An Exclusive Look Inside Sara´s Diary
Trip Start Feb 22, 2007
27Trip End Aug 22, 2007
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While Sara was sleeping tonight, I managed to steal her diary. A rotten thing to do, I know, but after what I just put her through, I had to find out if she´s alright...and now you can too.
This first entry is from the Colca Canyon, which at 3,269 metres is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Don´t ask me how I convinced Sara to go on a two-day hike to the bottom of it without a guide, but I did.
We were accompanied by Paul, a guy from England we met the day before.
Sara´s Diary- Colca Canyon, DAY 1
I woke up with a sore stomach. It seems unfair because Steve was the one who ate an Alpaca steak the night before. I´d hate him him if he wasn´t so goddamn gorgeous.
I make it through a 5 hour bus ride from Arequipe to the canyon, but after a couple of hours working our way down, my stomach cramps begin. Steve says, ¨There´s nobody on the trail but us, just go by that rock over there.¨
I consider doing this, I´m about to in fact, when not even 5 minutes later a family of four rounds the corner. Phew, not the canyon they would have had in mind. Expensive family therapy is narrowly avoided.
My face must have been one of utter despair and sheer horror because the woman burst out laughing. I¨ve never seen such joy on a face of a woman (well, one that hasn´t been pleasured by Steve). I´d been had and, as usual, Steve laughed harder than anyone. I´d be mad, but he promised to let me give him a back rub later.
We get to our rooms, which have no lights, and I take a shower. After getting out, I´m not sure what to do because the bathroom´s too dark to change in. Our room door is open in order to light the room, but I´m naked, so I don´t want to come out.
Steve says, ¨There´s no one out there, what are you worried about, just change.¨ This time I listen to him and as soon as I round the corner, Paul comes in asking to borrow some toilet paper. So, in less than 4 hours, Steve´s made me part of a peep show and almost had me crap on some little kids. If he wasn´t correct almost 100 percent of the time, I´d be really pissed off.
My analysis: I´m pleased to see she´s holding up so far and I see no factual errors in this entry at all. None whatsoever.
Sara´s Diary- Colca Canyon, DAY 2
There were so many forks in the road today. I´m shocked that Steve Dominey, directional wizard, failed to navigate them correctly. At one point I had to hop over a raging river at the bottom of the canyon. After I did this, and with my heart still pounding, we met a Peruvian man named Benito, who calmly pointed to another easier trail where I wouldn´t have had to cross the river. How did Steve fail me, he´s like a human GPS.
But Benito brought even better news. He just happened to rent mules, my ticket back to the top of the canyon. So after taking a swim in the oasis, I hopped on Benito´s mule and made it to the top in no time. This trekking thing isn´t so bad after all.
Even after spending all morning walking, Steve and Paul still decided to trek another three hours straight up to the top of the canyon. Steve´s like Superman, I continue to be amazed by him, even after all these years.
Paul and Steve arrive to town an hour late, just as nightfall´s arriving. Any longer and they would have spent the night in the bush. Apparently they took a wrong turn at the top and got lost. Paul´s fault, no doubt. He´s just lucky Steve was there to heroically navigate him towards safety.
One more thing. After accepting Benito´s mule (50 soles: $17 US) we had another man approach us later on the track with the same offer. After telling him we already purchased a mule, he asked how much we were paying. When he couldn´t beat the price, he asked whose mule Sara was going to use. We told him the mule belonged to Benito. He says, ¨Ooh, Benito, be careful, be very careful, okay.¨ Right, a concerned citizen. There´s just no honour in the mule renting game anymore. Just terrible.
Anyway, next up was Cuzco, the jumping off point to Machu Picchu and a handful of other incredible ancient Incan sites. After spending a few days exploring, we headed off for a 4 day, 3 night Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu (the actual Inca Trail was full and has to be booked months in advance). Wait, you say, after the hell Sara was put through in the Colca Canyon, how did you get her to agree to this, a trek where not even a donkey could save her. I´m not sure, let´s have Sara tell us in her own words:
Sara´s Diary- Inca Jungle Trek, DAY 1
I was apprehensive about the Inca Jungle Trek at first, but Steve just looked at me with those big, dreamy eyes of his and I just melted.
Unfortunately, there was no way I could keep up with Steve, who later said, "That Lance Armstrong guy´s a pussy."
Sara did do exceptionally well. I´m convinced that had the ride not been exclusively downhill she would have performed just as well (cough, cough). However, the main excitement of the day occured before the ride even started. After a five-hour journey to the starting point of our bike ride, the bus stopped beside a couple of shanties. We asked if we could use the bathroom and a guy pointed us towards an outhouse.
