Watertown Senior High School’s Survival Hike: Training for the Inca Trail

As is clear from my prior posts, Matt and I take full advantage of our life in the mountains and hike most weekends. But the truth is that I like walking far more than I like climbing up and down mountains. That said, when Matt, our friend Carl and Carl’s brother Mark decided they were tackling the 4-day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu, I decided that I would regret not hiking more than I may end up regretting hiking the trail. We shall see if that proves to be true come early October.

The last time I did an overnight hiking/camping trip was in 1984. Yes, 30 YEARS ago. Watertown (WI) Senior High School had this bizarre right of passage reserved for a select group of decent students: Survival Hike. Led by biology teachers Carlos Alvarez and Dan Herbst (I think another teacher, Tim Gifford was also along for the ride my year), Survival Hike occurred the summer after sophomore year and involved 5 days of trekking up to 20 miles per day in Northern Wisconsin with the “treat” of white water canoeing on the 6th day. The catch, apart from the fact that we carried our own gear, bushwhacked trails, were eaten alive by mosquitos and camped every night: no food. Actually, in the early years food was allowed. First, groups were given $20 to buy provisions for the week. By the time my sister, Mick, went on the hike, provisions totaling a few hundred calories were provided and included a dog biscuit and chocolate. Six years later, we were given nothing – we only ate what we foraged or caught. A few years later, the hike was discontinued.

To this day, I have no idea why our parents allowed Mick or me to participate in Survival Hike. We were not an outdoorsy family and never camped. My mom considered it part of her martyrdom that our vacations were at a cottage with an outhouse. I was not athletic and didn’t own any gear; my mom borrowed a pair of hiking boots that were a size too big for me from a friend’s daughter and I have no idea where my pack came from. Apart from some city walking (we had actually moved to Wauwatosa during my sophomore year but I was given a special exemption to go on the hike, probably because my dad played baseball with Mr. Herbst), I didn’t train at all and never carried a pack.

But I survived. Oh, I whined and probably cried, and threw up when the only thing we found to eat for the entire trip were unripe apples and raspberries (to this day I despise raspberries) on the first day, got about 50 mosquito bites and several blisters, hiked in the rain (I hate wet grass), and lost 15 pounds in 6 days, but I did it. I still don’t exactly understand why I did it, but I have some great memories from the trek: like when two of the guys had to share my friend Katie and my tent because they lost their tent poles and then one of the guys slept walked during a thunderstorm and knocked our tent down. You can imagine the ensuing teenage-girl hysteria. Or when some other kids were getting sent home due to health issues and Mr. Alvarez gave me the option to leave (I really was whining that much) and I made the decision to stay. I like to think that I stopped whining quite so much after that point, but that may be wishful thinking. Or the fact that a guy from Mick’s year, who cried and blamed her when their canoe tipped in the rapids, came along on my year (I think he was doing a bit for NPR) and acted all cool, college-guy when I knew the truth – he just wanted redemption. Plus, it was in the days where your parents signed some waiver and then you got to do totally dangerous, unhealthy things AT YOUR OWN RISK and they didn’t check up on you during the week. And it was long before cell phones so you were in the moment doing what you were doing (hiking! starving!) and not taking pictures and posting every two minutes or calling your parents (or your sister to tell her that cry-baby guy was on your trip although that would have been fun). In fact, I don’t have a single picture from the trip although I am sure someone took a few that I would love/cringe to see.

So with that questionable history, I am signed up for the 4-day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu. Compared to Survival Hike, it should be a piece of cake: no bushwhacking, porters to carry the heavy gear, good meals made by the camp cook, decent hiking boots, 26.5 miles over the course of 4 days and no white-water canoeing. But the reality is that the altitude is a killer for many people, the hike is very steep both in ascents and descents, and I am 30 years older. This time, though, I am training and Matt and I have stepped up our weekend hikes to add more altitude. I am even carrying my daypack despite the fact that Matt is usually my porter on our hikes. So maybe my whining will be kept to a minimum on this hike although be warned Matt, Carl and Mark – I am not promising anything.

