Somewhere between 10 and a million hours

Im sitting on the dirt road outside my dirtier bus wondering, ´What the hell was I thinking?´ Its 2:30 pm, 28 hours into my bus ride that was supposed to be 18. My destination, La Paz, is nowhere in site. Literally or figuratively.

Seeing as my flight to Rurrenabaque from La Paz was so entertaining, I can barely remember why I opted to take the bus back.

Oh yeah, Im cheap. The flight cost about $90 and since I just changed my flight back to the US for a lovely $200 fee, a $90 flight seemed silly when I had the time to take the bus. Plus, it was only $10.

The bus was supposed to leave at 10:30 am and arrive in La Paz at 6:00 am the next morning. At 11:30 am, we were finally getting on the non-airconditioned, no bathroom, ´luxury´ bus. The bus was filled with Bolivians…lots of families surprisingly. The thought of taking a baby or even a child on an 18 hour bus sounded quite murderous to me, but Bolivians are tough.

The first part of the bus ride was fine. I saw some beautiful scenery and read my book. No, the roads werent paved so it was very very bumpy, but I dont really get car sick. We stopped for lunch and dinner along the way.

When the sun went down, reading was no longer an option. Bolivian buses definitely dont have lights. I settled in to get some sleep. Besides the sporadic crying of one baby and far too much public breast feeding, I didnt have many complaints. I would wake up and be in La Paz.

I woke up on and off throughout the night, noticing that the woman next to me had put her baby on the floor in the aisle of the bus. I guess she wanted to make sure her baby was fully exposed to dirt. Then there was the rain. Oh well, I just closed my window. Around 4:00 am, I realized that the bus was stopped. Then at about 6:00, the kids on the bus had woken up, so I did too.

The bus was still stopped. I realized at this point that it was extremely muddy outside. I ended up venturing out of the bus to find lots of Bolivians from my bus and the 6 buses behind us all slipping in mud and gossiping about the hold up.

From what I gathered, there had been mudslides and tractors were working to clear the roads. There was also a big cargo truck in front of us that was stuck in the mud.

After a few more hours of people getting on and off the bus to check out the mud (while stepping over the baby still asleep on the floor), we were finally able to make it through. But that wasnt the end of the road blockages. Every so often, our bus had to stop to allow the tractors to clear the road.

At 11:30 am, we pulled into a town for lunch. The driver announced we would be here until 2:00 pm because they wanted to try to sell the last few available seats on the bus.

No one was happy about this 2 and a half hour lunch break. I was getting dangerously close to finishing my book and had a feeling there was still a few more hours to go even through we were already 6 hours behind schedule. (Travel time 24 hours and counting)

The break wasnt too bad. I got to practice my Spanish. I learned all about agriculture in Bolivia and the cost of living. Bolivians also always ask my opinion of Obama. When I asked my toothless friend what he thought, he said he liked him cuz he was brown. Tall, dark, and handsome fetish? I get it.

We were all thrilled when we finally left until about an hour later when we came to another road block. Apparently, we were looking at a 4 hour wait. At this point, I got out, sat on the ground, and called Alex begging him to send a plane.

He sympathized and casually asked if this ordeal was worth the $80 in savings. Damnit.

We finally got to pass after two hours of waiting. I was banking that we would be home by 7:00. When we pulled into another town for a quick bathroom break at around 6:30, I figured we were close. I asked the driver and he said 2 hours. I took it like a bullet.

Two hours came and went. As we got nearer to La Paz, it kept getting colder and colder. Luckily after spending almost 30 hours with me, the 8 year old girl next to me cuddled up against me and shared her blanket. YES.

I was so impressed that none of the children complained. They didnt even have a gameboy or anything. US children would have gone completely wild.

We finally pulled into La Paz a little past 10:30 pm, delirious and dirty after 36 hours of travel. I needed a shower, a beer, and a bed in no particular order.

