Thursday, April 30, 2009

El Calafaté and the Perito Moreno Glacier

We arrived in El Calafaté during what is Patagonia's late fall. The colors of the surrounding forests and plains burned with brilliant oranges, yellows, and browns. Around every corner, as we walked through town, it seemed to be expected that a scarecrow would be found nailed into someones lawn or signs for nearby pumpkin picking would appear. The whole area seemed like a familiar small town right before a festive Halloween and Thanksgiving season. People out with their rakes, piles of multicolored leaves on the curbs and renegade ones drifting through the wind and onto the streets and sidewalks.

The sun rose late and set early, so it was difficult to judge time. On the second day, we were up before the daybreak preparing to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of three main attractions in the immediate region. Being so far south, the air was crisp and perfectly cold; it found the holes in our sweaters.

As we rode on the $25 (USD)-bus to the national park, the country opened up and the plains grew on both sides of us, stretching to the mountains rising on the horizon. Snow capped peaks surrounded us on all sides.

The first sight of the glacier appeared forty-five minutes and $15 (USD) after our departure, wedged between two mountains. Amazingly blue icebergs drifted in front of it like criminal escapees. The glacier continued to play hide-and-seek with us as our bus winded through the valley. Occasionally, the semi-tour bus would pull over and stop for photo-ops of the glacier and wildlife. The bus driver would clumsily stand up from her post and mutter a few Spanish words, assumingly, about the view or the creature in sight. Then she would turn back around and continue on.

By the time we reached the glacier, our camera's were already half full with this picture or that. As we stepped out of our ride, we were surrounded by more of the Autumn colors and the white and blue gleam of the glacier. The front wall of the glacier seemed to be stretching out to us, or oozing out from in between the mountains. Staring at the mass of ice was made it seem as if you could actually see it move forward; as if you had the ability to see fine, infinitely small details. It was breathtaking.

As we walked along the steel grate path that conveniently and safely always sat just six inches from the ground, we looked out at the natural beauty before us sitting a quarter mile away. Resting our elbows on the railing, we snapped photos with the rest of the tourists walking the same circuit.

The glacier was pristine in its existence. Beautiful blues and whites painted the wall immediately facing us, with long thin brown lines running diagonally. In the distance, cracking and crashing sounds rang out as parts of Perito broke off and escaped.

We continued to walk the circuit, up and down steel stairs, across the grating six inches from the dirt. Pictures were taken and coversations had of how beautiful the glacier was. Twenty minutes later, we found ourselves up top - near the new construction, concrete and brick overlooks with more railings half built, the sound of brick saws loud in our ears - finished with our tour. Three hours and twenty-five pesos to spend while waiting for our return bus.

We sat in the café, cushioned chairs behind large pane glass, eating our two apples and stared out at the glacier...past the railings, walkways, and lookouts and wondered if the bus would be any earlier than scheduled. People around us sat, almost uninterested in the natural beauty outside, and ate their strange gourmet looking meals that were heated in microwaves while they weren't looking- a Wawa or convenience store dressed up with venetian blinds and nicely dressed servers; prices jacked up for no good reason. The gorgeous ice stuck behind the sound of construction.

* This is a photo montage.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bariloche: more than a hike

As you've probably noticed, we've been in a different pueblo or city almost every other day. All this buzzing about became quite grueling and was affecting the Wayward Wino chi. Once we arrived in Bariloche, the city lined by lakes and full of chocolate, we we decided this would be the perfect city in which to take a breather and realign.

Although we did two (somewhat lame day-hikes), one in Parque Llao Llao and the other to Cerro Catedral, we found the most interesting aspect indoors; in our hostel. Bernardo and Estefania, the inn keepers, delighted us with a mate lesson (check out the last post) and the Argentine way of folding empanadas. "It makes more sense, so that the meat doesn't come out," she said. And that it did, Estefania's work baked their way to much prettier final emapandas than mine.

Sometimes the best part of traveling is to slow down and live a bit like the locals. And in the case of Bariloche, live life sloooowly. Enjoy. Take another sip of mate and just nibble on an empanada. There's time...just keep nibbling.

A whole six days later we sadly parted ways...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Study in Mate

Three months before we left on this trip through South America, I swore off coffee and for the most part, I've made good on this effort. Sticking mostly to tea, I've gotten my caffeine fix in other ways.

