The Peruvian Adventure, Part 3: The Inca Trail

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Day 1

  • The Samsung Galaxy S8 QA device I borrowed from work to use as a camera on this trip takes fabulous pictures.
  • The two French Canadian couples on this trip are very boisterous.
  • There’s popcorn as a pre-dinner snack? Popcorn? I love popcorn! This is the most familiar and comforting food I have had since arriving in Peru.
  • I’m regretting not having a 30L backpack instead of my 22L backpack. Then again, I know that if I had a bigger backpack, I’d have packed more crap in it.
  • On the subject of crap, I feel constipated.
  • The whole situation of having Porters is a little bit uncomfortable for me: I don’t understand why the Porters clap for us when we arrive at our lunchtime or dinnertime campsites. They’ve worked a whole lot harder than any of us: we’re merely carrying our layers and water (and huffing and puffing our way through it) while they’re hauling 50+ pounds of tents, groceries, duffels (while flying up and down the mountain. Seriously though. They don’t walk. They fly). There’s also an uncomfortable segregation of language, culture, race, money, nationality. I know all the Porters are being paid and that this is their livelihood, but it is weird having these people cook for us, carry our things, and set up/take down our tents. Maybe I’m just used to being self-sufficient in things like these and have a hard time letting myself be taken care of. Maybe I’m just overly attuned to the fact that I’m visiting from the US and I’m feeling colonialist-imperialist guilt.
  • I should not have had the caffeinated cinnamon-clove tea before bed. I have a hard enough time sleeping in tents and this just has me wired.
  • Someone is snoring very loudly. It is going to be a long night.

Day 2

  • Coca tea isn’t a bad way to wake up in the morning. It definitely takes the edge off of the 5AM wake-up and the fact that we will be hiking for 7 hours.
  • I had a dream about one of my exes in a setting that was a cross between a high-end restaurant in Boston and a cruise ship. He was playing Pictionary with new friends (surprising, because he was fairly antisocial) and he said he didn’t want to be friends with me. This broke my heart in my sleep because he had seen a total of two friends socially in the nine months we were together and because, in our breakup conversation, he said I had become his best friend (I said the same). I woke up reminded of the fact that I was surrounded by couples and married people on my trip — only the three young Swedish and Norwegian girls and I were single.
  • My leg, though twinging with some pain from the judo injury I got last Saturday, doesn’t get in the way of the ascent. I feel like a Mountain Goat going up the mountain to Dead Woman’s Pass, even though I feel like a snail getting down to our campsite. I narrowly avoid rolling my ankle — thank goodness for hiking poles.
  • I wish I felt constipated. My bowel movements are starting to scare me with their unfamiliar texture and color and I am glad I have a tent to myself so no one else needs to endure the gas situation.
  • I didn’t have any altitude sickness since coming to Peru, but I do have a slight headache today. I think it’s more from dehydration and powering through this leg of the hike as quickly as possible and practically without stopping.
  • Ali, the 49-year-old guy from Oman who is from a different tour but is doing the descent with me, is a really nice guy. I also had no idea there was good hiking in Oman. I hope I could do this hike again when approaching 50 years on the earth, but I’m not sure if my knees will be able to take it.
  • I am not a hiker, but jiu-jitsu made my conditioning top notch for this trip. If anything I am becoming more out of shape by being on this trail instead of doing my usual grappling workout. At least I am not being completely sedentary and just sitting and drinking on a beach. Also, there is no way I could have done this hike a year ago from an athletic perspective (or even a few years ago, when I hiked Mt. Washington in 2014), so I am proud of myself.
  • The songs in my head on the trail are Imagine Dragons’ ‘Believer,’ Luis Fonsi and Demo Lovato’s ‘Echame la culpa,’ and Lil Wayne’s ‘Right Above It.’
  • I’m a little more about the destination than I am about the journey — I just want to be at camp and rest and at Machu Picchu and be done and relaxing at the wedding resort in Paracas. Is that such a bad thing?
  • Card games cross nations. We all end up playing the card game BS, (which the Canadians call “Cheat”) before dinner and laugh our way through lying to each other about the cards we have.

