Monday, December 29, 2008

Inka Trail Trek Day 2: Up Up Up

Day one found here.

Day two on the Incan trail dawned with beautiful sunshine and an excitement in the air. Leaving the camp, the trail immediately heads straight up for nearly 4000 feet of climbing to the top of the Warmiwanusca Pass (Dead Women's Pass) at 13,700 ft. We ate our delicious warm breakfast and quickly packed up our bags to head out.
The day was sunny and beautiful, much like all of our amazing weather on this trip. Our guide Frank told us to hike at our own pace and that he would catch up to us at the top of the pass. He said we were his fastest hikers to date. The typical climb takes about 5 hours to make up to the top of the pass, but we quickly ate up the distance. On this part of the hike, we past most porter groups who labored under heavy loads as the trail goes straight up in a long unending series of stone laden stairs.

There was still some settlements as well as farming high on the mountain side at nearly 11,000 feet.

Heading up the pass (towards the hump in the middle).

We finally made it to the top in around 3 hours and stopped long enough to give the traditional coca leaf offering to the mountain. From here, we needed to drop another 1200 feet to our camp ground. It was decidedly more chilly at the top of the pass.

As we started down, the rock stairs got very steep and very wet as waterfalls cascaded over the trail. This slowed our group considerably, but not the porters. Train after train of sprinting porters blew by us down the steep wet trail in their little leather sandals as they raced to camp. It was one of the most astounding feats of balance and agility I have ever seen. There were flying so the only thing you could do was just get out of their way.

When we finally rolled into our campsite at 12,500 feet we were all a little tired form the day. Hot tea was waiting for us and our campsite was perched on the side of a mountain with rushing waterfalls directly above us. It was beautiful.

After an amazing lunch followed by dinner a few hours later, we played some more cards and just relaxed. Some interesting Norwegians set up a slack line over a rushing stream and proceeded to impress the entire camp with their abilities. Our cook fixed us this interesting Peruvian drink which was supposed to make us sleep well (after drinking it, warmth took over the whole body) and we all slept early and deep.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas from Phoenix

Christmas in Phoenix...oh its good.

Did you have a good Christmas? We stayed in town this year not traveling to Ohio due to our recent trip to South America and although we missed our families, it was really nice to relax and just do nothing.

Sorry my blogs have been MIA, but you know, holiday eating was very time consuming. I will return to the Incan trail at some point soon. Besides eating, I have also been distracted because (and this is NOT to brag to all you people in cold weather places -- at least not a lot) but the weather has been really nice and i have been biking quite a bit. I am in training now for the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo where I am riding on a 4 person women's team. Somehow, the other three women I am riding with are super fast and guess what, I am not, so I am trying to remedy that by riding a lot and getting fit.

This past weekend Angel and I spent some time on Trail 100 in the Phoenix Mountain range where we wanted to ride the entire length of the trail. The day was so amazingly beautiful with 65 degree sunny weather and the trail crisp trail due to recent rains. We took our time, road a lot of extra loops, got lost and road some extra ridges, and then road around town for a total of about four hours on the bikes before meeting our friends at Chueys to scarf some major calories.

We stopped for a lot of photo ops which required many takes because neither of us is that good at sports photography. If it looks fun, its because it was.

**UGGHHH. For whatever reason, Internet Explorer make things on my blog look like crap so if you have a choice, pick Mozilla Firefox for best viewing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Inka Trail Trek Day 1: The Beauty Surrounds You

The morning of the trek, our guide company picked us up at our hostel for a two hour van ride out to the start of the trek. Since our party was small (4 guests, 1 guide, 3 porters and a cook), we all fit in the van and got to know each other. The drive was beautiful, just beautiful. Two hours through what is known as the Sacred Valley area which consists of many small farming communities where indigenous Peruvians build their houses out of the same red mud they farm and plow by hand. Where mountains full of glaciers tower over villages and huge rushing waterfalls carry water down for drinking an irrigation. Did you know that Peru is one of the hardest hit places due to global warming? They are predicting these glaciers will disappear in our lifetime. Anyway, if you were wondering, Peru is magically beautiful, and I am not being overly extravagant in my compliments.

We stopped for breakfast in Ollantaytambo about 1.5 hours from Cusco and picked up two of our porters. There is an Incan ruin in this town and it was bustling with tourists and tour companies preparing for the trail. We then had another 45 minute ride to Piscacucho at Km 84 where we began our trek. The day was sunny and warm even though we had been warned that this was the "rainy season" and everyone was pumped to begin.

Little kids at the trail head checking out the blondie. They kept peaking at me from around the corner. Can I take one of these home with me?

This women sold Tom a last minute hanky. The red guys in the back ground were all porters for a large 22 person group from another tour company. We much prefered our small group and three friendly porters.

The beginning of the trail is mostly a level dirt trail that winds along this river. When the Spanish invaded this part of the world, the Incans destroyed this part of the trail so that they could protect the location of Manchu Pichu which is why it is not built with the legendary Incan stones. The trail winds though many little indigenous housing settlements and we passed a lot of local traffic with people carrying their crops out on their backs to sell. The kids living in these little houses were so adorable, I couldn't stop taking their pictures. We also passed our first Incan ruin and Frank showed us how to chew coca leaves the proper Incan way. He was so cute, he brought a lot of photos to explain things as we went, teaching us about Incan history and the history of the pilgrimages that had occurred along this very trail. We loved Frank!

Frank (our guide) told us that this was our training day where he could see what kind of shape we were in. We soon proved that we were accomplished hikers as we just about beat the porters to the lunch locale. Our cook ran by and yelled "speedy gonzales" to indicate that they had to run to set up our lunch tent and cook before we arrived there. We ended up just deciding every other day to skip the lunch until we were done with the hike for the day and just eat lunch and dinner at the campsite (this saved our porters a lot of extra packing and unpacking of the food tent).