I finished (number 1) and Sara was in the middle of going (number 1), when a fat Peruvian man stormed out, yelling in spanish. I already knew about the famous Peruvian temper (courtesy of when Smooth Johnny transforms into Mean Johnny after a few drinks at the bar), but this guy was pissed. Something about ¨Bano privado, not publico.¨ I apologized, but c´mon people, we´re talking about a hole in the middle of an aluminum shack. A squat toilet would´ve been luxury in comparison. It´s not like I took a shower, made myself a sandwich and nailed his wife.
Sara´s Diary- Inca Jungle Trek, DAY 2
Steve says I gave him a glimpse into the future today. With the bikes now gone, we had to walk straight uphill for the first two hours. I may have said, ¨I hate you (heavy breath, heavy breath), making me do this stupid trek¨ (or ¨I hate you, making me have this stupid baby¨) and ¨You asshole, why´d you do this to me, why.¨
I just hope he´ll still father my baby.
Yes, the first couple of hours were hard, but the rest was easy and again Sara pulled through admirably. The gold star she was asking for all day is in the mail.
Elio also loves fruit and stole it off local farmer´s trees at every opportunity. Papayas, mandarins and even a big pineapple. He used a rock, then ripped it right from the ground. An old woman started yelling at us from her yard after this particular robbery. Just what we needed, more angry Peruvian villagers.
Sara´s Diary- Inca Jungle Trek, DAY 3
On Day 2, we walked up 500-year-old Incan stone steps, no doubt, allowing the travel agencies to market a 4-day Inca Trek, but the authenticity of the trail took a hit today when all we did was walk on a local road and then railway tracks.
Our guide, Elio, showed up a half-hour late for breakfast, clearly hungover. Steve asked him if he got hammered the night before. He denied it, but everybody was laughing at him. A waitress even pointed him out to us and said, ¨muy barracho anoche.¨
Eventually, Elio fessed up when Steve asked him if there were any ladies at the bar. ¨Many ladies in this village, many,¨ he said. What a perv.
He even offered to pay for a truck to take us to the next village. I got the feeling this is the kind of thing that would happen all the time if Sean Smith was a guide.
Fascinating stuff Sara. If only she brought this type of effort to her blogs.
Then, after he selflessly crossed the rocks and laid the sack down where the lady had asked, she reached deep into her bag and handed him five granadias (fruits from South America). Wait a minute, wait a minute, I knew something was up. This guy´s good.
Sara´s Diary- Inca Jungle Trek, DAY 4
With Elio now gone, we woke up at 4 a.m. and set out for Machu Picchu in the pitch black, armed only with my tiny flashlight. Oh yeah, and it was pouring, I can´t emphasize enough how wet and cold I was. Even though Steve carried my bag, held my hand and helped me over rocks countless times over the past week, I told him he was being very mean on this particular, grueling ascent.
While I questioned this at the time, I have now come to realize that yet again, Steve´s approach worked. We spent an absolutely lovely day at Machu Picchu once it stopped raining. I just love this man so much. I´m sure he´ll propose any day now.
(Tugging at collar). Well, no need to rush things hey, let´s just see how the next 7 years work out and we´ll go from there.
That said, I was seriously impressed with Sara over the past 2 weeks, we did a helluva lot of walking and while I can´t say she never complained, she did pull through. While I just grew a bushier ´stasche and wore short-shorts to transform myself into Hal Johnson, she had to bust her ass to become my Joanne McLeod.
And the payoff to all our walking was more than worth it. Even in the rain, Machu Picchu is so incredible, so grandiose in scale and beauty that you forget there´s a thousand other tourists around. The more I learn and see about how the Incans lived and what they built, the more blown away I become.
Needless to say, it was difficult to return to Cusco that day. After being on the go since 4 a.m., we jumped aboard the train almost 12 hours later. As soon as we got on, I noticed a wide open door with a clean toilet and toilet paper inside (both rarities in SA) calling my name, ¨Steve, Steve.¨
Smart enough to recognize a godsend, I quickly went inside, hoping to capitalize on the stationary train and its lack of movement to have a relaxing bowel movement. A kind of reward for a hard day´s work.
So, I pass what I´d call an above-average offering and flush the toilet when suddenly I hear banging on the door. That can´t be good. It´s the man who ripped my ticket when I got on, and he doesn´t look happy.
I give him a flustered, almost frightened ¨Sorry.¨ He just looks at me and motions under the train with his arm, pointing to the piece of steaming poo that now sits steaming on the tracks.
¨Ah, I´m really sorry¨.
He shakes his head and dismisses me.
So, with the requisite crapping story fulfilled, I can now end my blog in peace. Next entry: Bolivia.
SARA REALLY SAYS...
Some people ask me, Sara, how can you deal with such sarcasm on a daily basis? Don't you just want to slap this guy? I guess between 7 years of Steve's sarcasm and the whole new level of sarcasm that I learned to appreciate while working with Macdonald in Washington, I manage to shrug off most sarcastic drivel. But when it comes to stealing my diary, that's going too far! I need to set the record straight.
