I came across this broadcast of Paul Harvey from 1965. It is amazing to me how clearly and accurately he was able to depict the current situation we find ourselves in and possibly some reasons for the impending collapse.
After spending about two months back in The United States and corresponding with Shirley. I decided it was time to head back to Peru to spend time with Shirley and take her up on her offer to show me more of Peru. We decided to first meet in Lima and fly to Aruba for a week before coming back to Peru. I packed my bags and booked my flight for Oct. 2 and scheduled with Shirley her flight from Puerto Maldonado so we could meet in Lima.
I was excited to be returning to Peru and also looking forward to seeing Shirley. I arrived at Pittsburgh airport two hours early and unfortunately my flight to Miami was delayed and therefore I would miss my connecting flight to Lima. So I had to take a completely different flight to Dallas Fort Worth with an eight-hour layover and then onto Lima. Eventually I made it to Lima and to my surprise Shirley was waiting for me at the airport with our driver “Walter” and flowers. I was not expecting her to be at the airport especially since my flight was twelve hours late and arrived at 6:00AM but I could hear her voice saying my name aloud as I made my way toward ground transportation. It touched my heart that she would not only come back to the airport to meet me but bring flowers. Lima airport is very busy so I made my way to her we embraced one another and made our way quickly outside, into our taxi, and an hour drive to our hotel in Miraflores. I was releived to be in Peru and happy to see Shirley again.
I was exhausted so I took a nap at the hotel Casa Andina Standard before Shirley showed me around lima and we went to get something to eat. Experiencing Peru with Shirley was an amazing experience compared to being alone or with a group as a tourist. She showed and taught me a lot of things that are customary for locals. I also learned of her great taste for Picarones, which are a donut like dessert with a type of syrup and I must say is very delicious. We explored lima more, including; the coastline, Locomar, Lovers Park, Miraflores marina lighthouse and she explained to me the history and politics of the region before we walked back to our hotel. We got ready and went out that evening for dinner before calling it a night because our flight for Aruba was in the morning.
Our flight to Aruba was a little turbulent but good overall. Shirley had not had much experience flying so it was a lot of new experiences for her but she handled everything with grace. Shirley has an amazing ability to stay positive and be kind yet assertive in stressful situations. Where as I sometimes get frustrated and have a hard time expressing my emotion without getting angry.
When we arrived in Aruba it was raining which was rare on the island. Our driver met us and assured us that the rain would stop shortly in the weather would be great. Since Shirley is fluent in Spanish she was able to communicate with some of the locals who came to Aruba from many Spanish-speaking countries including Peru. After about a 45 minute drive we arrived at our hotel the Marriott in Aruba and the rain had stopped. We checked in and made our way to our room. The partial view of the ocean was beautiful so we quickly unpacked our things, got our bathing suits on, and made our way to the beach. We enjoyed walking the beach looking for sea shells and absorbing the Caribbean breeze and sun. The Marriott is a beautiful and accommodating property. We had the most wonderful server named Odaliz. The Balashi Chill beer, mojito, and food were amazing but there should have been more entertainment, luckily I am pretty entertaining.
Aruba is a small beautiful arid desert island with an amazing beach and ocean. Often called the Dutch Caribbean. The island itself is small enough (20 miles long) to be explored in one day. So after spending a few days enjoying the hotel pool, beach, and ocean we decided to go on a guided Jeep tour of the island which included snorkeling at baby beach. A van picked us up and several other people from various hotels and we went to the starting point of the Jeep adventure. There were two other couples including a couple on their honeymoon from Italy. They did not feel comfortable driving and since I was very excited to get behind the wheel of the Jeep and explore the island they decided to ride with us which was a really cool experience especially since I am Italian but learned that Spanish and Italian are not as similar as I had thought they where.
We met our guide Juan who was a really free-spirited energetic guy. We all jumped in our jeeps and followed him to our first destination which would be the Aruba lighthouse. When we got there we got some fresh coconut juice and enjoyed a great view on that end of the island. Shirley got a picture with local Parrot and we got our picture take. Together as bride and groom on front of Italian restaurant “Faro Blanco” beside the lighthouse which Juan said was really good but excessive. We continued our journey along the very rugged rocky shoreline of Aruba where we would stop occasionally and enjoy the ocean. We also decided to pick up any trash we saw while exploring various locations. We visited the “Alto Vista Chapel” where I said a prayer for my mom and than got a Coco Loco from Dr. Coco Loco which is a rum spiced coconut water. We then continuing on to the “Aruba Ostrich farm” where we had lunch and experienced the life of an ostrich which are very strong aggressive but quite comical bird.
