March 11th

Hot Springs near Santa Theresa, Peru

The day started nice and slow. It rained all night last night, probably one of the heaviest rains I’ve seen in a while. We listened to music and made breakfast while the “gringo-guided-group” packed up and marched on.

The view from the road across the river from our camp was beautiful, the last time we would view the majestic Salkantay mountain. We walked through a little town, chickens running in the street and horse shit everywhere. Down in the gorge, we spotted the gringo group walking up a raod and we went to follow them, but the oracle (Taj’s GPS) told us the Camino de Salkantay was across the river. We three agreed to cross the river and follow the GPS instead of the group, adventurous as we are.


  
 The trail followed the river bank, up and down the gorge wall. Waterfalls, butterflies, and vines.


  
  
 We walked into a couple of groups rebuilding the trail, local families rebuilding their trail to town. The trail conditions were deteriorating the farther we went, small landslide after landslide made for difficult passage. We came across an impassable slide sight, perhaps 100 metres across, newly turned and very loose. In a moment of luck, a group of locals turned the corner and told us we could use the near-by pulley system to get across the gorge to the road on the other side.

  
  
  
  The locals that helped us across the gorge
 the impassable landslide from the other side of the gorge

 

The road walk proved boring until we came upon two downed bridges. Apparently the storm had taken out the trail and most of the bridges in the area. By the time we arrived at La Playa, Taj’s leg was hurt and we decided to stop for the day. Two beers, a coke, and a nice noodle medley.

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A car ride to Santa Theresa with a Brazilian, a German, a girl from Denmark, and two Peruvian dudes. He dropped us at the camping hostel that the two big gringo groups were staying at, so we immediately decided to call for another ride headed for the hot springs near by. The taxi drove us upstream, deep into the gorge. That night, we ate at the only food stall, fried fish, whole with skin and bones, head and tail, fried potatoes, and rice. We stayed up with beer, doritos, and a small campfire. Listening to music and translating between English, Spanish, German and Portuguese until it started to rain.

 

Lying in a leaky tent at the bottom of a muddy gorge, I only hoped the rain didn’t wash us down stream.

 

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March 10th

I didn’t sleep all that well, too much movement from my insides. I finally got up to sit on the toilet for a while. There might be all of 10 people who live up in this high valley. I watched them and their dogs herd the cattle from one field to another. 

All I want in life is to take a solid shit….

// 

14.35 miles (or 8 hours 19 mins) later

Another s./10 to camp tonight. It has been raining for probably five hours. The trek up to Salknatay Pass was slow-moving, the altitude and the switchbacks kept me in check. The Brazilian who stayed at the last place hiked with us all day. We lunched at the pass, 2 packs of ramen noodles and stefan shared his citrus punch. The mountain rumbled next to us, falling rocks and snow a few thousand feet above. Such a beautiful and rewarding experience. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
 

 The rest of the day was down hill through high alpine pastures, jungle-esque flora and rain. We caught up with a guided group and made a game of passing them. While they slowly picked their way, we stomped through  the mud, horseshit or no. We reached this camp covered in mud, shit and sweat and drank a few beers. The raised and roofed platforms remind me of Cambodia. 

A cold shower, beef stroganoff  with rice, and shared  noodles, tomato sauce, and tuna. Good trail friends and times. It’s all down hill from here, right?

  
   
    
    
 

March 9th, Salkantay Trek

Elevation: 3881m

Total distance: 20.2km (12.5 miles)

First day and night on the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. I woke up at 3:40 and again at 7, so I just started packing. Mike and I ate bread, butter and jam with our coffee and left the hostel. We started for the collectivos, an exhausting walk, but found them easily and didn’t have to wait long to get going. 2 hours to Mollepatta and the van stopped short of the town’s plaza, so we started walking a bit farther from the trailhead than anticipated, but it’s all part of the adventure, right?

  
  

  
The walk proved it’s difficulty almost immediately. THe altitude was kicking my butt and I found myself stopping ever few minutes to catch my breath. 

We ate a lunch of Peruvian instant noodles  and watched a shepherd tend to his flock  at a beautiful lookout point. The views  into the valley  were breathtaking..

  
  
  
Right after lunch, a mother and child passed us on the trail. It was amazing how agile and fast they were. It was only minutes until they were  out of sight. 

