Mount Massive was to much of an undertaking and Goldpoint Lodge is located about 90 minutes from the trailhead while Quandary is a quaint little 20 minute jaunt out of breckenridge. So the plan changed, it is good to be flexible.
We started very late into 14er season, I don’t know what I was waiting for, but it took all the way until August 9th.
Mt. Quandary is known as an easy 14er as 14ers go. The thing about a 14er though is that it is a monstrous effort.
The lack of oxygen, the unavoidable nearly straight up ascents. The knee pounding descent, the crazy weather. The intoxicating views and of course, in case it didn’t sink in, the continously increasing lack of oxygen, nearly three miles above sea level.
When I was on the Inca trail, Dead Woman’s pass was an ordeal, but the ascent from 3600 meters to 4200 meters was not quite as high. And there is a world of difference between 14k feet and 13k feet. Plus on the Inca trail, there were coca leaves, those made up for a lot of the lack of eenrgy I may have had otherwise.
What is the point?
As hard as it was, we endured. Near the top, we got to the point where we went 100 steps and then sat down for 30 breaths. This strategy worked well. When you break things into manageable tasks, they become much easier. One foot in front of the other 100 times and you are there, repeat, and you are there in no time.
A 14er is a metaphor for life. It is wild and wide open nature. The world is real out there. Rainstorms can start anytime, winds can blow in a storm and then blow it away, temperature shifts can switch faster than the fastest packer can change into the layers. It is deceptively sunny and then it all changes.
In life, you can meet difficulties at any time. The key is to be flexible, to allow yourself to dig deep and then put one foot in front of the other. 100 steps, then breather deep re-assess, rinse and repeat.
As you may have noticed, my commitment to blogging about the challenge every day has dwindled slightly. I have been getting home after the long day of work and yoga and passing out quickly en mi cama.
The past two days have been inspiring. I have found deep energy reserves after the long days. I especially like taking advantage of the naptime before yoga. I fell asleep before class two days in a row. Usually I go in early and listen to the class fill up as I lay in savasana, then get up to a room full of people I only knew by my ears. When I fall asleep, the people in the room are even more surprising.
Daily Metamorphosis – Feeling the change flowing through my body. After 6 days straight I feel more in tune with the yoga. Each class I try to focus more on breathing and am more secure in the knowledge that I will make it out alive and ready for the next day’s inspiration in the form of sweat. I keep calm and carry on through the sweat’n poses.
Best Moment – Kicking out on both sides in standing head to knee. Holding it on my right side for the entire second round. It is a first. Even greater, knowing my leg was locked, like the lamp post.
Most Challenging – Camel…nothing more to say.
Funniest – Teacher’s comment about not waiting for yoga.
Quote of the day – “Boredom is a lack of a capacity to register variations in vibration.” Yoga Teacher From today’s class
Tomorrow’s challenge – Morning Yoga, it has been a while since I have practiced early. But tomorrow, with no work, I greet the day with yoga.
“Food, glorious food, hot sausage and mustard, while we’re in the mood, cold jelly and custard, peas, pudding and saveloys, what next is the question. Rich Gentleman, have it boys, indigestion.” Oliver.
I love food. It could be said and indeed has been said by more than one person, that I experience life through food. This is an astute observation. It is not the only way that I experience life, but it is certainly a major lens through which I view, absorb, consume(?) experiences. I am always eating and always yearning for a new culinary experience. When I am at home, most of my adventures involve discovery of new places to eat, unique, exotic, interesting places.
The most recent Portland Restaurant month was incredible. I was able to visit ten new places. Each restaurant was as good as the next and offered a new discovery of its own (more on this when I have time use my backlog.) The menu was limited, but it didn’t matter, because the place was new, so the food was new.
What’s more? I was able to collect these culinary experiences in good company. Which is important, because though food makes me happy, and “happiness is real when shared.” Into the Wild.
These days, in Peru I mean, I do not have to go far to find culinary adventure. It is everywhere. Cusco is a great place to eat with healthy variety. Aside from the traditional Peruvian Cuisine, which is unique, in more ways than its obsession for potatoes.
There are multitudes of restaurants catering to the entire array of international tastebuds. It is rather annoying to be on a trip, where I am trying to focus on Spanish immersion, and being surrounded instead by tourists speaking English. I can’t be too disappointed by this, because I am one of them.
The high number of tourists makes the culinary experience diverse and adventurous. I have tried so many different types of food here already and am on a path to try many more. I was going to list them, but instead I will post pictures of as many as possible.
Island hopping on the highest navigable lake in the world
The trip started out on a Friday night at the door of a McDonald’s in Cusco’s Plaza De Armas. This is a common meeting place for excursions. I believe they think its easier for us Gringos to remember, and it is, even though I hate McDonalds. From there we took a taxi to the Bus Terminal, where the trip contact, aka Gringo Smuggler, arranged our tickets for the 10:30pm bus to Puno.
