Friday, January 11, 2008

Mucho Picchu

The Conversation between Buddha and the Shepard part one.

The Shepherd: My meal is ready, I have milked my ewes. The door of my hut is bolted, my fire is alight. And you, sky, can rain as much as you please!

Buddha: I no longer need food or milk. The winds are my shelter, my fire is out. And you, sky, can rain as much as you please.

Forty five kilometers in four days. That’s basically a marathon, which has been ran in about three hours. Of course marathons are typically ran on semi-level and extremely-stable paved roads and I highly doubted that this would be either of the above. There would be ups and downs, as is typical for hiking through the mountains, as opposed to hiking through Kansas. Another difference is that if you hike through Kansas for four days, it is still relatively unlikely that you will end up at Machu Picchu. For the past six months, I had been exercising regularly, very regularly. Like twice a day. True it was mostly out of boredom, but the side effects were pretty good. I’m weighing the lightest I’ve weighed since I was in high school. I haven’t been hating mirrors nearly as much as I had in the past. I can actually buy shirts in the fabled ‘Size Large-land’. My face is down to one chin. I can run three miles without even breathing very heavy or feeling the need to vomit at any point during said run. I could follow that up with an additional three miles on the Stairmaster and that’s tall cotton folks, ‘cause that mofo will cripple real athletes. All in all, I’m in good shape. I admit it. And from the looks of my companions, while not the only one in good shape, I’m probably the fittest out of our group. And definitely the funniest. And tallest.

All mountains that need climbing require one thing above all – to take the first step. Once that step is taken, it’s momentum can get you nearly 75% of the way to the second step. Right left. Right left. Could it possibly be that way for most things in life? You can’t tackle the project in one swing of your fist. You cant transplant a heart without starting somewhere. Changing your life requires patience. That’s why most people get stuck in ruts. They spend their whole time focusing on the goal that they forget that it takes many steps to reach the goal and trip out of the gate. Kids haven’t failed enough to deal with life that way, that’s why they learn languages and musical instruments so much better than adults do. Kids are task oriented, adults are goal oriented. Kids are the idea, adults are the reality, in between sits the area where the two shadows collide. Striving to stay in the shadows.

In this case, the first step was over a swinging bridge with barbed wire on each side. Kilometer post 82. The first day was going to be relatively easy, rolling hills for about 12 kilometers. Lunch somewhere in the middle, dinner towards the end, sleep after eat, many lefts and rights in between, many lefts and rights after.

The logistics of the trip were interesting. Each group of tourists had a group of porters that did the trail as well. There were two porters for every hiker plus two cooks and a guide. So for our group (six people) there were actually 21 people. A small village to look after six crackers. The government only allows 500 people to start the trail per day, counting porters. With everyone starting and stopping at roughly the same places, the whole thing seemed a bit crowded at times.

The job of the porters was to carry the tents, food, sleeping bags and other stuff. They loaded up about 65 lbs of stuff on their backs and basically sprinted up the trail. I was carrying a bag that may have weighed 10 lbs and these guys were straight up beatin the trail past me. They would get to our lunch spot, cook lunch and have it ready for us, then we would eat and take off. They would pack up and sprint to the night campsite. They probably left 30 minutes after we did and beat us to the camp with enough time to set up all our tents and cook dinner. Maybe I’m not the man after all.

Because of my long legs, I was quickly able to separate myself from the pack and get ahead in front of the noise for brief times. I would sit and wait and, more importantly, watch. Listen. Smell.

There is a lot of animal feces on this trail.

The mountains surrounding the Sacred Valley are unbelievable. You should probably get used to me using words to describe awe, because so far, they’re necessary to the fullest. The terraced hillsides show like enormous washboards where the Incas would farm different crops based on the elevation. One terraced field could hold as many as twenty different crops, all planted at an elevation that would benefit them the most for precipitation, sunlight, temperature and runoff. Distance up is more important than distance out. Elevation trumps latitude.

The eucalyptus trees grow like wildfire, stretching well over a hundred feet into the air, growing leaves and branches on one side only because of the strong valley winds. They’re an introduced species, brought in by the Spaniards because they grow quickly and can be used for everything from building houses to space travel. In a way, it’s a shame that the mountains themselves are so large because they can easily take attention away from other, smaller, things in this place. A mile looks like ten feet. Ten miles, eleven feet. A boulder looks like a teardrop. Bromeliads, several feet across are mere freckles in the distance that can be appreciated for their sheer numbers from afar and their amazing beauty close up.

By the end of the day, I found myself laying in my tent, looking out over the Sacred Valley. Not a bad way to spend the night. We were fortunate enough not to have any casualties for our first day, which is good I suppose. I’ve been beating around the Buddha conversation in my head all day, like a song that won’t go away. Tomorrow will be a big day, the biggest of the trip actually. But for now I must sleep, if I can, but I’ve had quite a bit to think tonight, and may not have much success.

No pictures and a moment of silence please.

In Loving Memory of SanDisk SD Card SDSDH-2048-901.

May you rest in peace with my 200 pictures from Day 1.

3 comments:

LezLynn said...

*pours out a little liquor for SAN DISK*

good writing. makes me want to forego paying my gas bill this month and buy my passport. :)

Grace said...

Great story and great writing...would be nice to know how or who you arranged your trip with for people planning and trying to make their own adventure. Any links?? Anything about who organized your trip? They sound great.

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