Oh, My… Inca Trail Continued

June 18, 2008

Oh my……

Well, today was the day I have been dreading for months and months…day two of the Incan Trail. For all you hikers out there, day 2 consists of over 3000 feet elevation gain And 2,000 feet of loss…and goes over some of the roughest terrain I have ever seen. And that is including the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Julia said that it was like the AT on steroids! AND it was all done at an elevation that topped out at about 14,000 feet.
Can you see why I was so scared?

Well, the fact that you are reading this is proof that I survived.  Not only did I survive but I feel pretty good and I have a huge smile on my face!
It took me 14 hours to do it in, and with the exception of a half hour lunch break, it was pretty much continuous hiking.

I have two secrets that helped me survive the day…

1.   Julia. Plain and simple, I could not have done it without her! She taught me yesterday how to slow way, way down so that I could go uphill forever with out stopping. My friend, LiteShoe tried to teach me this years ago, but I never got it. Julia paced me, and I was able to really get it!

2. Even more importantly, when I initially emailed friends and family about this hike, I said that I would be saying, “I think I can”, over and over. Immediately, a bunch of ya’ll emailed me back, saying “I know you can”. So that became my mantra. I pictured all of you smiling at me and saying that and it really kept me going!

Todays hike had two giant ups and downs, with lunch in between. when Julia and I got in for lunch, everyone else was long gone and Enrique kept pushing us to hurry. When I tried to stand up after lunch, my legs just refused and it took a second to get them to obey! That was the only time I got really worried. My legs are completely shot and I still have a big, ugly climb up and back down. Well, we ignored Enrique’s frustrated looks and I took a minute to take of my boots and rub my feet. I got everything moving, but I knew I was running on near-empty.

When we finally reached the top of the second pass, the sun was starting to go down. Julia has a real gift for going down hill, and she loves to do it. So, with the coast clear, she decided to “get her down on”, and off she went. Man, She is something to see!  I kept trudging on, and before you knew it, Enrique and I were taking out our headlamps for the second evening of nighthiking.
I just concentrated on stepping down these big rocks, and was slowly making my way down when I saw a group of porters coming towards me. Two were there to see if I needed help and two were there to…..get this….bring me boiling water and cocoa tea! I politely declined and explained that I just wanted to get down the mountain, so they headed back while the other two remained with Enrique and I.
I made my way along the trail as tiny moths started to dart in and out of the light of my headlamp. The soft sounds of the porters conversing in Quechuan circled around me as the bright moon rose and the stars came out. Past exhaustion, all I could think is, “Oh my…look at where I am”.

Two hours after the sun went down, I finally walked into camp and all of the porters and members of my group were in a line cheering and clapping for me.   Later, when I asked Julia why the group members were outside clapping, she said that they were drawn out of the dining tent with the ruse of coming out to look at the moon.  

I did a small dance of the real women and was hustled in to the dining tent where everyone was sitting down to dinner. I knew that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t be able to stand up after dinner, but as Hosea handed ’round hot spiced rum punch, I really didn’t care. I had survived Day 2.  Rumor has it that tomorrow is easy…we will see about that!
Love, Anna aka Mud Butt
(LiteShoe says “Way to Go, Woman! You Rock!”)

Hyberbolic Chambers to …Inca Trail Continued

It’s finally here!

