Monday, June 30, 2014

Inca Trail Marathon Adventure Day 10 - to the Amazon!

Felt terrible, but was determined to SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP. Cheese and bread and fizzy water for breakfast. Also had a Coke because I figured a little caffeine might do me good.

Nice, short, simple flight to Puerto Maldonado, shortly over an hour, gate to gate. And you know I do love to walk down steps onto the tarmac rather than enter one of those gate tubes. Makes me wave like the president every time. Got our bags relatively quickly (the flight was pretty empty) and stumbled out into the sunshine.

so. much. luggage.
why, hello Amazonia!

all the sleeping ladies… and Wil

I'm awake!

hail to the tourists

Puerto Maldonado airport

A man asked Wil if we were part of the Rainforest Expedition... we said no, then realized, oh, wait, YES, we were! So we collected our gear and loaded up a big bus. We'd become so accustomed to having our own bus(es) that it was odd to share … especially with folks who simply moved things off of seats where our group had put them while we helped load up!

In a few minutes we arrived at the company office, where we re-organized our luggage, storing the big bags and then got our traveling bags labeled. Porters would take them to our rooms at the Refugio. Magic!


Then another bus, this one for just our group, and a quick stop to pick up sodas / snacks, then we drove about 45 minutes to the port. We drove past "squatters" (who seemed pretty well settled) and the small community of Infierno.




En route we were given a snack - an orange, some brazil nuts, and plantain chips, all produce of the refuge.


At the port they loaded gear and food onto the boats, and we had a few minutes to use the toilets, buy snacks, etc. I had a moment of awesomeness when I completed a transaction solely in Spanish, paying 2 soles less than those who transacted in English, I'm proud to say. Boo-yah.


loved this: he's listening to the World Cup game on a radio

our boats

come mister tallyman, tally me banana

tres soles!

Head was still banging when we piled onto the boat for the 2 1/2 hour ride to the refuge. I just tried to relax and rest. We were served lunch --- surprisingly delicious mix of rice, cheese, egg, olives, and mushrooms served in a large leaf. I only wish I'd had the appetite to eat it all, because it was super tasty.






We stopped at a checkpoint on the way through -- it's how they control access to the refuge -- but only the guides had to go up and check us in.

Oh, on the ride we saw a couple of caymans and a bunch of capybaras. ("the world's largest rodent", trademark…)




Arrived at the refuge, up the muddy bank and a quick 10-minute hike to the lodge. This felt far that first day, but we repeated it so often in coming days that it came to be nothing. We were welcomed by the very solicitous manager with fruit juice. I think we all relaxed a little when we saw how nice it all was! Went to our room to chill a little -- it was beautiful and very open, with a nice big private bathroom with hot water and electricity. Sweet!



the main lodge -- hardly anyone ever went to the quiet upstairs balcony



key fob shaped like an otter!!!

our room


loved this bathroom -- and a shower with a view


Wil working on his "blue steel" look

view from our window

Before dinner Jesus, our main guide, gave a talk about cayman. He seemed a little nervous … "never so many people attend this talk before!" but we learned about the four types of cayman that live in various parts of the reserve.


Reported for dinner -- we had separate vegetarian entrees, which turned out to be huge slabs of quiche on the first night. Really nice; lots of vegetables and fruits, too.

That night we joined a night cayman search, where we went out in a boat to search for cayman by shining lights across the water and looking for the reflection from their eyes. We had seen some on the boat ride earlier, but they were pretty immobile. But at night they moved around a lot more, and we saw lots of them.

somewhere in here there are cayman

We also saw a very angry capybara… angry because he was running along the bank and we were sailing along, shining a light at him… poor guy just couldn't get away from us!

Lowlight of cayman search: I slipped on the dark, muddy bank and fell on my butt getting in to the boat. Let's just say that that mudstain just wasn't EVER gonna come out of those trousers!

Also took anti-malarial pill #2 -- and instantly felt terrible again; even worse, if possible. Decided not to take any more, given that malaria is very rare in that area, and there needs to be a human host population for the mosquitos to pass it around. See, the Peruvian government can't offer free healthcare, but they do offer free treatment for malaria and yellow fever to attempt to eradicate it in the name of public health and to support tourism. Smart. Anyway, stopping taking the pills was a good decision for me… but, obviously, talk to your doctor!

