Wednesday, April 27, 2011
WOW! What a trip! I can honestly say that Choquequirao was the most difficult trek I have ever done in my life. In 5 days we covered over 70 kilometers and ascended and descended thousands of meters of mountains through the Apurimac River Valley. It was extremely humbling and really hard both physically and mentally. I realized as I was climbing the last three kilometers of the first day with my legs in pain from Machu Picchu, that I was much more out of shape than I thought. I also realized that I am not the badass backpacker I thought I was. I never claimed to be the most badass backpacker but I have definitely had my fair share of bragging moments about my time on the Inca Trail carrying all my stuff. I was so thankful for our mules and that they carried all our stuff. I probably would've broken down for real from the exhaustion. I was on the verge of tears for the final leg of the first day but I pulled it together and collapsed into bed the first night. From the second day on, my attitude changed and I accepted the fact that I was the most out of shape and would be last most of the time. I soaked it in and took lots of pictures and enjoyed the walk instead of thinking about how much more I had to climb or how hot or hungry I was. It's amazing what an attitude adjustment will do for you in a physically strenuous situation. I am so glad that I did this trip and I am so happy that I was able to share it with my brother and my good friends. In total there were 7 of us. Chandler, Erica, Roger, Mar (from Spain), Elodie (from France) and Elias, our wonderful guide and friend. I am so thankful for the day I went climbing with Elias and Alex and Erica and Elias became friends because if that had never happened, this trip would never have happened.
Day 1: 24 kilometers: I wanted to die by the end but I made it! I thought we were going to be staying by the river but we still had another 3 kilometers to climb to our first campsite so I was not mentally prepared at all. It was rough. Roger was a good encourager though. He stayed with me the whole time partly because I had the headlamp but also because he was employing the buddy system, should anything happen to either of us. We also realized the following morning, that we left a bag of all our breakfast food somewhere far away from the trail so guac and bread for breakfast would have to suffice for the next few days and then tuna and crackers. No biggie.
Day 2: 8 kilometers: More uphill but at my pace and taking it all in. We got to the campsite and then checked out the ruins below where there was a house dedicated to worshipping the water and a ceremonial rock. It was very cool.
Day 3: 5 kilometers: Play day at the ruins! What an amazing place. I was blown away by everything and the best by far, were the llamas in the terraces on the other side of the mountain. What a trip to get everywhere, but it was so worth it! I think we walked about 5 kilometers around the ruins. We also had our own ceremony with coca leaves giving thanks to Pacchamama and the Apus or Incan gods. It was wonderful giving thanks for everything and for the great company I was in. I gave even more thanks on Sunday when the wind helped me walk up the mountain. It made up for the brutal heat of the sun.
Day 4: 16 kilometers: We started our trek back to Cachorra, the town where we started. We made it to the river around 12:30pm and played in the Apurimac River for about an hour before we took refuge under some shelter at the camp. The sun was really harsh and we all got a little bit of color this day. We ate our lunch of delicious choclo (corn) lunch and waited until 3pm before we started the hike up to our campsite. Thank goodness, because the sun was so hot that we all would’ve passed out from the heat. I made my way up slowly but surely. The cookie party Erica and I had on the way made it much better. The wonderful wind at my back made me happy too. We got to our campsite and enjoyed the wonderful view of the valley.
Day 5: 12 kilometers: 6am wake up call. This morning was the first morning I had a ton of energy and was ready to rock and roll. After about an hour and realizing how much more uphill I still had, I wasn’t quite as animated but I was motivated. Slowly and steadily I made it to the top and we got back to Cachorra around 12pm. We had a delicious almuerzo and a few beers before taking the most ridiculous car ride back to Cusco I have ever experienced. I wanted to sleep so badly but I was flung all over the car so sleep was not an option. I am impressed that Elodie and Erica were able to sleep. We got back to Cusco around 5pm and Roger and I headed to the hostel.
I wanted to go out on Monday night but I was so pooped. Roger, Marco, and I went to a restaurant called El Condorito for some Anticucho, which is roasted cow heart. It’s quite delicious actually. I had some recoto relleno that was also delicious. We headed back to the hostel and played hearts for a little while before going to sleep. Everyone in the bar was playing spin the bottle but we did not partake. Definitely for the better.
At 6am Marco picked Roger and myself up and we headed to the airport to see him off. Marco gave Roger a Peruvian military baseball cap which he wore home and apparently got some attention from it. I doubt there are many white guys in the Peruvian army if any. ☺
The trip was amazing and now I am in the process of finding an apartment. I got back to the hostel to find that I will be sleeping in the female dorm until Friday when most of the staff leaves. My stuff is in the staff dorm and I am sleeping upstairs and I came in this morning to find all my stuff in the middle of the room. I am done with living in a dorm. I am finding a place to live stat! I miss privacy!
I am still waiting on any word from the Experiment in International Living Abroad. They said they would contact candidates by early May and it’s killing me waiting for them to contact me. If I don’t hear by the end of this week I am going to send them an email and politely ask for an update on my status. I really want to be able to make some decisions about what I am going to be doing here in Peru if I don’t get the job. Wish me luck!