Walking is not in my blood...

Trip Start Apr 05, 2008
Trip End Jul 19, 2008

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Chapter 1 - a prologue

Travelling is often as much about the journey as it is the destination.  But when the destination is the legendary Ican city of Machu Picchu, one of the truly marvellous wonders of this world, one could be forgiven for thinking that any journey would fall into its considerable shadow - beneath the incredible peak Wayna Picchu and the surreal ruins that lie below.  However, I tell not about forgiveness in this tale.  No.  For I need not.  No.  For the journey that I have just undertaken pales in comparison to nothing - rather, it has been a spectcular, unique journye that must rate as one of the finset travelling experiences thus far in this short life.  The Salkantay Trek of the Devil of the Death from Hell conquers any significant expectations that may have been placed before it; both figuratively and geographically.  And the sheer elation of having conquered it masks the constant ache and pain of the arduous, challenging voyage.  From the 10 below summits of Mount Salkantay to the mosqito-ridden, rapid-rushhing jungle, we have ventured with one of the finest groups of individuals ever assmelbed in the same place at the same time, perhaps only rivalled by the filming of the video for 'We are the World'.  Mules, midgets, braids and beers; aguas calientes and not so much.  It is a journey that had it all..

Chapter 2:  One-size fits all...

I swear that's ice on my face.  Seriously.  Who the fuck gets ice on their face?  I didn't even realise you could get ice on your face.  Oow.  Fuck.  Peel it off, slowly.  Slowly.  Fuck that's cold.  And it hurts.  Ice on my face?  Average.  Oh - peel.  Peel.  Got it.  Brilliant.  Now - get rid of it.  But, wait.  Maybe I should save it - store it for the height of tomorrow's scorching sun.

'Hmm?  What's that...?'
'Nothing baby.  Go back to sleep.'

I think I was saying that all aloud. 

Ice.  Everywhere.  It cou hthe roof of the tent with my senseless, gloved hands.  Fragile shards of ice snap, crash to the ground down the tended gradient.  Fucking cold.  I can't sleep in this.  No one can.  I don't care if you've got 17 layers of thermals on, 3 layers of 'alpaca' socks and some massive, puffy jacket which means that you have to walk side-ways through a door.  You ain't getting no sleep.  Who's idea was it to camp at 4600m above sea level anyway?  Ridiculous.  Well, ridiclously cold anyway.  Is that ice on my face?  Seriously.  I think I can feel ice is freezing again.  And not only on my face.  My ears.  On my fucking ears.  When it's really, silly cold, you suddenly come to realise that the top of your ears exist.  Ordinarily ignored, disscarded as a purely function part of one's anatomy - like one's appendix or thos random muscles that swimmers have - the top of one's ears come into their own when it's really fucking cold to deliver an extremely important message to your body - it's really fucking cold.  Thanks top of my ears.  Definitely needed confirmation of that. 

Chapter 3:  Dust

At 4600m above sea level, you can almost reach out and touch the stars.  They surround you in their dome, which is no longer black, or even dark, but rather an enveloping, blistering field of light blemished by a rare spot of black.  Below the mighty Salkantay and Urumqi, we stand in awe - of the sky, dirty with mystical stardust; of the daunting, glacier-dominated peaks lit softly by the moon's luminous glow; by the intense, all-pervasive cold.  I reach out and touch - the stars are light in my light:  soft and damp, like the air, like dust; like a pure cloud or white that you can't see through; immoveable; forever tangible.

Mount Salkantay, on the other hand, is untouchable.  It's presence necesitates that it be separated from the ordinary world.  When not covered by the sweeping mist that often surrounds it, Mt Salkantay displays the whitest-of-the-white.  One look at the peak of Salakantay convinces you of several things:

a)  nothing was ever smoother;
b)  that snow is the colour of original white from which all other white's were created - dyed, dirtied, tainted, trated.  Nothing was ever purer, nor will anything ever be.  White.  At its highest.  Magnificent...
c)  you've got to be one crazy fucker to climb mountains.  Mad...

Its existence makes this trek.  For the best part of two days, it dominates the horizon, glowing white, blue, orange, red, the glacial details ypon its peak, becoming more and more incredible, more and more irresistible with every step to the 4600m pass.  It's existence makes this trek.  Of course.  It is the Salkantay Trek of the Devil of the Death from Hell...

Chapter 4 - Repelente por favor...

