by Jamey Pulsifer
There i was, standing in iquique, but not for long...
Much has transpired through my travels of the previous days and weeks, and apart from one incident where my wallet was stolen, all has been good, and morale remains high. After a brief and mostly uneventful stint in lima, where i met up with my current traveling partner and did some casual surfing, the time had come to venture onward to bigger and better adventures. Thus, we headed to cusco, where we formulated the plans for what would be an epic journey to Machu Picchu. Now, several things are worth mentioning as far as the caliber of this arguable mecca that we embarked on. For starters it is important to know that there are several possible routes that can be taken to reach the final destination of Machu Picchu, depending not only on ones desired level of comfort and ambition, but as well upon the amount of money one so desires to invest in said endevour. This being said, after considering all possible options, we decided it was in our best interests to choose the most daring and ambitious of treks for our particular adventure. The salkantay trail, which leads over 40 miles from the small town of Mollepata upwards then down again to the tourist trap that is Aquas Calientes, and closest town to Machu Picchu, is considered difficult during the best of conditions. Most people who take this route are accompanied with several advantages that alleviate some of the hardships along the way. First, the trail is generally done in a group setting, with guides who not only lead the way but provide pack donkeys to cart gear, as well as set up camp and do the cooking. Also, the trail is almost always hiked during the dry season, which, it should go without saying, makes the overall experience a little more pleasant to say the least. Our trek included neither of these luxuries. Choosing to carry our own supplies, and blaze the trail ourselves, all during the Peruvian wet season, we nevertheless managed to complete our journey on schedule, and arrived in Aquas Calientes four days after our departure, albeit considerably weary and rather damp. Not to say the effort wasnt more than worth it, however. The scenery was incredible the entire trip, and apart from several helpful farmers and herders, we were the ONLY people on the trail. Another very interesting fact to note about this hike is the change in altitude. Mollepata is located between nine and ten thousand feet, and at the highest point of the trail, we reached a height of over fifteen hundred feet, an elevation change that was achieved over the course of only a day and a half. As if this weren't enough, the following day and a half led us back down to less than eight thousand feet. In case anyone was wondering how steep the trail was, find your witty math friend and have him go figure. This hike was no joke. Anyways, all poor humor and extensive loquaciousness aside, Machu Picchu is without doubt an awe inspiring place. Even with persistent rain on the day we finally arrived we managed to spend six hours walking and exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu before boarding the bus and heading out. Its hard to really describe just how amazing these ruins are without actually witnessing them, but it can certainly be said that the Incans who built this place were definitely a very intelligent group of people who were not fooling around. A once in a lifetime experience.
After leaving Machu Picchu we rounded up the remainder of our gear in Cusco then headed to Bolivia, and Lake Titicaca. Our base camp for our Titicaca adventures would be the small town of Copacobana, from which we took a 3 hour boat ride to the largest of the lakes forty-some islands, la Isla del Sol. Although the Incan ruins that exist on Isla del Sol didnt quite measure up to the ones wed seen previously at Machu Picchu, the scenery of the lake and islands was definitely of equal proportions. We spent two days hiking from the southern tip of the island to the north, rowing boats to the setting of the sun, and appeasing our appetites with fresh caught trucha (and a bit of cheap rum). The fun was cut slightly short, however, when my companion caught a pretty severe case of what we think was altitude sickness, and we were forced to head back to Copacobana to regroup.
Since Copacobana, the travels have again returned to a slightly more relaxed, slower paced time here in La Paz. The last two days have mainly been spent relaxing in our hostal, catching up a bit on sleep, and doing some souvenier shopping in the cities many stands and shops, and although I think we both might like the lazy days to continue, atleast slightly longer, tomorrow we head to the amazon! Our plans for the jungle arent entirely set in stone yet, however, i think if we can manage the old salkantay during the wet season, we ought to be able to find SOME way or fashion to get into a little trouble out there with the anacondas and pink river dolphins. Oh yea, and pirhanas too. Anyways, upon my return i will be sure to make another verbose update to satiate those masses of you who im sure have simply fallen right out of your chairs throughout the previous paragraphs. Wish us luck...we probably need it. Hasta luego!
Due to my current busy schedule, this edition of Austin's blog has been brought to you by Jameson Pulsifer.