  

As we were stopped to catch our breath, six horses came up the trail followed by a dude  and a younger boy, both on horse back. I was mid-story and the sudden company scared the shit out of me. At least the two locals laughed.. 

Perhaps 45 minutes after, we rounded a corner to see a beautiiful snow-capped mountain. It was the only one we could see, o we thought it to be the Salkantay mountain, but as we decended to her base we realized  Salkantay was next to her. 

  
  
  

We arrived at the first camp just before sunset, a ranch at the base the pass and itched the tent for 15 soles. The friendly ranchers were surprised at how quickly I set up camp, but refused to let me do it alone. We popped open the  two dark lagers  that Taj carried in and watched in amazement as the starss lit up the sky. We both agreed it was the best night’s sky we had ever seen. 

March 8th, Kokopelli Hostel, Cusco, Peru

Almost everyone speaks English here in Cusco and it’s been nice not having to rely so much on Taj’s Spanish for communication. I stayed in the hostel bar after he went to bed, reallying enjoyingthe live reggae music and beers.  For his last song, the bar manager got up and rapped with the guitarist, then gave the whole bar crowd free shots ( of which I did not participate..)

After his set, I started talking to the singer and he invited me to go to another hostel close by where a funk band was playing. A girl, Megan, from Oregon, was with him and we stayed up, talking the night away. The sun was coming up by the time we made our way to bed.  

   

While eating guinea pig in Huanta, a girl from Cusco  told us of the amazing pizza in Cusco. This is the ceiling of a pizza place we found near the plaza. 

  

While trying to find maps of the Salkantay Trek, walking through the beautiful cobblestone streets of Cusco, we stopped to take in this scene: a narrow creek winding it’s way through town, cobblestone bridges, boulders. 

  
  

  Local women selling  hand  crafts with their alpacas

   

  

  

March 6th, Huanta, Peru

We booked a tour to nearby town, Huanta, with a local tourist agency. On the way, we stopped and hiked up to a cave in the rain. The cave was once a shelter for travelers with livestock and boasted views into the valley. A man and his dog were sitting on top of the cave, mushrooms, grasshoppers, and getting dirty. We stopped for ‘chicha de 7 semenas’, a drink made from seven types of ground seeds, and a pisco tasting.
Traveling through Peru, not knowing Spanish, I feel as though I am perpetuating the American idiot stereotype.
While eating the national dish, cuy, or guinea pig, the girl across the table from me started speaking English, “I knew an American girl who thought Machu Picchu was the country.” We ate at a long table with our make-shift tour family. I guess it really is true that food brings people together, even if it was guinea pig.

   

   

    

   
       

   
     

   
     

   
       

Hostal Florida, Ayacucho, Peru

We are diner at ViaVia Restaurant’s balcony overlooking the main square. Pisco and coca sours, fish and my first plate of alpaca. It started raining and we walked through the park and listened to a live band playing on a terrace. Around another corner we found ourselves in a karaoke bar. Music videos of Bolivian folk music and coronas.
“Tu es bonita”
I dreamt Rogue the Hound followed me to Peru and I pulled salmon skin and almonds from her eye socket. Strange dreams, indeed.

March 5th, 9:30 am
I slept well, if not sound. It rained all night and it continues to come gently down as I sit on the terrace. My dreams were sexually driven and I took a cold shower when I got out of bed.
Taj asked if we might be better off taking a plane to Cusco, to which I am grateful. 14-16 hours on a bus just does not seem like fun, even though I hear it is quite an interesting ride. (read: dangerous)

We found breakfast in a small shop in the main square. We have still no wifi connection and a cafe con leche is a big mug of warm milk and a small cup of instant coffee concentrate. Ham and cheese eggs and bread for making sandwiches.

Hostal Florida, Ayacucho, Peru 

5:40 pm

The minibus wasn’t all that bad until el miestro started playing 90’s techno musica. It was probably the windiest road I’ve ever been on, but it was beautiful. The central highlands are wide and lush, locals in traditional dress held string across the road in efforts of stopping potential customers. We stopped at one with two women and their children and bought a disc of cheese. Taj thought it might be alapaca queso, but there were cows around and I wasn’t convenced. We snacked on salty cheese, grapes, and my trailmix, which had all melted together. It rained on us twice and the sweet granmother sitting to my left fell asleep on my shoulder. 

