Friday, January 25, 2008

Mecca Picchu

Mecca Picchu

The Shepard: The stakes are driven deep in the ground, nothing can move them, the ropes are new and made of strong grasses; the cows will never break them now. And you, sky, can rain as much as you please!

Buddha: Like the dog that has broken his chain, like the elephant that has broken his shackles, never again will I enter a womb. And you, sky, can rain as much as you please!

This has got to stop. How long can a person go on thinking he has reached some sort of meaningful conclusion, or how long can a person go on thinking he has seen the greatest sight in the universe, or how long can a person think that the feelings he felt were the strongest, most powerful feelings ever felt, only to have them shattered the next instant, the next day, by something greater or more powerful?

Yesterday was tough, today would be long. It’s been one of the other for two weeks though and my compass for judging time or space or distance or personal well-being is all out of whack. Yesterday we went straight up for three hours then straight down for three hours. Today we would go up and down three times, each time being a lesser pass then the previous, but all in all, today was going to be our longest day. We did have something to look forward to at the end, and that’s a shower and a proper toilet. I’ve only had one shower in six days, and that was three days ago and I’ve gone on gastrointestinal lockdown for the last three days. Nothing in or out. But that’s an unsustainable situation. I just don’t like pooping in buckets.

Our guide, Silver, who has done the trail over 100 times and knows the ins and outs of the whole ordeal, decided that we should be up and on our way early, to beat the shower-crowds. Our goal was to be into camp by about 1:00. We would leave at 4:30 in the morning, hike for three hours, stop for breakfast and then finish the day with a five or six hour hike to camp, to showers, to toilets, but most importantly, to the footsteps of Machu Picchu.

This was my favorite morning so far and I’ll tell you why. Silver said we would leave at 5:00am, ready or not, and when the clock struck 5, I was the only one ready and we just took off, leaving everyone behind, doing whatever they do every morning without coffee, cable, toilets, showers and electricity. That’s the way to do it Silver, mucho props my friend.

The mornings hike was great. Because we left before most of the camp, we walked mostly in silence, I say mostly because Maurice talked pretty much the whole way. For someone who was having altitude issues, his lungs sure seemed strong to me. It wasn’t a big deal really, he’s an entertaining guy and I was soon out in front of the group far enough to drown out all extracurricular noise.

I started out wearing my long pants, long sleeve shirt and gloves, but within an hour, I didn’t need any of them. I still kept the long sleeve shirt on just to keep the sun damage down, which is wicked in the mountains and changed into shorts in a moment of nude bliss in the Andes. That’s when I realized that the layers of clothes were very effective against the odors that our bodies had been bubblin’ on for the last couple days.

We ambled up to the first of three passes for the day, Abra de Runkuracay (pass of the pile of ruins, I believe), which was the second highest of the entire trip, but seemed like a mere foothill compared to the day before. The landscape had changed drastically today, rather than a barren mountain highland, we descended into a cloud forest that was amazing. We walked in and out of the clouds; the clouds approached us, engulfed us and passed us on, like we weren’t there. The horizon would go from a visibility of twenty feet to ten thousand feet in the matter of minutes. Its times like these that I wish I could describe the passing landscapes like Hemingway. Say what you will about the drunken womanizer, but he could write the fuck outta some landscapes.

The trail down turned away from the dirt path that we had been walking on for most of the trip to actual Inca-laid roadway, an intricate construction of rocks and stones that was worth marveling at. It’s a good thing too, because if you didn’t look at the ground while you walked, your ass would have fallen off the edge.

By breakfast, we had worked up a devilish appetite and devoured anything that was placed in front of us; I accidentally took a bite out of a porters hand because I thought it was a overcooked biscuit.

By the time we sat out after breakfast, our bellies were rocked with food and we were fired up to tackle the rest of the day. It was only 8:00 am. People put too much stock in sleeping in. I prefer to be awake and seeing the world in the mornings. Too much of life passes people by when they’re sleeping and the difference between morning and night in any given area is the difference between…ummm…. night and day.

The next several hours were a beautiful walk, up and downhill, but nothing too difficult and near noon, we got to camp where showers, bathrooms, and beer awaited us.

Because we were the first people into the camp, there was no line at the showers, which meant that we could take our time, really get our $1 worth. Let me tell you, that roach infested, moldy floored, lukewarm water’d shower was like the Hilton to us and we felt like a million bucks by the end.

Another thing that was at this base camp was a bar. It wasn’t much, but there was beer and before we knew it, we were all getting a little tipsy. I spent the evening chatting with other hikers that I’d seen up and down the trail for the previous days and it was quite nice. Apparently, a while back, they decided that it was necessary to close the bar at 9:00 pm, otherwise people would stay up all night drinking, then try to hike to Machu Picchu in the morning, drunk, through the mountains. Which is not advisable. Looking at some of the people, all I could think was if you cant be a good example, be a horrible warning.

Because tomorrow would be very quickly moving, getting out of camp, we said our goodbyes to the porters and handed out fistfuls of tip money. I was nominated to speak to everyone because, apparently, I can be entertaining from time to time. They earned every penny of their money, these guys were amazing.

At some point, Silver briefed us on tomorrow mornings activities. He said the porters would wake us up at 4:00 am and we would be on our way at 5:00, ready or not. We would have a ‘short three hour’ hike and then we would get to Machu Picchu (remember Machu Picchu? It’s kind of why I took this hike in the first place.) Silver would give us a two hour tour and Elard would meet us at some point in the morning, then we’d have the rest of the day to chill and explore on our own. Sounds great, lets get it on. Wait, how the hell am I supposed to be able to sleep tonight with that in front of me tomorrow? Especially because just outside of my tent was Machu Picchu mountain. Staring up at me. Yes, staring up.

The silly conversation between the Shepard and Buddha has started to sink in, finally, after climbing my fingers to the bone for three days and it’s too simple to spend much time on.

Be Buddha, not the Shepard.

It’s not in being prepared for difficulties, it’s in being prepared for life and taking everything as it comes. It’s not what you have defining who you are, it’s who you are defining what you have.

Be Buddha. Is he Incan? Guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

From my tent - Machu Picchu. I hope Buddha's home.


Jimmy said...

All yall need to be pimpin' a leatha coat and fedora like Indy Jones walkin' through that thick brush.

Cullen said...

nah, i'm diggin the bret michaels bandana look;)