Gorgeous Gocta Falls

The third day of our weekend road trip (see http://kerryedwyer.com/2014/07/01/roadtripping/ and http://kerryedwyer.com/2014/07/02/kuelap-the-city-in-the-clouds/) was hands down my favorite – we didn’t set foot in the van. Instead we embarked on a fantastic hike from our lodge to the Gocta Falls. We were warned that the hike was challenging and took 2  1/2 hours each way. It was challenging, but with Kevin’s coaching we managed to do it in closer to 4 hours including about a 1/2 hour at the base of the falls. In order to support the local economy, we hired a guide although he unfortunately didn’t tell us much of interest. It was interesting, however, to first walk through farm fields, then woods and finally arrive at the falls. It was absolutely beautiful and I realized how much I miss water. Living in the mountains is great, but the river that runs through Baños is not impressive, so to hear the sound of rushing water and to catch glimpses of it through the trees was magical. We didn’t see wildlife with the exception of hordes of beautiful butterflies. I have never seen so many different types of butterflies in their natural environment. Unfortunately we couldn’t capture their beauty on film, but this tag-a-long hitched a 45 minute ride on my pants leg.

Hitchhiker

Hitchhiker

I had to walk funny to avoid smooshing him and he flitted away at the base of the falls.

I brought our swimsuits because I was determined to take a dip when I arrived at the base of the falls. I chickened out. The frigid water, strong winds and jagged rocks were my somewhat valid excuse. The roar of the falls and their power was incredible.

The hike back to the lodge has a very long uphill stretch and we huffed and puffed our way through it. Once at the lodge I relaxed in the icy cold pool to make up for my wimpiness at the Falls. It was cold – Matt didn’t make it all the way in – but I loved it. We had a wonderful afternoon of cocktails and lunch by the pool and games on the terrace.

Reward

Reward

 

The next day we left the lodge at 7 am to head back to Cajamarca. We stopped for gas at the local gas station – someone’s house! The proprietress hauled out gas in 5 gallon pails and filled up the tank with a funnel.

Our drive home was not uneventful. Shortly after filling up the tank, we were on the “decent” road running alongside the river. We pulled over to the edge of the steep embankment on the river side to let a large truck pass on the mountain side when WHACK! We were hit?! My mind tried to process how that could be true given our precarious position on the embankment, but when I looked out my window, sure enough, there was a car. Thankfully, the car was stuck, all four wheels spinning and off the ground, on a large rock. Had the rock not stopped the car, it would have plummeted into the river. Unbelievable how reckless and stupid the driver was and how lucky. Thankfully, the rest of our drive was without incident. We kept our stops to a minimum, and arrived after the road construction in Celendín was done for the day, so we shaved 2 hours off our time and arrived home in 10 hours.

I am thrilled that we made the trip, particularly that it is a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Kuelap for me because of the horrible road. Now if they build that tram that is being considered it could be another story, but a tram across the valley may be as terrifying as the road.

Kuelap – The City in the Clouds

The closed eyes, earbuds and raft-envisioning (http://kerryedwyer.com/2014/07/01/roadtripping) aren’t working. We are about 2 hours into the ride to Kuelap from Gocta Falls, a ride that we thought would last only two hours, and Kuelap is nowhere in sight. Well, actually it is, but we aren’t looking in the right place as we don’t know yet that we will wind up, down and around the same canyon for an hour and half before we get there.

I seriously consider whether I want to get out of the van and wait for them to come back for me. But then I realize that I will be left on the road that is causing my panic and will likely get run off a cliff by a passing truck. When we arrived at the Gocta Lodge the prior night, I thought the worst roads of the trip were behind us, until we returned to Cajamarca that is, and the first hour and a half of the drive to Kuelap retraced a less-terrifying part of the prior day’s trip. Then we hit the turn off for Kuelap and started down the narrow dirt road that is considered one of the most dangerous in Peru.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, here is video proof.

About 45 minutes into the dirt-road portion of our drive, we stop in the tiny hamlet of Choctamal for some liquid courage. I am not the only traveler fearing the roads, just the most vocal. The proprietresses could not be nicer and the 3 year old is a sweetie. The ladies laugh at me when I confide that I am petrified of the road and reassure me the road is fine. But we are all disappointed when they tell us we have 45 minutes to go.

I am more relaxed after a few shots from a $2 bottle of rum. And then we hit a rock road block. Just a pile of medium sized rocks in a line across the road right before a curve. Fearing thieves, a few of the guys get out of the van to remove the rocks while the rest of us keep watch. We round the curve and confront a large mound of rocks blocking the road. Now more concerned, the men get out and Miguel asks two passing kids what is going on. The kids say it is a prank by some other kids and help remove the rocks. We give them some coins for their efforts as we had passed them on the road and don’t think they did it. We pass a few more small towns and the reward is in sight: Kuelap.