After leaving the ostrich farm we drove for another hour or so until we reached Baby Beach where we enjoyed the remainder of the day snorkeling and having A few drinks before returning to our starting point and then getting in a van to be dropped off at our hotel.
That night we had dinner at Texas de Brazil which was an amazing restaurant and great experience I highly recommend. Our waiter Edgar was without question the best waiter I’ve ever had in my life who made our evening exceptional which included a canister of sangria on the balcony. After dinner we walked along the beach back to our hotel and went to sleep.
The next morning we got up and went to the spa for our scheduled massage. We were truly pampered at the spa and it was exactly what we needed to completely relax. We then headed down to the beach and spent the day enjoying the ocean before going to the pool to catch lizards. That evening we walked the beach until we found a really lively tiki bar playing good music. We danced for a while and talked the night away. We enjoyed a few drinks maybe a few too many before returning to our hotel and passing out.
That evening we relaxed and enjoyed dinner at Giannis Restaurant which has really good pasta especially if you like cheese and I highly recommend. They bring out enormous rounds of parmesan cheese and light a type of alcohol which they pour onto the cheese. When the cheese is melted the pasta is placed onto the round of cheese and toss in it before plating. After dinner we enjoyed the local vendors and explored Irausquin Blvd. We then walked along the beach back to our hotel.
We got up the next day excited for the catamaran and went to have breakfast. Odaliz our waitress explained that the dock we would depart from was close enough that we could walk so we walked along the beach until we arrived at the dock and boarded the Catamaran, which was enormous and extremely well taken care of. They distributed the snorkel gear and gave us a brief orientation. Caesar was our guide who was extremely entertaining, informative, and responsible. The cruise included snorkeling in two locations with lunch and free drinks. Shirley has not much experience snorkeling except what we had done at baby beach but this water was very deep and far out in the ocean. She handled it like a trooper and I assured her she could hold on to me and I would not leave her side in the ocean unless she was comfortable. We saw an abundance of fish and later an amazing shipwreck. We also had time to swim and I enjoyed doing flips off the side of the catamaran. While relaxing and drinking a beer Shirley spotted a sea turtle which was absolutely beautiful and Cesar said is good luck. We spent another few hours enjoying the catamaran before watching the sunset together, appreciating each other, gods creation, and the amazing day we had. We had one more day exploring Aruba before we boarded a plane back to Peru. We where a little sad to say goodbye to Aruba but so excited to be exploring Peru more and visiting Shirley’s family in Abancay.
Back in the USA I felt like my journey had not ended and that I had more things to experience. I decided to get some things in order and return to Peru to take Shirley up on her offer to show me more of her country.
In a world going mad I think it important for people to understand the philosophy that is heavily utilized by the elite or whatever you want to call the people who conspire to control the world. To them this is not a world gone mad but a planned escalation of there intentions for humanity and our world in general. It is one of ways the elite control us and dictates our future.
They are always ahead of us and have had planned solutions for scheduled events throughout history. It may sound crazy but it is very true and with almost every event both government and military that has brought about a pre-planned solution throughout history can be boiled down to this equation. The elites use this trick and they believe if the preview these events through music, movies, cartoons, or whatever, that it negates then of the negative karma associated with the evil plan.
A prime example is 9/11 they created the problem and had a solution waiting in the wings. The manufactured problem was Bin Laden, the event to spark action 9/11, and the planned solution the patriot act and occupation of Iraq in the simplest form.
This is just one example of a tool the elite use to manipulate us like puppets.
As I posted about ancient history in the Peru itinerary blog I thought about how much our egos play a role in keeping us from reaching our potential by magnifying fear of how we’ll be perceived or judged.
Are we afraid we’ll look silly, weak, dumb, or any myriad of emotions which hold us back from expressing ourselves fully. Maybe if we strip down our ego we have the ability to reach a greater communion with one another, god, and universal consciousness. I think one of the main things that holds us back is that it makes us very vulnerable and that strikes at the deepest fear in our being.
My mom never knew a stranger because she was always and open book and was genuinely interested in what people were saying. I know this because I never saw her judge anyone or have ulterior motives with anyone. She had an amazing ability to have deep meaningful friendships with people. I really admired and had the pleasure of experiencing that in its truest form as her closest friends were by her side as she was battling cancer.
Now believe me I have put my foot in my mouth many times and have had the tendency to close myself off from the world and not let people in but I think that’s par for the course when your diving so deep into emotions while experiencing such a diverse set of life events that make you question everything.
Everyone has developed there own unhealthy ways of dealing with things that affect them from closing off, overcompensating with material processions, to deflecting our judgement of ourselves onto others.