Burgers for lunch. Tom was pretty excited about the ketchup, but it was no Heinz but it was much better than much of what he got. Our cook Roberto here was a funny guy who wore a lot of funny hats. Here he is giving us some coca leaves for tea (we drank this many times a day).

After lunch we had another couple of hours before reaching our campsite. This day was really quite easy and we all felt very refreshed at the end of it. It didn't hurt that our campsite was beautiful with a view of amazing glacier capped mountains and its own accompanying Incan ruin. It was situated at around 10,000 feet above sea level and therefore the weather was pretty mild and not too cold.

These porters are hard core with their sandels and their 55 - 75 pounds on their backs.

Relaxing at the campsite. Our view from our tent was amazing... see below.

We played some Incan ruin soccer with some little boys and cards with another little girl who just came right into our tent area and sat down while we were playing eucre. She taught us a game with no apparent rules where we all seemed to win and then we gave her our extra cards (2-8) that you don't use for eucre. She was pretty excited about it. Dinner that night was delicious beef stir fry with chocolate and a plantain for desert. We went to bed early due to rain and to prepare for the big climb which awaited on at the beginning of day two. Training day was over.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I can watch TV at night for a month!!

Done with my Organic Chem final :/ thank God.

It was terrible. I am pretty sure I did really really bad, but the good news is that it shouldn't really matter (unless I did really really really bad).

As long as I get a C in the class and actually get accepted into school in January, my grade won't matter.

I also signed up for classes for spring quarter which I may be forced to take if I get into Midwestern's PA program (that is the school I am interviewing at.) That is if they don't accept other classes as replacements. That is the thing with prereqs, it is hard to even figure out if you have acceptable classes for their requirements...and I won't know until after these classes start if I got in so I have to proactively start taking the classes ahead of time and drop them if I don't need them.

Looking at my schedule now, it could be terrible. Ughh. I hate working full time and taking classes, it is mentally draining.

Tues: Chemistry II Lec 5:50 – 7:05 pm
Tues: Chemistry II Lab 7:15 – 10:00 pm
Wed: Sociology of Marriage and Family 6:50 – 9:30 pm (need a humanities)
Thurs: Chemistry II Lec 5:50 – 7:05 pm
Thurs: Organic Chemistry I Lab 7:15 – 10:50 pm

Yup. Terrible. Over 6 hours of Chem Lab a week. Somehow, I feel like my blog is going to get a lot more boring...

But really I am happy to be where I am now... nothing but an interview between me and the dream I have been working for the last year.

All I want for Christmas is an acceptance to PA school.

PS. Back at work and once again, annoying person is on the phone and being annoying. Good thing my custom created indie angry rocker station is flowing cool beats of bliss.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


**Rant Alert**

I was recently moved to a new jail cell cubicle on a different floor and my new grid neighbor from a completely different work group is incredibly loud, rude and annoying. And they talk loud on the phone all day long. The fact that I have known this person for awhile and pegged them as the most annoying person EVER in the history of annoying people that I will totally go out of my way to avoid doesn't help. Then I get randomly moved right beside them instead of the other 14,000 people I could have been moved beside.

Sigh. I am screwed. Office Space just went from ironically funny to tragically even more my life.

I now blare my music in my ears all day long.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cusco, Peru: A mountain gem of a city.

A beautiful church in Plaza De Armas.

We only spent 16 hours in Ecuador before jetting over to Cusco, Peru via Lima (for about 7 hours overnight). Cusco was a magical city. The first impression of it is that is so just soooo Peruvian Andes...cause it is. The women and children look and dress just like you would imagine they do. Yes, it is touristy and they very much cater to the international Manchu Pichu visitor, but there is just something about it that is refreshing and beautiful about the ornate churches and little hills of houses.

Traditional Andes clothing. The bright colors were trumped up for tourists, but our travels through the country revealed that these styles (except in dark blue) are legimately what they wear in the mountain regions.

We had about a day of acclimation at this city of 9000 feet before beginning our four day trek the next morning. We spent it shopping in the amazing bazaars and markets, people watching, and learning the merits of coca tea (for the altitude). I bought an handmade warm hat made out of alpaca wool with ear flaps to keep my ears warm as we camped at elevation on our trek. Our hostel Piccola Locanda (highly recommend) was very cutely remodeled and located at the top of a very steep set of about 200 stairs leading out of the main square Plaza De Armas. Every time we returned to our hostal throughout the day we were all gasping for breath and muttering about how we were going to die on the trail for the next 4 days. It was only made worse by the adorable school children running up past us (and I am pretty sure laughing at us).

Damn us every time.

Shopping!! Everything seem el cheapo.

This little girl selling finger puppets for $.50 was irresistable so I bought an alpaca (like a llama). The children hawking wares are always impossible to say no to and make you sad.

We ate very well here and many restuarants were empty and begging for your business. We found the American 80s pop music played in most of them strange but amusing. English was very much spoken in this city. After an evening meet and greet Q&A sessions where we met our guide Frank for the four day Inca Trail trek, we packed as lightly as possible (leaving most of our weight) at the hostel. By luck, we had somehow gotten a private tour with just the four of us, so our entourage would be small with just the four of us gringa, our guide Frank, a cook and three porters. We would later come to learn that our size and mobility would make our trek much much more awesome.

View from the Bagdad Cafe. Who knows...? It had a mural of camels on the wall.

Need anything? They probably have it...this was a non touristy market we walked to.

Ladies leaving from the market. This was more authentic dress.