Monday, June 30, 2008

Still Alive in Peru

Our entire trip to Peru has now been reorganized so that it flows from the beginning to the end! This first entry is a general intro, the rest follow chronologically. Only the first 10 entries appear when you check into the blog, but if you click on the month of June, you'll get the entire trip.

What was I thinking? I knew that we were spending 16 days trekking in the Andes. I knew we'd be hiking 6 - 8 hours a day from 10k to 16k feet. Our friends Walt and Honoree had emailed us that they were running 6 miles a day and were at their optimum weight. "How were we doing?", they asked. NOT GOOD! was the answer. We had walked 3 - 5 miles a day in Cartagena, but the last month we spent in the islands off Columbia and Panama swimming and kyacking - and that's it, and at sea level.

Well I paid for this ommission in spades. Scott has never had any problem walking up mountains. His lung capacity is amazing - mine is horrible. I'm as slow as molasses at home walking up 6,000 ft. mountains. Basically for many hours each day I felt like I was in hard birthing labor - the breathing is the same for me. Breathe in, step; breathe out, step - legs exhausted and wobbley. Only will power and too many stops for rest kept me going. But we all made it in the end.

It was one of the hardest things I've ever done and one of the most memorable. We look forward to coming back and trekking again with Peruvian Andes Adventures! I can't say enough good things about this organization. See for yourself...go! ( Eli, our guide, and the rest of our crew were amazing, as you'll see if you read the details of our trip which follow.

Our reservations for this trip were made last fall, along with those for the Inca Trail (with SAS) and the train to Huancayo (with Incas de Peru). Other than that we winged it.
We flew to Lima on May 1 and met Honoree and Walt on the next day. On the 3rd we took a 8 hour bus to Huaraz and were met by Esau Morales from Peruvian Andes
Adventures. We stayed at the Morales Family Guesthouse (very comfortable and attractive!) for four nights while we did 3 day hikes to acclimitize.
Our first day we were off early that morning and WOW realization hit. This was an easy day, supposedly. I thought, "They're going to tell me I can't go!"

The next morning I asked Eli Morales, our guide, and his brother how I had done the day before. They laughed and said, "Today is the test!" Shit! It sure was. We hiked up to a hill above Huaraz of 14,500 feet in three hours of very steep rough climbing. Several times I thought I couldn´t go on, but Scott encouraged me. At the top I took Eli aside and asked him, ¨Do you think I can go on the trip?¨ He looked at me like I was crazy. ¨You - you´ll be fine.¨ It turns out that we made it to the top in normal time and down in even better.
The down affects people differently. Three or more hours steeply downhill is exhausting on the legs, especially the knees - but at least I could breathe. Years of skiing has strengthened Scott´s and my knees.

Our last day hike was 7 more hours of way up and way down with, at least for me, a fun breather doing some rock climbing, with ropes to help. That´s Walt here coming up the rope with Eli behind him.

The lake at the top was amazing. We had a father and daughter from the Dolmonite region of Italy with us this day. They didn't speak Italian! Their native language is Ladino and they also spoke English, Spanish and German.
The fourth day was the start of our trek. There were five of us clients, Geoff Spedding from British Columbia joined the four of us. Our team was composed of Eli Morales our guide, Roger, the.

¨sweep¨, Myoume Morales, our cook and Eli's sister, and her assistant, three donkey drivers and around 15 donkeys to start. We had a dining tent, a kitchen tent, three tents for the clients and three tents for the support team. Oh, and a toilet tent of course, which surrounded a deep hole in the ground, dug freshly at each location.

Our trek lasted 13 days and we crossed at least one pass each day, three were close to 16,000 feet and two were in snow. The people we met were equally
important to our enjoyment of the trip, especially the children. We brought candy, pens and notebooks with us to pass out to the children in the high mountains. We were kid magnets!

Walt and Honoree had a wedding anniversery on our trip and we had a terrific celebratory dinner. Myoume (that is her far right above

toasting our happy couple with Roger and Marcello) outdid herself, making a beautiful orange cake, decorated and with a candle! The dining tent was adorned with ballons and the meal was as always outstanding. We had a toast with wine too! Scott and I surprised them with a tapestry we had bought at the market.

After we returned from our hike we felt teary leaving these wonderful friends with whom we had shared such an amazing experiences. Additional entries follow with more details and pictures. But we, after this trek, were off again, back to Lima and then to many other places in Peru. Check out my further entries!

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