She instituted Moto Man Mondays as part of her content while she is on her Peace Corps Contract in Cameroon. Posting consistently is a challenge for me. Once I get started the content is easy to generate, but it helps to have a unifying idea so that I am not just posting random stuff. I also looked at some of my statistics on my dashboard, I only use free wordpress stuff cuz I is broke, and most of the posts that get views are stuff from Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Very little people care that I did a bunch of yoga or whatever life challenge I am putting myself through. Though there were quite a few views from the Vegan stuff.
Thus, Photographic memory mondays gives me a little bit of structure, which despite my mild ODD/stubbornness, does allow me to operate at a higher level and aids my writing. I despise structure that is forced upon me, but also thrive under it if I can stomach it without rebelling. A wildfire creates tons of energy, but also causes tons of damage and devours its own life force. While a torch can light your way, a candle can evoke peace and reflection and a furnace can produce heat and energy needed for creation. And that is why I have added this little bit of structure a bit of direction for this curly soul.
Energetically I am classified as fire, though I despise classification, which is why I present this in this way.
Even with this structure imposed, I still completely forgot to post last week. The mad rush during finals is exhausting some of my already limited organizational faculties.
And now without further ado, Photographic Memory Mondays #3 8-25-14.
This weeks theme is….Mountains.
Wherever I go, It seems that I seek these particular features out.
This is my first post of what will be known as “Remembory Mondays.” I was going through my old photos during a bout of nostalgia and a bit of a delayed Reverse Culture Shock Relapse, when I had a simple thought. A good way to process the experience resurgent travel urge would be to share some of the memories of my experiences.
As I started to compose a photoblog post on my adventure on the Inca Trail, I was distracted with memories from my two separate trips to Lake Titicaca and the islands I visited on both the Peruvian and Bolivian side. Then I was further distracted by some of the photos of daily life in Cusco and then after that Argentina and then a road trip I went on last year etc…
The point being that there are a ton of memories that emerge out of the ether of past experience. They are particularly plentiful with each bout of Adventuritis, an inflammation of the adventure gland located just inferior to the pineal gland, j/k.
With each emerging vista on the memorial plane, it is easier and easier to become lost in it all and do nothing. Instead of doing nothing, either by continuously going through my old photos or being unable to decide what to post, a simple writer decides as so often he does, by not deciding at all.
Remembory Monday, a weekly platform, perhaps evolving, always dynamic, like any good trip, never static. Like any good traveller always a fanatic, rarely pragmatic. Please also ignore the fact that it might be Tuesday wherever you are in the world. Monday, like the pirate code, is more of a guideline meaning sometime after noon on monday and before 6 am on Tuesday, give or take a few hours. Since peak creativity of this writer of yours is usually past sunset and well into moonshine and star-time, you can count on it being a late night post.
Five to Ten to Twenty or Thirty photos with a small Remembory’ed note just below (inferior to) the Photo.
And so it begins…
The View from the high trail on Isla Del Sol. We kept trying to get a picture that showed off the mountains in the background. It was really hard to do that view justice with a person in the frame. Real experience note, the water wasn’t clean, the ceramic filter and bucket didn’t work as well for me as it did for others. Had the travelers sickness all week aka diarrhea. The key is, that is now what I remember!
The actual view of the mountains without people is way better, I spent 7 days in December of 2012 on Isla Del Sol on the Bolivian side of the Lake. It was incredible and all of the views from mountain to meadow to water to wood and temple to tableau were epic. I had the chance to experience Incan Rituals and exist in serenity in one of the most peaceful places I have ever been. Thank you Javier for telling me I had to go there.
My friend Enrico’s boot could not withstand the rigors of the Inca Trail. The worst part is it came apart after lunch on the third day at Phuyupatamarca “City Above the Clouds.” The Good news, we only had half a day and the morning left. The bad news, 2,000 plus stair descent to the last camp near Winaywana. The boots made it through though and we all got to the sun gate the next morning where we were both winded and in awe at the picturesque tableau unfolding under the first rays of the sun. That Picture will be for another monday.
Day one of the Inca Trail, something like hour 4. It rained almost the entire first day. It got to the point where we could not even stop to see the first set of ruins, because it was so bad. The Poncho I had did not fit well at all. Hint- Make sure your poncho fits over your backpack. I was okay though, with waterproof shoes, a waterproof back cover and my showers pass jacket I used for pedi-cabbing in the rain it was all right. It cleared up for the most part for the next few days. I admit it would have put a damper on my enjoyment of the trail.