Now, in Bariloche, Argentina, I discovered and have been awaiting to try a new, interesting take on drinking tea: maté. After receiving a cultural lesson from Bernardo, the inn keeper at La Barracca hostel, I codified my desire to try this method and made my way out to buy my first maté cup, bombilla (straw), and yerba (the herbs used for the tea).

With these items, I was ready for my first maté experience. I began with the "curing" process: a two day event that allows my wooden cup to absorb the flavors of the yerba. To do so, yerba is poured into the new cup and hot water is added. This similar to any other preparation of maté, except that this will be left out over night, and not had. The next day, the process is repeated with a new batch of yerba. After the two days, the maté cup is ready for use.

As I waited for my maté to cure, I thought about the new culture of people I have been introduced to in Argentina. So far, this has been a country of long sighs and long breaks; a slow easy going place. Most shops shut down, at least here in Bariloche , for two to three hours every afternoon for siesta; waiters and waitresses let you be as you type away on your laptop, with empty glasses, as long as you want- hours at a table never to be approached. All very different from the on-the-run feeling we've grown accustomed to in the United States, where servers nearly escort you out the door as soon as the last morsel is lifted from your plate, and coffee and tea are more likely to be found in paper to-go cups rather than mugs on a table surrounded by friends. Here moments are drawn out, not crammed in before deadlines.

Drinking their tea is an event; a ritual that takes great care and time. First, a new cup needs to be cured, a two day process. No rush. Take your time. It will taste better if you wait. Then, each time a maté is taken, it is almost another event. While you sit with friends, sharing stories, or you sit by yourself and a book or a movie, you carry with you your water, constantly refreshing the tea with hot water. Savor as much as you want. It has so much flavor. Have more hot water. There's a whole Thermos. No rush.

The drink itself is an experience: a fancy cup, usually only for drinking maté, a fancy, metal straw or bombilla, and a wide selection of yerba to choose from. All three are personal to the owner; "This is my maté," as said by Bernardo regarding his maté. "You take care of your maté." As friends sit around drinking their maté, you feel as if you are in a smokey bar with gentlemen smoking their favorite choice cigars or filling their timeless pipes, or perhaps an American barbecue with everyone with their personal beer mugs.

And so I wait. No rush.

***

Two days had past and anticipation was high. Even though South American culture is slower than in the States, I still found myself not able to adapt: constantly not wanting to wait. In the time, my girlfriend was even able to get a coffee to-go from a local gas station early on Sunday morning, when the entirety of Bariloche, except us, the gas attendant, and the strays were still asleep. But I waited.

And with my first taste, I was honestly a bit taken back. The bitter taste, not complimented by the grapefruit flavors of the yerba, was strong. The small grainy particles, seemed to permeate the straw, landing square on my tongue leaving me feeling like a just had a mouthful of fine sand. Then, I found myself rushing to drink. One sip. One sip. Refill. One sip. One sip. Refill. Too bitter. So strong.

So I stepped back, and enjoyed. Took my time between sips and tastes, held the maté longer than I spent drinking it. Relaxed. Then, finally...I got it.

____________________________________________
Tip:
Take care of what mate and bombilla you select. It speaks to your character and soul...it is your grail.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Camping Huerquehue

Three days of walking; one three day hike through the woods.

Huerquehue National Park is a beautiful place covered with interesting pines and bamboo. The sole volcano in the distance gives a glow of ownership to the land every time you catch a glimpse through the canopy.

For hours upon hours we walked through trees at times dense then sparse, then dense again. Across ridges and over creeks and streams, carefully picking out a rocks to use as bridges. Two by fours and freshly fallen branches guided our feet as we slowly ascended and descended over and over again; sleeping bags, pots and our tent haphazardly strapped to our bags dangled like tails behind us.
The struggle up the mountain that lied ahead of us was filled with beautiful look outs, waterfalls and the main attractions-- the lakes. The first three hours of walking gave us an opportunity to see the amazing Lago Chico and Laguna El Toro. Although these lakes probably aren't considered the most spectacular in the world, they did add to the playfully elegant atmosphere of the park, like watching a very pretty, off-balanced ballerina enjoying a dance she will never, truly master.