Kuelap is amazing – it is exactly the place I would have loved to play in as a child. Within the terraced site are 420 circular, 1 square and 4 rectangular buildings. Houses, trees, paths, the view, the mystery…for me, a big part Kuelap’s charm is its unanswerable questions. Why was it built? While originally considered a fortress, due to its mountaintop location, walled perimeter (60 feet high in parts) and three, narrow entrances, it is now generally considered to be a residential complex, but no one knows why the walls exist. How did they make it? Getting those huge rocks to the top of a mountain was no easy feat. Who made it and when? It is believed to be constructed in several phases, beginning in the 6th century and ending several hundred years later, by the Chachapoyas, the Cloud People, but no one is really sure from where the Chachapoyas originated. Instead of pondering these questions too much, we just wander about and enjoy the experience.

If you want to learn more about where Kuelap is situated, read this description from the visitor center. Or just skip to the pictures.

Kuelap summary

Kuelap summary

 

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The ride back seems less terrifying, but as I want to be off the dirt road before dark, we don’t stop to visit our friends in Choctamal although they wave to us as we pass. We also encounter two more rock road blocks and as we arrive at the second one, two young guys on a motorcycle ride up behind us. They converse the entire time our party removes the rocks and we are not sure whether they intended to rob us and decide we outnumber them or the fact that we didn’t leave our van unattended and two of us are staring at them while the others move the rocks deters them. Regardless of whether they were the culprits, the experience increases our desire to get back to the Lodge to relax. We enjoy a nice dinner and then sit outside and star gaze. I see 5 shooting stars and, of course, use all my wishes for a safe journey back to Cajamarca!

Next: The Fantastic Hike to Gocta Falls

Roadtripping

My eyes are screwed shut, my earbuds are playing happy tunes and I am trying to pretend that the jolting motion of the van is the cottage raft swaying gently on the waves. Welcome to a Peruvian Road trip.

Loading the Van

Loading the Van

We are trying to make the most of our time in Peru and decided to take advantage of the 4-day Corpus Christi holiday with a trip to Kuelap and Gocta Falls. Kuelap is an ancient stone complex, the largest in South America, that pre-dates Machu Picchu and is perched 3,000 meters above sea level on ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley. Peru is attempting to make Kuelap the next Machu Picchu of tourist destinations and as we live relatively close to it, we decided it was worth the trip. Near Kuelap is Gocta Falls, which by some accounts is the 3rd highest waterfall in the world (apparently there is some controversy over how to measure the heights of waterfalls). So together with fellow Americans Mistina, Teresa, Kevin and Kristen, our Spanish friend Miguel and our Peruvian driver Adderly, we set off early on Thursday morning for the anticipated 10 hour drive through the Andes Mountains.

Those of you who know me know that I DESPISE car rides. I barely tolerate the 5-hour drive to Northern Wisconsin from Milwaukee and have sent Matt off with his friend Pete on road trip adventures. Peruvian roads are notoriously dangerous and before we arrived here, every week Matt would read some story of a bus or van plummeting off a cliff. It quickly became evident why.

The first hour of the trip was pretty good, the views were gorgeous and I was beginning to be lulled into thinking my life wasn’t in danger. Then we hit road construction and were told we had to return to Cajamarca and take the long way, which would add 4 hours onto our trip. Miguel sprung into action, collected our ID cards and somehow managed to convince the road crew to let us through because we were American tourists. Shockingly, we didn’t even have to grease any palms to make that happen. But we did get stuck behind machinery and had a very slow drive to Celendín.

Three hours into our trip, we took a short, necessary break.

Potty Break

Potty Break

After Celendín the roads narrowed and lost all pretense of handling two-way traffic. Thankfully Adderly is young and has his whole life ahead of him so he was a very cautious driver. It also helped that he had excellent reflexes and apparently a strong thumb as he had to toot the horn on every curve to make sure we didn’t get run off the road.

In addition to the traffic there were also animal impediments.

The roads got worse and worse and every time I opened my eyes it appeared we were plummeting off a cliff. We finally took a late lunch break in Leymebamba. It apparently has a wonderful museum, but we still had 3 hours to go until we arrived at Gocta Lodge so we had to pass on the museum.