Yoga on the Inca Trail. Showing one of the Germans in our group Eagle Pose. Thanks to Enrico for catching this little gem. Yoga on the trail helped easy the rigors of the hills and valleys. Also pack light, I packed way too much on this trip. I had gotten heavily into Yoga earlier that summer, after I had a muscle spasm that saw me unable to do any physical activity for three weeks, I received a Chiropractic adjustment and then was shown some stretches. All of the stretches were yoga poses, so I found a groupon and jumped in headfirst. After practicing three-four times a week for 3 months. I went back to the Chiropractor for a follow up and they said I was stronger than I was before the injury. It was a game changer. I continue to practice 2-5 days/week. I have now tried many styles, Bikram was how I started but I have moved onto more meditative types since then.
The Flamingo lake ruins about an hour outside of Puno, after my first trip to the Lake. That isn’t the real name, but that is how the trip organizer sold it to us. Yeah lake full of flamingos and ruins on the hill. When we got there, it turned out that the Flamingos are only there in the morning, but it was still interesting to see the ruins. We did see a little cuy though. Guinea pig is a delicacy in Peru. After we got back the car wasn’t there, so this was my first experience of Panic in Peru. But we figured out by calling the organizer, it just ended up being another one of those experiences in the difference in time. Most arrangements in Peru run a few hours later than they schedule.
While in Bolivia I had the experience of realizing I was almost out of money. This unfortunate scenario led to the discovery of bartending in exchange for my stay at the Adventure Brew Hostal, just a few blocks from the bus station in La Paz. The work was pretty simple, the beer was the best I had in South America , though the tap was overly foamy, it was a welcome change from the Cusquena and Pilsen I usually had in Cusco. Hands down best part, other than the people of course, was the Drunk food Sandwiches. While Pouring the two kinds of overly foamy beers, I got to know the other bartenders and a few of the patrons. Three of them could not stop talking about these amazing sandwiches, I think they were called Inguitos or Honguitos. Check out the picture of the sandwich next to me. My face looks like I am regretting biting into it, but that is just my habitual wide mouth teeth bite that avoids getting the mess all over my face, chin, beard, mustache or whatever. Sooooooo goood!
The moon over Amantani on Lake Titicaca. This is where my group stayed on the boat trip on the lake. You cannot imagine how peaceful it was. It was even quieter than isla del sol. This kind of peace is so rejuvenating, I found myself refreshed on only about 6 hours of sleep. And that was after the all night bus ride from Cusco to Puno and then all day on the boat. And the moon was so bright it lit the path when we walked back from the high point on the island. Cold, Quiet, and beautiful.
I meant to use this method to keep the post short, but alas as soon as I start typing the levee breaks.
Comment below to hear more about your favorite memory, I will choose one photo to expand upon for a post of it’s own in the coming weeks. And If you liked any of these memories, check my Peru, Bolivia and Argentina categories for more posts of this nature.
It was a long journey, I mean the posting about it not the actual trek. Here, two months after I was there, is the final post on my Machu Picchu experience.
Day 3 was exhausting and beautiful. After visiting the ruins at Winaywayna and eating a late dinner we had our porter tipping ceremony under the stars. Then a meeting about how it would all work the next day.
Finally we prepped for a 3:30 am rise and crawled into our tiny tents at the edge of a cliff at 9:30 or so.
Despite the exhaustion, or perhaps partly because of it, I was in a dreamlike state. The moon and stars were shining bright on the campsite until the rain started. I stayed in my tent dreaming of our arrival at the Sun gate. I imagined the city with the light of the rising sun illuminating it right in front of my eyes.
Even the best efforts of my imagination could not anticipate how incredible the experience was.
We woke up early so we could get a good place in line at the checkpoint, which opened at 5:30 am. The problem was that every other group had this idea too, so we had to wait in a fairly significant line. On this day however, waiting in line was not a problem. In fact, the condensed number of Machu Picchu yearning spirits heightened the excitement building it monumental proportions.
The sun began to rise behind the mountains to the east of us as we finally passed the checkpoint.
Then the race was on. The rising sun on our backs, or backpacks, as we charged to the sun gate, yearning to see the illuminating dance the suns rays play on the city every morning.
The trail was as beautiful as ever in the rising sun and the valley next to the one with the city is a fantastic place. At some points we were almost running to get there, until we reached this nearly vertical stair climb near the end of it.
And then the gate was in sight. As I crossed the threshold I saw the expanse of the city below. I cannot describe the euphoric feeling that washed over me in that moment. 11 years in my mind and 4 days on the trail, but now it is real. The sun was rising behind us spreading over the city gradually as we witnessed it in all its glory.
It is more magnificent than any picture or anticipating imagination could attempt to envision.
The rest of this post will be in photo format. Since my words are rather incapable of encompassing the depth and breadth of the experience.
