Part 1
Part 2
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Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

A view




A trip to Peru

Part 4: The quiet of no cars

For me, the Inca Trail was an experience filled with wonder. The first day, hiking up the trail and occasionally passing by farms or through little hamlets, we realized that there was no motor vehicle access. Everything that the people had was carried in or brought in on a horse or a donkey.

And, too, there was the quiet of no cars or trucks or even airplanes. Just the scents and sights of the mountains and forests and open sky.

We stopped to take a breather in a valley, beside a stream. Beyond some fields in the valley were a couple of adobe farm houses near the foot of the mountain behind them. The roofs had rocks on them, holding the sheet metal roofing in place I thought, imagining that the winds could get pretty intense.

And in the pastures behind the houses, huge boulders that could crush the houses like dried leaves. Obviously the boulders had come from up the mountain. How would I feel about living there, I wondered. Had the people been there when the boulders rolled down, or had it been long ago? One thing for sure, there were others that would be rolling down some day.

Living in a falling boulder zone - not for everybody.

The first night we spent on a terrace below a similar little house, overlooking a valley and beyond it the snowy mountain called Veronica. We ate at a long folding table in the crowded dining tent and stayed there afterward, talking. It was fairly cold and breezy outside, but comfortable in the tent. The Irish found out that beer was for sale in the house above us, and soon they were back with several liter bottles of Cusqueña.

The Irish pretty much refused to sit in the cramped eating tent during the entire trek. I developed a genuine affection for their spirit. They took some of the little folding stools outside and sat around imbibing, laughing, and enjoying the Andean night.

I went out and sat with the Irish and one of the two guides. They were passing around a cup of home made corn beer, which is what the people in the house were drinking. The night was unbelievably dark.

The lack of any city lights and the clarity of the air allowed the stars to blaze with spectacular intensity in the sky, with a disorienting 3 dimensional depth. I have never seen the Milky Way so clearly. The guide pointed out the Southern Cross and a constellation called the Eyes of the Llama. It was humbling to look so deeply into that vast and brilliant universe, and to feel so much a part of it.

Later when I crawled into my sleeping bag, I thought of my lover, and hoped she had made her train and was feeling better. And as I lay in my cozy tent, the Irish went back for more cerveza, and danced and partied with the locals. They were partying full blast up there, with spirited dancing and laughing and rollicking loud music late into the night.

At about 4:00 AM the next morning, the roosters throughout the valley began crowing back and forth, seemingly for one another's benefit. There was not a hint of dawn in the darkness.

I got up about 5:30, before anyone else in camp, and watched as the mountain peaks turned from silhouettes to beautiful green and rocky slopes, as a band of clouds drifted down the valley in changing shades of pink. And Veronica was especially spectacular in her snowy splendor.

I heard the porters waking up, laughing in their sleeping quarters, the eating tent. They seemed like such a good natured group.

And later, I realized how amazing they were. We western trekkers in our hiking boots and fleece would eat the breakfast they prepared and then head out, leaving them to pack up the camp.

Then as we labored up the trail, they would come running past us carrying up to 40kg packs, wearing shorts and sandals. By the time we reached halfway for the day, they had lunch ready. And after lunch we would set out again while they packed up. And they would come running past us again and have the night camp ready when we arrived.

Later that day the Irish told us that after most of us had turned in, they had run out of beer and gone up to the house and joined the party! You have to admire the Irish!

Part 5: Awake above the clouds

this travelogue is part of the subside travelzine
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