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Pampas & Beer

So besides drinking fresh squeezed OJ and watching babies ride on motorcycles, I also went on a pampas tour in Rurrenabaque. There are two basic options for treks in Rurrenabaque, pampas or jungle. Pampas involves riding a boat down the river and seeing wildlife. Jungle has more trekking and more jungle, obviously, but not as much wildlife. I opted for pampas because I like monkeys and the thought of sitting in a boat sounded lovely. And maybe I could get a tan. Score.

Before I left for my tour, I somehow had to find a bathing suit. I accidently left mine drying on the top of my hostel in Arequipa. whooops. La Paz didnt have many options…seeing as its freezing and nowhere near a body of water. I assumed Rurre would have more options…I found one lady selling bathing suits. Used, mismatched, old bathing suits probably from travelers who accidently left theirs drying on top of a hostel. I found a supperrrr stylish one and paid about $7. She definitely thought she was ripping me and demand is a dirty whore sometimes.

The next morning, my group left for the river. We were a 6 person group. Everyone was between 21 and 28. There was the Aussie couple; funny, kind, and kinda stupid. Then three German girls who were surprisingly reserved. I like my Germans like I like my men, with a beer in hand. They also spoke better Spanish that English which was equally odd.

After a bumpy 2 hour car ride, with our first sloth sighting, we made it to the river. The boat was long and narrow with some seats jimmyrigged on the inside. Our tour guide/boat driver sat in the back steering while we looked in awe at the wildlife and nature. Within seconds of getting the boat started, we had our first sighting…a crocodile hanging out on shore about 20 feet away.

Immediately, all of our cameras were out, fascinated that this incredible animal was so close and wasnt behind some sort of fence at the zoo. (At least thats what I was thinking). Little did we know, that was the first of hundreds of crocodiles we would see over the next three days.

And to be more specific, what we were looking at was Caiman, apparently less aggressive than other crocodiles. They still had big teeth and looked scary, so I wasnt exactly convinced.

During our boat ride to our lodge, we saw lots of Caiman, monkeys, birds, and capybara. The capybara were my favorite. They look exactly like guinea pigs except they are like 100 times bigger. Theyre the size of a large pig. According to Wiki, they are the largest rodent in the world. Awesome.

Actually I lied. The capybara werent my favorite…the pink river dolphins were. They didnt exactly look pink to me, more whitish, but they were so beautiful. At one point, our guide stopped and we watched about 5 or 6 swim around in this tiny area. He oferred us the opportunity to swim with them. He told us that when the dolphins are in the water, the crocs stay on the shore. Hmmmmm. I dont know about that. We were all too scared to swim the first day, but the next day the Aussies and I hopped in. No one got eaten by a crocodile.

Our lodge was nice. They were dorm style rooms, complete with mosquito nets. Mine had a hole that was patched with bandaids, so I still sprayed bug spray before bed.

The next day, we got up early and hopped in the boat to see the sunrise. Wow, I have seriously maxed out the number of sunrises one person should see in 2 months.

After an incredible breakfast, we put on our knee high rubber boots and went out searching for anacondas. Its amazing the things gringos will pay money to do. We walked for a few hours in waist high swamp brush, with our boots sinking into nasty swampy mud. Unforutnately, we didnt find an anaconda, but we did find another snake. Poor snakey, he was in his last moments of life, having just been bitten by a hawk of some kind. The guides kept calling it a Cobra Falsa (fake cobra). Apparently it wasnt dangerous…I stayed a safe distance.

Next came Pirana fishing. AWESOME. Our bait was raw beef. These are some well fed piranas. We didnt have fishing poles, just a string with a hook on the end. I only ended up catching a different kind of fish (cant remember the name), but we ended up using it for bait to catch more piranas so I felt accomplished. We ate them with dinner that night…quite delicious.

For sunset, we went to another location. A bunch of groups also came over because of the great view and the fact that this little river hut sells beer. There was a volleyball net and a soccer field. Playing soccer with South Americans? Huh, I bet theyre not aggressive at all. It should just be a little pick up game….so I thought. I am also a fool. After about 15 minutes of intense play, including some header goals and other nonesense, I decided my knee and I had enough. I told the main guy on my team I was going to take a break, so maybe they could grab another player. Im pretty sure he didnt even realize I was still playing…No need for a gringa. Shucks.

