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  #121  
Old 19 Sep 2011
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Hello everyone!

We're back from trekking to Machu Picchu!

Over the past 5 days, we hiked 46.5 miles (75km), up and over mountains, down and along valleys, over rivers, along train tracks, and finally up to the ruins of Machu Picchu.

We had a great time, but now, the end has come for Kristi's 4 weeks of summer vacation, and now she flies home in just under 8 hours to go back to the daily grind of her University studies. Boo.

As for me, the last 6 days have been photographed, and all the photos have been uploaded, and now it's time to put words to the photos.

They will all come soon!

So, to tide you over, I dug out this photo for you.

Salkantay Mountain stands at 6271 m (20574 ft) and is the back drop to this photo. Our camp was at 3900 meters (12,795 ft)




Thanks for keeping up with the journey!

Onward!

--Alex
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  #122  
Old 20 Sep 2011
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Party in the Hostel.

Alright everyone! Back to the beginning of last week!

Sunday, September 11th, began easily. Kristi and I were just lounging around the hostel, having a good time, contemplating bungee jumping the next day on Monday. The people suggested I wait another week due to my leg…

Here is a view of the hostel courtyard. Apparently, every once in a while people play volleyball.



In the afternoon sometime, we left the hostel in search of cheap food and snacks. Of course that involves walking down the big ass hill, and then on the way back, walking up the big ass hill. On the way back up, we saw this guy on a Chinese clone Honda Cub 70 squeaking down the hill.



Well, that was the end of the basic daily routine, as that night, it was party night. The last real day to party before we planned to leave on Tuesday, EARLY in the morning for our trek. So Sunday night we started with the s, while everyone else did the same!



These dudes were having a kick ass time playing pool, while also participating in Flip Cup, a team game that involves ging a glass of , placing your cup upright on the edge of the table, and then flipping it 180 degrees to land on its rim without falling over. When that is accomplished, the next person in line on your team s his and does the same. When your last team member “Flips” his cup, and you’re ahead of the opposing team. You win!



They happened to be the team that won!



WINNERS!!!!



Do you guys remember Janina? She was on the Stahlratte Sailing vessel from Panama to Colombia. You might remember her from this photo…



Well, we got back on it that night, and it looked a little like this.



We even hit the dance floor while everyone else was still drinking…



While Janina (Ya-neena) tried to de-robe (literally) the bartender/staff.



I think the Macarena was going on sometime that night as well.



Either way, Kristi was having way too much fun dancing with Janina!



Outside of the bar some other outrageous shenanigans were going on! Wow!



Does she know what she’s doing? (Who is she anyway???)



Wheelbarrow race time!



Flipside!



Oh, you, stooooopppp…. Yea. Right.



Heyyyy! The whole group of them!



I think it kind of ended like this….



Well, the next day, Monday, was spent just hang around in anticipation of waking up at 4am on Tuesday morning to begin our 5 day adventure, hiking 75km into the wilderness to arrive at the door step of Machu Picchu.

That, my friends, is yet to come!

--Alex
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  #123  
Old 21 Sep 2011
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Ooh ya tease!
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  #124  
Old 23 Sep 2011
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Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu Day 1!

Day one, September 13th, 2011, 4:15am. Kristi and I are awake, and we’re in the hostel. Our bags had been packed the night before and stuffed in the hostel storage room. Our packed bag for the next 5 days was on the floor, and we were ready to go.

At 4:30 am, our hiking guide was knocking at the front door of the hostel.

Minutes later, we were down the street picking up new and other people.



Minutes after that, we were loaded onto a bus with a bunch more other people. Anna was somewhere among them all…



Kristi was already excited, and I was ready for action. Bus shot!



On the way there, the valleys and mountains came into sight.



And then… Our bus got stuck….



Well, I should elaborate and tell you that it started sliding, precariously, towards the edge of the road…



And we haven’t even started yet!



