Travel Log, Machu Picchu, August, 2016

Ho.Ly. Fuck.  I pretty much can’t believe I just started this entry, under this title.  I’ve dreamed of going to Machu Picchu since I first laid eyes on a poster of it in my 8th grade Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 11.44.01 AMSpanish classroom.  Mrs. Nedielski was our teacher.  She had a mousy salt and pepper bob, a warm smile, and a tendency to not take herself too seriously.  Since I’ve taken a post in her very role, I’ve often called her and her light spirit to mind and to my own classroom. Though I’ve tried to find her to thank her for her inspiration and instruction, I’ve not succeeded, so I’ll just have to honor her here.  Thank you, Patricia Nedielski, for being the first person to inject my imagination with the prospect of this trip.  It is happening!

It’s been 28 years since I was in that classroom, and 28 years ago that I promised myself someday I would go to Machu Picchu.  I leave for Peru in six days, and in eleven days start a four day hike to the ancient city of the Inca.  My husband, Tom, will be with me.  He has nurtured this dream along side me and I’m so grateful for his willingness to share in it.  We’re nervous.  We’re excited.

We spent the last two days buying an embarrassing amount of gear.  We will be the tourists we make fun of on other trips, but I don’t care.  This is my dream trip, 28 years in the making, and if I want hydration packs, cargo pockets, and inflatable lumbar support pillows, I’m going to have them.

Anticipated weather on our trekking days:

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 11.58.49 AM

What’s with all this rain talk?  It’s supposed to be the dry season.  More gear!

August 9, 2016

Our last night home before we leave for Peru tomorrow.  American Airlines to Miami, then Lima.  On the 11th, we’ll to to Cuzco, 11,000 feet.

Tom is in a bad mood, which he denies.  I’m not sure the source of it– probably pre-travel nerves.  Another possibility is that its somehow associated with a tense political discussion we had yesterday.  Or he just doesn’t like me today.  Or he just doesn’t like me period; though I doubt that.

My backpack is all packed and totals 17 lbs.  I’m using the Osprey Mira which I think was a good, if really fucking expensive.  $165 is a lot for me to spend on a backpack.  Hope it’s worth it.  All told I’ve spent about $600 total on gear, mostly clothes.  I keep telling myself I’ll have it forever.  I probably will, too.  Still– $600.  Whew.

The dining room table of our little house is piled high with clothes, snack food, ponchos, various things in little stuff sacks, and miniature HABA like toothpaste and the cutest deodorants you ever saw.

Aside:  Tom, who was stressing like mad that he didn’t have time to get things done tonight has been over talking with our old neighbor, Russell, for about 15 minutes now.  I will be right to say he’ll stay a while longer, then come home and make it his cross to bear that he “had to talk to Russell” while he feverishly packs his backpack and stresses out.

Here I am, on the other hand, plodding along in my blog and wondering if I’m missing something.  Should I be stressing out, too?  I think I did all my “fings” (as Ernie would say) and have everything I need.  At the same point, the nagging suspicion that I DON’T have any of those things.  I think I do though.

Did the phone calls to family.  Ernie is at Phaedra’s house.  Plants will be watered.  Ah-ha!  I need a checklist.

August 30, 2016

I did not even attempt to update this log during our trip, but, we did it!  I cried when I realized I was there.  I guess I didn’t know, passing through the Sun Gate, that when I looked up after those last steps it would be stretched out in front of me.  It was overwhelming.  It was unbelievable, literally.  I had a few moments alone to take it in, then Tom found me and I hugged him and cried again.

Four days prior, we woke up at 4:45am and got on a bus at 5:30.  We drove to the gateway to the Inka Trail, had breakfast, and officially passed the first checkpoint.  Day one was unforgiving.  It was hot, dusty, and steep.  We hiked for seven hours.  The porters began to look like superheros to us–how they nearly jogged the trail with five times as much weight on their backs as we had, passing us easily, one after another.

*time out– I’m writing in my back yard and my loud neighbors just got home–ugh.*

Day two was much the same, but we had more fight in us, and managed to clammer over Dead Woman’s pass.  Another seven hour day.  My legs were jelly, but my heart was full. We had passed the last of the homes and farms on the trail.  We hadn’t seen anyone from the real world aside from each other.  Everything CNN had vanished.  It was just us, our evolving group dynamics, and the Andes Mountains.  I didn’t miss anything.

By comparison, days three and four were CAKE.  Having gotten the hardest work done, the hike took on a more spiritual experience than physical one.  We’d become accustomed to the mountains.  We learned to hang back from the group (not hard– they were mostly 20-somethings rutting for position) and enjoy the silence.  More often than I’d like, there was a hurriedness, but I wonder if it was real or self-imposed.

These last days we started seeing evidence of other life on our planet again.  “Crazy Pants” made her first appearance on day three, as did “Sweater Man” and “Cute Outfit Girl”.  This cast of characters, as best we could figure it, had taken the abbreviated trek to Machu Picchu.  They were looking fresh and spritely and invasive.  In hind sight, I recognize that they were our slow introduction back into the world.  After sun-up at Machu Picchu, the flood gates of humans opened on us again.  It was a rude awakening.

We did the obligatory tour of the ruins with our guide, Carlos.  His explanations were wonderful and engaging, but it was still hard to focus over the feeling of chaos brought by all the people.  From busses and trains, so many people.  Cameras, tour guides, and selfie-sticks bumped and butted us from all angles.  I missed the trail almost immediately, and I still do.

Though we had tickets for re-entry to the ruins and to hike Huayna Picchu the following day, we didn’t return.  I had waiting 28 years to arrive at Machu Picchu and spent about 20 minutes savoring it from the Sun Gate and then watching the sun rise over it, empty and majestic.  I didn’t want to see it with its throngs of tourists again.  The moment had arrived, and passed.  We had beautiful, clear weather, which I understand is unusual.  My moment with Machu Picchu was blessed, and I want to leave it at that.  The place it holds in my heart is a special one.  You might say sacred.

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