It would be nice if we had more time to focus on developing ourselves, creating healthy coping mechanism, and spirituality. This takes more energy and time than falling into self destructive bad habits which the world is full of in all forms… Maybe that’s there plan.
Untitled, 1982, Jean-Michel Basquiat, American, 1960–1988, acrylic, spray paint, and oilstick on canvas, 72-1/8″ x 68-1/8″
After spending the day in Oracles with Shirley and some of her family we celebrated my birthday with a traditional Peruvian dinner of Cuy (guinea pig) potatoes, pasta, and Chicha which is a corn fermented beer. The meal was very good but guinea pig is a acquired taste.
We then played a game of Sopa and they surprised me with a birthday cake. I greatly appreciated them celebrating my birthday and being so kind. I felt a true sense of communion and connection even though we did not fluently speak each other’s languages. We enjoyed visiting for a while longer before Shirley and got in a taxi and headed back to Cusco for our last night together because she would be returning home to Puerto Maldonado.
The ride back to Cusco was nice and Shirley and I stopped at a Basilica of the Virgin of the Assumption a Catholic church outside of Cusco were a local Quechua woman was selling clothing and other goods made from Alpaca. We bought a few things and Shirley talked to her for a while before we returned to our taxi and our friend Victor to continue our drive to Cusco.
When we finally arrived in Cusco it was late and we were both tired so we spent an hour together and made plans to meet in the morning. I would go with her to the airport for her flight home. We both knew our time together was limited and were so happy to have met but sad to say goodbye. When I returned to my hotel room I thought to myself how amazing the world is and how fortunate I was to have so many wonderful experiences and have met such amazing people. I fell asleep I said a few prayers.
When morning came I woke up early around 6:00 because Shirley’s flight was departing at 8:30 I grabbed my clothes got dressed and ran downstairs drank some orange juice and had a bite to eat before going outside to meet Shirley. I jumped in Taxi and we headed to the airport. When we got to the airport it was busting with activity. I walked her to the security and we embraced for what could be the last time said goodbye. My heart was overwhelmed with emotions; would we ever see each other again. In my mind I prayed we would but how?
I returned to the taxi and Victor drove me to the hotel it felt strange being completely alone again. I would have one last night in Cusco before heading to Lima and then back to America. That night I wondered around Cusco streets and had an amazing dinner at Cicciolina which I would highly recommend but make reservations. I found myself emotional that evening and overwhelmed by everything that I had experienced. I felt very close to mom and could feel her presence as I felt sure she was happy to see me experiencing so many amazing things.
I went back to hotel and packed my things for my flight to Lima in the morning. I woke up early, grabbed my bags and went downstairs and into a taxi. I got to the airport and through security but my plane to Lima was delayed and I ended up missing my connecting flight to America. Word of advice do not fly international with Spirit air!!! I ended up having to spend and extra 2 days in Lima and wait for the next flight to America.
I made the best of it and spent more time exploring Lima and met a few local business owners and some international travelers. I ended up flying out on 9-11 which was an interesting experience flying from Peru with a layover in Miami. I felt the brunt of TSA security but eventually made it to Pittsburgh International airport and home. It felt strange to drive and to be back in the United States and I had a gut feeling I would not be here for long.
After leaving Aquas Calientes I returned to Cusco were I would spend the next 4 days including my birthday. During my stay in the Amazon I met a girl named Shirley whom said she was going to be in Cusco during my birthday and would show me around. I was excited and so after checking into my motel (which I decided to spoil myself for my birthday and stay at the Marriott) I called Shirley and asked if she would like to meet at the restaurant across the street from my hotel. Some of the members of the group I hiked with also met there including my friend Robert Da Bruce from Scotland. Shirley arrived and we had a few drinks and talked the remainder of the night. She knew some members of the group because they had previously been in the Amazon also.
That was a bitter sweet night because the members of the group that I hiked with where leaving the next day to continue onto Bolivia and some going home. It was great to have met Shirley and we made plans to goto Moray and Oracles the following day so I was excited for the new adventure with someone I felt a connection to and was looking forward to getting to know.
After laughing and talking late into the night everyone decided to head back to there hotels. Shirley and I made plans to meet the next day and explore Cusco. The morning arrived and I said goodbye to my fellow hikers as they continued on and then I met Shirley and we spent an amazing day together, I spoke only a little Spanish and she spoke intermediate English and we had no problem communicating.
That evening we met back at my hotel and had our first dinner together. I felt so fortunate to have had all these amazing experiences and met such genuine people. At dinner we made plans to goto Oracles to visit some of her family and see Moray site for my birthday.