After an almost painfully easy two hour walk through the lakes, with one still sitting momentarily inaccessible to the left, we started our next rise and fall over the peak that would end with our camp. One foot after another, we slowly made it up the majority of the peak until we came upon a ridge that opened up to the burning mid-afternoon sun. It was as if we had been walking underground for hours, hidden in the dark, finally to dig ourselves out. As the sun, high in the sky, impaired our vision, the first sign of our temporary home became apparent: an orange tent appeared in a small clearing at the foot of the peak we were walking around.

With our minds filled with a new exuberance and our bodies still operating on nothing but a single banana and weak tea carrying an extra fifty pounds on our backs, we moved quickly down. Again, we found ourselves cool under the cover of leaves, once in awhile catching site of the orange tent.

Upon reaching the site, our stomachs growled with new intensity. With fervor, we had the tent popped, wood gathered, a fire started, and hot dogs roasting on our bamboo spit. We sat around the fire eating our campers' dinner with stale bread while drinking pisco and coke. As the water boiled around our eggs, the next days breakfast, we played rummy basking in the glow of the coals. The sky was almost white with stars and the silence nearly annoyed with the cackle of our laughter.

The first night was harsh and bitter. In our borrowed tent and shared sleeping bag, we struggled to stay asleep for more than ten minutes at a stretch. Although our muscles and minds were exhausted, the rigid, hard ground below us kept crashing into our bones. So we tossed and turned, fully clothed, our heads covered in scarves and hats, in our freezing tent catching micro bursts of sleep until the sun forced us out; strange, short, interrupted dreams clouding our thoughts.

The next morning we ate our hard-boiled eggs in stale bread and ketchup. We tried to convince ourselves we had enough sleep for another five hour hike.

We left after thee small morning fire finished smoking. Without our packs, the walk was little to speak of. A few steep climbs, a few soggy ravines to cross. Once or twice a view of the surrounding peaks would find their way through the foliage. Nothing much to speak of.

Three hours after walking through the sun and trees, our path evolved into a choice between return via our current path, return via an alternate path, or continue onto the nearby hot springs. Thus far, our experiences with South American hot springs has been disappointing, so we opted for retreat on the path not yet traveled. With our stomachs again on empty and running on the fumes of a breakfast hours prior, we attempted to climb up a nearby hill for the unexplored path only to be met by thorns and overgrowth stopping any further exploration. Too tired to continue looking for the path, and with the sun threatening to set, we resigned to return the way we came. Nothing much to speak of, but this time dimmer.

Three hours later, empty in the belly and hollow as a cave, mouths parched and cracked with hours of no water, we returned to our refuge. With the wood that was gathered earlier that morning, a fire was started quickly and large. Our final rations of hot dogs were roasted and consumed without bread and washed down with stream water.

For the rest of the night we stayed huddled around the fire, coals burning blue and white, feeling the temperature roll down like a ball thrown off a cliff by an angry, chubby boy.

We retired to our tent after the last of the coals went grey. Newly refurbished with all of our clothes acting as our mattress, we slept more soundly.

The next day, without any food available, we packed up our belongs and started back on our long, lonely return hike. Lighter on our backs and in our stomachs, the hike moved faster than before; moved with a determination to eat before full hunger began to hurt. Nothing much to speak of. We took the opposite side path to the one with came in on, but walked past the differences; our nose teasing us with memories of delicious smells of food.

Four hours later, through the sun but before the heat, we found ourselves outside the park feverish for food and excited about another great, and eventful hike completed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Lost Photos of Santiago...

Although Chile is not so long gone and we have been in Argentina for a total of eight hours....We did miss a few beautiful highlights of Santiago. This city took me by surpise not only for the amazingly cheap street meats and tasty egg rolls, but for its modernity and awesome hospitality. Within five minutes of sitting at a dive bar table, crappy Spanish and all, we we´re invited to a table for ¨piscolas¨ (a mixture of the famous Pisco and Coke) and lengthy conversation. Too bad we didn´t get photos of that....


Santiago, Chile. Photo by: Melanie McLean


Easter mass at the Cathedral. Look Ma´, we went to church... Santiago, Chile. Photo by: Melanie McLean


Sancutary of the Virgin Mary overlooking the city...about a hour hike up from Barr¡o Bellavista. Photo by: Melanie McLean


The chapel at the Sanctuary of the Virgin Mary. Photo by: Melanie McLean


Paul enjoys (sorta) the mote con huesillos, a super Chillean street treat of sweet tea with dried peaches and corn bits. Photo by: Melanie McLean


An imporant looking building downtown....Photo by: Paul Cox





Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hot Dogs and Egg Rolls: Santiago on the Run

Santiago is a place of beauty and clarity. The Sun, during our stay, constantly shone down upon this very modern city; upon the its people walking quickly between barrios, the metro stops dotting the streets and the brilliant beautification.