We made our way back to Rurre the next day, where I counted only one bug bite. Success!

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After all of my adventuring, I was ready to take a vacation from my vacation. An Amazon Basin trip?? Yes pleaseeeee.

One of my main draws to Bolivia was the close access to the Amzaon Basin. Bolivia also happens to be way cheaper than the other countries that offer them (Peru, Colombia, Brasil). Amazon basin trips in Bolivia start from Rurrenabaque, a tiny town north of La Paz.

The morning I was scheduled to fly was the day after concquering the Death Road. I woke up feeling horrible. I might have celebrated surviving the death road a little too enthusiastically the night before. On top of that, my lingering cold wont give up. And yes, a bit homesick too. I was feeling lackluster at best. But I was going to the amazon basin! I really was excited, but I just wished I felt a little better.

My flight left out of the La Paz airport in a tiny plane. There was one seat one either side of the aisle, totally about 20 seats. The plane was too short to come close to standing, so I just crouched my way back to my seat. It was just us (the 12 passengers) and the two pilots.

No safety briefing. No flight attendant showing me how to use a seat belt. Nothing. We just sat down and the plane started. How was I going to buckle my seat belt if no one showed me how>!!!!

The fellow gringos and I looked at each other with sheer terror. But not one guy. At around 65, this old man was rocking shoulder length grey/white hair and an equally legit beard. He had on cowboy boots, khakis, and a fleece. Then there was the hunter knife sheeth hooked onto his pants. (Apparently security is lax in La Paz). Just as I was becoming completely enthralled in this mans wardrobe, he pulls out a cold beer from his satchel. WHAT. No one told me I could bring my own beer on the plane. I was insanely jealous and dumbfounded.

After a quick anmd bumpy 45 minute flight, we landed in the Rurrenabaque airport….Not that it could even be called an aiport. More like a grass field with a tiny one room building attached.

I stepped off the plane and instantly soked up the sunshine and oxygen (Rurre is almost at sea level…hurray!)

Outside the airport, a Bolivian mototaxi driver asked me if I needed a ride. I did, so I hopped on the back of his motorcycle. No, there werent helmets involved.

When I was in Barcelona, one of my goals was to ride on the back of a mo-ped with a local. My fantasy was essentially coming true. Except instead of Gerard Pique I imagned would be driving, it was a 5´4 Bolivianman with three teeth.

The 10 minute ride into town was beautiful. So much green jungle! Screw high altitude freezing cold cities. This is where I belonged.

To be honest, I felt kind of rebellious riding a motorcycle without a helmet. But soon I found out its standard practice. Even toddlers who sit in front of their parents on the motorcycle go helmetless. Not a joke.

My toothless friend found me a nice hostel, just under $6 for a private room.

I immediately got out of my jeans, jacket, and scarf. I was so elated to pull out my neglected summer clothes from the bottom of my pack.

From there I went exploring tiny Rurre where I found the best fresh squeezed OJ for under 50 cents. Vitamin C, sunshine, and oxygen…My cold went away in about 2 hours.

I hadnt even seen the pampas yet, and I was already so happy with my trip to Rurre.

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El Camino de la Muerte

After learning my lesson on Volcano Misti, I decided to stick to activities I was more qualified for in Bolivia…like mountain biking.

My lucrative bike career started young when I quickly graduated out of training wheels. I could even ride one handed. I easily got bored and didnt bike again until I got my beach cruiser my sophomore year at UCSD. I could ride to campus in a dress. Talk about imprssive.

Given such extensive biking expeirence, I was ready to handle the Death Road.

Considered the world´s most dangerous road, el camino del la muerte (the death road) gets its name from the unfortunate frequency of accidents that occurred when the road was in use by buses. In most places, the road is only wide enough for one bus. One of the worst accidents occurred when two buses collided and fell off the cliff leaving like 200 people dead. Now the road is mainly used a tourist attraction where idiots like me can pay money to bike down it (and of course get the ´I survived´ Tshirt to commemorate the experience).