COLCA CANYON: The best $17 that I've ever spent in my entire life
This was the practice run for the Inca Trail and given that Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, it's no surprise that I failed this test. I guess I should have been training for a marathon during my last few months in Washington, instead of loving Julie's bangers and mash and taking farewell trips to all of our favourite restaurants.
We had heard about Colca Canyon while we were at the sand dunes (see previous entry), from a couple from Belgium who said it was a "must do" and "easy walking" and "no problem without a guide". I think it was their endorsement, particularly that of the girl, that convinced me this would be a nice walk in the Peruvian countryside.
And I walked valiantly throughout the next day, including crossing river rapids by stepping on wet stones. When we thought we were lost in the middle of nowhere in the canyon, I may have uttered the words, "Steve, I'm going to kill you for being too cheap to get a guide."
Maybe (stressing the "maybe") I could have successfully walked up that steep canyon, if we started early in the morning and did it very very slowly throughout the whole day. To do it in 3 hours, the mule seemed like the best (and only) option, definitely the best $17 that I've ever spent in my life. My mule and I were flying by people left and right, sometimes coming periously close to the edge of the cliff, but I knew that it was better than huffing and puffing. One girl, hiking with her boyfriend, was my only heckler. As my mule and I rode by, she said, "That's not trekking!" To which I replied, "Thank god." I think she was just jealous.
What he also doesn't mention is that we finished this trek in Colca Canyon, both exhausted and unable to properly move our legs into anything resembling a normal walk, he said that we were done trekking. We would go to Machu Picchu the civilized way, on the train. How quickly things change.
MACHU PICCHU: Climb every mountain
Once we arrived in Cusco and heard about our options for Machu Picchu, I could tell Steve was unimpressed by the train option. "Only for old women," I think I heard him mutter. Of the two alternative treks, the Inca Jungle Trek sounded easier. Forgetting my journalism training about asking leading questions, I asked the tour operator, "It's an easy trek, right?" If we've learned anything here in South America, people will tell you anything that you want to hear, if it means they get your money. I can assure you that it was not Steve's dreamy eyes that convinced me to do another trek. It was me being a sucker at the travel agency.
Here's what they don't tell you when you sign up for a trek:
1) It's not just walking. It included serious climbing up ACTUAL mountains, in very high altitudes.
2) Walking downhill isn't fun, either, because you're walking on uneven rocks, or slippery mud, and your legs are like jello (well, mine were). The original Incan steps allowed the company to bill this trek as an Inca Trail trek.
3) You shouldn't have a fear of heights, as you may have to cross the raging river THREE times by hand-pulled cable cars (Luckily, Steve was in charge of pulling, otherwise I'd still be sitting in the car in the middle of the river)
5) Even though it's advertised that you'll stay in hostals and eat your choice of food, forget it. The first night Steve and I slept in a tent, with Steve cursing because his legs didn't fit in. When I asked for a towel one night, Elio says, "This is not a four star hotel, you know!"
With Steve's strength and encouragement (well, he did hold my bag sometimes), I did finish the trek and was looking forward to Machu Picchu.
Hiking in the pitch-black pouring rain is not my idea of fun but, as Steve has gleaned from my diary, I will do anything for him. Yeah, right. I'm usually sold on the "once in a lifetime" pitch, ie. "you will only see the sun rise over Machu Picchu once in your life". Unfortunately for us, most of the stone steps had turned into mini-waterfalls because of the continuous rain, so it was not a pleasant trek uphill.
There was another girl who was struggling with the trek, and her boyfriend was holding her hand the entire time and offering her words of encouragement. Steve, on the other hand, was trash talking me about how we were going to miss the sunrise, that the whole point of getting up early was to beat other people, who cares that your clothes are soaked and your shoes are ripping apart... hurry up!
Needless to say, when we arrived at the top at 630am in time for the sunrise, all we saw was fog.
It did clear up, and I did have a small victory. I climbed Waynepicchu, the massive mountain that you see in the distance of the postcard views of Machu Picchu. Steve pulled ahead quickly and figured that I turned back. I admit that I was inspired by two older ladies with ski poles who were struggling harder than me but still plodding on. I finished in record time. Sitting on top of that mountain was like sitting in the clouds, absolutely amazing.
So, I guess you could say all the trouble was worth it, despite the massive amount of physical and mental energy expended to achieve that moment.
Note to my Grandmas: You will not be receiving a wedding invitation anytime soon. Nor should you be expecting a great-grandchild. After stealing my diary, Steve and I are on the rocks. See, who said there isn't drama in this blog?
He may be able to make it up to me with a back massage (professional, of course), a trip to Micky D's and a promise that our trekking days are over. But since he's already trying to convince me to ride Bolivia's "Death Road" on a bike, and our next stop is the Amazon Jungle, such a promise is unlikely. I'd better just look into his dreamy eyes and forget about all the crap he put me through in Peru, and hope for a smooth ride in Bolivia.