Also, among the things getting lit up and warmed by the sun´s rays, was the city´s brilliant street food. I could go on about the lovely parks along the river that runs down the center, or Barrio Bellavista´s very lively nightlife, but these are things that seem to over shadowed by the hot dogs and egg rolls.

Starting with our first encounter with Santiago street food is a variation of the egg roll, or more of a cross between an egg roll and taquito. This deep fried, veggitarian treat, is available at prices at about twenty US cents and are found around nearly every metro stop. I am not sure of the words being belted by the vendors selling these trinkets of culinary delight, but they are identifiable as crispy tortilla wraps crammed together in some plastic box near the steps of subway stations.

Moving on to our favorite, and most important, food of Santiago, is the hot dog. Along most streets, and in nearly every restaurant, are served Completo´s or Italiano´s. At their core, these tasty roadside delicacies are nothing more than glorified hot dogs. However, the glorification process is what makes it so noteworthy. As el sol beemed down and bounced of the polished metal exterior of the carts on the street, advacado and onion and mayo and ketchup and sourcrout and hot peppers and mustard were added to the top of these pork cylinders- the codiments out weighing the hot dog by two or three to one. And here lies the beauty: it is a sandwich of rudimentary, and sometimes offensive, secondary tastes. The condiments seem to combine in away previously thought impossibly. This all done in under 2 USD.

So, the true sites are not sites at all, but rather tastes. And since they did not last long in our hands (although their memories will live on in our hearts, minds, and pallets) there were few pictures taken, but the ones we do have we will be sure to share, but until then, salivate over those thoughts for awhile.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Scrolling Walls in Valparaíso

Walls attacked by aerosol cans help hold up this antique city's slumping buildings.

Valparaiso is a city of literal street art. Its bohemian aura seeps out of the cracked sidewalks and pours out of the cheap beer being had in dive bars; all within arms reach of the hostel. Perhaps it was the dreary clouds that hung over our heads or the dilapidated, yet lively roofs keeping our heads dry, but the town had a cold, artistic feel. As we uncharacteristically smoked our cigarettes and characteristically drank our spirits, other travelers shared stories of their voyages thus far. Gathered in the dark kitchen, or firmly sunk into the worn couches, smoke puffing from our mouths, suggestions of where to stay or food to try or philosophies to follow flowed easily back and forth. Our clothes showed our stains and wear.

During the day, with our head still swimming in alcohol and our lungs still inflated with smoke, we seemed to stand still as the walls of paint rolled by. At the end of each canvas strip sat a run down shop selling electronics or sweets, and then another canvas strip started.

The bottom of the nearby mountain found its way to us, still standing or sitting in the park still. As an elevator car was pulled a gradual angle, the hill scrolled down past us, our feet firm on ground, and then the stairs, free of charge. Halfway up, on the left hand side, sat two huge hummingbirds. The paint fluttered back and forth alive with color and heart, with the help of an over reactive brain still feeling the fumes of a long night.

At night, we reconvened at the hostel. Crowded in the living room, kitchen, or building center drinking Escudo (delicious and cheap Chilean beer) or other cheap drinks talking about our adventures new and old; helping each other in the art of discovery. We moved only to find a darker, louder spot behind some neon lights with mumbled Chilean Spanish in the background. We waxed philosophical about things we know we will never change.

After our fill of beer and wine and thoughts, we awoke feeling heavier with booze and enlightenment. The same paint remained unchanged on the walls: bright and vibrant against another gloomier day in Valparaiso.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Beginning of Chile

Arica´s small buildings jut out of the surrounding desert like they were pushed through dirty saran wrap. Sand gathered around the sides of buildings, especially those on the edge, creating small slopes - replicas of the mountain sized sand dunes holding the city to the coast.