The roads between Leymebamba and Gocta Falls were actually not terrible and toward the end we were on a decent one along the river. And by decent I mean that it was paved, slightly wider and had signs warning us of falling rocks.

Twelve hours after leaving our house, we arrived at Gocta Lodge in the dark (sunset in Peru is around 6:30) and after settling in we broke open the wine and snacks for a well-deserved happy hour. The next morning, we awoke to these beautiful views.

Little did we know that our relaxation would be short lived as we had the most harrowing drive of all ahead of us!

Next up: Kuelap.

Another Sunday, Another Beautiful Walk in the Country

Matt, Mistina and I set off for Llacanora on Sunday afternoon with the goal of finding the waterfalls near the town.  Matt and I had previously embarked on this trip but were sidetracked by the cave art of Callac Puma.  A worthy diversion, but this time we wanted to reach the waterfalls.  Mistina, a teacher from Nebraska, was game to join us and was tasked with keeping us on track to our final destination.  What a great time!  It was about a 5 mile walk on picturesque country roads from our house to the small town of Llacanora.  Once in Llacanora, we saw a sign for the waterfalls, but the directions subsequently became unclear so we kept asking everyone we saw, which included a guy walking down the street, an old lady minding a store, a lady who was actually there to go to the falls for the first time and didn’t know where to go either (we told her once we found out) and a couple of guys getting drunk sitting outside a shop (on our return trip, one guy was passed out and the other had inexplicably removed his shirt). You follow the the road above Llacanora and eventually turn left down an unmarked dirt path.  It’s about another kilometer to the first falls.  We never figured out what is referenced by the 1000 meters on the sign – perhaps the turn off.

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Once on the path, we knew we were on the right track as we passed “tourist restaurants” and knick-knack stores.  Eventually, it became even more obvious due to the amount of other people enjoying a day in the countryside. The paths were well traveled and generally easy to navigate.  We arrived at Hembra Falls and were impressed.

Hembra Falls

Hembra Falls

We kept climbing upward and eventually arrived at the even more spectacular Macho Falls, which are about 30 meters high.  Due to their size, we couldn’t get a photo of the entire falls with our i-phones.

On our way back, we decided to walk on the other side of the river.  We arrived at this aqueduct, which we either needed to cross or go back down and around  to cross the river.  Mistina mustered up her courage and went across.

Brave MistinaI took one step and chickened out.  A man standing below starting shouting up words of encouragement and succeeded in shaming me into crossing.  I started across in a most undignified fashion as my coach yelled specific instructions (in Spanish) to me.  I froze at the wire I had to step over, a maneuver that required me to actually stand up a little.

Pathetic Kerry with Cheerleader

Pathetic Kerry with Cheerleader

Under the direction of my drill sargent, I made it across and then Matt came skipping over.  Okay, maybe he wasn’t skipping, but he certainly had no fear – note that he is walking on the edges of the aqueduct and not with his feet in the middle!

Fearless Matt

Fearless Matt

Matt Crossing

Matt Crossing

We left Llacanora, but not before watching two little kids zoom down a steep hill on a skateboard.  The younger one clearly wanted us as an audience and gave a little wave as they set off and then again upon arriving at the bottom.  Super cute. We headed back on the road to Baños and stopped at one of the restaurants along the way.  These “campestre” or countryside restaurants are very popular and usually open only on the the weekends.  They generally have large grounds with play areas for kids, huge tables set up under multiple pavilions and a nice, family feel.  We chose one that in a valley that had about 50 cars in the parking lot and cheerful music and felt we made the right choice when Matt and Mistina saw several of their students with their families.  We only had one glitch when the waiter tried to seat us in a table off in a alcove.  I think he meant it kindly, but nobody puts these gringos in the corner and we asked to sit with the rest of the clientele, a request that was granted.  Unfortunately, they were out of about half of the items on the menu as we arrived around 3:00, but Misitina had fried trout, Matt had grilled beef and I had a delicious stewed kid (as in baby goat, people!) dish.  We ended our meal with picarones, fried squash/sweet potato doughnuts, and as we had already walked about 7 miles, walked back up to the road and caught a cab home!

