Saturday, June 28, 2014

Inca Trail Marathon Adventure Day 8 - Inca Trail Trek Day 4

Up at 3:15 a.m. for a quick breakfast, then headed to the "trail" to line up at the checkpoint. Thankfully we were near the front of our group (behind only speedy Laurie). Checkpoint opened at 5:30 -- so, yeah, we sat around in line for over an hour. One weird thing: some groups had sent their guides down early, saving room for trekkers to arrive later. This was clearly cause for contention among the more honorable guides (like ours!). Someone in our group counted at some point -- there were 102 people in front of us. Wow.

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Seemed to take forever to start moving. Seeing how slowly the passport / ticket processing goes, it's no surprise. But eventually we were through, and had pretty clear path ahead of us.

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Wil and I just focused on keeping moving -- only a couple of folks passed us, and passed a lot of people at wide spots in the trail or when folks were stopped. At one point Erik was hiking with us, and we asked him how much farther. He said, "You're about 10 minutes away… I predict that you'll arrive at the Sun Gate at 6:44." Apparently, like a horse who spots the barn, I sped up at this point, which prompted Erik to ask if I was trying to prove him wrong. Wil laughed and pointed out that I am terrible at pacing myself fast or slow.

Within a few minutes, we were at the base of the Monkey Stairs, and Erik said, "Okay, I underestimated you. I won't do so again." Yeah, okay, that was a very proud moment for me…

Slight chaos at the stairs -- people were moving super slowly, and you couldn't pass… so we just joined the climb on all fours. Then, suddenly, the Sun Gate. Intipunku. Just like that!

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I burst into tears. Of course. Because, well, Machu freakin' Picchu!

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why, yes, I *am* crying!

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We took a couple of pictures and then moved off to the side to watch the sunrise. Mark had bussed and walked up from Aquas Calientes, and Mike wasn't far behind (we cheered when we saw him). The gang arrived, we hugged, and Annie and I cried again. I think all of us felt a huge sense of relief that we had all gotten through it.

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yay Mike!

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the gang at the Sun Gate

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Sun Gate panorama

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Eventually we had a "quorum" and took a nice group pic at the Sun Gate before heading down into Machu Picchu itself. Plans got a little sketchy -- we took some more pictures, but kept struggling to balance moving and gathering our great big group with not blocking every other visitor. And let's just say that we weren't always the best at sharing the road with others!

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John and Dawn

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Sue

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with Annie and Andy

Jenny came down and gave each of us our medals. (Medals? I honestly didn't know we'd be getting medals! How awesome!!!). And at some point we passed a very cute group of young American girls, all glossy and clean, who said, "Wow! Inca Trail trekkers! You guys are awesome!!! You're our heroes!!!" Very cute.

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DSC02211 Eventually we headed down to the exit -- with the info that we could and would come back in (I think we needed to exit because of our poles -- fair enough!) But down and out we went, where we experienced the very weird culture clash of folks getting off buses looking clean and smelling good.

I'm pretty sure each of us availed ourselves of the Nicest Toilets in Peru, Possibly in the World…. for only 1 sol. They were spotless, well lit, lockable, and they were "sitters" rather than "squatters". I think I may have just sat down for 5 minutes… because I COULD.

We saw Annie and Andy drinking beer, which seemed like the Best Idea in Peru, Possibly in the World… especially because it came from a VENDING MACHINE. Beer. From a vending machine. At 9am. Oh, and a MEDAL!!!

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beer vending machine!

The nicest part of our "break" at the entrance was seeing Carol back on her feet! She told us how weird it was to have trekked on the Inca Trail as cargo. What a crazy unique experience!!!

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my dusty, trusty Cascadias did so well!

After a while we regrouped and most of us went back in to Machu Picchu. Cesar tried to split the group in 2, but it just wasn't working… and he got scolded by the guards on multiple occasions. Wil and I mainly wanted to wander around on our own, anyway, so once we had been given our bus tickets to go down to Aguas Calientes, we drifted away, happy to experience the site in "private".

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Cesar telling us stories

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Cascadia love!

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giggle fit...

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why, yes, we are a big group

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I love the trapezoidal shapes

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Oh, and, maybe I indulged my stonework obsession a little…

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look how the big boulders are incorporated

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love this pic with Andy and Annie

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if it had been clearer, we would have seen that this rock has the same shape as the mountain behind it

We spent a long time sitting quietly back by the entrance to Huayna Picchu -- not tempted even slightly by attempting the climb. Funny aside: the girl we had seen falling down the day before walked by us and asked if we would take a picture of her on a nearby rock while she held a yoga pose, since she was doing a yoga pose challenge with some friends back home. Glad to see she had her spirit back! (And, no, we didn't mention we'd seen her fall..)

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We moved slowly through the site, stopping here and there to relax and take pictures.

Oh, um, did I mention the stonework?

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We spotted a super nice shady niche that we climbed in and sat down for an hour or so just to hang out and people watch. Perfect.

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#nicheusie

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Eventually we headed back into town. Aguas Calientes is like a million other "tourist transfer towns" -- a bunch of hotels, restaurants, and gift shops, none of which ever expect you to visit more than once. We checked into our hotel (the Hotel Presidente, completely acceptable, though oddly we had been given a room with three single beds -- no "matrimonial room" for us!). We picked up our bags, took a long overdue shower, and then went out to explore.

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river panorama from our balcony at the Hotel Presidente

Oh, wait. Before that. Skip this if you'd rather avoid TMI. Just scroll down to the next picture. :)

I don't like porta potties or squat toilets very much. Especially if they're dark, smelly, or can't be locked. So I pretty much, um, "shut down". For four days. But when I got to the hotel, to "home", well, I guess my body relaxed. In short, I managed to block the toilet. And had to go to the front desk for help. In broken Spanish. Yeah, it was awesome. And it was one of the reasons we simply had to flee the hotel to walk around town.

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watching the World Cup in the plaza

Here's where we made a big, dumb mistake. We walked around, poked around, and decided we had earned a drink… and somehow ended up ordering 2 each since all the happy hours advertised "4 for the price of 1" drinks. (Yeah, you guessed it, each drink is 4x as expensive!) We each had a Pisco Sour and a mojito. Neither was good; in fact, the mojito was disgusting. Oh, yeah, and remember not to drink alcohol at altitude. I got a headache, chills, a fever, and generally felt wretched all night. Whee.

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So the rest of the afternoon and evening I just tried to drink as much agua con gas as I could. Our favorite shop had a tiny kitten living in it -- who looked like a baby Kiki. I showed the shop girl Kiki on my phone and she smiled.

I tried to muster the enthusiasm and or energy to shop, but I still just DIDN'T NEED a llama jumper. That said, we did pick up some postcards and stamps (which we forgot to mail. Oops.).

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Dawn and her multicolor cocktail

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Celebratory group dinner at Toto's House, complete with traditional dances that made us all feel a bit bewildered. I stuck to agua con gas, but still felt awful. Of course, it was one of our last nights, and we had a nice patio on the back of the hotel, so Wil and I met up with Annie, Andy, Jenny, and a few others for a quiet beer. I still turned in early, the roar of the river providing excellent white noise.


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elevation chart!



1 comment:

skroman said...

Still giggling over the TMI snippet. :)