Walking through the streets, haggard palm trees every twenty feet, the town gives an impression of an old, yet still classy beach town. Hostels and hospedajes have chipped sea green and aqua blue paint hanging off the walls. Wicker chairs, with their cushions finding their way through the broken bottoms, sit in the corners and around the check-in counter adorned with pictures of a city´s heyday. The strict Chilean housekeeper, wearing her stained white apron, spout off prices and availability in a mumbled spanish.

The trip to the beach was on foot and wrapped around a sand cliff. Up high above, a huge concrete statue- perhaps a war hero, or a saint, or Christ himself- peered down, while vultures circled over head and grains of sand trickled down the cliff wall onto us.

On the other side of the cliff, the splash of the ocean hit hard against the coast. Huge concrete structures were layed all down the shoreline, piled ten high up from the beach to the road. Seemingly there to protect the land from erosion, these massive things resembled giant concrete anchors or grappling hooks belonging to the statue above. Maybe he used these to reach his final resting place up on the sandy hill.

The beach of choice sat in front of a seasonly abandoned restaurant. Umbrellas made from palm trees sprouted up brown and lifeless along the coastline, offering shade from the cloudless sky. The restaurant and shore had ghosts of tourists and beach-goers from the months just before. The few of us that decided to enjoy the view could sense phantoms beers being drank en masse and the spirits still playing volleyball on the sand.

In autumn, the wind off the water seems to sting very slightly, forcing you to reconsider the choice of wearing a bathing suit. But it doesn´t full on yell about the decision, just gives you a bit of guilt of defying the idea of changing seasons. Happy with the choice, and out of spite for oceanic doubt, we tested the water. Warm after months of sitting under the sun, and bathing in the Pacific Ocean, the start of a trip through Chile and Argentina had begun.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Walk Through the Andes: Part 4

Machu Picchu is hard to portray in words or photos. It is all encompassing and total in its beauty.

As we waited in line to enter, a feeling of accomplishment was settling in our minds. Four days of walking and climbing, sleeping with bugs hell bent on getting a meal from our flesh, and we were here at our final destination. With barely any sleep and set of clothes that smelled of showerless days, we pushed forward and ensured that we would be one of the 400 elite to attempt to climb Hauyna Picchu, a ruin just outside the city of Machu Picchu.

Upon entering, our group was pulled together at the base of Huayna Picchu to begin a tour of the ancient Incan City. Though the tour was in English, besides broken and sometimes inaccessible, it was hard to pay attention while taking in the visuals of the place we were walking around in. We were blessed to arrive at Macchu Picchu at the end of the storm that had been ailing us for the previous days. We had rain and uncomfortable conditions, and now, at our reason, we had weather that was meant for viewing such beauty.

Terraces ran the entire length of the city; timeless engineering that allowed a flat surface for countless crops to go safely and flourish. As llama's grazed in front of our eyes, it was easy to imaging Incan farmers harvesting their tomatoes, potatoes, or coca moving from one level to the next. The clear sky let the sun beat down on the giant old stones that were cut from the nearby mountain walls. So smooth and cut with precision and holding much of its old integrity. We carried on our journey following our Peruvian tour guide through the astronomical district, through the mall for meetings, and to the agricultural center and finished up where we started, at the base of Huayna Picchu.


From here, the journey up seemed to be another daunting, yet a necessary task to finish our voyage. With the sun at it's highest point and more stairs seeming like a ridiculous proposal, we thought of whether or not our tired bodies were even up to the task. We have come and seen Machu Picchu. That was the plan. To walk were the Incans had walked in mass; one of the wonders of the world. Huayna Picchu was not even noun we were aware of until this point in time. However, we had climbed and hiked all around the Andes mountains- biked through downpours, hiked on cliff edges and climbed up from Aguas Calientes in the dark to reach the base of one more challenge. So the choice was not one at all. We could not have come all this way to let yet another peak higher peer down on us in victory.

The ascent was an easy one. This path was safe guarded, fit for the masses. On the blank sides as well as the rock wall sat wire ropes to help with balance and footing. The trail was just as steep, but we moved up with vigor that could only be explained by a feeling of nearing completion. Our legs seemed to forget the strain of the last couple days, or the fact they have been working since the early hours. The trees broke every now again and through it Machu Picchu seemed farther and farther away. Each time, a new splendid view of the city. We lifted ourselves from step to step with an ease not yet met.