So, I got up at 4:45, threw all my gear in an orange porter bag and got on a bus. We are driving on steep, curvy roads through dusty villages where llama and alpaca graze in front yards. I am finally on the way to the Inca Trail!!
Well….I wrote that early this morning, and I can now say that I have hiked under a full moon on the Inca Trail. How unbelievably cool is that?!
Today was dubbed as a pretty simple day, and a lot of it wasn’t bad, but there were some pretty serious climbs, and the day ended with a 1,000 foot climb up to camp. We hiked 14 kilometers, and due to the fact that the sun goes down at 5:30, I had to night hike some. But it was gorgeous!
When the bus dropped us off at the Inca Trailhead, better known a kilometer 82, we had to go through a serious checkpoint and we got our passport stamped! I am very proud of that stamp, but I will be even more proud of the stamp they put i my passport when I get to Macchu Picchu! 
We spend the day hiking on a trail that is fairly wide and rocky. From time to time there are rock steps, and the trail is in a deep valley surrounded by huge mountains. We hiked along a roaring river, full of trout, for most of the day and it was just delightful. From time to time, we would pass a mud- brick house with a corrugated tin roof being held down by rocks. Children would watch us shyly and the women would offer soft drinks and water for sale. I think this is a primary source of income for some of these folks.
Every now and then, we have to move to the side of the trail to let horses, mules, and llamas go by, being herded by their owners. The trail is actually quite remote and we saw one woman being taken off the trail on a mule!
The most remarkable people on the trail are the porters. Peruvian men ten to be on the small side, and yu wouldn’t guess that they are amazingly strong! They come by us in long lines, sometimes trotting with huge packs on their backs. They must be pure muscle!
I wish I could tell you that I am roughing it, but the porters think of everything. For meals, they put up a big tent, complete with table and stools for us to sit on, and then serve us a huge meal. When we got into camp, our bags were in our tents and there were bowls of hot water outside the door of the tent.
Yep, the hiking is hard, but they do everything in their power to make it as nice as it can be.
Julia and I hiked together all day long and she was fabulous. She could have finished much earlier, but chose to hang out with me and help me pace myself. We had a great day sighting hummingbirds in the bushes and gazing at the mountains towering above us. We really miss Deb and Sharon, who is hiking a different trail, though and can’t wait till we are all together at Macchu Picchu.
Tomorrow is the hardest day of all…..a lot of you know that I have been dreading it. Up 1,500 feet, down 1,000 feet….have lunch and then do it all again. Overall, we gain 3,000 feet tomorrow and lose 2,000. But I am not scared anymore.  Bring it on!
Love, Anna

Cabs, Cows and Caves to Hyberbolic Chambers

June 16, 2008

Hyberbolic Chambers

Well, today has been another really hard day, but for much different reasons. Deb is really sick and they have called a doctor to come see her. She was up all night coughing and I am really worried about her.
Dr. Fernando came to the hotel and examined her and said that he thought she might have pulmonary edema….water in her lungs. So he arranged for a lab tech to come to the hotel to take her blood after which she was going to get a chest x-ray. The rest of the group has two bike rides and a hike planned for today, but I am going to stay with Deb.
After the lab tech came, the test results were delivered and Dr. Fernando came back to escort Us to the clinic for the x-ray. Is this service, or what? Finally, chest xray in hand, he gave Deb the results. Pulmonary edema. But, the good news is that it is only stage one. And he thinks that with two days of oxygen, doubled up altitude medicine and sessions in a hyperbaric chamber that she will be fine to meet us in Macchu Pichu!! Is’nt that great?!
So, we settled in for a long day of blood taking and oxygen breathing. I took a cab back to the hotel to gather her things up and when I got back to the clinic, she looked so muc better!! She had color, no fever and, for the first time in a week, no headache! Yay!
Whenshe went in for her first hyperbaric treatment, or as I like to call it, hyper-bolic treatment, I went back to the hotel to meet the group. We are supposed to have a meeting about the Incan Trail and I need to be there for it. I am having very conflicted feelings about going. She is doing great, and between the clinic people and the tour people, she always has someone taking care of her. But I am still not sure that I should leave her. I have decided to have Julia and Sharon look at her and tell me what they think.

And then There Were Five… to Cabs, Cows and Caves-The Inca Trail Cont’d

June 15, 2008

Cabs, Cows and Caves

Well, today was a tough day. It started with a lovely breakfast before we had to say goodbye to our beloved Ninos Hotel. I am really going to miss this place! We taxied all of our gear to our new hotel and met the rest of our group.
There are 12 of us in all and everyone looks very fit! We range in age from 25 to 60 and everyone seems very cool. Our guide is a handsome, young local man with a winning smile and a wicked sense of humor. Have you ever noticed that tour guides are almost always like that? 
We started the day with a walk through the market. I assumed that we would be going to a tourist market, but when we got there, it was quickly evident that no tourist in their right mind would ever come here! We entered to stacks of boiled guinea pigs and piles of cow parts. ALL the parts! There was every type of animal part there in big heaps. I even saw a water buffalo nose!!
All that meat and not an ice cube or piece of saran wrap in sight! I am definitely not in Kansas anymore!
The market also had fruits, vegetables, fish eyes, breads, etc. But it is all that gross stuff that really stuck with me. Strange place to go before lunch, huh?  But that is exactly where we went next! Lunch was uneventful, and afterwards we did a big, uphill hike. Did I mention that it was big? And of course, Arturo wanted us to hike together, so everytime I would get to the top of the rise, the group would be waiting for me.  That part I really hate.
We went to a place called Sauchy Wyman, (I am pretty sure that I spelled that wrong but it is pronounced “Sexy Woman”). This is an amazing Incan temple that overlooks the city and once I got there, I really loved it!
I should have known that it couldn’t all be frolicing through the ruins…..Arturo led us over to a dark hole in the ground and said, “Now we go through the Incan tunnels”. I am not afraid of   mountains or bears or sleeping alone in the woods. I am not afraid to travel to remote corners of the earth by myself. I am, however, VERY afraid of dark, enclosed spaces…like caves. I questioned Arturro carefully…Do I have to go through? Yes. Can I go around? No. is it nice and big? No, it is very small and tight. He actually said that!!! This was NOT on the itinerary.
Finally, Natalie said she would lead me through while Julia and Sharon followed. Natalie kept up a running stream of, “It is a sharp turn left here, step down just about here, duck down..it gets really low here…”, and I just followed in the pitch dark. About half way through, I really thought I was going to lose it and it was only the thought of my friends behind me, and the fact that I didn’t want them to have to wade through my lunch, that kept me calm. It felt like we were in there for hours, but Arturo said that it was about 2 minutes. When I came out into the sun, everone clapped for me and I just tried not to cry. I hate caves!
Luckily, that was the last major event of the day and the hike home was nice, even though I was still shaking from the adrenaline. 
You may notice that I only mentioned Julia and Sharon on the hike. That is because Deb is pretty sick. She has altitude sickness. She has been doing well all week, but this morning she woke up feeling really badly. She decided to forgo the days activities in the hopes that she will be well enough to hike the Incan Trail in two days so cross your fingers and say a prayer for her!
Love, Anna

