Let me begin with the incredible dinner party we kicked the trip off with. Mike went lobster fishing the day before and caught 7 huge lobsters. No joke – the tails alone were almost as long as my forearm. We grilled lobsters & steaks, drank wine and chatted with a few friends – a perfect send off to a great adventure!
We finally arrived in Cusco after a very early flight from
The trek was the best part of our trip. The hardest thing I’ve ever done (so far). We did not do the Inca Trail. We did the Lares Valley Trek. We were after something harder, more remote, less populated and less touristy. We got what we wanted. The day we started, it was drizzling, just a little bit. We pulled on our rain jackets and shouldered our 30lb packs. We could have gotten porters to carry our stuff, but we really wanted to try to do it the hard way. Plus, Mike & I are in training for a good chunk of the JMT so we definitely need to get used to the weight.
When it rains on dirt trails, it becomes muddy. Increasingly muddy. When animals run around on trails, they shit. So you end up hiking in muddy shit. Which is okay. When it drizzles really hard, it becomes rain. Rain makes you wet and cold. Rain jacket makes me over-heat. Overheating makes me want to barf, so it’s a delicate balance of ventilation and coverage. That too is okay, it’s just what it is. High altitude is difficult to breathe in. To hike in, it is downright painful. We started our hike at 12,139 feet. If you ever want to know what it would feel like to have your heart threatening to rip out of your own chest in a desperate attempt to keep beating, start on that muddy shitty uphill goat trail. You’ll find out, every 5 steps, as you have to stop to gasp for air.
We stopped for lunch near a lake. We were stunned at how unbelievably good the food was. Multi-course meals and they were some of the best food we’ve ever had. We kept hiking…Finished up at our night camp. Broke out the Jack Daniels (thank you Mike) and had it with our dinner & tea.
We woke up to blue skies and cold, cold air. We took off, feeling stronger and more capable. At least the shock value had worn off and we were feeling prepared for a day of hiking. We were doing great until lunch. It started clouding over. Putting the packs back on seemed painful. I felt off, tired, done, and my stomach was not feeling right. Regardless, we set off still optimistic about the blue in the sky. I remember crossing a river, and thinking we couldn’t be far off yet. We hadn’t yet reached the 14,763 foot high pass that we had to get through when it started to rain. Hard rain, cold rain, pelted our faces as we scrambled to cover ourselves with our ponchos. I had decided to forgo my rain jacket and just tie my poncho over. We pulled on wet gloves and kept going. I was having a really hard time. Rachel and I kept swapping leading each other. One of us strong while the other lagged. Mike kept waiting for us at the top of each hill or the corner of a curve. Encouraging us, keeping us moving. I remember it started hailing – and I just couldn’t believe it. Pea sized hail nailing me in the face. Covering the muddy/shitty ground with slippery white pebbles. I mean, really? Hail? Must we?! So swearing not so quietly, we kept going. I remember reaching the top of some hill. Barely. Thinking that it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. Thinking that I was done. Mike telling me that all I had to do was get up that hill and then it would be fine, easier, better somehow. I turned away from them as I got tears in my eyes. I was so pleased I had made it, so tired, so defeated but proud. Stupidly thinking, “Well, the hard part’s over”.
Thunder cracked behind us, and lighting a little too closely behind it. We looked at each other with a touch of panic. Being exposed on a trail in the middle of the
That night we celebrated with the rest of the Jack and laughed and joked and had a marvelous time! Our group was 7 girls, Mike and our guide Roberto. Mike, Rachel & I, Lori from
We wrapped up the last day with much less adventure and hopped on the train to Aguas Calientes – the base for
Onward to Puno & Lake Titicaca!!
Our nights in Puno were exceptionally nice. We spent each evening drifting from bars to restaurants sampling wine and tapas-style appetizers (ham, olives, bread, cheeses, etc…). Over much wine and good conversation, we passed a few nights in Puno collecting ourselves and enjoying our own company.
From Puno we got on a 6 hour bus ride to
Rachel & I had a lovely evening the night Mike was recovering and treated ourselves to a girl’s night out and a nice dinner! We went to the Santa Catalina Monastery which was well worth the short trip. Bright colors, vivid blues, stonework…. Really, just a good backdrop for awesome pics of ourselves =) haha! We spent that evening with a friend of a friend and ended up dining in a Trattoria in the monastery. We had intensely satisfying food & wine. I admit, I had too much wine. There, admitted it. I was a bit of an ass and barely escaped being chucked in the dirty pool by Mike. Anyways, moving right along…. We also had a great dinner at ZigZag and ate Alpaca (delicious).
Our final night in
So now, we are home. I practiced patience – in many ways. I focused on being here & now. I broke myself down and kept going. I feel like I peeled off a few more layers of the outside of me, to get down to the root of me. The trip reaffirmed that the only thing that matters is where I am at, the company with me and how fully I feel I am living. That the only thing that I own is my time. That the accounting of my time is what I need to be checking daily, not the accounting of my money, my stuff, my shit, etc…I realized that I am very happy. That I don’t need anything that I don’t have. I learned that what I need will be in my life when I need it, how I need it and that I can’t force my hand in things. I learned that I am in no hurry for anything, because I am right here, and right here is a beautiful place to be.