The Final Leg
Trip Start Sep 28, 2012
11Trip End Apr 09, 2013
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With the Quest group, I finished my time in the Bolivian jungle before returning to La Paz. We were all forgetfully surprised to find out that the temperature difference between these two distinct places was enough to have us quickly change out of our shorts and tshirts!
We were not in La Paz long before our journey took us back across the Bolivian border into Peru via Puno. Multiple bus transfers later, we found ourselves aboard a lovely houseboat sailing over the waters of the ginormous Lake Titicaca. Half on the Bolivian side, half on the Peruvian side, this lake has over 8,000 km squared in surface area! We made home on Taquile Island where we stayed for the night with local families. We enjoyed a tour of their quant town by Cindy, a 6 year old girl who was cute as ever. Together we all enjoyed the glorious sunset from the island's highest point before taking in a local dinner. In the evening some of us partook in a fire dancing custom circling the bonfire flames to the rhythms of local musicians with many community members. Unfortunately we got hit by rain and some of us made a dash for our homes (after getting lost a few times in the dark on the way up of course!) and falling asleep to the beating of rain on the tin roofs.
We enjoyed another homestay experience the following day as we moved to Llachon, another village on Lake Titicaca. We arrived there by two man kayaks as we took to the waters with our own muscle power!
We had the whole day to spend with our families in Llachon and took that time to learn about the community's livelihoods of fishing with hatcheries and crazy wood boats, agriculture working in the fields with handmade tools that potentially beat out any mechanical version, artisan works as they spun wool and wove, then had some fun with a volleyball match. It was great fun the whole day to fully interact with such an interesting community. We spent time with all different generations throughout the day, then at night all of us reunited for yet another evening of dancing and bonfires, except this time, all 15 of us foreigners became locals as we were excitedly dressed up by our homestay families in local attire. The boys wore ponchos, toques and other hats while the ladies were deemed either married or single and looking, based on their hats. I was married, as I wore a stiff hat that lay upon the head donned with Pom poms and embroidery. The single ladies wore long night cap style hats that hat colorful ruffles around the rim. All females wore bouncy colorful skirts and either ponchos or jackets blending us in with the locals. We twirled and jigged around the flames for hours before heading to our homes for a good nights rest.
We rose before the sun the next day, saying farewell to our families as we ventured onwards to Cusco, adding some good time to our "hours on buses" log :)
Our first visit to Cusco was cut short as the very next day we commenced on our three day rafting adventure. Camping along the way, our days were filled with some crazy rapids and many a violent boat war, everyone being tossed willingly or unwillingly overboard at some point! Our guides also participated making it some of the best fun we've had yet! We finished rafting halfway through day three and took a van straight to the beginning of the Inka Trail. That's how packed our itinerary is! No breaks allowed :P
Backpacks on (and secret surprise stashed inside them!) and guide amongst us, we began the four day journey through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. A few hours in, it was surprise time! We each pulled out of our bags a costume from the movie Toy Story and put them on. Why? Why not! Haha naw it's Quest tradition every year to hike the Inca Trail in themed costumes, just for the heck of it! Because our group was quite big this year, we chose Toy Story, and I somehow landed Dr. Porkchop! Woody and Buzz were our two trusty leaders (suited them perfectly!) while the rest of us took on the other roles. The idea of walking in our ridiculous costumes for 4 days was exciting (and the reactions we got along the way were great fun!), but we forgot about the fact that a few of our costumes were made out of fleece, really hot to wear in plus 25 degree weather! Oh well! Me and Dino wore our fleece one-sies and foam heads for the whole time. Ya man! That's dedication to a ridonculous cause!
We had so so so much fun, the potato heads had some trouble wearing their backpacks with the costumes, and the aliens couldn't really see through their heads, yet we trekked on, bringing smiles to everyone along the way.
For three days we walked, stopping along the way to learn about various ruins and to set up camp in the evenings. A few got hit with illness creating our longest walking day yet, 11.5 hrs, but we stuck together and pushed through passing over 3 mountains before reaching the Sun Gate on day 4. Although by no means our most difficult trek, the Inca Trail left some humorously wondering why a hole wasn't blown in the mountain instead of the trail created to make passage easier. Either way, our accomplishment could be seen from the top of the Sun Gate as we peered down on the world wonder of Machu Picchu which means "old mountain" in the local language of Quechua. An extraordinary ruin site in a stunning setting within the valley surrounded by mountains. We spent the day exploring and discovering the history of the place (unfortunately without costumes as that is now illegal within the site...). The stonework out of this world, I still don't understand how they managed to move the rock! And the way they built their walls without mortar, chiseling away bit by bit until they fit like a jigsaw, was extraordinary. Although it is now functioning like a tourist operation, Machu Picchu still had an indescribable kind of magic in the air. The history and the culture imaginarily brought to life amongst the ruins. A unique feeling it brought to be there!
Our legs were dying after days of climbing up and down stairs, yet we still had the descent into Aguascalientes where we would catch the train. Normally people take the bus down, but we reckoned why not walk it? Three hours later we made it, exhausted and a little smelly from a week without a shower! We were happy to be making our way back to Cusco :)
And so my time with Quest Overseas came to a close. Looking back on it, the three months went by really quickly! Expedition was nonstop action so after the final farewell party, where many goodbye tears were had, I took the next few days to recuperate. The people I spent these past few months with, are the kind of people I hope to stay in touch with for years to come. And the adventures we did together will be forever tucked in my memories. Thank you to the 14 people that made it all possible!
To infinity and beyond! Luv ya!
Seven months.... Phew! It's been quite a journey. Now time to ponder.....
Til next time!