The train from Ollantaytambo to Aquas Calietntes was nice, especially after spending so many days hiking. The train ride was about an hour-long, just enough time for a quick bite to eat and drink which was complimentary on Peru Rail.
Arriving in Aquas Calientes there was a lot of commotion, being a heavy tourist area. I made may way through the crowd of people from all over the world speaking a myriad of languages to my hotel which was located in the center of town.
Aguas Calientes is a town in the Urubamba River Valley, in southeast Peru that sits at an elevation of around 6,700 feet. It’s known for its thermal baths and as a gateway to the nearby Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. The town center is full of eateries and shops, anchored by the central Mercado artisanal, and a craft market.
After checking in I headed up to my room. It felt good to have some time to relax, unpack, get a shower, and take a nap. My room had a nice view of the mountains surrounding the town. I collected my laundry and headed out to find a laundromat and explore Aquas Calientes. While looking for a laundry mat I ran into the most beautiful Napoleon mastiff. The local people assured me he was taken care of. After dropping off laundry I headed to town square.
The local church was beautiful depicting the negro Jesus on a cross and many non traditional catholic ornamentation which was nice to see the diversity. After inserting quarter to light a bulb and saying a prayer I headed to local restraint to meet some of the group for dinner. Some of us were getting up extra early to catch the first bus to Machu Picchu so we needed to get up early. My grandmas use to say early bird catches the worm and for the most part that has been true in life.
after dinner and a few drink I walked around Aquas Calientes awhile longer exploring the markets and shops. It is a very lively town with a lot going on and endless variety of entertainment. I stayed out later than I should have but it was my only night in Aquas Callientes and I wanted to take full advantage of it. I eventually made it back to my hotel and passed out. Luckily I had previously gotten my pack and everything ready for the next morning so when I woke up O was ready to go.
Next morning I got up around 4:00 grabbed my things and headed downstairs. The group was waiting so I grabbed some coffee and we headed for the bus. When we got there around 5:00 there was a line about 50 yards long but by 5:30 it was around 200 yards long. The energy in the atmosphere was electric considering that for most people It is a lifelong dream to visit Machu Picchu.
Once the bus arrived we all huddled in. The bus was cramped and the ride consisted entirely of switchbacks up the side of the mountain for about 30 minutes. Once at the top buses are dropping people off as they exit and get in line to enter Machu Picchu. Since we were one of the first busses the lines were not long and when we got into Machu Picchu we decided to hike and hour up to the Sun Gate were the view of Machu Picchu is amazing. Hiking along the ancient trail we ran into hikers and Alpacas. When we got to the top you could not see the ruins because of the dense fog. At the top many people were sitting along the wall of the sun gate waiting to see a glimpse of Machu Picchu, praying that the fog would dissipate. Eventually as the sun got brighter the fog moved on and we were rewarded with a spectacular view of Machu Picchu. everyone cheered and stared in ah at the magnificent view.
After taking some Pictures and absorbing the energy we hiked back down to the ruins to meet the rest of the group and Hugo who would be giving a tour of the ancient Inca ruins. Once back down at the ruins many more people had arrived and it was getting crowded. After making my way to Hugo along with the rest of the group he explained everything he knew about Machu Picchu.
Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was constructed as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas” (a title more accurately applied to Vilcabamba), it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Binghambrought it to international attention in 1911.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of how they originally appeared. By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored and restoration continues.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
What fascinates me is that the older pre-inca structure which existed there before the Inca civilization is far more complex and advanced. You can clearly see in the pictures the distinct difference between the two. Even with today’s technology we would have a very hard time replicated what the pre-inca civilization maybe thousands of years ago,
We spent about 4 hours at the sight and once you get into the line they sort of force you through. I have to say Machu Picchu is a magical place with an energy I have never experienced. Words really can’t describe the experience and picture don’t do it justice. In all honestly if your interested go and visit Peru and I promise it will be an experience of a lifetime.
After getting many more picture we exited Machu Picchu loaded on the bus to go back to Aqua Calientes and then the following day onto Ollantaytambo and then onto Cusco but not before celebrating a little too much the last night in Aquas Callientes and I imagine stories of the wild and wonderful fellow from West Virginia will be told for some time to come.
I will be back to Machu Picchu without a doubt and hope to eventually hike all trails leading to the ancient Inca ruins and even onto Choquequirao. Maybe March 2019 anyone interested in going let me know you will learn more about yourself and find answers to questions you never thought to ask. Little did I know at this time I would return to Peru two months later.