Kiddie table

Kiddie table

The Birds and the Beach (Vacation Part VI)

The two main draws for tourism in Paracas are the Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve, and neither was a disappointment.  The Ballestas Islands, dubbed the “poor man’s Galapagos,” are a group of rocky islands teeming with birds.  Those with ornithophobia beware: the pelicans, terns, boobies, and cormorants are everywhere, swooping, gliding, diving, soaring, cawing, trilling, tweeting and pooping.  Oh yes, pooping.  We were forewarned to wear hats and while the trip ended with only a small splatter on Matt’s sleeve, others in our boat weren’t as lucky. Guano is a big cash crop for Peru and the islands have a guard to protect the poop.

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In addition to the flying birds are Humboldt penguins and sea lions. As an added bonus, the boats pass the Paracas Candelabra, another gigantic sand figure, believed to date to around 200 BC.

The day after the Ballestras we toured the Paracas National Reserve.  I really had no idea what the reserve was and assumed the tour was to see animals of some kind, but I was wrong (except for a few seabirds).  Instead we saw amazing yellow and red sand beaches.  Poor Paracas – when it was hit by the earthquake in 2007 its landmark, a rock formation called the Cathedral toppled into the ocean.  The guide still points it out, but now it is just a couple of rocks jutting up from the ocean.  In addition to guano, another Peruvian marine export is seaweed for cosmetics, and we saw men in wet suits exiting the ocean with bags of seaweed.  We met Peter and Annie, a couple from London who now live in the Falklands, on the excursion and joined them for a few drinks at the upscale Doubletree after the tour.  (Check out Peter’s blog at http://www.peterspenguinpost.blogspot.com.)  All in all, a pleasant day!

Last stop on the Paracas Tour: Tambo Colorado

An Unexpected Adventure

The beauty about living in Peru is that we have plenty of time to see and explore to our hearts’ content.  As a result, we can deviate from our plans knowing that there will be another time to see or do what we originally intended.  It is a wonderful feeling and on Friday we put it into action with a fantastic result.

It was the Saint Rose of Lima holiday, which doesn’t mean a whole lot to us except that Matt didn’t have school (and no volunteering for me).  We wanted to get outside and enjoy the day and after some deliberation decided to walk about 3 ½ miles to a small town in the mountains, Llacanora.  There are also some waterfalls near Llacanora and we thought it would be fun to take a leisurely walk there, eat lunch somewhere and walk back.

We set off and were not disappointed.  10 minutes from our house we were on a road in the mountains.  The views were spectacular and the air was fresh.

About 2 ½ miles into the trip we saw this sign:

The Adventure Begins

The Adventure Begins

“Pictures, that sounds interesting,” we thought and decided that a 450 foot hike up the mountain was probably worth it.  There was a decent path and we quickly came upon a house where a hip-looking guy was climbing a rope spider web, which seemed quite out of place.  We greeted one another and then because the path looked unclear, we asked him if we were headed the right way.  He confirmed that we were and urged us to forge ahead and said there were beautiful views.  He and the woman in the yard were laughing, not in a mean way but in the “silly Americans” way, so we continued on.

We realized that we didn’t know what we were looking for, so I did a quick google search and learned there are caves and ancient rock art on the site.  We hiked about and eventually saw some fantastic rock art that apparently dates back to between 8,000-5,000 BC.

The paths were hit and miss, but it wasn’t as difficult as the climbing at Cumbemayo.  After an hour or so of hiking we decided to head home so we would have time for lunch before our appointment with a new plumber.  (No surprise.  He didn’t show up.) But we will definitely return to this incredible site again, prepared with a picnic lunch and a full day at our disposal to explore the larger caves, which we never found.

Idiot Art

Idiot Art

Once home I did some research on Callacpuma or Puma Orco (Puma Hill), but didn’t find a whole lot.  It is a designated archeological site and there is concern over damage being done to the pictures and people adding their own “rock art” to the site.  Callacpuma isn’t referenced in any of our guidebooks and doesn’t seem to be much of a tourist attraction, which makes us even happier that we found it.  The rock art extends over 3 square kilometers, so we have plenty more to explore.  I also researched whether pumas still live in the area as at one point we heard a noise that sounded like a big cat roar and I joked about mountain lions, not realizing the name of the site we were visiting.  This morning we had breakfast with Maribel and she told us the the place is considered sacred ground and most people go in March when it is believed the spirits don’t mind you are there.  She also said there aren’t any wild animals left in the area.  Perhaps we heard a Puma Spirit!