The trip started in La Cumbre at 4700 meters where we got our gear and bikes. We had quality safety gear; full face helmets, gloves, elbow pads, knee pads, and a jacket. The bikes were also very new and very quality.

Alright, the bikes were slightly more advanced than I was used to…as in to brake, I actually had to use hand brakes instead of just pedaling backwards. Then there was this nonesense about gears and suspension. Huh. New technology I guess.

The first hour of the ride was on a paved road to prepare us for the Death Road. To be honest, I was terrified. Even though I felt like I was going 100 mph, I was dead last. Like awkwardly last. Our group took breaks every 20-30 minutes At these stops, every else had already had stopped, taken out their cameras, taken a bunch of photos…and then I came up.

Once I finally got used to that, we were done with the nicely paved road. It was DEATH ROAD time. In between the two roads, we stopped for a quick snack. One of the snacks offerred was Oreos. At first I passed just because I didnt really want any, but then I actually thought, ´What if this is my last meal??´ so I ate the Oreos to make sure I ended on a good note.

When we pulled up to the Death Road, I had a mini freak out moment. The road was twisty, narrow, and very unpaved with lots of rocks and gravel everywhere. Then there was the sheer cliff. I was about ready to stay in the bus, but that almost seemed more dangerous. Ive had my fair share of empanadas, but I am still significantly more narrow than a bus. Surely, I had less chance of falling of the side of the cliff. So I got on my bike, found my trusted glacier pace, and concentrated completely on staying on my bike.

The ride was actually so much fun. Sure, it was terrifying. I actually bruised the palms of my hand from squeezing the handlebars so tihght out of sheer fear. But for the most part, I was enjoying the incredible view and loving biking. I guess I could have passed on the pain it caused my butt from going over so much gravel and dirt, but thats kind of minor compared to dying.

At one of the stops, our guide said, ´Great job. You guys made through the most dangerous part where most of the deaths occur.´ Wow. How relieving. I guess one girl found this notion a little too relieving, because within minutes, she had fallen off her bike. (Im assuming she got going a little too fast, but sometimes just a weird shaped rock can send you flying).

She fell over the front of her bike and the brake jabbed into her hip causing lots of bleeding and I assume lots of pain. Luckily we had a doctor in the group (what are the odds), so I think the girl felt a little better once the doc made sure nothing serious was going on. The guides gave her a strong pain killer, got her in the bus, and we continued. It blew my mind that even though she had to go to the hospital (for 11 stitches), she still had to ride the bus all the way down, go get lunch with all of us, and then make it through the 3 hour bus ride back before showing up to the emergency room. She was a warrior.

When the ride had finished, we had decented from 4700 meters to 1180 meters. I was so stoked that I made it…I would get the free tshirt! YESSSS.

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Volcano Misti.

After hiking the Inca Trail and trekking Colca Canyon, I got a little cocky about my ability to handle mountains and altitude. So when I got back from Colca Canyon, I immediately signed up for the two-day trek to Volcano Misti like a damn fool.

Volcano Misti is an active volcano that sits right behind Arequipa. Its summit reaches 5825 meters (19,101 feet!!!). I should have realized I was in over my head when I was given snow pants, snow gloves, and then a fricking ice axe and crampons (those spikey things you hook on your shoes). But somehow I decided to go for it.

We had a five person group with two guides. There was a British lady, a Texan, and two New Zealanders. The British woman was a legit mountaineer, having hiked Kilimanjaro and the Himalayas. The Texan was an avid marathon runner, having ran over 12 marathons. Then the New Zealander brothers just looked official. They were talking altitude, and grade, and direction, and all this other fancy shit.

My qualifications?? All I really had going for me is the silly belief that I can do anything. Thanks Mom and Dad, I actually believed you when you told me that when I was 4. So cockiness and a ´honey badger dont give a shit attitude´ were my two main assets for the climb.

The hike started at 10:00 am. We had to carry all of our stuff to base camp, meaning I had a full 70 liter pack full of water, a sleeping bag, and all sorts of other gear. Who knew water was so heavy??? (I guess everyone knows this fact, but not many experience the joy)

The hike was tough, lots of steep rocks to climb over and very steep inclines. When we finally made it to base camp, I was relieved and exhausted. The summit of the volcano looked so close!