Day 3

  • I don’t think I could travel for 7 weeks, like some of the folks on my trek. It’s too long for me to be away from home.
  • I miss vegetables. I am sick of the overly salty and sweet food. I am bloated and confused. I think my food is being heavily gluten-contaminated, even though the porters know about my dietary restrictions
  • I am glad there is only one more night of camping. Camping is a means to this end of seeing Machu Picchu. I don’t think I actually enjoy camping.
  • I am grateful for sustaining no injuries on the descent today.
  • Sometime the day before someone had brought up the song Despacito. I wake up in the middle of the night and started crying about my breakup: one memorable moment of the relationship was learning the full Spanish lyrics to Despacito in my ex’s car on the way back from a birthday day trip to Maine and New Hampshire.
  • There is no way I am going to see these bonus ruins. I need to get to a passable bathroom, stat, otherwise the types of sh*t on the trail will go from being purely horse and donkey and llama to human.
  • If you ever wondered what an emergency toilet was, it’s basically a tent with a fake “bowl” with a garbage bag people pee or poop into.
  • My boot soles are peeling off. I calculate that I have owned these boots for 9.5 years (since freshman year outdoor orientation in college) but have used them no more than 5 times.
  • On Llamas
  • Finally, I see llamas. They’re adorable. One is named Doris.
  • The ruins near our camp were inspiring and spectacular and had even more llamas roaming. I almost fell and injured myself out of excitement to see more llamas.
  • Llamas cluck like chickens. Who knew?
Hey, buddies!

Day 4

  • The 2:30AM wakeup isn’t so bad because I barely slept last night, being in the tent next to the 20 Porters.
  • I am glad we got to the Machu Picchu checkpoint at 3:30AM so we could get a seat and didn’t have to stand in the rain without an awning over our heads.
  • My “breakfast” was an RxBar and a Peruvian lollipop with bubblegum in the middle. Breakfast of champions right here.
  • Thank God the porters had superglue to glue my boots back together last night. I’d have tripped in the hustle to Machu Picchu if they hadn’t been repaired.
  • The Sun Gate is pretty much a Cloud Gate. So much for a picturesque sunrise view of Machu Picchu.
  • I am excited to be in a hotel tonight with easy access to toilets if I have to pee in the middle of the night.
  • I was ready to get this whole Machu Picchu picture and get over with it all. But once I got there, it was genuinely awestruck. Seeing something so old, that has survived for centuries of weather and wear, can’t help but inspire you with a sense of reverence. It’s not like looking at a cathedral in a city either, where all the pieces are protected and cohere into a city unit. These blocks built into raw, green are humble and brilliant. After four days of trekking through mountain, jungle, beach, the scene here feels lush and inviting.
  • This wasn’t the Pacific Crest Trail, but this is as close to being Cheryl Strayed and living Wild as I’ve ever gotten.
  • Instead of buying a bathing suit and sandals and renting a towel to go to the hot springs in Aguas Calientes, I got reflexology, which turned out to be a waist-down hour-long massage. I cried because it hurt so much, in a good way. I wasn’t even mad that I probably got ripped off at 60 soles, but 20 USD for a massage is still at my willingness to pay.
  • After the massage and before group lunch, I bought souvenirs and bargained over a scarf, a blanket, and a shotglass. I also picked up my first wooly, googly-eyed llama keyring, deciding that I would need many more of these.
  • I can’t believe the hiking portion of this trip is over.
  • This Peru Rail train is swanky AF. Inca Korn and Coffee with milk and comfortable seats feel luxurious
  • Real toilet paper and getting to use a toilet with a bowl (instead of squatting) feels even more luxurious.
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Erica Zendell

Erica Zendell

Quitter of the corporate grind in favor of the open road, a writing career, and a whole lot of jiu-jitsu. Currently writing from San Diego.