GoPro Video coming soon……
After drinking my coca tea I met with the group and we loaded up in a van. We then drove for about 30 minutes to the start of the trail. Hugo was full of energy and from the start I could tell we would get along very well. Most of the other guides and members of the crew did not speak English so it made it difficult to communicate for some of us. We approached our starting point unloaded the van and loaded up our backs. Hugo explained the first section would be flat at the beginning but long and steep at the end and should take around 8 hours to get to the first camp.
As I loaded my pack onto my back I had an overwhelming feeling of anticipation, excitement, and anxiety. I had waited this experience for a long time and it felt surreal at that moment.
Breathing at these altitudes is difficult and can make even the seasoned athlete keel over but I was looking forward to the challenge and needed the escape. Looking down one foot in front of the other I began the hike. The atmosphere and scenery are amazing and the sense of oneness with Pachamama (Mother Nature) was undeniable. As we hiked along the trail Hugo was very knowledgeable about local flora and fauna. He also knew the history, practices, and most of the previous ancient civilizations that occupied the territory in the past. Every once and awhile we would stop rest and Hugo would tell local legends and stories. As we progressed up the mountain the breaks became more frequent as the oxygen in the air got thinner. After a few hours of hiking we came across a few villages of local people living similar to the Qutchua. He explained how many people in this area still live the same as they did generations ago.
As we continued to walk the terrain got steeper and we could begin to see an immense waterfall in the distance. We continued to hike until we came to the base of the Perolinyoq waterfall. The power and presence of the waterfall was all encompassing and it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever had the privilege of being in the presence of. Hugo told the legend of a mermaid like creature that lived behind the waterfall and would come out at night to scavenge for hikers food and equipment.
After spending some time at the waterfall cooling off, we continued to hike up the side of the mountain. Eventually we could see an ancient Inca ruin across the valley on the side of a mountain and above that our first base camp. We continued for another 4 hours or so until we reached the ancient Inca ruins of Q’orimarca which is believed to have been used for food storage, worship, and a resting point for Inca messenger. From here you have an amazing view of the valley and the trail that we had hiked this far. We rested as Hugo talked about Inca culture and how they would build food storage sites throughout the valley and how they knew how to preserve foods like potatoes for hundreds of years. How messenger would run different trails to locations like Machu Picchu and needed these places for food and shelter. Once Hugo had finished we continued hiking another 30 minutes until we reached our first base camp. All the tents had been setup and Hugo let us know which tents were who’s and a brief explanation of where to use the restroom, when we would eat, and other basics. I walked over to my tent pretty exhausted and took off my backpack which felt really heavy by that point. It felt so good to unload and relax. I got my sleeping back and gear situated in my tent and then laid down in front of my tent and did some yoga stretching. As I sat back up and looked out over the valley the sun began to set. I felt really good about my strength and endurance and more alive than I had in a long time. I thought about mom and could feel her presence around me and smiled with a tear in my eye as I knew she was enjoying the moment with me.
In the background I could hear Hugo letting us know that dinner was about ready and for everyone to come to the main tent to eat. I strapped my headlamp on my head as it was almost dark and walked over to the main tent. Evenings in the main tent were a lot of fun and many great conversations with Hugo being the organizer. He also liked to play name that tune. We always had an assortment of teas and hot chocolates as well as bread and cracker, sometimes popcorn. Then we would have soup followed by main dish which was usually rice, potatoes, some vegetable and chicken, fish, or beef. That was followed by desert and more conversation. After we had all had our fill it was time to sleep which was not a problem because all of us were tired. After once more cup of coca tea I walked over to my tent and managed to work my way into the sleeping bag. It was cold at night between 30-40 degrees and the oxygen in the air was thin. As I began to close my eyes I could not help but think of the mermaid creature lol and thanked god for the amazing day and fell asleep.
I walk up the next morning around 4:30 and got my boots and jacket on and headed over to the main tent for breakfast. A few people were having altitude sickness and did not sleep well so they took medication which helped them some but Hugo insisted not to take the medication that the side effects were bad and to drink coca tea. After breakfast, coffee, and conversation consisting of what the days hiking would consist of everyone went back to their tents to load up. After getting everything situated and water bladders filled up Hugo handed us all a bagged lunch and we began our hike around 6:00.