I first knew I was in for trouble at dinner time. The guides asked us each to contribute 1.5 liters of water for cooking. The lady that booked my tour didnt warn me about this ahead of time, so I wasnt too happy. My hydration standard is that if my pee isnt clear, I am doing something wrong. (ie I chug water all day). Then they ended up using 2.5 liters of my water, which made it even worse.

For dinner, we were fed soup from a packet…basically flavored water. I think they could have at least splurged on ramen. Then to go with, we were fed mashed potatoes, also from a packet. On top, a tiny scoup of tuna and tomato sauce. I could handle how nasty it was, but the quantity was seriously limited. Didnt they know how irritable I get when I am hungry??!

Our wake up time was 12:30 am. I cant think of any reason for this insane time except for torture. Breakfast was really filling, a piece of bread with a slice of frozen cheese.

Despite being cold and hungry, I was still running high on adrenaline. I was super pumped to make it to the top.

About two hours in, I was having second thoughts. Besides being freezing cold, the altitude was getting to me. You know that feeling right before you throw up where your mouth gets all wet?? Yeah, it felt like that the whole time. Then it felt like my brain was trying to expand further than my skull would allow. (I know I am smart, but come on brain, dont grow now!)

The worst part was feeling dizzy. We had to climb over these huge boulders using all fours. Every few seconds, I would have to pause and hold on to something to let the dizziness pass. For those that dont know, I kind of have a history of feinting. Anyone in Vegas for Angies bachelorette party witnessed this first hand. Feinting and hitting my head on a rock did not sound ideal. So at that point, I slowed my pace and drank lots of water (which I kept struggling to get to because my water bottle kept freezing shut).

About an hour later, the British trekker of the Himalyas decided to turn back. That was definitely a blow to my ego because she was probably the most qualified in our group.

Then to make matters worse, the guides told me that at my pace, I still had 5 hours to reach the summit.

With the only strength I could muster, the words, ´Youve got to be fucking kidding me´ escaped my mouth.

Despite every prideful bone in my body, I decided to go back too.

The terrible thing about deciding to give up is there isnt a helicopter greeting you with tea and flying you back down the mountain. Nope. I had to hike back.

The hike back wasnt too horrible because we got to ´ski´ down the volcanic ash/sand instead of climbing down the boulders. Still, it was 5:00 am and I wanted to cry. We made it back to base camp where we had to wait for the survivors (the New Zealand brothers) to summit and make it back.

From there, we had a three hour hike back down to where the truck was. An hour later, I was in a hot shower trying to forget the pain of Misti.

Is this the part where I end with a life lesson?? Not really sure, but I am glad I at least attempted Misti. I made it over 5000 meters too, which is definitely the highest altitude I have ever endured. The end.

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Juanita and Juanito

For this blog, I want to introduce you to the two most fascinating people I have met in Arequipa, Juanita and Juanito.

First off, Arequipa is a beautiful city 8 hr by bus south of Cusco. Set in front of snowcapped mountains and volcanos, Arequipa is stunningly beautiful. It is remarkably clean; a nice break from dusty, smelly, Cusco. Arequipa houses countless white churhces, a monestary, and plenty of museums.

Which brings me to my first friend, Juanita.

Juanita is famous for being an Incan child sacrifice in the late 1400s. Seems a little late in history to still be committing human sacrifices, but who am I to judge?

Juanita was sacrificed atop volcano Ampato. She is known as the ice princess because her body was preserved by freezing as a result of the chilly temperatures at the volcano. She was only discovered in 1995 and wasn’t even discovered where she was originally sacrificed. A volcanic eruption caused her body to fall from the summit of the volcano and down the mountain.Despite being tossed about, she is incredibly preserved. All of Juanita’s organs are intact. She has skin, hair, and fingernails. She is kept in a freezing cold box and displayed at a museum in Arequipa.

