What Happens in Machu Pichu – Day 2

Day 2 of our trek was billed as the most strenuous day with over eight hours of walking, two of which were on steep inclines.  We were rewarded with those ‘once in a lifetime, you have to see for yourself’ vistas overlooking the mountains and valleys of the Inca Trail.  Overall, I would say it was one of the top days of my life; there was action-packed adventure, solitary moments of rest and reflection, guacamole and good conversation capped off with a wild night of partying.

I Need to Start Working Out

The hike started off fairly easy as we made our way alongside the Río Urubamba and stopped to learn about the vegetation along the way.  I walked mostly with Famke, the Dutch girl, and John, the British guy who both shared my feelings of having itchy feet and needed to do some traveling.

The Before Picture

I felt good about how I was holding up until we made it to the steep incline.  This was the point at which my several years of turning my nose up at the idea of gym memberships really caught up with me.  I also did myself no favors by packing another heavy backpack – seriously, I have no clue how I manage to do this to myself.  I was struggling immensely and even eating coca leaves did nothing to boost my energy.  I became “that girl”.  Alex had to switch packs with me and carry mine up to the highest peak.  When I finally made it to the highest point, I was so grateful to be surrounded by such inspiring vistas that I decided to let go of my cantankerous attitude towards working out.  As difficult as it was for me to hike up the mountain, I really wanted to do more treks like this and I knew that I would have to give in and join the masses who exercise for whatever reasons they have.

After we took some photos and Alex gave us his little spiel in Spanish, the Spanish speaking half of the group continued on to the next stop while he gave the same speech in English.  I hung back a little bit so I could walk the next part by myself.  As much as I love socializing, I still tend to get ‘group fatigue’ at times, especially when I’m frustrated with myself, and wanted to enjoy some alone time.  I leisurely walked the next 20 minutes taking pictures and singing Natalie Cole.  I imagined the messengers that walked these parts hundreds of years ago probably sang to themselves too so why shouldn’t I?

At the end our morning hike though, life jumped to the next energy level for me when we were served guacamole for lunch.  In case you didn’t already know, I am obsessed with guacamole and would gladly eat an entire bowl of it with a spoon if I was allowed the chance.  It was such a pleasant surprise as I’ve generally found it difficult to find some good guacamole in Perú.  I capped off lunch resting in a hammock, nature’s sling for wounded souls.

The After Picture – I made it!

I’ve Lost My Edge

I remember a time during my teens and early twenties when I was a fearless beast and there wasn’t any physical feat I wouldn’t attempt – bungee jumping, skydiving, skiing down the backside of West Mountain topless – you name it and I did it.  It was almost a sort of bragging point for me.  However, now as a geriatric at the tender age of 28 I’m starting to notice that I’m not the daredevil I once was.  I get a little more nervous on planes and for some reason climbing ladders is also starting to bother me.  I think that the laws of probability are starting to mess with me and I’m thinking that if I keep doing risky activities, my number is bound to come up soon.  Regardless of the irrationality, my nervousness during the hike was especially heightened when we walked through the landslide on Day 1 and today when we hiked through some more hairy parts.

About three quarters of the way through the hike for the day, we came to an impasse in the path.  Because it was the end of rainy season there was still a substantial tributary blocking our path.  The solution for which was to cross using two felled trees which in reality looked to me like two really long toothpicks.  One of the trees was to step on and the other to use for balance for the sissies in the group.  I looked at the man-made bridge and the gushing water and rocks below and decided that this would be the time my chances have finally run up.  Home Alone was standing behind me with a look on his face that said crossing the toothpick bridge would be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him and I wondered what he would do if I all of a sudden decided to jump him before I plummeted to my watery grave.  I mean, if you’re going to go out, might as well go out quenched!  But my life isn’t a movie, so I obviously just turned back around and forged ahead.  And I made it across just fine, not even one close call.  Of course at the end I did rest against a tree and got swarmed by an army of ants, but other than that I was completely unscathed and life moved on.

Relaxing in the Hot Springs

Our reward for a long day’s hike through the jungle was an hour of relaxation in the hot springs before continuing on to Santa Elena where we would spend the night.  I was probably the most famished and the most desperate for salvation of the group and I gunned straight for the pools without waiting for anybody.  I was perfectly content to simply float around staring up at the beautiful scenery and losing myself in my thoughts, stopping occasionally to be sociable, but the intrepid trio of Freddie, Mac and Home Alone decided that there would be no rest for the wicked and roped us all into forming a human pyramid with them.  I wasn’t entirely enthused at the idea of further exerting myself for the day nor of having my thunder thighs on full display out of the water, but I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer and all other things being equal, I do enjoy a good acrobatic challenge – call it my former dream to be an Olympic gymnast yearning to become a reality.  So there was no rest for me here in the hot springs and there would be no rest for me later on in the evening…

Um….We Ended Up Partying Really Hard

Trekking all day through the jungles and mountains tends to wear one down and us twentysomethings need a way to unwind after such a long strenuous day.  The means to which is usually served by some form of ‘sure-to-please’ booze substance.  We enjoyed some nice cold beers before dinner and continued on to dinner with some rum and cokes.  Then the tequila shots followed and Alex informed us that we should all go to the discoteca after dinner where pole dancing is par for the course.   We went back to the hostel to pre-game some more and followed suit shortly after.

The discoteca was the typical Gringo hotspot with a few of the locals.  Alex was already there and allegedly smoking weed behind the bar as a way to relieve his tension from the day.  No wonder it took so long for him to get my drink!  In general, there was a lot of the standard drunken behavior amongst our motley crew.  I was typical drunken Lisa – mumbling my usual sarcasm, stealing peoples’ drinks, and overconfidence in my ability to dance.  I assume the others were their typical drunken selves as well.  One thing I found extremely confusing was the intrepid trio’s obsession with dancing on bars.  I’ve always found it to be a lame activity reserved only for attention whores.  That’s not to say I’ve never danced on a bar, but I still harshly judge myself afterwards, not unlike how I did after I realized I was one of the few who took a few swings on the pole that Alex was telling us about.  And in the morning I was hoping this would be the last time I would ever have to confess to such an act.

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