The Machu Picchu trekking saga
Trip Start Oct 08, 2007
110Trip End Dec 16, 2008
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But let me start from the beginning. After three weeks in Cuzco, my energy levels, hugely supplemented by the daily doses of coca tea followed by café con leche, had risen to levels acceptable to venture outside of the city
After a day of tramping on dirt roads that we share with the occasional car or a horse, however, I am unconvinced trekking is the best Peru has to offer. We arrive at the first camp in a valley surrounded by snow picks and a glacier in the foothills of Sulkanty mountains. It is enchanting, but it is cold. And it’s going to get worse. According to our guide, it is going to fall below -25C tonight. Just the though of it makes me shiver.
I am of course the only female traveling solo, and so, I have to share a tent with one of the guys. There is one single tent, but one of the guys is already spreading his stuff in it. He also doesn’t have a partner, he says, and he is entitled to the tent just as much as anyone else
It is -10 C and it is not even midnight. I have literally all my clothes on, 3 (three) pairs of alpaca socks, 2 pairs of alpaca gloves, an alpaca hat, a scarf, two hoods and 2 sleeping bags – my own and a rented one. I’m the only one in the group who has spent the extra $20 to rent an extra sleeping bag, and the only one who survives the night unfrozen
The second day of trekking is spectacular. It goes over steep uphill, through a charmed alpine valley, again up a steep, steep uphill that leads to the Salkanty pass at 4,800m, and finally descends sharply to 3000 m, almost to the edge of the celva. All in all - 21 km. By the time we make it to camp No.2, my camera’s memory card is half full and my knees are aching. The evening is uneventful, everyone is tired and we all go to bed, or rather go to tent early. It should be warmer tonight, around 0 C, so I put on only two pairs of socks.
In the middle of the night I dream that a dog is chewing on my hand
Since I’m on the subject, let me say one more thing. Annoying number of individuals think that solo female travelers are out for a trouble. If I was a guy traveling alone – not a problem, how wonderful, what a macho thing to do, go out there and explore the world, like a real man, out on his own. What a wonderful adventure! But wait, why would a woman be traveling alone? She’s ought to be looking for a trouble. Doesn’t she have a boyfriend to watch out for her? Where does this come from?! The movies? The children’s books? How many stories about male travelers are there – countless. And girls – just one – Alice. And she was only traveling, because she got lost in Wonderland. And wasn’t she chasing after a rabbit? We all know what rabbits do, don’t we? Not only are these people narrow-minded, shortsighted and sexist. Most of all, and that annoys me at a professional level, they lack any financial sense
On the third day of this adventure I am dragging my right foot down, and down and down again, 20 km downhill to what appears to be a base camp three. I am way behind the group and the assistant guide is walking with me and teaching me Quechua – the language of the Incas that is still widely spoken in the highlands around Cuzco. The people here are very proud with their indigenous heritage, and prefer to teach you Quechua instead of Spanish. Once again, I’ve chosen the wrong place to be learning Spanish. After a while, the guide starts singing a traditional song in Quechua to demonstrate the versatility of the local culture. Very loosely translated, it goes like that:” Oy, oy, you woman, what are you doing in my corn field. I can see your red skirt from here. What are you doing in my cornfield? I’m gonna tell you father and let’s see what you gonna say then.” I wonder if this is the kind of song that local children, primly dressed in traditional outfits would sing for the tourists, or the kind of traditional song that youthful companies would sing around a campfire after too many cups of chicha (fermented cord drink that I haven’t tried yet)
After lunch, we are told that the camp is an hour drive down the road. The bus is not here for unknown, but surely legitimate reasons. Lucky for us there is a truck. I can’t possibly walk a minute longer. I get in the back of the truck with the other guys and galls from my group. Just when I’m thinking that it is not so bad, 30 other trekkers get in the truck behind us. And finally two dogs, for a good measure and on their own accord. We all laugh and joke that we are just like a cattle. If the truck was to slip and to fall down the steep cliff on the left, we are all dead, 100% guaranteed. And when the world press reports the accident after the medal count form the Olympics and before the weather reports, people from all over the world would be thinking “What were those idiots thinking?” Still, I can’t walk any more, so I spend the next hour pressed between a photographer from New York and a graduate student from Austria. One of the dogs is huddled on top of my bare feet. While trying to not lose my balance and step on the dog, am praying that the 80% deed mosquito repellent I spread over my legs half an hour ago protects against dog parasites. Finally, it all ends well. We arrive at the camp to the sight of few Brazilians singing and clapping a tune of Bebel Gilberto, one of them dancing with her hands stretched out as to embrace the World
When we finally make it to Aquas Caliente, covered with dust from the tourist busses that the saner tourist have taken, everyone is aching. The columniation of the hike is the day after - a 5 am steep climb to Machu Picchu, which take us to the site just in time to breath in the fumes of the first arriving bus. It is drizzling.
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Hugs & Kisses, Vik