Hugo had let us know that day 2 would be the hardest with the steepest accents and longest distance. I felt good and was excited for the challenge. After hiking about two hours we were at a very high altitude about 14,500 feet and breathing became even harder. So our paces slowed and our breaks became more frequent. The landscape was so dynamic yet peaceful with a wide range of sights and smells. After another few hours we stopped to eat our bagged lunch. By this time the temperature had warmed up and the sun was intense. I re-applied sunscreen and striped a layer of cloths. While eating my lunch and conversing with the group, Hugo answered question about local culture and wildlife. Explaining that the Condor was one of the most sacred animals to the area and much of Peru. As we came to one of the steepest climbs Hugo asked if everyone was ok and that the next 1000 yards would be challenging but rewarding. We all shook our heads, some more sure than others and pushed on breaking frequently as my heart pounded out of my chest. As we reached the top we were rewarded with an unbelievable view of the snow capped mountains of the Andes. It was literally breathtaking not just because of the hike and lack of oxygen but the power of the view. I sat down and took it all in. It’s points like this in life I realized that you learn the most and grow. Along the mountain range we were on you could see rocks stacked randomly everywhere. Hugo explained that they are placed for various reasons; trail marking, prayer, wish, memory, and I’m sure various reasons for other cultures in different regions. I gathered a group of rocks stacked them with the intention of a memorial for mom and said a few prayers. We all had our moments and then we got together for a group picture before continuing on our way. The rest of the hike was pretty flat with slight up and down small hills until we reached camp.
At camp it was routine of taking off boots, backpack, getting tent situated, and relaxing a minute before going to the main tent for dinner. By this time I felt really acclimated to the altitude and my breathing was not as labored. My feet and back where a little sore as well as my knees but overall I felt good. After eating another delicious meal Hugo played name that tune which consisted of 80’s and pop music which surprised me that he liked it and I knew most of it. We all had some good laughs that night about the hike and our adventure this far before heading to our sleeping bags and passing out.
The next morning I got up feeling a bit stiff but good overall and excited that today I would see the sun gate. Ate breakfast, loaded up, and headed out. Todays trek would be challenging with a steep accent followed by a rocky switchback decent and the a gradual slope upwards toward the sun gate. The up hill accent was very challenging and at that altitude was much more difficult than it looked but once at the top I was rewarded once again with an amazing view of the mountains and valley. Once everyone had reached the top we had lunch and listened to Hugo talk about the Qutchua and Inca people’s traditions and culture. He then explained that the next section would be dangerous and we would need to use hiking poles to ensure proper stabilization while hiking down the steep boulder and rock filled switchbacks. As we continued on the hike Hugo spotted a Condor far up in the sky circling the mountain top and I must say it was quite a majestic experience. As we got toward the bottom we rested a bit and talked about how technical that section of the hike was and how fortunate we felt to see a Condor flying in the Peruvian Andes.
The next section would be to the Sun Gate and would take a few hours on mostly even terrain. It is somewhere in this section of the hike that I lost my headphones which at the time I was frustrated but feel in the end it was a good thing because they can be isolating. As we got about 30 minutes out you could start to see the sun gate in the distance and the amazing Andes mountain peaks behind it. It felt like something straight out of the Lord of the Rings. My heart beat faster as we approached and walked along what seemed like the mountain giant backbone.
The Sun Gate Inti Punku on the Inca Quarry trail which in Qutchua, means ‘Sun Gate’, and the Incas built structures like these throughout the Andes to honor the sun god. This intriguing archaeological complex overlooks Ollantaytambo and the valley below – which was a fantastic reward on the challenging second day. We all took pictures and then hiked downhill toward the Sacred Valley and base camp for the last night.
As we approached base camp we stumbled upon another group which was camping 100 yards above us. The nice thing about the quarry trail is it is not crowded and this is the only other group we came across during the entire hike. We stopped and talked for a while shared experiences and continued on. Once at camp the same routine of unloading, getting everything situated, freshening up, and most importantly taking off my boots. By this point my feet were sore but no blisters thanks to good smart wool socks and Salomon boots. I rested for a moment and then headed to the main tent for dinner. At dinner as usual Hugo had a funny story to tell about a group of girls that came on the hike a few month back and how the porters and guides where going out of there way to be nice to them because they were very attractive. Well apparently on the second day the porters stumbled upon the girls peeing standing up and were shocked, They could not believe they where transsexual. So Hugo said from then on the porters no longer hit on them or went out there way to help. So one evening one of the so called girls said to Hugo what is wrong with the porters they seem to be shy and no longer interested in us. Hugo said honestly they saw you pee standing up and were surprised to find out you are men. They started laughing and said we are not men we use a “She Wee” a devise that girls use to pee standing up. They all got a good laugh and the porters could not believe it.
After more stories and plenty of food and tea. I headed to the tent for the final night sleeping on the trail. As I walked to my tent I had a deep conversation with the gentleman Robert from Scotland. We both looked over the valley as the sun faded and the sky turned black. I can say the stars were absolutely amazing that night and although I felt one with the universe at that Monet I felt very small compared to the depths of time and space. I headed to my tent got in my sleeping bag and passed out completely exhausted mentally and physically.