Picnic with Peruvians

I was invited by a teacher at Matt´s school to go on an outing last Sunday. As she graciously insisted on collecting me at our house despite needing to take a bus to do so, Matt and I prepared an American bacon and eggs breakfast for Maribel and her 15-year-old daughter Nicole before we headed out. I ended up on a fantastic group outing to Cumbe Mayo, an archeological site about 30 minutes outside of Cajamarca. I did my research on Cumbe Mayo after I returned home and learned that it was a pre-Incan aqueduct built in approximately 1500 BC. Almost more impressive than the ancient feat of engineering is the natural beauty of volcanic rock formations referred to as “the Stone Monks.” The site also has petroglyphs, but I didn’t know to look for any on this visit. Next time!

First Glimpse

Upon leaving our house, my adventure started with my first bus ride in Peru. Buses are really oversized vans and as we didn’t exactly know how they operate, we were too chicken to try one. I learned that the fare is 80 soles anywhere on the route and you pay when you get off. Because the bus was traveling too slowly and we were late, we hopped off and jumped into a moto-taxi, another first for me. We arrived at Maribel’s sister’s house (Yodi, short for Yolanda, I think) because we were going with Yodi, her boyfriend Fabi and her 6 year-old-daughter Kiera (pronounced in a Peruvian fashion that I never quite figured out) to meet some friends and head to Cumbe Mayo. We piled in Fabi’s SUV, stopped to pick up Maribel´s 13-year-old son, Kevin (named after the Macaulay Culkin Home Alone character, honest to god), and headed out of town.

Sort of. Despite the fact that Maribel and Yodi are native Cajamarquinas, they gave Fabi, who is from Lima, wrong directions. We were in a large SUV climbing winding, narrow streets to go up and over the hill to get out of town. We cruised around a corner, zoomed down a street, barely missing dogs and pedestrians, and Dead End. Fabi had to back up the SUV and honestly I am not sure we didn’t hit something on the way out. But he was an excellent driver and for all the near misses, I wasn’t fearing for my life. Perhaps I have Tommy to thank for training me as a passenger (if I yelled to slow down, he sped up. He got Mom´s car airborne and “buried the speedometer” on one memorable ride to teach me not to be a back seat driver! Matt should thank him.).

We made it out of the city and met up with a couple, a dad and young son and another guy. All very nice but I never managed to get anyone’s name. We set off on the country roads to Cumbe Mayo. The view was stunning the higher we climbed into the mountains and we ended at about 11,800 feet, which is 3,000 feet higher than Cajamarca. Nicole, like her mother, speaks very good English, so the ride went quickly as she asked me to teach her some slang (“no bad words!” decreed by Maribel) and looked at the music and pictures on my iPhone. I did get nervous when we pulled over and Yodi took the wheel. “She´s learning to drive,” Maribel explained. To us that would be learning to drive on the road to Pike’s Peak in Colorado! But I realized that this winding, rutted, dirt road with no guardrails probably is safer than learning in Cajamarca where driving is a blood sport.

Our plan for Cumbe Mayo was to hike around, have a picnic and enjoy the day. And that is exactly what we did. The entry to the site starts with a descent down a path complete with stairs to the base of one of the rock formations. At that point you basically can wander around at will. There are some paths, but, as we later learned, you can also just forge your own. The path we initially chose quickly had us going though a very narrow cave. At one point it is completely dark, which is horrible sensation when you have no idea how big the cave is and are also worried about getting stuck!

We all made it and hiked for about an hour or so before stopping for a picnic lunch at a big stone slab in the midst of a flat, grassy area. One guy joked that the slab was the site of ancient sacrifices, but perhaps he wasn’t joking given the history of the site. The men unloaded their backpacks and everyone set to preparing lunch: hamburgers, Peruvian style. Delicious rolls, pre-cooked patties (I tried not to think about how long these patties had been unrefrigerated as it was at least 3 hours by my count), lettuce, tomatoes and shoe string potatoes. The final addition is typical in Peru, as were the condiment choices, including several ajís. There were multiple kinds of fruit juices and mandarins as well. It was really delicious and the view and fresh air were wonderful. I didn’t even freak out over the stray dogs that circled us like wolves as soon as the food appeared. I could only follow about 50% of the conversation, but that was fine and it was a great way to improve my comprehension. Because this is Peru, the boy had a soccer ball along so our lunch site was perfect for the post-lunch soccer game (I watched), apart from all of the aqueducts that the ball kept falling into.

