By Zachary Moses
This is the second in a series. Click HERE to read Part 1!
Day 3: Continues…
After checking into our Cusco hotel, we enjoyed a little free time. Outside of the hotel I saw a little girl stacking oranges in a café window across the street. She turned out to be the café owners’ daughter. She made a few recommendations and voila, a delicious fruit smoothie appeared. Gluten free strikes again! Peru is pretty awesome.
I finished my smoothie, met up with the group and headed to the village square. There was, of course, a Catholic Church. You cannot throw a stone in South America without hitting a Catholic Church. If you’ve never visited a Latin American church, I highly recommend it. I find the extra gruesome art inside fascinating. The South American Catholics take the sacrificial part of their doctrine very seriously!
This is our handsome group of “techies”. See the way we shield our eyes? We aren’t used to sunlight. The artificial light from our monitors and smart phones would never hurt us cyber vampires. However, this natural light is dangerous for us computer dependent millennials…
We roamed through the city touring several historical sites. The above image is one of the best examples I saw of Inca construction. Look how tightly these mortar-less stones fit together, phenomenal cut! Basically these rocks must have been carved with some mysterious other-worldly universe dew and harder chiseling rocks. Amazing right? The amount of skill necessary to create this structure is mind boggling.
However, back in those days I guess your choices for good jobs for a strong young man were to play sports and risk being sacrificed for losing, or carve rocks all day. The rock carvers definitely took the work seriously. Life was a lot simpler back then. Just a single meticulous but mindless task, and a blood soaked whip cracking across the back…Actually, it sounds a lot like Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco.
At the top of the mountain we found ruins of ancient Inca retaining walls. Local experts all have theories regarding the uses of these walls: Religion, government, sacrifice, gambling, etc. The list goes on. I guess this is another unanswerable life mystery. My guess is Coca leaves. I’m not sure how, but it’s got to be!
Day 4: Off to the Trail
Breakfast at our hotel was amazing! Just look at it; gluten-free cuisine. Honestly, I heard horror stories about gluten-free options in Peru, but luckily these were unfounded tales. My food experience has been nothing but pure loveliness. I usually have more drama about gluten at home.
After breakfast, we hit the road. Exiting the city, we saw more evidence of poverty in the outlying neighborhoods but that did not seem to affect the jovial spirit of the Peruvians. Although the trash service needs an upgrade the city’s ancient charm prevails.
At the first stop, our guide showed us gross sap-sucking parasites that were feeding on the prickly pear cacti. He removed a few bugs and smashed them claiming it was the local sunscreen. I smeared the vermilion paste under my eyes like a football player and was ready to hike at high noon.
With the bug guts on my face, I was finally ready for coffee: Coffee and the world.
About an hour later, we arrived at the trail-head. Everyone was very excited as they prepared for the trek! The temperature often drops as altitude increases, especially in the Andes, so it’s best to layer your clothes. You can tell that I’m an island guy by the lack of buttons on my shirt. The cold eventually forced some modesty, but I wasn’t hurrying that nonsense along.
The panoramic view was spectacular. The rugged mountain peaks made me nostalgic for my hometown, Salt Lake City, which is surrounded by the majestic Wasatch Mountains.
As we hiked our trail gave way to an old aqueduct system that still supplies melted glacial water to the surrounding communities. Modern Peru still utilizes many ancient techniques. Freeze-drying is an example of this and dates to the Incas who first invented it high up in the Andes.
Here we are traversing this engineering marvel. We moved carefully to avoid falling off the steep edges.
The air at this elevation was crisp and fresh. As we got higher, we felt the frigid winds blowing over the ice-capped mountains. It was particularly nice to feel the cold temperatures. Living in humid Key West with its sultry weather I’d forgotten how alive a cold breeze can make you feel!
When we arrived at the camp site, we found our tents already lovingly set out by fastidious porters. Whew, this was a happy surprise after our arduous hike! We were left with some much-needed Zen time.
The accompanying porters and mules made our hiking excursion a simple and convenient pleasure. Incredibly, I didn’t have to carry anything I didn’t want to. I only carried my water, camera, and jacket, leaving me free to enjoy the journey. This really is the best way to hike long distances!
We rested briefly and then continued hiking up the mountain with our expert guides, porters and pack mules. We arrived at a pristine glacial lake nestled among magnificent peaks. We spent the evening ceremoniously celebrating spirituality, nature, and handfuls of coca leaves: spectacular. What a wonderful place!
We always make it to the top![Click Here for Part 3]