This is a throwback entry from when I traveled with my friend, Nancy, to Peru to hike the Inca Trail and visit the Amazon Rainforest. It’s one of my favorite trips to-date, and I’ve had the pleasure of sending dozens of clients down to Peru who have also now experienced this amazing country.
I thought I would share this again for fun… I have a whole series on the Peru trip, so there will be more to come.
This is it – my last night before leaving for Deepest, Darkest Peru… Land of the Incas, as I often see it called. It seems somewhat odd to me to define an entire country by one particular group of people who once inhabited the land… Fantastic tribute to the Incas and their modern descendants I suppose, but what of the rest of the country’s history and the other cultures there now? Do they feel slighted at all? What if we were to start doing that with other countries? For some it would probably just end up sounding redundant (e.g. Africa: Land of the Africans) but for others it could work (e.g. Mexico: Land of the Mayans). The only problem with the Mayans is the fact that they also occupied Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, so to be proper, you could end up with a lot of countries using the same “Land of”-s… But I digress.
So I leave tomorrow! I’m so excited that I’m almost literally beside myself (which I wish I was because I could really use an extra set of hands). This trip has been a long time coming. Yes, I booked this adventure in August of last year, but I’ve actually been waiting not just the 7 months since booking. This trip was one that I was originally supposed to take in March of 2004, but unfortunately had to postpone due to an unexpected (and unwelcome) stay at Lenox Hill Hospital. But now it’s finally be rescheduled and looks as though it will actually happen – although another hospital incident almost derailed the trip again.
Briefly, because I don’t want to bum everyone out, I found out this morning that my grandfather (the only one I have left) suffered a major stroke and is now in the hospital in Atlanta. My knee-jerk reaction was to not go on the trip, but after careful consideration and a conversation with my grandmother, I decided that I would still go. My grandfather’s birthday is a week from today, in fact, but hopefully I’ll at least be able to give him early-happy birthday wishes over the phone before I depart, and will prayerfully hope that his speech will have returned to him by the time I get back. In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to enjoy myself and soak everything around me in so I can provide him with a full report.
Anyway, one of the definite perks to having this adventure postponed is that my friend Nancy will be accompanying me. Nancy (who I lovingly refer to as Fancy Pants or FP for short) and I didn’t even know each other in 2004, but met and became buds on my afore-blogged-about Thailand trip. Nancy has one of the most contagious laughs I’ve ever heard and is something of a clown (but not in the frightening Stephen King sense of the word). Oh yeah, this is going to be fun.
However fun as this may be, I must admit that there are a couple of things I’m mildly concerned about so I’ll mention them now so you’ll all be aware as I’m sure I’ll bring them up later: 1) Altitude sickness and B) The Inca Trail.
1) Altitude sickness. This is one of those things that is something of a mystery to me. I mean, I know what it is and why it happens having read multiple books on Everest and other mountain climbing expeditions, but there seems to be no sense in why some people will get completely bowled over by it, and others seem to fare just fine. That said, I have no idea where I will fall in that spectrum and I’m just a tad nervous about finding out. For example, I know people who get headaches and other mild symptoms in places like Denver (elevation 5,431 feet) and others that have no issues at all, even in places like Aspen (elevation around 8,000 feet). Now, if those places can be used as any kind of gauge, then I can at least say that I have had not even a hint of a “Rocky Mountain High” in either Denver or Aspen, but Cusco sits at 10,912 feet which is hardly the dreaded Death Zone, but still a pretty drastic change from sea level in a short period of time. From everything I’ve heard and read, it takes about 3 days to acclimatize and then you’re fine. There are medicines you can get (by prescription only in the US), but they can also carry with them side-effects which I’d rather avoid. So without drugs, worst case scenario: you feel like you have the flu for a few days until your blood begins carrying more oxygen. Best case scenario: you feel a bit light-headed and get out of breath quickly until your acclimatization is complete. I don’t know about you but given the choice, I’d opt for the latter. Since I’m not going the drug-route, my plan is to hydrate myself like crazy and then start chewing coca leaves or drinking tea made from them (a local remedy that’s supposed to help). I also read where sleeping after arrival is recommended as well so perhaps FP and I would be well-served by staying up late the night before. Just a thought…
B) The Inca Trail. While this is without a doubt the highlight of the trip and the reason I wanted to book in the first place, I have to admit that some of the comments made by those who have gone before are a little scary. For example, one of the favorite phrases I’ve heard with regards to the trail has been: “It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Well, who wouldn’t be a little freaked out by a strong, 30-something, buff guy making a statement like that? But of course there are others who then brag how their 70-year-old aunt did it. The dichotomy of these two statements leads me to believe that the strong, 30-something, buff guy either isn’t as strong and buff as he seems or that the 70-year-old aunt is a retired superhero able to leap tall mountains in a single bound…or perhaps the truth lies somewhere inbetween. I’m sure the trail isn’t exactly a cake walk, but it probably also is not a task being assigned on Mission Impossible either. Of course I won’t know until I get there, but what I can promise all of you, dear readers, is that I will be frank and honest in my assessment of the difficulty of the trail…keeping in mind that I’ll be making this trek only 4 months after breaking my foot. I will also be sure to include any comments from Nance (FP) and other members of our group…
As for the moment, the bigger question is: Am I properly packed??