The temperature was a little low, but with my fever, the mosquito netting, and cuddling with Wil, we were both plenty warm and slept like logs, listening to jungle noise. Very nice.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Inca Trail Marathon Adventure Day 9 - "Home" to Cusco

Still feeling wretched this morning... made myself eat bread and cheese and drink a lot of water at breakfast. (Which was perfectly nice, honest.)

our non-matrimonial room in Aguas Calientes

the Hotel Presidente

Had one last poke around town, including a trip to the plaza where we noticed that the church bell was being rung by hand. Sweet!

the plaza in Aguas Calientes

bell-ringer, ringing the bell by hand

a peek inside the church


We walked to the train station, the entrance / exit to which is only accessible through a large market. We were a little surprised that almost none of the vendors were open that early, but I guess it was a Sunday morning…



We took a very handsome Inca Rail train to Olllantaytambo. The carriages were nice and featured a free snack and drink service -- pretty posh. We sped past the Km 83 checkpoint -- funny to think we'd walked from there four days prior.

scenes from the train -- lovely big windows






you can just barely see the far side of the bridge (it's green, near the center of the picture) and the path where it all started four days before!


Then transfer to a bus to Cusco, where I just tried to stay warm. We had a brief stop to stretch our legs (and, of course, shop…), and who doesn't love a Peruvian baby?




Or this awesome Peruvian door in Cusco?


Got to the hotel and went straight up to the room, shivering. Wil ran out to get hot food -- delicious cheese empanadas from the "cheap cafe" (not the posh bakery) -- and I ate them along with cups and cups of steaming hot coca tea while standing in the sun and watching some men play basketball on the court outside. I was white with cold, so I took a very hot bath and then climbed in bed for a nap.

hoops from the window … times like this I wish I were really good at basketball!

When I'm sick, I want to eat cheetos. Don't judge.

Most practical thing we did all afternoon was unpack our trekking bags and wash our knickers -- the product from Ex Officio we LIKED.



Tried to buck up a little so we went for a walk. The plaza was super quiet, and a little odd. We also walked up to San Blas, past the 12-sided stone again -- and the streets were really empty.

very quiet in the plaza this Sunday



one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve

We decided to have a late "lunch" (it was nearly 4pm) so we stopped in to Greens Organic. We had tried to go there one of our first nights in Cusco but it was closed for a private event, and we hadn't made it back. We had a delicious fried cheese appetizer, plus a side of tabbouleh and a side of rice. All very fresh, very nice. They also offered "detox juices", which I figured couldn't hurt… even if our choice felt a bit "re-toxy" since it was a blend of strawberry, lemon, apple… and coca leaves.

late lunch at Greens Organic in Cusco -- delicious!

We also had a team briefing / team farewell that evening… with special guest Victor, who came straight from the hospital. His baby was doing better, thank heavens, though it sounds as if she's not out of the woods yet. But it was great to have a chance to thank him in person and to say goodbye.

guest appearance by Victor!

The rest of the briefing was simple -- those flying to Lima needed to be downstairs by 5:15 to leave for the airport at 5:30. (OMG that's early!) They were told they could collect their bags in Lima and check them at left luggage for the day so that they could go into town, given that they would have 12+ hours to kill in town since most international departures are late in the evening.

They were dismissed -- after arranging to meet up at Paddy's Pub at 7:30ish that night.

Our group stayed after to for our instructions. Our bus would leave for the airport at 8:30 -- MUCH more reasonable! Lots of details about luggage -- mainly a plea to limit the amount of stuff we were taking to the Refugio -- "it's only 3 mights, folks", since the luggage would be transported by boat. And then we were done.

Wil and I went up and sorted out our luggage for the rain forest -- a few nights' worth of stuff in our Alaska Marathon Cruise duffels, easily extracted when we got to the office in Puerto Maldonado.

We picked up Andy and Annie for a "double date" to Paddy's, where we met up with the rest of the gang who trickled in over time. Nice to get a chance to see a few folks for the last time.


some of the crew at Paddy's

As an added "health bonus", Wil and I started taking our anti-malarial drugs, which made me super sick -- any potential side effect, such as fever, dizziness, chills, diarrhea, headache, nausea? Check, check, check, check, check, check, and check. Thankyouverymuch.

At the pub I felt worse and worse … so much so that we had to leave early… AND ANNIE HAD TO HELP ME FINISH MY CIDER. Yeah, that's how bad it was! I hugged someone goodbye, and she said, "Oh, god, you're burning up!" Yep.

Home to the hotel, Wil fretting about me being ill, then bed, where I slept like a hot, sweaty log.