Hostal Florida is cheep and has nice, clean rooms and a beautiful garden. Taj is reading the new Stephen King book next to me on the terrace just outside of our room. Rooftops and rain in the mountains, the plan is to stay here two nights and coninue on to Cusco. 

  the window, Hostal FLorida, Ayacucho 
the city of Ayacucho  Taj   Road walkin’         cheese wheels 

March 3rd

There were few ways to arrive in under two days without spending 22 hours on a bus. Thus far, the ride has been beautiful, the desert slowly building itself into mounrians, el rio de San Clemente is running beside us in a brown churn to the coast and el meistro is playing Peruvian music. While we were waiting for the minibus to leave, some higher class locals seemed to have a problem with two gringos coming along. 

Pisco was almost void of gringos. It was there that I fell for lime marinated onions, the ones that come with ceviche and some fish dishes. We went to the islands in boats filled with tourists to see the sealions and rock formations. 

Paracas was strange. We walked around for a few hours, trying to find music somewhere. All we found was overpriced restaurants and white people. We caught a ride back to Pisco via un collectivo with a dad and his two kids. Back at the hotel, we handwashed some clothes and hung them on the rooftop terrace and drank cafe con leche and planned out next move. 

Pisco sours and grilled chicken. We tried to go to into an obviously open kareoke bar and the door man scuffed and told us it was closed. It was strange being discriminated against, white privilege? We found a small place down the street with a table on the street and drank a couple more pisco sour pitchers. Taj made friends with the owner and she wanted to march down to the bar to get us in, which we politely declined. Drunk, we meandered back to our hotel. 

February 28th

Family Hostel, Lima, Peru

Mike woke me up, “Jesus Fucking Christ”, and we walked to the beach just a block from our hostel and dipped into the Pacific. He stepped on an urchin and spent a good while trying to carve it out with his handy knife necklace. Surfers, red water, and Miraflores is a ritzy part of Lima. My taxi driver from the airport asked about my tattoos and if I wanted to go dancing. 



We walked back up to the hostel for a regular hostel breakfast of bread, butter, jam, mashed avocados, tang and instant coffee. After talking to a couple of German girls, we decided to join a Free Walking Tour of Lima. I showered and like true hiker trash, washed my clothes in the shower and hung them up on a chair on the patio. 

We walked to a park that we dubbed the cat park. A dude told us there were too many cats at a local church, so the locals take care of them and they just chill in a park in the middle of the city. The tour led us to the metropolitan bus system and to downtown Lima. Churches and the main square, too much sun and free Pisco samples. Taj and I befriended a London gal, traveling alone, with a thick accent and a deep, broad laugh. 





After the tour, the three of us went to lunch at a bar next to the library, a place that famous Peruvian authors, painters and politicians patronize. The dates of the buildings around us were all from the 16th century. We drank pisco sours and I got tortillas y esparragos, a fried omelette with whie asparagus and a side of rice. 

We thought we had beat the sun, but it was still out when we finished. The walk back to the bus was stopped short when we stumbled upon a parade featuring young people traditionally dressed, dancing and chanting with a contagious energy..





Back at the hostel, I preformed surgery on Mike’s foot, pulling sea urchin quills out and we drank a couple beers and figured our next moves. We walked to get ceviche, the best I’ve ever had and walked back with full bellies and heavy eyelids. Lima is humid and it’s great being around so many languages again. A couple of girls from scandinavia (guessing by the sound of their conversation) are at the table next to mine and a german girl and a french gal are at the long table. 



February 27th

We just took off from San Antonio International Aeropuerto. Even before the take off, the spanish surrounding me was discouraging.

I’ve never seen so many people walking around on a plane. Aeromexico has it going on: a ham and cheese sandwich, coca cola, kit kat bar, and baby carrots. 

Nina and Marshall were waiting for me at the San Antonio train station. It  was about an hour’s drive to Austin and along the way, we talked about their job hunt and trail friends. As we were getting off the highway, a dog ran passed us and up towards the fast moving cars. We circled around and ran after it with no luck. The bar scene in Austin is rowdy and when we got to their apartment, Marshall made breakfast and Nina insisted that I sleep in their room. French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, and orange slices. It was the best send off and I’m looking forward to seeing them again. 

I left with a copy of the book, The Power of Now.