Saturday, September 25, 2010

4 Days of Ardous Trekking and an "Easy Day" in the Jungle

Inca people must have been tougher than cavemen, stronger than oxes and more spiritual than devotees on a pilgrimmage. To climb the 3 DAYS of Inca stairs, "Inca flat" passages (giant hills) and humid, hot, jungle was a sweltering feat. Never have I had to take the word's "not for the fainthearted" more seriously. Lorenzo Expeditions' Inca Jungle Trek makes Banff's Sulpher Mountain look like a flat treadmill walk.

In loincloths and sandlas, carrying intricately carved and sewn offerings to the mountain gods, they trekked more than we did. Our first two hours was a downhill bike ride in foggy weather that I normally wouldn't have dared driving a vehicle in! Biting cold surprised us all - Stephanie and I were in a group with wonderful people - Germans, Richard & Nicola, Brits Sophie and Dave and Christoff, another German. Little did we know that our windbreakers would be of minute help the next hour and its extra weight would be extraneous for the next three days. We biked almost blind, through foggy, twisty mountain roads, fearing for our lives as we turned corners inches away from passing, honking, trucks.


Finally, 2 1/2 hours later, we arrived at the hamlet of San Luis, of the same name as Coca Cola's Dasani brand in Peru, to take off our helmets and padding. The weather had changed to a near tropical climate, with moist heat that made us glad we had layers and hiing boots.

Five more hours we trekked, fighting off the jungle's swarms of invisible sandflies; you never see them bite you but they itch and turn red for a week afterwards as you see the bumpy, unbearable marks on your skin.

Santa Maria, the collections of run down slums called a town, was where we spent our first night. Unexpectedly, the beds were more comfortable than any we'd stayed in so far (or maybe we were just exhausted). Touring the town in a whopping ten minutes, Richard, Nicola, Stephanie and I played a game of Rummy. At dinner, which consisted of Papas de la Huaincana, omelettes and rice, our guides Jose Luis and Rene said "Buon Appetito!" "Bon Appetit!" "Guten Appetit" - and "What do you say in English?"

Stephanie and I paused. "We don't really, 'Have a nice meal'?...We just kinda start eating."

"Ok," said Jose Louise, "Just start eating. Attack!" And after that, "Attack!" it was at every meal!

The next morning's trek was grueling and brutal, though the hourly rest points were welcomed. Breakfast was an amazing spread, including their local coffee, which is an intense concentrate that must be mixed with hot water. We stopped outside Santa Maria to drink Chicah, a fermented corn drink that is important to the Quechua culture. First, you must say a prayer to the Sun and raise your glass to him; then, you must spill a drop on the ground, to respect Mother Earth. Then, a quarter turn back to where you were, and you may drin the delicious beverage

We proceeded to the jungle and up giant, steep cliffs and mountains near the river Urubamba. As Jose Luise and Rene talked, we learned of the Inca culture, of the Inca trilogy - Snake for the lowerworld, Puma for the mid level and Condor for the heavens. We learned of the Inca star, the Andean cross, shaped like steps to represent the trilogy, and the distance between youth and elders in the culture. At the "Monkey House", a steep climb to lunch (the sign claimed it was 20 m, but perhaps it was 20 "Inca" meters to the top. Mid-afternoon, we stood atop a mountain to pray to the mountain gods and Pacha Mamma (Mother Earth) for our safety rock climbing the cliffs. Holding 3 leaves of Coca, the plant that mixed with chemics, makes cocaine (and mixed with water makes Coca-Cola's original blend( - we said our prayers to the various gods and thrust the leaves into a fire that Rene made to sacrifice for and respect the gods.

Today, our "easy" day was a slighly less inclined hike through what used to be a river bed, surrounded by mountains. As the bridges were destroyed in January's massive mudslide, we had to use cardboard-box like crates to cross the river, which they call "cable cars". Finally, after six hours of uphill trekking, Stephanie's smashed camera screen and various bug bites, we arrived at the hot pools, the clearest, cleanest, most natural springs in the country. Wiped away in January, only 2 pools remain amidst construction crews trying to repair the damage, but the beauty of relaxing after ten hours of trekking was still there.

It was so great to get to know Sophie, Dave, Nicola, Richard and Christoff and share our cultural and travel stories. Stay tuned for my next post, the highlight of the trip, trek to Machu Picchu!


ray interhealthstore said...

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Sapna said...

Thanks! It's great to have readers :)