I woke up around same time and same routine. Todays hike would be the easiest of all the days as we hiked through the Sacred Valley down into Ollantaytambo. Since we had descended so much yesterday and would continue today the weather got warmer and the oxygen was more available in the air and my lungs were appreciative. As we continued hiking Hugo had mentioned to me previously about ancient tombs up into the mountains that was far of the trail but he would take me when we got to that point if I was interested and had the stamina. Robert and I were game so we left our bags with the rest of the group who were gracious enough to wait and hiked up the side of the quarry mountain to the ancient tombs.
The hike was hard and took about 45 minutes but when we got close you could see mounded stones and underground entrances to tombs. This was amazing and almost seemed like a childhood fantasy of living out an adventure of Indiana Jones. The entrance was very narrow but as you climbed down in the rock quarry tomb you could see the remains of skeletons. The feeling in the tomb was eerie and I was very respectful of the environment and of the loss of life especially considering I had just lost my mom, dad, and grandmother. I was very emotional as I excited the tomb and said a prayer. We each took a turn going down into the tomb as Hugo explained he rarely ever takes anyone to these tombs and assured me that death is just the beginning of something new and that life soul energy never ends.
We hiked back down to the group shared our experience and headed toward the trail. We hit a few rough patches of mosquitos which were happy to see me but I cannot say the same. Hugo explained rubbing leaves from the peppercorn tree would repel then and sure enough it worked. We saw some amazing plants including San Pedro a local medicine that produces hallucinations similar to Peyote. We also started seeing animals, small villages and farms. After a lunch break and a few more hours we crossed the bridge back into the town of Ollantaytambo. At this point if felt aqward and strange to be around civilization and so much commotion. My senses were very heightened and I really just wanted to hike back up into the mountains. I did enjoy a beer as we headed to the train that would take us to Aquas Callientes the gateway to Machu Picchu.
Flying from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco is only about an hour or so and the flight this time was smooth and I would learn in the future on other flight that is not normally the case. I was excited to experience the ancient city of Cusco.
Cusco was the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th until the 16th-century Spanish conquest. In 1983 Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO with the title “City of Cuzco”. It has become a major tourist destination, hosting nearly 2 million visitors a year. The Constitution of Peru designates it as the Historical Capital of Peru.
Finding my way from the airport gate to ground transportation was easy and eventually I found my to the van that would be taking me to the hotel Casa Andina Koricancha in the heart of Cusco.
The street in Cusco are mostly made of brick and are extremely narrow with steep hills, the drivers can be crazy so you have to be aware. You can see a wide range of ancient architecture mixed with some more recent buildings. When I arrived at the hotel a parade was going on in the streets many of the catholic schools and soldiers were celebration a catholic holiday specific to the region. I made my way to the front desk and checked in. I inquired about getting my laundry done as most of my cloths were dirty by this point and we would be leaving for the Inca Quarry Trail in a few days. The gentleman at the front desk told me it would be charged by weight which equaled about $3.00 a pound. Arriving at my room I found a very comfortable bed actually three LoL, nice bathroom, and general accommodations. I unloaded, took a hot shower (which had never felt better), gathered up my laundry and headed to the lobby. Once at the lobby I dropped the laundry off, met some friends in the lobby and headed out to dinner. Walking through Cusco is surreal, the ancient architecture, the energy, diversity, and history are all consuming. The city is full of tourist from all over the world as well as locals who still mostly practice there traditional trades. We decided to eat at Nuna a fairly newer restaurant which was recommended by a local. The atmosphere was comfortable and service was great although communication can be difficult is you are not fluent in Spanish. I indulged in some local craft beer which was pretty good. I also decided to try Alpaca, which I have to say is delicious and is better in my opinion than beef. After having a few more drinks we decided to head back to hotel because we would be having a meeting with our guides early in the mourning about the Inca Quarry Trail hike to Machu Picchu.
After a good nights rest I made my way down to the lobby to have breakfast, pick up my laundry, and went to attend the meeting about the Inca Quarry trail hike. I met with other travelers that would be going on the hike as well as the guides. The main guides name was Hugo and he was a funny and intelligent man. He explained the route we would take, the length of time, altitude, dangers, precautions, as well as what to be sure to bring. I would be the only American on the trek but would be joined by a Scottish gentleman, a 60 year old experienced Aussie bloke, a 33 year old versed traveler from Portugal, and a 23 year old girl from the UK as well as a host of porters, and guides. I felt good after the meeting but a bit nervous as I knew it would test my endurance. We parted ways as we would be meeting him and the rest of the team in Ollyantambo the following day.