And so that is all I have for now about Machu Picchu. Maybe someday I will return to the fabled city, but for now it is one magnificent dream realized. I have many other dreams to make real and adventures to have.
The early morning greeted us with a respite from the rain and we set off early after breakfast. This day while not as difficult, was much longer than the previous two days. The extra four hours (a total of 11) allowed time to pack in many exciting events. We visited 4 Incan sites. We climbed two passes one in dense fog and scattered rain, the other in bright and steamy sun.
The trail was packed with people, but luckily the pace the Italian and I usually walked got us ahead of most people eventually, so that we didn’t have to trek in a herd. That is one of the most peculiar things about the Inca trail, trekking in a herd of tourists. While it is true that you are in nature, the crowds are the price of hiking one of the most famous trails in the world.
This day was my favorite before Machu Picchu. We learned about the ancient Incas and the visited some distinct architecture. The first few sites we saw were very simple, but in the middle of the day we visited something greater. It was a site that housed a temple and a monument to the great mountains. Each site we saw was more impressive than the last, leading us eventually to the glory of Machu Picchu the next morning.
The weather changed all day from clouds and cold sprinkling rain on the first pass, to the steamy sweat at the bottom of the first valley. Then we went straight up into the sun again and it seemed like we were walking in a jungle area for a while. The variation makes you feel like you are travelling much greater distances. The adventure is real when clouds kick up and rain dumps within 2 minutes of bright sun and that same sun clears clouds in a matter of minutes only a little while later.
I said earlier I was wary of the extra weight I carried, but at times I was quite a happy hiker, since I was able to deal with this variation quickly and easily enough.
At one of the sites near the top of the second pass, began the hardest part of the day. This was what our guide Percy called the Gringo killer. It is 3,000 giant steps down to camp Winnaywayna “Forever Young.”
The name of the camp made a lot of sense when compared to the experience of the trail. When you are done and you put your pack down, you feel much more free and easy. Of course you may need emergency double knee surgery, but you are still light on your feet with the knowledge that the trail is behind you and Machu Picchu lies just around the corner. One night and a two hour morning jaunt was all that stood between us and the fabled Incan city.
This day was also the best, because of the immensity of the ruins. They just kept getting better and better the closer we got to Machu Picchu. Winaywayna and the terraced ruins on the hill above camp were incredible.
We had dinner late and then held the porter thanking and tipping ceremony after dinner under the stars. These guys were incredible. They carried packs 1.5 to 3 times the size of the hikers pack and ran down the trail breaking camp after we left and setting it up before we arrived. They wore sandals, chewed coca and would sometimes run past us down the trail. They are true warriors and I hope that their lives are made better by the massive amounts of tourism on the trail, instead of being exploited by the companies and the tourists. Sometimes they would clap when people in our group made it to camp, the absurdity of that is hilarious. I always thought, they have got to be making fun of us weaklings. But since I don’t speak quechua, I didn’t worry about it. They would be right anyway, we were weaklings.
After it was all done and I lay in my very small tent listening to the hypnotic sounds of the rain against my tarp,I reflected. 3 days, 9 meals, 3 tea times, tens of thousands of steps, and hundreds of coca leaves later, I was finally here. On the eve of fulfilling the dream, I felt a calm come over me. And the rain, the cold, the sleeplessness all faded into the background. Getting up at 3:30 am seemed perfect, the weather seemed perfect. It was all as it should be and I waited for the morning with a tranquility I am sure I have rarely felt in life. In a few hours I would be at the sun gate as the sun rose and illuminated the city. What more is there in life than the beauty of that moment and the moment to come? This must be why they call the camp forever young.
After an early rise and an early breakfast of pancakes with manjar blanco and a kind of liquid oatmeal drink, we set off. The oatmeal drink was amazing by the way, some of the people were put off by it, but it was one of the mast satisfying things I had on the whole trail. It was good that we had a great breakfast, because we were in for a ridiculous ascent.
Dead Women’s pass is a dark title for a very intense passage. The many stairs on the trail take a monumental toll on the knees and with each step the altitude is even greater. It is by far the most demanding day. The trail is always beautiful, green everywhere, with mountains immersed in the clouds and the valley stretching ever onwards with each step up. This gives one plenty of excuses to stop for pictures. Of course even if it looked like the bathroom of a subway station, I still would have stopped. Just to catch some wind and eat a snack or chew on even more coca leaves.
When I started the Inca trail and saw all the many types of people on the trek, I did not expect it to be that hard. But as our conversation at the top can tell you…”So how was it for the aussies?” “It was the hardest thing I have ever done.” The trail is demanding every step of the way and these steps are definitely some of the most demanding.