Eventually we set out again but after about 30 minutes the couple and Kiera decided they had enough of hiking and would wait for us while we ascended a peak. Once we hit the top, Fabi suggested we go “up and around” instead of backtracking. After much yelling down the mountain, it was determined that the rest of the party understood that we would meet them at the car. Our “up and around” adventure began. We went up and then started around, losing sight of the parking lot and our bearings. Eventually Maribel took control and led us in the direction of a woman with cows. By the time we got there, the woman and cows were long gone but two young boys were there. After much discussion, it was determined that we needed to go around a little more and then could descend. An easy task for two boys who live on the mountain, but more challenging for us.

In parts the terrain was overgrown grass with holes everywhere. Yodi fell and twisted her ankle at one point, but thankfully could still limp along. Once that part ended we hit the precipice. After much observation and the realization that if we didn’t go down we were going to have to walk several additional miles around, we headed down. This terrain was mossy rocks, with grassy holes around the rocks. My thighs have just recovered from crab walking down!

We all made it and after a terse discussion with a farmer whose field we needed to cross, eventually we hit the path and were back to the car park where the couple and Kiera were waiting. Everyone was tired so we said some quick goodbyes and headed home. The drive was crazy. Honestly, forget Mario Kart there should be a video game called Peruvian Roadkill. We had near misses with yoked oxen, cows, turkeys, chicken, sheep, dogs and pedestrians. All in all a great day!

The Walk to Matt’s School

It is hard to describe the 4-mile route to Matt’s school, which we walked a few times in anticipation of his daily “commute” in an effort to find the most direct route to a non-direct place.  We found a good route and Matt has walked every day to school thus far and catches a cab home.  You can check out his blog to see some great sunrise pictures and video showing the start to his day.  http://mattgeiger.blogspot.com/

We start, obviously, at our house in Baños del Inca and walk through the town.  Baños is small –we can easily walk around the entire town – and was the center of the expat community when there were more expats in the area.  Houses are crowded close together and, like ours, generally run right up to the sidewalk. The main street in town has countless tiny shops and restaurants on one side and a market and main square/park on the other.  We have become accustomed to walking around here, which was an adventure in and of itself at first.  Sidewalks suddenly end or have large holes or random steps here and there, and piles of rocks pop up in the way.  We have become pretty adept at navigating around Baños but still remain vigilant to avoid a broken ankle.

We rent the first two floors of our house.  Our neighbor’s entrance is on the adjacent side and then they go up the outside stairs to the third floor.  Maricarmen, her baby daughter and mother live there and are very nice.  Conveniently, Maricarmen’s husband is Mexican and while he is currently working out of town, she speaks English as a result!

Once out of Baños we take the walking path along Avenue Atahualpa, which is the main road between Baños and Cajamarca.  The path is decent and well used by walkers and joggers, and it would be a nice walk if not for the large amount of traffic (much diesel) on the road.

After about 1 1/3 miles is the turn off to Bella Union – a tiny hamlet.  At first glance, the road doesn’t look much worse than Av. Atahualpa, but come the rainy season it will be a rutted mess.

Matt taking the road to Bella Union

Now we are in the country.  A few cars go down this road, but not many, and we pass many farm families and countless animals.  The natural aspect is quite pretty and pastoral, but we wonder how these people live apparently so behind the times.  Just as we think that, a house will have DirectTV or a nice car in front of it.  This is my favorite part of the walk although the countless dogs make me nervous.  I would like to do this walk on my own, but am not sure that I will feel comfortable doing so without Matt.

After about another 1 1/3 miles we turn on a road that runs adjacent to the airport.  This road is well paved, but a nightmare to walk due to all the traffic.  We tried walking against the traffic, as taught in Wisconsin, and with the traffic, as they seem to do here, and neither makes for a safe-feeling walk.  We pass a large piece of Caterpillar equipment on this road, and the first time by we stopped to take a picture to send to Tommy.  Suddenly two dogs came running toward us, barking and teeth bared.  Thankfully a passing motorcyclist beeped at the dogs and they ran away.  The next time we didn’t linger but noticed that indeed the two dogs were guarding the Cat.Cat and Dog Airport

The airport road ends at Hoyas Rubio, which is the street with Matt’s school and finally we are back on a sidewalk for the last part of the walk.  If I could manage to get out of bed to leave at 5:50 am, I could join Matt on the the country part of the walk each day, but anyone who knows me that isn´t going to happen!

Davy College