Monday, March 30, 2009

A Walk Through the Andes: Part 2

The idea of air drying clothes strongly relies on the notion of a dry, sunny day. This is especially true if your time is limited. Our time was limited.

We awoke to our second day trekking to Machu Picchu with the previous day's wardrobe still drenching wet and now smelling of mold and mosquito infestation. The lines stretched from tree to tree in the back of our dorm style hostel were barely visible underneath our group of fifteen's clothes. And now the rope sagged even closer to the ground than the night before with clothes' new found morning dew.

As we packed up our gear, wrapping the wet pants, wet shirts, and wet socks in plastic backs, raincoats and ponchos, we began to feel the bites from the local mosquito and flies. So, underneath our final remaining clean batch of clothes, we lathered up with ninety-eight percent deet to prepare for our nine hour hike through the Andes.

We ate our breakfast of eggs and mate de coca and mumbled to ourselves and one another of how our feet were sore, if not wet, and how soggy clothes pulled down on our backpacks. After we finished, we begrudgingly scuttled back into our backpack straps and tried to let the caffeine and coca take effect, but the early hour of 6 am seemed to be stronger.

From breakfast, we started our hike from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa. The hike winded through the Andes Mountains underneath the heavy growth of trees and up the peaks via steep, extensive switchbacks. The ascents were long and hard up tall stone steps or mud pilings still dripping from the previous day's rain. As we huffed and puffed up the sides of the lush, wet mountains, it was hard to anticipate the next leg of our journey with the trees looming low with moisture and our eyes firmly fixed on the ground to avoid a slip.

Near the top of our climb, the foliage began to show some light and revealed the Camino de Inca, or Incan trail used by chaski's (messengers) during the height Incan Empire. The stone and slate steps seemed to be cut into mountain range like a scar. From a distance, the tan and brown path, stuck in the dark green, ran on forever, dodging between tops and underneath trees.

The three foot wide stairs left you wondering the sanity and mortality rate of the Incan messengers that previously ran this path. While hugging the mountain well, nails scrapping loose stones, the view of other beautiful mountains and the steep drop off littered with cactus and sharp stones to break your fall. As members of our group snake down steps sliding on their backsides or breaking to let their heart stop racing, it was hard to sort their the feelings of fear and awe.

We walked on, over the passes that were carved into mountain sides, down back to the Urabamba River, over bridges of rotted lumber and rusted nails; through small, half abandoned towns and past Peruvians that seem to appear out of nowhere with sodas, water, and necklaces for sale.


Spaghetti with red sauce and chicken was served for lunch in a lost restaurant. With no town or village or house in sight, this place sat amongst the trees and chickens that seemed to roam free while waiting to be turned to a meal. Our feet were free from our shoes taking a break from the march and we ate proudly talking about what just ensued, picking out chicken toes and feet from the pasta.

After two more hours of hiking, the eight hour journey was behind us and we were prematurely shedding our sacks before reaching our beds to rest our bones before dinner. Our new clothes wet with sweat and the jungle's humidity, and our bodies, bones, and minds sore with the experience and the idea of another six hours the day to follow.

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