After we all piled out of the bus, it moved a bit more easily, and slid to the other side of the road.



And soon had 4 tires instead of 6 on the ground…



Did I mention that we are up in the mountains?



So they started digging!



And from the side box of the bus, whipped out the pick-ax!



While this dude, with the help of many others (I jumped in to help) wheeled his bike around the bus to cruise up the hill on the other side, rear wheel spitting mud like a motocrosser.



As the whole group (17 of us at this point) started walking the last few km’s up the hill, we left the bus driver and his cronies to the job of freeing it up. About 15 minutes later we were all back on the bus again. Hooray!



And our first stop of the day? A small family restaurant that would be the source of our breakfast for the morning. On the right side, you can see Rhi. (Ree)


After breakfast, the hike began! And we stopped suddenly to peer at this cactus with weird white stuff growing on it, with small insects in the middle of the white stuff. Our guide, Juan Carlos, picked off a bug, and in the middle of a small scrap of paper, squished it, like, well, a bug. Its blood and guts he explained was used by the local Andean people as a dye for their clothing, paints, and ceramics, and is even used in the modern day as a source of coloring for cosmetic companies…. Hmmmm…



And so the hiking began.



And so it stopped again an hour or so later. From left to right, Rhi, Anna, Kristi.



At the top of a hilltop, Kristi and I snagged a photo. Remember this one, cause it’s about as good as we’re going to look for the next five days.



3300 meters and climbing. 3900 is the goal for the day.



These cows dotted the landscape and kept the hiking a bit more interesting. The cows have much thicker fur/hair than the cows I’m used to seeing at home.



After eyeballing the cows, it was lunch time. Meet Alberto, the 26yr old Spanish guy studying his masters teaching (developmentally disabled children) in the southern part of Chile for a year abroad.



3,450 meters and climbing, the rain came out, and so did our rain gear. Alberto’s rain gear is compliments of the ‘80s and his father’s wardrobe.



Kristi wanted a photo with the jumpsuit.



Did I mention? This is as good as I am going to look for a while?



Before the group as a whole has made camp for the first night, the horsemen are feeding their horses in the field. It is worth mentioning that the horsemen have arrived at camp, dismounted all things needed dismounting, and put their horses to pasture all before we have arrived. Well done.



That night was spent in relative luxury, with a roof over our head! The guide, Juan Carlos, warned us that we’d be sleeping at 3,900 meters, and that it would be our coldest night of the trek. I wasn’t worried, and neither was Kristi. I brought my -9*C (15*F) sleeping bag, and Kristi had enough layers.



Dinner that night stared with Happy Hour, which consists of hot tea and popcorn. Delicious, wonderful, salty popcorn. Yum!



That night, the stars came out, and the mountains in the back ground were giving off a faint light. Perfect for a bit of experimental photography. Kristi and I were happy to have made it the first day, and nearly 12.5 miles of walking (21km).



Then, while everyone else was freezing, I made attempts at writing in the sky.

Success! ADV!




Day one was a giant success! Day two to come!

--Alex
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  #125  
Old 23 Sep 2011
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Day 2, 19km's and 2600meters of Elevation.

Day two started off early in the morning with a 4:30am wake up call. Our hardest day yet was ahead of us, and we needed to be ready to hike 10-12 hours. We were starting off at 3,900 meters, climbing to 4,650, than descending down to 2,700. Lots of hiking was in front of us.



That morning, the clouds hung low, and the Mountains were partly hidden.



Later, rather than sooner, we were waiting for about 7 of the 17 people in the trek to get ready to leave. A lot of hair brushing and makeup was done by the 4 Brazilian girls, and some slow packing by the Venezuelans. The two Israeli guys, Yinon and Nitzen, sleeping in the same tent as Alberto were ready to rock and roll ASAP.



A little while down the trail and we’d climbed 200 meters. Well, that was easy…



While we were sucking wind, and sweating already despite the cool early morning temp, a guy was watering his horse in the nearby stream.