The 7 hour night bus was nothing like Harry’s ride to the Leaky Cauldron, save a bit of creepiness and dangerous driving. We were forced to watch Prometheus, a movie which my temporary travel companion and I thought might be saved by the presence of Charlize Theron. Even her grace could not save this disaster of this movie.
We Arrived in Puno, at 5:30 am, disoriented and tired, but happy to be off the bus and meet our contact at the other end. Silvario or Silverado, took us to a hostal in Puno to wait two hours for the bus. The breakfast in the hostal was 6 soles for bread jam and tea. So we went and had eggs and Juice at a place down the street. This meal was one of very few good things in that 10 hour stretch. Then we settled back onto the couches and waited for the taxi.
The taxi arrived and picked us up as well as the other members of our group and took us to the boat launch. The boats were small houseboats that reminded me of a Lake Powell vacation in my youth. Then we settled down for a 3-4 hour boat ride with a brief visit to the floating islands, essentially a theme park for tourists. Amantani
Our destination Island was Amantani, where we would stay with a family and share lunch, dinner, and breakfast. Amantani was beautiful, much better than the visit to the floating islands. It is a tranquil place where the only noise pollution is the game of Marco Polo the sheep play, with their loud and varied bahs. The lambs are cute and the variety of noises they made was astounding.
After a lunch of potato soup, potatoes and rice. We climbed up to the top of the Island to visit the archeological site on the island.
It was about a 40 minute walk uphill, but the increased elevation made it seem a lot harder than it was. The surface elevation of the lake is 3,812 meters, that is 12,507 ft.
We searched for the sunset, but were unable to find it, because of the obscuring clouds. Even with the lack of visible sunset, the peak called pachamama (mother earth) offered a magnificent vista
As soon as the sun moved behind the clouds on the horizon, it began to get cold. The wind picked up and what was a 40 minute ascent, became a 20 minute descent as people struggled to get down and out of the cold. The weather changes fast at such a high elevation. And at the bottom of the hill there was a store with hot chocolate waiting to warm our frozen bones.
I felt that warm feeling I get after a long day of skiing, amazed by the day, exhausted and warmed by the mug and the hot chocolate. It was a good, familiar feeling. When we walked back from the shop, the moon was out and it was two nights from full. The effect of the darkened lake and island at 7pm allowed the moon to shine the brightest I have ever seen. It lit up the entire sky and cast a glow on the lake that extended for miles. The powerful and beautiful figure cast serenity over the quiet island.
After dinner, at 7:30pm, I was happy to fall into bed and have the best sleep I have had since coming to Peru. No Police whistles or car horns, for there are no cars on the island and all of the agriculture is done by hand. It was the kind of peace you can only get on an island and the faraway sound of the small waves caressing the shore. It’s easy to rise early when you have sleep accompanied by the power of the moon and the quiet of the island.
I arose too long after 5 to find the sunrise and went down to the beach to enjoy the days tranquil beginning.
Then I returned to the house and ate a breakfast of thin pancakes and thicker potato cakes with the group. Next, we gathered our things and set off for the dock to meet the boat and the other members of our party. We set off early, at about 7:30 am for Taquile Island.
Arrival at Taquile
We took a 40 minute walk to the plaza of the island. Every walk in Peru is 40 minutes, except the Inca trail. We spent some time in the main plaza, taking pictures by the sign of cities and the other buildings.
Then we walked down to the other side, capturing more views. The archways were beautiful and had cool figure heads on them. And the sights were amazing I felt like I was in the middle of the ocean. It was a quick tour of the island.
Down at the bottom, I changed quickly into my shorts and jumped off the dock made of rock for a quick one minute swim in the freezing cold waters of the lake of the stone puma. If this is where the world was created, I wanted to immerse myself in the magical waters.
Then a 3 hour ride back to the floating islands basking in the sun of the cloud scattered sky. 3,812 meters makes the sun feel a lot closer.
At the Uros, floating islands, we ate fried trout, omelet, or cheese. Not grilled cheese, just fried cheese. That was hilarious and so was the fish head soup.
Back in Puno
We met up with Silverado and went in a taxi to see an Incan site with flamingos on a lake. Trouble was there were no flamingos there. They only go in the morning.
The burial site was interesting, but it was concluded that the money we spent on the taxi would have been better spent on Cerveza or Pisco and a dinner. Though the site was cool and we spent some good time with Alpacas.
We had dinner at Pizza Andina in Puno, 27 soles each. Alpaca pizza plus a three course meal, it was great food and we were both starving.
Ignoring the persistent shouts of Arequipa Arequipa Arequipa, we waited for our bus. I called my teacher to change my classes the next morning to later in the day. We finally boarded the night bus. No movie instead, disappointment, because we saved pizza to eat during the movie. We settled in for a long bus of alternately nodding off and listening to music. We arrived in Cuzco at 4:30 am.
Took the first taxi home, for which we paid too much, and passed out. Then later I woke up and went to class.