I learned pretty cool stuff at the museum like how Incan child sacrifices were chosen at a young age for qualities like beauty. The kids were raised together and awaited the day when they were sacrificed. The sacrifice involved hiking hundreds of miles in a procession. Then, they got the child drunk and hit them in the head with a stone. Ouch. But hey, Juanita is pretty famous.

Now, let me introduce Juanito. Not A child sacrifice (though he is the height of a child), Juanito was my tour guide for a two day trek down Colca Canyon.

Colca Canyon is known for being the deepest canyon in the world at 3191 meters deep (but its neighbor canyon is actually a bit deeper). To put that in perspective, it’s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.

The trek involved hiking down to the bottom of the canyon, before looping around and coming back up.

We had a six person group; two American guys traveling together, an Austrian girl and Mexican girl traveling together, a guy from Canada, and me. Our group was great. Everyone was friendly, easy to talk to, and funny. But Juanito really sealed the deal on most fascinating.

Standing about 5 ft 2 with a laugh that made him 7 ft tall, Juanito showed up to the trek admittedly hungover from the night before. For each stretch of hike, he would say things like, “For you, this will take 4 hrs. For me, one hour.” We all beat him on the first day.

That night, we slept at the base of the canyon. I was passed out by 8:30 tops, but not Juanito. He proceeded to get drunk despite our 4:45 am wake up time.

He survived the next day even though the only things I saw him consume were a Coke and a Snickers bar.

The second day of the trek was pretty tough. It was just hours and hours of steep incline. But the views were amazing and we got to rest afterwards at hot springs. All hikes should be followed by hot springs.

Our group decided to go out to dinner and drinks that night. 48 hr together just wasnt enough. We counted on Juanito to know a really good restaurant in Arequipa. He tried to take us to Starbucks. We vetoed that and ended up eating at a bomb chicken place. They didn’t serve alcohol but after a little persuading, they let us go to the store, buy our own beer, and bring it in. My kind of restaurant.

After dinner, we headed out for drinks. We were all having a great time, and Juanito was getting hammered by the minute. At one bar, I decided to sing karaoke despite the fact that it was not a karaoke bar. There were microphone stands next to the dj so I just performed the songs he played. I was a hit.

Tiny Juanito disappeared sometime that night. When I met up for coffee the next day with a couple of the guys, they didnt see him leave either. Lets just hope he is back on Colca Canyon.

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My Inka Trail Adventure

Im sitting under the covers at my hostel, layered in as many clothes as I have, drinking my 3rd cup of tea, and trying to muster up some sort of resentment towards the Inka Trail for making me so sick. No luck so far. Im pretty its just the Inkan way of saying, ´You think youre a big shot for hiking the Inka Trail? Thats cute. Heres the flu.´

My trek to Machu Picchu began last Sunday, the night before we left. Our group met up to go over what the next four days would be like and to meet one another. It was very first day of school. I wore my cleanest outfit (the one I had been wearing for the last four days) and tried to be nice.

Our group consisted of 11 people. Heres the breakdown:
-2 British girls traveling together
-5 Americans traveling together after their semester abroad in Chile (From American University in DC)
-1 American traveling solo after completing a separate Chile study abroad program (From UCSB)
-1 American dentist
-ME (1 super popular girl traveling South American by herself)

Our meeting was led by our tour guide. An Inkan god looking man, he does things like RUN the Inka Trail marathon to Machu Picchu in under six hours. Dont worry, his ego was just as impressive as the run.

It would be impossible to go into detail about everyone, so I will just describe the biggest `character` of the trip, the dentist. First of all, he was straight out of the REI Spring Catalogue. There must have been an article in the July Vanity Fair on ´Trekking with Style´, because he nailed it. One of the first things he said was that if he could be someone else in his next life, he would want to be Prince Philip. Wow, thats specific. Also, he appreciates how sexy Brad Pitt is, but sitting through Troy wasnt worth it. Sometimes, he said really cool things like `grassy-ass`(gracias)

The full Inka Trail trek is three nights, four days, totals 49 kilometers (30 miles) and reaches altitudes of 4200 meters (over 13000 feet). The Inka Trail is one of many ways to view the lost city of Machu Picchu…For those a little less adventerous, you can just take 2 hour train ride.