I typically pride myself on being a really good packer. On more than one occasion I’ve had people look at what I’ve brought with me on various trips and say, “Wow, is that really all you brought?” “Why, yes!” I beam back at them, “I am the Queen of Efficent Packing, but please no autographs.” However, this trip is a might different. I found it easier to pack for my last 2-week trip (Thailand) where all I really did was throw a bunch of tank tops and shorts into a bag and off I went. This is more difficult and I feel like I’m packing too much, or not enough of the right stuff… I read back over the dossier from the trip company I’m using (which conveniently includes a packing list) and I just feel like there are a lot of things NOT mentioned on there (such as underwear). To bring enough underwear for 2 weeks is a lot of underwear, is it not? The list also seems to not necessarily be tailored to the specific time of year that a trip is scheduled for and so someone going in August (read: non-rainy season) is being given the same dossier and subsequent packing list as those going in March (read: rainy season). The part of this list that I found almost comical is that the only mention of clothes is as follows (ah-hem):
- 4 shirts/t-shirts
- 1 pair of shorts
- 2 pairs of long trousers
- 1 pair of hiking pants/track pants
- Thermal underwear
To say we should only bring 4 shirts…well, uh, I don’t know about you, but there is NO WAY I’m going to wear the same 4 shirts for 14 days. Nope – not happening. Same goes for basically what boils down to 3 pairs of pants. And then this is also packing for 2 totally different climates – the high Andes and the low Amazon. Cold and hot, dry and humid… I could not possibly pick out 4 shirts, etc. that would work interchagably for both climates. Right now I’m just trying to figure out what I should be planning to sleep in since apparently the temperature in the mountains can drop down below freezing at night in the thin air. I have a good sleeping bag (and liner sheet), but I don’t want to be confined to it after the sun goes down because the 4 shirts and 3 pairs of pants I brought can’t hack it alone. And so I’ve packed more than that which leaves me feeling as though I may have over-packed. Even as I type, I’m acutely aware of my duffle bag scowling at me from the floor as if to say, “Take some of this crap out of me!” Perhaps I should listen to it.
Before I sign off and do a re-evaluation of my duffle’s contents, a quick word about what lies ahead… I had emailed out a high-level itinerary which I will include below (with some additional details). I will be taking my camera and a card-reader along so hopefully will be able to post some photos as we go and not have to do them all retroactively. FP and I have also have rented a video camera which, I might add, is practically smaller than my DSLR camera – so some video will be made and a short-length feature film will be forthcoming upon our return (for those of you who I tied down and forced to watch the movie I made after Thailand – start preparing yourselves for another one!)
- Day 1 – Flight to Lima, Peru
- Day 2-3 – Flight to Cusco in the morning with the rest of the time spent hangin’ and trying to acclimatize a bit.
- Day 4 – Early morning train to Puno (Lake Titicaca) – the highest navigable lake in the world at over 13,000 feet.
- Day 5 – Flight back to Cuzco and meeting up with the rest of the group
- Day 6 – Travel to Ollantaytambo (by bus I think…or perhaps llama)
- Day 7-10 – Hiking/Camping the Inca Trail arriving in Machu Picchu with a return train ride to Cuzco. (note that the 23rd is my grandfather’s birthday)
- Day 11 – Day in Cusco
- Day 12-13 – Travel to and stay in the Tambopata Rainforest Area (note that the 28th is my birthday – hence the timing of this trip)
- Day 14 – Return to Lima (via Cusco)
- Day 15 – Flight from Lima home (a ever-so-fun redeye flight leaving at midnight and arriving the morning of April 1st)
And so with less than 24 hours before my departure to the southern hemisphere, all I can say is: ready or not, here I come!