Before I set off, my roommate, who was about to leave for England loaned me her walking stick. My initial reaction to this rather lame hiking accessory was to scoff. However, out of respect for her, I brought it with me. Once the ascent started, I was eternally grateful. The extra leverage of the walking stick allowed me to take some weight off my knees and use my arms to lift myself up the really tricky spots. I am sure I would not have needed it as much if I had not been carrying about 15 kg on my back. I often over pack for occasions and the inca trail is definitely not the place to do so. It can lead to a lot of extra pain.
I made a lot of the ascent, but sometimes the descents are even crueler on the legs. This I learned after a flash rain storm at the summit and a rapid ascent down the mountain.
All that said, it is well worth it. The trail is beautiful and transforms with each change in elevation, you can truly experience the environment in its awesome complexity. A diverse array of climate changes in a very short amount of time is present throughout the experience. It all inspires the sense of adventure and wonder.
Though it was the hardest day, it was shorter than the third day. We were all thankful for this. We lounged around and ate and rested readying ourselves for day 3. And we were happy to have a long time to rest at camp.
Friend says, ” I bet you can’t keep your feet in for ten seconds”
I say, “I bet I can for twenty.”
Stay tuned for day 3, 11 hours of hiking two big passes and the descent our guide called the gringo killer. Also copious amounts of Llama refuse.
It was the morning of November 1st, 2012. I woke up at 5 am so that I could meet my group in the Plaza De Armas. I was the second person to the meeting point and our contact was nowhere to be seen. This is pretty typical in Peru.
The ragtag way tours are organized and the many diffusions one has to go through affects the continuity of some excursions. Add to this the Peruvian peoples ability to relax and it makes for a lot of waiting for the punctual person. Luckily, for me, I am not typically prone to punctuality.
It is an understatement to say that I was excited. I was ecstatic. I was on the verge of fulfilling a life dream, inspired 11 years ago in the pages of Blue Magazine. It was perfect, I felt amazing.
And yet, I found myself wanting the bus ride to last longer. I am not sure if this was the typical, verge of wish fulfillment stage fright or me worrying about my monstrous pack. It was about 18 kilos. Whatever it was it passed, quickly. The bus pulled up to Kilometer 82 after passing Ollantaytambo and it was time.
I bought a handkerchief from one of the Peruvians at the trailhead, something which came in handy throughout the trek. I carried my big bag and my walking stick that my roommate loaned me. I was a little skeptical about the stick, but by day two I was thanking the southern stars for its blessing.
We were off. My group of ten.. After a big group picture by the sign, we headed through the cattle like checkpoint. When we went through a half hour later, they asked if I wanted a stamp on my passport, Answer, Hell Yes! I love Passport Stamps!
And then we finally set off, crossing the Urubabamba on a cool bridge and heading up hill. I felt that the pack weight was manageable as we got going.
Day one was an easy day. 10 km, mainly flat, except for one big incline in a downpour after lunch. Even the lunch was good, especially for camping. If you are worried about the food on the Inca Trail, don’t be. They outdo themselves. And I have heard stories of even better food than the one on my tour.
The easy day passed quickly, with a few talks about the history of the Inca’s. Flowers used for ritual hallucinations, Bugs that live in cactus that are crushed and used for dark red dye, and other interesting facts. We passed by the first ruin without stopping because the rain was so heavy that it was impossible to stop.
Day 1 was simple. We made it to camp pretty early and had time for a nap before tea and then dinner, yes tea includes cookies. We divided up tents to share and after they were set up by the porters we were able to lounge around a bit and then get some sleep.
I purified water from the mountain faucet, for the next day and headed into the tent. I wasn’t able to sleep that well the first night, maybe 5 hours. But the excitement of the adventure and the camaraderie with the group provided enough energy to get through the next day.
Stay tuned for more from the Inca Trail.
**By the way my goal in this is to keep my posts under 600 words from now on. That is why I broke it up into four instead of two posts. I tend to run-on when I am writing. I know that blogging unlike lecture halls is a forum of brevity. Any feedback on this issue is appreciated. It is not that I am aiming for short posts, just trying not to waste too many words.
I am currently traveling in Peru and just a few weeks ago, I visited Machu Picchu. I am prone to excessive photo taking, whether it be of food, friends, or in this case flowers.
So this is my experience of the beautiful flowers of the Andes. From Cusco to Aguas Calientes. A large range of elevation change.
There are many different varieties. The higher elevations tend to produce more compact specimens in the mountain landscape, making their beauty all the more significant.
And now a few word from William Blake’s “The Wild Flower’s Song.”
“As I wandered the forest,
The green leaves among,
I heard a Wild Flower
Singing a song.
‘I slept in the earth
In the silent night,
I murmured my fears
And I felt delight.”