I got picked up at my hostel at 5:00 am Monday morning. After a couple hour bus ride, we were ready to start. My first impression was that the views were stunning. I was hiking through the Andes, holy shit!

The first day was considered the `easy` day, 14 km in 6 hours. It was actually pretty painless. Mostly, I just had to get used to hiking at such a high elevation and figuring out when I was cold and when I was hot. After we finished our day of hiking, we were welcomed into our campsite with hot cups of coca tea and our tents already set up by the chasquis.

Without the help of the chasquis (kinder word for `porter`), the trek would have been absolutely impossible. The only thing I was required to carry was my daypack consisting of water, sunscreen, and multiple layers for when it was freezing. The chasquis carried everything else. As in, ALL of our food, tents, sleeping bags, etc. Historically, chasquis have been exploited and made to carry astronomical amounts of weight for tiny pay. There are new laws in place, limiting the weight to 20kg per chasqui and there is a minimum wage. I dont think their job sounds ideal, but I am glad to know there are now regulations in place. All of the chasquis were short with HUGE calves. The packs they carried were practically their height. And they made it to camp hours before us to set up our tents and cook our meals. So incredible.

The second day of the hike was the `challenge` day. It was only 12 km, but consisted of summiting two huge peaks, including one that reaches 4200 meters (known as Dead Woman`s Pass). Everyone dreads the uphill, unless you recently had your ACL reconstructed. In that case, the thought of walking down uneven, steep steps sounds more painful than the surgery itself.

The hike up to Dead Woman`s Pass was definitely a challenge. With each uphill step, I distracted myself by looking at the gorgeous snow capped mountains or thinking about how toned my calves and glutes were getting. The most difficult part for me was altitude. No amount of coca tea or acclimating could prepare me for the extreme lack of oxygen. Nevertheless, I made it to the top in good time. The view overlooking the pass was breathtaking, which was ironic because I didnt have any breaths to give away.

Then came the downhill. Despite all of my worrying, my knee was fine. I always insist that I dont have a bad knee, because I dont. All I have is a healing knee protected by my robo brace and trekking poles. I have practiced more stepdowns, thanks to physical therapy, than any one else with a non-surgically reconstructed knee. So I would actually say I was lucky compared to those with chronic knee pain. Ouch.

Then came another summit, steeper this time, and another downhill. We made it to camp after 9 hours of hiking. A sleeping bag never sounded more appealing.

After the difficulty of the second day, I was looking forward to the third day where we would make it to camp by 2:00 pm. I got my hopes up too high, because the third day contained lots of tedious downhill. Not even the views could keep me from internally pouting.

But then came the fourth day, the day we made it to Machu Picchu. We woke up at 3:30 in the morning to make it to the Sun Gate by sunrise. The Sun Gate is a summit where once you pass it, you come in full view of Machu Picchu. We sat at the top of the Sun Gate watching the sun slowing rise and shed light upon Machu Picchu. Super impressive. Then came another hour hike down until you actually reach Machu Picchu.

Once we got there, we were bombarded with all of the tourists who took the train to get there. Feelings of intense hatred (strong words, I know) came over my body as I looked at their clean clothes and fresh faces with digust. Assholes.

We got a two hour tour of the lost city. Machu Picchu was beautiful. It cant be considered `ruins` because it is perfectly intact. It was built in the 1400s, but then abandoned before it was finished because of the Spanish Conquest. The Inkans destroyed part of the Inkan Trail to keep Machu Picchu hidden from the Spaniards who would have likely destroyed it. The lost city of Macchu Picchu was then `discovered` by an American historian from Yale, Bingham, in 1911. A white man announcing the discovery of a place that has been in existence for hundreds of years?? Wow, that never happens. I dont think he deserves much credit especially considering he stole artifacts to bring to Yale and never returned them. But hey, I guess it made him famous.

Walking around Machu Picchu felt like such an accomplishment after the four day hike. I was dirty, sick, and tired, but I was seeing a place that most people will never see in their lives. So I guess having a fever now is worth it.

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