And that is when I realized that we were at the bottom of what would be the hardest stretch of trail yet, and as the guide told it, the hardest stretch of the trek. 550 meters of vertical elevation over the next kilometer or two, and we’d be at the top of the pass. Damn.



At the top of the climb (not the pass), a victory smile from Kristi and I.



RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWRRRR!!!



After a break at the top of the hardest stretch of climbing, waiting for the entire group to catch up, we pressed onward, jackets zipped up.



Before that however, Kristi got on the “Lion King Rock” and busted a victory pose of her own.



And a clearer shot with our guide Juan Carlos.



And the top of the pass!



Success on day two!




Alberto fancied himself a photo of the Cooks wife. So I obliged. If any of you are surprised by the footwear that Kristi and I chose. Well, then, look at hers. She and nearly every horseman/cook/porter/worker wore sandals very similar to those.


These two guys, selling their wares, live in a mountain village at 5,500 meters, 90km away from Cusco in a different direction from where we had come. The 4,600meters we were currently at was a joke to them. They just didn’t like the cold.



Group photo!



I bought Kristi a souvenir for the hike. A bracelet, handmade for 5 soles. About $1.85



My reward? Happy time!



So, at the top of the pass, we had no option but to head down the hill. And so, of course, we did. For the next 7+ hours.



On the way, we saw some Alpaca. They blended in with the rocks so well that half of the group nearly made it passed without noticing them!



An hour or so later, we found our Lunch site. See that guy with the smile and thumbs? That’s Tony from New Zealand, living in Vancouver, Canada. He smiled a lot. I think Anna was hungry or something?



During Lunch, it rained like hell. Afterwards, it kept on a bit, and made for a LOT of mud. However, we just kept going, and at the next rest stop, we sat for a while waiting for everyone else. Meet Mr. Rooster!



And the Dog!



And the little kids beating off the horses/mules that were trying to make their way into the fenced off field to feed. No food for you!!!



Hello everyone!



After the break we hit the trail again. Photo time!



Not long after, we made our way down a few more km’s of trail to the bottom of our hiking elevation for the day, and arrived at a suspension bridge. Nizten started first by bouncing a bit, and getting it to wobble. Kristi liked that!



Smile for the camera!



A couple of Km’s later, and some light up and down trail hiking, and we made it to Camp on day two. This dog was there waiting for us. It was awesome.



Remember Tony? It’s dinner time now, just after Happy Hour. Smile for the camera!



Not long after dinner time, everyone is ready for bed. And so we slept. I slept the best that night, but woke up drenched in sweat because my sleeping bag was too warm. I unzipped it, dried off (literally) and went back to bed.

Day 3 is just around the corner!

--Alex
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  #126  
Old 23 Sep 2011
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Day 3. Party time!

Day three was an easy day. Nothing to worry about. 5 hours of hiking with a surprise at the end. We’d be a short minibus ride away from some Hot Springs, and for the cheap price of $7.5 (20soles) we could secure ourselves a round trip ride and entrance.

These horses are taking it easy, they likely completed a marathon (40km) to get here, fully loaded.



Our destination for the day involved switch backs following a road for a while, down to the river below.



Group Photo! We’d be walking into the valley beyond.



And crossing some unique pieces of Peruvian Engineering.



Many of the tributaries to the river below consisted of waterfalls just like this one.



Here you can see me fashioning a walking stick out of a piece of bamboo. My left knee was beginning to hurt pretty good from all the intense use it was receiving. 6miles of downhill walking with over 6,000 feet of elevation drop didn’t help either. Combined with week muscles still rebuilding themselves after 2 weeks of mind numbing atrophy, and you get the picture.



Success!



See the comparison? This man was cruising around at our first rest stop of the day.



Peruvian Engineering at its finest.