Our descent into the jungle has provided me with one important realisation:  if vampires are, indeed, real, I'm fucked.  You see, our descent into the jungle has confirmed that I am damn tasty.  No - not like that.  Well, yes like that.  But that's not what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about blood.  Tasty fucking blood.  During this descent into the jungle, I have been more than delighted to be the fucking lifeblood to almost 3 million mosquitos.  '3 million?'  I hear you say - 'nothing to write home about.'  Well, fair, if they were ordinary, garden variety mosquitos.  They, of course, were not.  Rather, they are Peruvian mosquitos of death, commonly called in Peru 'El Peruano mosquitos del muerte', which translates, roughly, to 'Peruvian mosquitos of death'.  'But why didn't you just use a heap of repellent?' I hear you mutter back home.  Oh, well good question.  The answer is irresistible.  The answer is a thing called 'hot thermal baths'.  Now, ordinarily, I'm a sucker for hot baths.  Can't get enough of them.  In fact, true but embarrassing story, I was once lured into a dark alley by a 'hot thermal bath', which then subsequently mugged me, taking everything that I had except my underwear.  True story.  Anyway, the point is, ordinarily, I'm a sucker of hot baths.  So, after 4 days of trekking to the highest peaks and the deepest valleys of the scared Inca Kingdom, I stood no hope of resisting the 'hot thermal baths'.  Cue - 3 million mossies.  Enter stage right.  Attack legs and arms.  Don't forget the neck.  Head is good too.  If you have an opportunity, go for the eyelid.  And maybe the top of his ear - show him it's no just for the cold.  Do it.  Do it...

Chapter 5 - El destino...

I love that the bus says 'Machu Picchu'.  It never fails to entertain.  The anticipation that it brings - what a surprise, especially on this return - in my own excitement  of being here again.  I have lauded the wonders of Machu Picchu before, in a sufficiently covetous way for me not to do it again.  Suffice for me to say that it remains every bit as magical, wondrous, inspiring on this return.  Indeed, a place or pure mystique.  Indeed, a place where one could easily be convinced of the existence of the Gods. 

Chapter 6 - The Old Kingdom

In the gorgeous city of Cuzco of undulating hills, refined and splended architecture, streets of cobble that massage your feet, ancient stones that dwarf giants, and ruins after ruin of the Incan dynasty, the sacred centre of the Inca empire, this is what I have eaten:

- chicken soup with vegetables.  A wonderful broth, light and bright with broccoli, carrot and snow peas. 
- (*) scrambled eggs on sourdough with creamy mushrooms and bacon.  The finest mushrooms in the world.  Creamy.
- Mexican avocado salad - beautiful, ripe avocade, cut into succulent slices, rich yet light vinagrette drizzling.
- (*) the biggest, juiciest rotisserie chicken ever created, crispy chips on the side and a wonderful, simple salad.
- cheapest but finest hamburgers in the world.  Lovely, fluffy bread with the most enormous chunk of meat inside.  Cabbage - hot.  Tomato.  Cheese.  Dripping sauce.  Less than a $1?
- (*) Two thick slices of sourdough, crsipt gourmet lettuce, kalamata olives, hommus, beautiful capsicum.  Delicious.
- Saltenas.  Small parcels, baked and fills with chicken or meat.  Put capcisum on it.  And hot sauce.  And eat it up.  Yes.  Do it...

Eating brilliant..

Chapter 7 - the Top 5

So, to the Top 5.  Mules have become such a significant part of any life that I am compelled to write about them.  Let's be honest.  Mules are not known for being smart animals.  In fact, they are downright stupid.  But more than that, they have an incredible capacity to inflict death upon a person.  What dascinates me is the number of ways in which they can do so.  Here are the top 5 that I have envisaged (yes, in slow motion, flashing before my eyes):

5.  Death by suicidal mule.  Read the last entry again.  Do it...

4.  Mule kick - perhaps one of the most common.  Indeed, a classic.  Everyone knows that the mule has a great backheel - it should really be used in Peru's national football team.  But accidently stray into the path behind the mule and get a kick to the head, to the chest.  You're done.  Death by mule kick.  Ha...

3.  Mule headbutt - what people don't know about mules is that they intentionally headbutt humans.  A lot.  And they love to do it when the person and they are on a narrow path.  Headbutt of the edge or headbutt into sharp cliff is not uncommon.  Death by mule headbutt.  No 3...

2.  Death by mule stampede.  Perhaps the classic way to get destroyed by a mule.  Pack of mules.  A small path.  1 person.  1 deadly crushing...

1.  Mule spit.  It's an interesting thing.  Especially if you add orange juice to it.  And chilli sauce.  You see, put all of these things together and it forms a deadly, combustible cocktail.  Yes - a bomb.  Death is not uncommon to those who come across it unwittingly...

To Colombia.  Bogota.
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