And then there were five-The Inca Trail Continued

June 14, 2008

It is amazing how quickly we have fallen into a daily pattern here in Cuzco. We do nothing quickly, but end each day feeling like we did a million things! I guess that is because doing something as small as buying a phone card is an adventure! Today started with a light breakfast before the three others took off to get more backpacking stuff. I had some pocketmail issues to sort out and wanted to check my email, so I took care of all of that. I loved getting the emails from you guys! Thank you so much for all of the support!

PS- Because of Pocketmail and international phone line issues, I am having to filter these emails through the shop, so if you want to send me a reply, please re-address it to ahuthmaker@pocketmail.com.

After all the logistics were taken care of, I walked out of the gate of our hotel and looked up to the right. Half a block above me, the road turns into the steepest street I have ever seen….so steep that the sidewalk is actually steps curving up and out of view. I have been wanting to climb up there, but had not had the chance. Well, there is no time like the present! I unfolded my hiking poles and up I went.

It was the weirdest thing…it was like the first step was the begining of a strictly native section of Cuzco. No tourists, no vendors and no souvevnir shops. I climbed 50 steps at a time, stopping to catch my breath between. At 217 steps, I reached the top and was treated to a gorgeous view of the city. I have climbed lots more steps then that while working out a home, but let me tell you, in this altitude, I felt proud to do the 217! As I was huffing and puffing my way up, a little, tiny old woman on the other side of the street chattered away at me in Spanish, pointing toward the top of the hill. When I laughed and nodded my head, she just smiled and shook hers. I wonder what she actually said to me? 

After descending, I went off to spend a few minutes sitting on the church steps before finding the rest of the gals. We headed off to lunch at this beautiful restaurant over looking the Shaman’s shop. I stopped in to make another appointment and was thrilled to hear that he would see me at 4:00.

As we were finishing lunch, I saw a woman eating by herself and told the others, “Would’t it be funny if she was on our tour?”. So…. I went up and asked her! Turns out that she is!!!!! How cool is that? So, in a flurry of introductions, our little group of four has become five.  Natalie is from New Zealand by was of the UK and is just as cool as she can be. She has traveled all over the world by herself and is only 25!! I told her that I was’nt half as cool as her when I was that age. We all like her very much, and I am glad that we hooked up. 

After lunch, I went back to see the Shaman to get my reading done. He used ceremonial coca tea leaves and it was fascinating! He looks like a Native American, with long black hair, a beautifully chiseled face and the most wonderful gnarled fingers. He had me pick out 7 leaves, then held each up to the candle and studied it intensely before he told me what it means. It was the most in depth, intuitive reading I have ever had done and I learned a lot from it. And I am really, really glad that I did it.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Am I the only one howling here because Anna didn’t dish the details!!!! 😉 )

Sharon also had a fascinating reading after which she, I and Natalie wandered through some shops and churches before landing at the local Irish Pub. Yep! You heard that right…there is an Irish Pub here in town! We had a lot of fun laughing, talking and eating greasy food with Deb and Julia. It was a great end to a wonderful day.

Today was our last day on our own…tomorrow we meet up with the rest of our group. I can’t wait to tell you how that goes! 
Until then, Love, Anna