I spent the remainder of the day exploring Cusco, trying different foods, shopping, chocolate factory, and coffee shop. I also explored many beautiful churches including Cusco Cathedral and San Blas Temple. After exploring for awhile longer I met up with some of the group for dinner and then we decided to go to an alpaca clothing factory and market.
Alpaca fleece is the natural fiber harvested from an alpaca. It is light or heavy in weight, depending on how it is spun. It is a soft, durable, luxurious and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Alpaca fiber is naturally water-repellent and difficult to ignite. Huacaya, an alpaca that grows soft spongy fiber, has natural crimp, thus making a naturally elastic yarn well-suited for knitting. Suri has no crimp and thus is a better fit for woven goods. The designer Armani has used Suri alpaca to fashion men’s and women’s suits. Alpaca fleece is made into various products, from very simple and inexpensive garments made by the indigenous communities to sophisticated, industrially made and expensive products such as suits. In the United States, groups of smaller alpaca breeders have banded together to create “fiber co-ops,” to make the manufacture of alpaca fiber products less expensive.
I have decided recently to start importing Alpaca clothing into the Ohio Valley. So if anyone is interested please let me know.
After dinner and a few drinks I decided to walk around for a little while and soak in the vibe and the sights of Cusco at night before venturing back to the hotel. I needed to get up at 5:30 to be on a van heading through the Sacred Valley on our way to the city of Ollantaytambo to start the treck to Machu Picchu.
I got up the next morning feeling a little altitude sickness but nothing a little coca tea would not relieve. I went down stairs, met the group and had breakfast. Our first stop on the way to Ollantaytambo would be Sacsayhuamán, which was a citadel on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, Peru, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Sections were first built by the Killke culture about 1100; they had occupied the area since 900. The complex was expanded and added to by the Inca from the 13th century; they built dry stone walls constructed of huge stones. The workers carefully cut the boulders to fit them together tightly without mortar. The site is at an altitude 12,142 ft and has a beautiful overlook of Cusco. The shear size and magnitude of these structures is amazing and to think only about 30% of the original structure remains today.
After leaving Sacsayhuamán we headed back to the van to continue our drive through the Sacred Valley on the way to Ollantaytambo. Along the way we stopped to visit with a family that made pottery and hosted travelers. I was excited to experience this because I had taken pottery in high school and collage so it interested me. The family were gracious and prepared a delicious meal consisting of potato soup made from dried potatoes, avocado salad with bread, and chicken with rice. Also served with the meal was Chicha not the beer but the purple non-alcoholic drink made from corn. The meal was delicious and the hosts could not have been more genuine and kind. After talking for awhile we followed them to there studio were the created there pottery and to watch them work. As they began to work I could immediately tell how skilled there technique was and that it had been perfected by generation. It maintain its tradition from the way they cultivated the clay from the local mountains to the kick wheel they use to spin the pottery, the technique of decoration and the kiln they used to bake the pottery.
After leaving our hosting family we continued on our way to Ollantaytambo along the way stopping at a local bar to have some Chicha the alcoholic drink fermented in a pot from corn mash and sometimes mixed with strawberry juice. We also enjoyed a drinking game called Sapo which consists of tossing coins into a stand containing various slot with different points and a brass frog in the middle as a bullseye not to different from cornhole. We played a few games and had a few drinks and continued to Ollantaytambo.
Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru which is about 45 miles northwest of Cusco. It is located at an altitude 9,160 ft above sea level. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti, who conquered the region and built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru, it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance. Nowadays, located in what is called the Sacred Valley of the Incas, it is an important tourist attraction on account of its Inca ruins and its location en route to one of the most common starting points for the four-day, three-night hike known as the Inca Trail
The ruins in Ollantaytambo are amazing and climbing the huge stones to the top is literally breathtaking. After exploring the ruins I headed to my hotel to check in and relax. Once I had checked in and unpacked my things I walked to the center square to get some dinner and have a few drinks. The stone streets in Ollantaytambo are ancient and open water ways are running down either side of the streets. After exploring the stores, alleyways, and bars for awhile I met up with some members of the group for dinner at a local restaurant. We talked about the beginning of the Inca trail hike our diverse backgrounds and what had lead us to this point of wanting to visit Machu Picchu and hike the trail. After one to many drinks considering I had to be up at 5:00 AM to meet with the rest of the group, Hugo my trail guide, and his crew so our group could begin the Inca Quarry trail hike bright and early.
Woke up the next morning feeling great so I went and grabbed a quit coca tea and went to the lobby to meet the group to start the hike to Machu Picchu.