a stop in a village to pick up needed items at six thirty from our hotel…. yes, that means getting up about five forty… aye…

(Now I´m adding to this post after the trip)

Okay, this is how Sunday morning really went… Saturday night I´d set my watch alarm for five forty so wĂŠ would have plenty of time to check for missing items and to grab something for breakfast upstairs in our hotel before the bus got here. Somehow I had not set the darn thing correctly, and thankfully Paula woke at six, and we literally ran around throwing things together to make it in time for the bus. We made it just in time! Other people had similar problems, but at last we were on our way! Yaee!

The bus ride was good… I was looking forward to leaving the city for a few days, and escaping the street vendors who were always trying to sell something. ¨Cocoa tea miss?¨or massage miss? Anyway, the funny part was, as we stopped in this store area toward the mountain, as we got off the bus, there were I swear the same collection of women saying ¨pole tips miss¨or ¨cocoa leaves miss¨… quite ironic… but it´s just part of life here. People can do that kind of business randomly, something in the US that is controlled more.

On the ride, we passed by villages and saw the snow capped mountains, reminding me that it is winter here. (I´m still thankful for the cool weather change)… yaee! People in outlying areas of Cusco were waiting for busses for work, or walking along the road.

It was funny, Paula and I were already expecting things from our last tour, where in the van last year driving in Canada we were able to talk with bus mates and get to know one another as we drove. Here on this more luxury bus, we couldn´t see one another, unless you talked to the person beside you… hopefully we can get to know each other each day we camp….

5 p.m.   Whew, we got through the first attempts to climb at altitude. We all took a group photo at the entrance to the Inca Trail when we began hiking around eleven this morning. I think we finally got here to camp by 3 or half past. On our first hill I felt I was so out of breath, so out of shape. I knew this was going to happen, no matter how much I trained at home… but I decided today that it´s not worth rushing myself and feeling horrible. If I´m the last person in line, so be it. At least I´ll enjoy the trek more.

Carlos´s talk about the Incas confirmed for me that they indeed were peaceful conquerors. He says they embraced the people who either came to their area, or the areas they traveled to. They welcomed the people, then taught them their practices, essentially conquering them without them knowing they were being conquered. It´s quite a contrast to the wars we see today…. if only things could be that way…. then again, the Spanish eventually dominated and anhilated the Incas anyway, so even if you´re a peaceful conqueror, things don´t always remain peaceful. Too bad.

We have porters carrying most of our belongings except for jackets and water and other frequent necessities we´re toting in our day packs. These porters are amazing, carrying huge sacks on their backs up the mountain! It is incredible! They have a weight limit, somewhere around 20 Kilos. I don´t know how they do it!

When we got to camp, the porters had already set up our tents. We just have to adjust air mattresses, put out our sleeping bags and shuffle around our duffel bags to make room in the spacious tents. Paula and I are together, and pretty much everyone else has 2 people per tent, with one guy being on his own.

It was so funny. About five o´clock we were called to the dining tent. I thought for some reason this was supposed to be dinner. So the assistant chef and Admiel bring out these crackers and jam, and this other bread we´d had at our hotel in Cusco. And, tea. So we all were thinking for a while this was dinner. I thought, okay, glad I brought snacks! Then, after we all sat around chatting and snacking, Carlos annouced that dinner would be in another hour and a half, and that he was sorry that it would be so long but the cook was not ready to serve dinner. We all kind of chuckled that we had been thinking our snack was dinner, and most of us were tired of sitting so retreated to walking around camp or going back to tents to snooze for  a while.

Tomorrow is day two of the hike on the Inca trail. Carlos says it´s going to be tough, but to just take our time. He reminded us it´s not a race… gosh, after adjusting to the altitude hiking today, I´m not worried about racing at all!


Cusco at last !

July 11th, 2008

img_0804_2.JPGimg_0810_2.JPG9 h 30 min p.m. 

Paula and I had an adventure this morning, but all worked out. Won´t go into detail, but we had trouble getting our plane ticket informaiton and then getting to the airport for the eleven thirty flight. Took the most interesting cab ride along old cobblestone and pot holed road (the back way to the airport to avoid morning commute traffic on the freeway) and finally arrived in plenty of time. Paula and I joked that so far we´ve been on our own in Lima, did our own little tour using the maps we had yesterday, etc. and now we got ourselves to the airport, who needs a travel company? When we finally arrived in the airport in Cusco, we immediately felt the heaviness of the change in altitude off the plane, but were both fine within a few minutes. Thankfully the tour company rep met us at baggage, and welcomed us to Cusco with a cup of cocoa tea at the hotel. We will meet the rest of our hiking group tomorrow, as we meet to discuss the details of the 4 day hike  beginning Sunday.

Cusco (bottom photo) is such a comfortably simple place. It is beautiful. Sunny here today and warm… and now I question having brought all warm long sleeve shirts. Though we´ll need to layer and have warmth while hiking higher in the mountains (can we really GO higher than this! Aye!) we needed short sleeves today. So, I think I´ll treat myself to a tourist t shirt tomorrow. 

And, in many buildings like our hotel, we see these “Safe in earthquake’s case” signs… glad to know we are in “safe” buildings! Who knows if they’re up to California standards, but at least they’re trying??

Paula and I both commented how peaceful Cusco seems compared to Lima, first and foremost since we didn´t have many people trying to sell us things as we walked down the street. Only had to fight the tourist traffic (and still yet the MANY cabs on the streets). When you stop in the shops there is still a lot of bargaining to do, but it just felt better being here today. The little children here are fun to watch with their families in the city center (Plaza de Armas) and there´s just a sense of peace. (ok, if you´re away from the main routes of the cabs.) I now know the significance of the name Plaza de Armas… there are military officers standing up at the front of the plaza with their machine guns looking like they´re ready for action any time! It´s such a contrast to our watchful guards, who just have their weapons concealed… so really no difference, just appearance I guess…

It´s funny to also notice that there are several pizzarias´and Americanish food here in the plaza… we ate at an italian place after wandering the local food venues… I was sort of disappointed we couldn´t find an authentic place so to speak. However, I ended up ordering some Peruvian chicken with peppers dinner that was fantastic! I´d drunk my first Pisco sour last night (the national drink if you don´t tell anyone else in Chille!) and surprisingly it tasted much like a margarita. Glad I stuck with bottled water tonight, as with the altitude change, it was probably best.

Oh, one more last thing… the people here are very kind. We were twisted around in our direction, and getting tired after dinner, and a man walking home from work walked us blocks back to the Plaza. I´ve been speaking to many people we run into in Spanish, which has been fun. Of course it´s all the same how are yous and what do you do, and where is this or that, but it´s nice to use the years of language training through high school and college.  Anyway, as with last night when we talked with various people traveling on the streets, everyone is friendly.

Well, more tomorrow… A.

Tomorrow we have another day to get used to the altitude. Paula and I plan to get a city tour pass and visit some of the local sites and museum. We also have to continue to drink a lot of water to combat the effects of the altitude (sore muscles sometimes, and other various effects).

Time to think of getting some sleep for a while