Friday, February 19, 2010

The Lares Trek - Day One

Everything is possible once you've accomplished it.

Heading through Cuzco over the cracked roads, and rocky surfaces nothing was thought of save for the days ahead. All of which seemed manageable to my ill prepared mind. Stopping for a moment we picked up the four girls, remnants from another GAP adventure. They fly where we ride the bus; they have included that which we cover additionally.

Stopping at a market each trekker stocked up on coca leaves for the high heights ahead. With my bag secured I reached for double protection, swallowing an altitude drug, also good for epilepsy, and all number of other ailments. If realizations like that don't terrify you of modern medicine, then... still, one taste of the leaves, a reminder of what was forgotten, like so much past-felt pain, and you'll be looking to harsh chemicals for the days ahead.

The girls bought small sandals, and pencils to give to the potential children that would be met along the path. The path; it sounds so simple, so passable, something never thought to be feared. For the moment we all held to this, I believe.

Though this belief was clearly proved false when two of the girls began talking about renting horses to carry them from one end of the trail to the next. The two boys seconded this idea, and soon the bus was abuzz with hope of trek avoidance. Some spoke out to the ridiculousness of trekking on horseback, but I kept quiet. I'd already made myself enemy to one by stating that I might like to eat a baby seal. I tried to explain that this was actually one of the few “traditional Canadian meals” if one were to define traditional Canadian by our native cultures, but none of that would be heard. Walls were already up.


Well, not all – some are quite lovely indeed. But...

If one wanted a horse, why would one have bought a walking stick? Still – once again, it was best I just keep my mouth shut. Logic has no place in a bus such as ours, as it trundles along cliff faces with precarious clearance before plunging us into the deep valley below. Of all the roads we'd tackled in Peru, these were by far the most terrifying. Yet there seemed to be so few crosses marking the places where people careened over to their death. I can only assume that this is due to the fact that accidents happen so regularly that each cross is taken out as soon as it is placed along the edge.

Gallows humour became a game for the ride, looking over and trying to guess how far our bus would roll before stopping. Would we make the stream, or would we be stopped by the trees halfway down? Could we survive or would those rocks crash through instantly killing the person near the window that caught the unlucky role?

This continued until a voice at the back suggested with some force that I should stop talking. That I should stop talking, one should note. Not any of the others taking part in the same game. I have little patience for people who dislike based on the speaker rather than the idea. I have little time for those who hate the idea of eating baby seals as well. Most baby seals get killed by their herd, best I should eat one – a quick death, rather than the horrible crushing and starvation. But I do lose myself.

I do not buy into the fact that when two opposing ideas collide the passive option is the one that should rule by default. If two people are nervous about their impending doom at the hands of some unknown minibus driver, and one finds peace in morbid humor, while the other finds peace in silence, I do not concur that silence should be the correct option for the moment. This did not win me any diplomacy points, and yet it managed to sate my fear for fiery death, thus I consider it a move for the best.

Stopping, we were let out at the town of Lares to look around, take pictures, and watch the town set up for their Carnival festivities. Because of this the horsemen refused to leave the town, choosing to stay and celebrate. Thus hopes were crushed, and all were committed to the trek ahead.

Bubble gum was also bought. It contained Bratz tattoos. I put a high heel and a large Capital B on my left hand. As I type this days later, it has still to be fully rubbed away. These are some high quality bubble gum tattoos.

I've been considering a tattoo for years now, as – like smoking – I think they are cool. Still I have no tattoo, nor am I yet to smoke. The latter, I fear a cancerous death, and quickly emptying bank accounts. As for the former I can think of nothing I'd want on me that reflects who I am in a timeless fashion. If anything, I would perhaps consider an 8-bit Mario or Luigi... but even then, I don't think that would be right, as thus no tattoos do I have. I need content myself with the high heel and the capital B for as long as they last.