What did I learn from this trip?
Do not take the night bus. I enjoyed the trip, but I was overly tired and could have enjoyed it a lot more if I had gotten real sleep. Also when you take the bus during the day it stops at several interesting places that could be worth seeing.
If you do take the night bus, do not try to go to classes when you get back. Avoid the extra treks, they can be overpriced and not really worth it, especially when it is nearing the end of the day. Sometimes a little bit of down time is all you need to refresh your spirits. Also make sure to get change from Gringo Smugglers, they will more often than not forget to give it to you later.
A good option is to research this stuff yourself. That way you can get first class seats, which on a long bus ride are well worth it, and don’t cost very much extra. You can also customize your trip better when arranging it yourself. Sometimes you are at the mercy of the agency. If you do book through an Agency, make sure to be clear about what you want. Most of them are good as long as you are clear with your needs.
Still despite lack of sleep, the lake was magical. It was impressive and magnificent.The solitude of the islands was a nice change from the tourist quickened pace of Cusco
At the end of my second week I did a full day tour of the Sacred Valley. The frustrating thing about large groups and guided tours is that the companies often stop at specific artisans along the way. At first it seems like they do this to bring you to quality sites. Then you realize that they do this to get a commission of any items purchased. With a large group tour, it is more likely that more people will purchase. This gets in the way of touring the actual site. We spent 15 minutes at a small artisans shop and another 45 minutes at the market in Pisac. They took us there under the guise of seeing artisan jewelry makers who use natural colors from the environment for their work. While this is true, we spent unreasonably large amount of time to there.
When we arrived at the ruins in Pisac, the guide made a big deal about the enormity of the site. He told us that you need five hours at the site to really appreciate its magnificence. At the least, you need three hours to appreciate the main points of Pisac, the guide informed us in a serious and reverent tone. He then told us that we needed to be back on the bus in one hour. It was the same way with Ollantaytambo and Chincherro. Except at Chincherro we arrived so late that the Church was about to close and the sun was about to set, though the sunset was really beautiful. On top of all of this, when you get a Boleto Turistico, it only lasts ten days and you can only visit each site once. That is why it is better to arrange your own tours and allow time to experience these magnificent sites, but I digress.
Pisac These ruins feature so many different types of architecture, which is why you need more time to experience it. There are military, residential, religious, and agricultural edifices. The many trails and staircases offer varied and beautiful vistas of both the valley and the ruins itself. It is likely that Pisac began as a military outpost to defend against attacks by the Anti Indians in the eastern most part. This is one of the places where I wish I could have spent more time. It is a magnificent example of the ingenuity of the Incas building style, building such massive stronghold into a vertical cliff. I missed out on a lot in the hour that we had to walk to the top and back down. I may return during my trip and then I will have a lot more to tell about this, one of the greatest of Cuzco’s Incan archeological sites.
Buffet for 25 soles. The problem with this wasn’t the food or the price, though it was a little more than I desired to pay. We only had 40 minutes to get off the bus pay get our food and eat. It is not really a buffet if you don’t have time for a second, in my case, third plate. Go for the solo tour, freedom to visit sites and choose your lunch options.
Ollantaytambo This site is another example of ingenious engineering and ancient building techniques. The temple on the top is unfinished, but is an example of the immensity of Incan building enterprises. There are two hundred steps that lead to the sight of the unfinished temple. The steps have a consistent series of terraces to accompany them up to the sun. The site is most famous for the battle held here in 1537. Manco Inca defeated and nearly destroyed the Spanish Army here. The Incas held here after a long retreat from Saqsayhuaman. The Incas defeated Pedro Pizarro’s men with volleys of arrows and slingshots from the fortified terraces of Ollantaytambo. As the Spanish retreated Macno Inca had signaled his men who diverted the Rio Urubamba and flooded the plain. The unfinished temple still stands today. There are water fountains similar to those at Tambomachay. Manco Inca’s army’s ability to divert the river and flood the Spanish is evidence of the importance of water in Incan life. It wasn’t only used for agricultural and religious purposes, but in this instance for military purposes as well.
The main attraction here is the church that was built on top of an Inca temple as part of the conquest of Incan culture by the Spanish. The Church is intricately decorated and the art is fragile, so fragile in fact that they do not allow any kind of photography inside. So you are going to have to see it for yourself. There is also a famous market here that is less crowded than the Pisac market. One interesting and famous ruin is an ancient wall that people say, probably formed one wall of an Incan Palace. The best thing about the place though, was the view. The Urubamba Mountains could be seen in the distance and the post sunset glow was magnificent. If you visit here try to get here before the church and the market close, unlike the tour that I took which arrived so late that we weren’t able to enjoy much of it.
In the end, large group guided tours are for those with little time to spend in Cuzco. They give you a quick sampling of the history, but if you really want to experience these incredible sites, give yourself some time. There is a lot to see. After all in the adventure of life it is all about the journey, so let the journey last.