Recovery time for this last vacation seems to be longer than usual. Last year after our trip to Ecuador, I had a sinus infection that took me down. This year I have a cold. Someday when I get to heaven, I will ask, "God, what was your purpose in creating snot?" I seem to be producing more than my share.
Another part of the recovery is my feet and toes. By the time we hiked into Aguas Calientes, I had big blisters on the bottom of my feet and blood blisters under a few of my toenails (from the downhills). On the trail, there was not much to do for the blisters. I took care of them as best I could, put my feet back into my hiking shoes, and kept walking. It was a large part of my decision to take the bus up to Machu Picchu while the others climbed the Inca steps.
Being a mountain girl, hiking and climbing do not scare me. I had no fear of the steep downhills or drop-off edges. I loved looking out over the mountains and rivers. And I'm a bit of a donkey - I just keep plodding along. My biggest fear on this trip was not being able to keep up. What if I could not make it? It's not like you can call a taxi on the trail. I really did not want to hold the others back. The steep uphills were not my thang. Many times on the trail, Shay would put his hand on the small of my back and push me on the uphills. It was just enough encouragement to keep me going. I could have made it without the push, but I would have had to stop and huff and puff lots more. Or as Toby calls it, "blow," which is a term for what a horse does when it carries a load uphill. I did a lot of blowing, but thanks to Shay for helping me along. I really did appreciate his help - so much!
With my feet in bad shape and knowing how bad I was at the uphills, I made the decision to ride the bus and leave the steps up to Machu Picchu to the younger folk and Toby. The bus switch-backs up the mountain, while the steps go straight up. It was a great decision. I was able to get to Machu Picchu in time to see them arrive at top and cheer them on. They were soaking wet with sweat and the sun was not even up. They all said it was a tough climb. I was happy with my decision. I was then able to keep on climbing up the ruins to a spot high up to watch the sunrise over the mountains and the rays hit directly on to the ruins. It was awesome.
Our guide was great to take us to the perfect spot for the sunrise. He told us awesome stories and theories of Machu Picchu. Then he gave us time to meditate - be spiritual. While everyone sat reflecting on the beauty of the mountains and ruins, I silently signed a song, "Our God Is an Awesome God." Then the tour began and we did more climbing. At one point our guide took us into a room with niches in all the walls. He gave us the theories of what the room had been used for and had each of our group put our face in a niche and then hum. The sound resonated throughout the room and beyond. People outside the walls clapped for us. It was pretty cool. No other guide did that while we were there. I'm thinking that our guide, Verjilio, was one of the best guides possible. He called us his "familia" and took good care of us.
At the end of the Machu Picchu tour, our familia said good-bye. There was lots of hugging and promises to keep in touch. Our group was excellente! In fact, meeting people from all over the world was one of the best parts of the trip.
Here we are on the second day - a long hike day.
Here we are on the third day after zip-lining and crossing the scary bridge.
Here we are having walked into Aguas Calientes - triumphant and tired. From left to right: MaNu (our guide) Jesse, Toby, me, Lindz, Kathryn and Pete (from England) Shay, Verjilio (our guide) Sara, Jenna, and Jeremy (the Canadians), Joel and Danit (Chileans).
I have to say that there was some good-natured competition between us and the Canadians. They were tough, but Shay and Lindz beat Jenna and Jeremy to the top. Sara was awesome tough and beat everyone. Kathryn rode the bus with me, because she was having some vertigo problems - such a sweet girl! Joel was always very friendly and caring - asking how I was doing all along the way, helping me with my Spanish. We called Danete, the Inca Princess. She was a bit high strung, but she hung in there and did everything that was asked of her. At one point in crossing the scary rope bridge, you had to unhook a your safety cable and rehook it on the other side of support poles - all while the bridge was bouncing and swaying with people on it. I knew if I were scared, Danete must have been terrified. I could hear Joel calmly giving her support, but she let loose a string of Spanish on him. I didn't know what she said, but I knew the sentiment.
After the Machu Picchu tour, we rode the bus back to Aguas Calientes for a wonderful lunch and cervezas. Jesse had made a friend on the bus, Jef, from the Philippines, now living in Calgary. He joined our group. We did some shopping in the mercado and then rested up. The train back to Cusco was interesting, but it was too dark to see much. More on the second half of the trip later.