Moments later we were at the start of the trek. But first some would throw themselves into hot springs for an hour. Luckily it started to rain heavily during this hour, preparing the trail for optimal hiking conditions, and raising moral to its highest levels. As dipping time expired we began.

Step one: A brief climb lasting about three minutes, already out of breath it became obvious that thoughts of this being easy were greatly miscalculated. For the next two hours we hiked at a steady pace, over little elevation. Now, this might seem like a good thing, but the whole time I was aware of the eventual peak we had to reach. Every kilometer over flat land meant that the incline would be that much worse when it finally came. Clearly I was looking at this as a glass half full situation, as – of course – is my innate nature.

Just as we were all overcome by hunger tents were pointed out to us. Our lunch stop awaited us. The porters run along the trail and get set up, with our meals nearly prepared by the time we reach them. Clearly this trek isn't effort for all people. Still – I bet I could classroom manage them to the floor! Or something like that. Could they make a class of thirty eighteen year olds walk around the room backwards? Well – maybe.

Lunch was locally caught trout, and it was fabulous. There were some local children around looking for free gifties, and other such things. One hiker gave them balloon animal balloons. I told him it was a cruel gift. He didn't understand why that should be so, but as for me – I have nothing of painful memories relating to he struggle of trying to inflate those horrible monsters. Thirty minutes into our eating, the child still struggling to gain even the least bit of inflated plastic, my point was taken. A pump that came with said balloons was used. I made a ridiculous hat for the child. And a terribly deformed dog. It's been some time since I'd ever used them.

After lunch we began to hike once more. It was said that there was three hours ahead of us. This time we were headed up and up, and it was quite the unpleasant experience. I knew, in theory, I was hiking through grass covered mountains, through indigenous villages, and alongside beautiful streams, looking at the cascading water down falling along the outcroppings feeding the streams. I knew I was in a beautiful location. I saw my feet.

Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. I felt like a model; I felt as if walking was hard work.

At times I heard the voice of Katherine calling through the ether telling me to quit being such a wimp and just get through it. Fair enough. An hour later though, I was just about ready to collapse, yet there was still two hours of hiking left:

“We're stopping early today, we're at camp.”

Ohh. Good. Interesting.

As I found my tent, shivered relentlessly from the cold temperatures high up in the Andes, and realized that I should change my shirt soaked from sweat and rain, it didn't don on me that stopping early today would mean walking more the following day. I didn't care. I just switched into my fantastic Marc Echo Boba Fett “I'm going to rob you, because you can't see my face” hoodie, and hid inside my tent, trying to stop shivering.

I had rented a sleeping bag for this trip; I was assured it was rated for the required temperatures. This was not to be. But more on this later.

I huddled into a tragic ball listening to the others playing football outside, the ball being kicked into my tent every now and then, bringing me back to reality. And then dinner was called.

Dinner. Hot foot. Hot delicious food. This was perhaps the best part of the trekking – eating. Because there is nothing fun about walking uphill at length in the rain and feeling pain. The question of, “when will this become fun,” was often posed.

Hot dinner came with tea, and soup, and a main – this would be standard for all following meals. And the hot liquids worked wonders to re-energize. For desert there was a pudding made of purple corn. Everything made from purple corn is wonderful, and we need to import this substance! Never mind that it only grows in the valleys within the Peruvian highlands. With all our modern tinkering and genetic tampering surely we could get this to grow in the fields back home. Stoufville, here it comes!

With dinner finishing the night was wound down playing President, or Asshole, or Scumlords and Warlords (if you're Australian), or... Well we'll not repeat the German word for this game. The local Peruvian rules were that a 2 beats one pair, two 2s are needed for a trip, or a quad. And if three cards are played in sequence, the sequence must be adhered to. Example: Player one drops a 4 then a 7 is played, then a 9, then a 10, then a jack. The three in a row has just come to be, therefore the next card must be a queen. It adds a little local flavour.

At some point I headed to bed, crawled into my sleeping bag liner, then bound myself up inside the sleeping bag. Then closed my eyes and fell asleep.

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