Upon reaching the peak of Huayna Picchu, we joined many other hikers, adventures, and tourists that came for the same stunning view of the mountains and Machu Picchu. Standing at the highest point, your mind has a hard time understand exactly what it is your seeing. Looking down at the large city, so high that the people walking it's paths along it's terraces disappear into dead pixels. From here we could see our four day walking adventure; through the clear skies we could see the rain we walked through- the wet socks, wet shoes, wet shoes and wet pants- and the path back down to find our next adventure.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday Update: Cuba Could Reopen Borders


Last week, CNN reported that a bill is in the works that would allow US citizens to travel freely to the Island Nation of Cuba. Already Obama plans to allow remmitance for Cuban families into their old home, as reported by Reuters.

From the CNN article:

"When something doesn't work for 50 years, 47 years, clear-headed thinking has to say,
'You know what, it's time to change it,'" he said [Sen(D) Byron Dorgan]

If to go through, Americans could finally visit the land of Salsa, reggaeton, and Ropa Viaje; visit the country with most sought after cigars and beautiful beaches.

I've never been (for obvious reasons), but I would love to make the trip, visit the famous Havana beaches, have some creole food, and even try my hand at some mandatory dancing. Maybe on our way out of South America, so hurry up Obama, and let us in.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Walk Through the Andes: Part 3


We awoke in Santa Teresa, itchy and fatigued from the previous days walk, to rain. Again.

After a meager breakfast of chocolate crepes and bananas, the handful of us that decided to continue by foot took off through the drizzle protected by our dirty clothes, raincoats and thin, brightly colored plastic ponchos. The others played cards underneath the restaurant's tin roof waiting for the bus.

The third day of walking was an easy one in comparison: six hours dragging our soggy feet along the Urabamba River on wide paths and through the clouds that sat at eye level. The day went by pretty simply, when not avoiding bites from the local blood sucking insects and uneven loose rocks beneath our feet.

The slow incline and sound of the river racing next to us was a relief as we made our way to lunch some four hours from our start point in Santa Teresa. Lunch was at a railroad side bungalow with a straw roof and a dirt floor kitchen across from a hydroelectric plant that strangely doubled as a pool. The Peru Rail leading up to Aquas Calientes and then to Machu Picchu sat parked a quarter mile down the tracks quietly asking us why we were walking and not riding her.

We ate lunch with the those who opted out of the walk then geared up and all of us began the final leg of the walk together. Two more hours through the, now dry, forest. The way the train rolls, we moved over rapids stepping only on the ties to avoid falling in. We followed the train tracks through the forest laboring with what little energy we had left to lug our stuff down the tracks until we reached our destination Aquas Calientes.

This bottom-of-mountain town rang of a wild west tone. A small, yet modern pueblo that has been obviously grown from and towards tourism, Alguas Calientes huddled around the train track that ran through the town center. Small restaurants, visibly more cleaner appealing to the more monetarily capable travelers, line every road. The road into town had semi-high rise hotels, partially still under construction. The scent of new, unused streets escaped out the windows and was a relief from the stench of our sweat and bug repellent. On one side of a tributary leading into the Urabamba River sat a strip mall made of collapsible shops and tarp and tin roofs. They sold tea shirts, authentic purses and pan flutes. Everything was subject to bargain. We bought shirts with our least favorite beer and soda... for cheap.
After short dinner and shorter drinks, we nestled into the freshest sheets in four days and prepared to wake up at 4 am for our final hike to Machu Picchu.

With our new shirts to replace the ones reeking of the smell of woods, human and defeat and now, we stepped through the darkness towards the ancient Incan City. Small beams of LED flashlights emitted from cell phones and headlamps, along with the stars partially obscured by the high mountains, led the way up the dirt road to the steps. Again, switchbacks found their way up the side of the mountain that would lead us to the grounds of Machu Picchu. This time the stairs seemed to move back and forth in a tighter pattern. The darkness made it easy for feet to get lost and fumble up the stones. Hands grabbed for things they thought were there only to find more darkness. The stomach was at ease with the repercussions of falling off the near swallowed by the oblivion of a dark night.

It seemed that the sun was chasing us up the side of mountain since the higher we got the higher the sun seemed to be. As we reached the top, the light around us was like sun being shoved through a dark blue filter. We sat at our destination, tired, sore and excited about our entrance into Machu Picchu, and anticipated a brilliant sunrise.

Our fresh clothes now joined our dirty and sweaty ones.