Ok guys, gals, and everyone in between. Who else has ever seen anything like this? A watermelon plant, growing its vines UP a tree, and growing a watermelon in mid air, hanging from a branch? It was at LEAST 20 feet in the air. I know we grow all sorts of fruits and veggies on hanging vines (grapes, strawberries, tomatoes), but this is a first time sight for me.



Here we can clearly see a nice butterfly trying to make some horse shit, look a little less, well, like shit.



Another one of those tributaries I was talking about. Saweet.



This bug made its appearance at random. Whats up?



At our second rest stop, we all hung out for a while until everyone caught up. While Mama dog was begging for food, baby dog was getting as much as he could.




Then it’s bro showed up to get some too.



About a few more hours down the road and we arrived to our campsite before we knew it. Lunch was on the table, and we were feasting. I would like to say, that the entire time that we had been hiking, and then 6 meals I had received up until this point, I had yet to feel less than satisfied. This might be due to the fact that I was consuming everything not yet eaten and anything freely handed over. Including all of Rhi’s soup for 4 days, large quantities of rice, and many potatoes.

Here you can see an abnormally large Lima Bean.



Lunch time! I was always hungry. Have I mentioned that I’ve lost, already, nearly 20 lbs since I left home. Used to be 215lbs, And now, I’m 195.



Something about these mashed potatoes turned most people away from them.



The Simpsons are worldwide. Bart says, “Don’t ENTER! This is my room, my disorder, my problem!”



After lunch, we all changed into our swim suits, piled into VW mini buses, and made out way 20 minutes from the camp site to the Hot Springs that I remembered from 3 years ago. I was excited.

Then we arrived, and I realized that the place had been demolished by a land slide, completely covered, uncovered, and slightly rebuilt. The price to enter was the same, and though the amenities were lacking, the water was still hot. Good enough for me, and no one else knew the difference.

When we got back to the campsite about 3.5 hours later, we were all ready for dinner. And dinner was good. During dinner we came to a group conclusion that Kristi was the youngest person in the entire group of 17 people. When this came to be known, Niel and Australian guy, started singing Happy Birthday. Well, we all joined in, and the assistant guide went into overdrive! Your birthday today? How old are you? Write your name here for me please. Ok. We have surprise for you tomorrow.

Um. Ok. Yes. K-R-I-S-T-I. ummmmm….I turned….23…. Thanks…

Well. It turns out that another of the guides on a trek separate from ours had a birthday as well. And our guide, Juan Carlos had been invited. He made it back. To the floor…



I whipped out the camera to document it.



Oh DAMN!



Whats up Juan Carlos? Que Pasa Amigo?



When Alberto wanted a photo, so did Juan Carlos.



Promptly thereafter he fell asleep again.



From where he sat, Alberto and I physically lifted him up, and carried his drunk ass to bed, next to the assistant guide who was already in bed. Then the lady of the house locked him in.



There he laid, sleeping on his fellow guide.



But then the Nitzen and Yinon realized, that he, house lady, he’s going to have to pee in the middle of the night. They said this to me in English, I said this to her in Spanish. Her daughter replied, yes we know, she’s coming with a bucket! HAHAHAHA! And so she did!



And locked him in with the bucket!



And so he began to sleep it off. And we all went to bed soon after.



The festivities continue on Day 4. Soon to come.

--Alex
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  #127  
Old 24 Sep 2011
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Day 4, Aguas Calientes

So Day 4 arrived, and it was Kristi’s birthday. Oh shit. They baked her a cake! (Keep in mind, her bday is Jan 10th, and we only let the assistant guide believe it was her bday to see what would happen…)



So at breakfast the next morning, with her cake in hand, we all sang her Happy Birthday, and she blew out a candle made from 3 matchsticks that I lit with my lighter. Then she chopped it into 17 pieces.



Since not everyone wanted a slice of cake that early in the morning, our hung over guide Juan Carlos, the assistant guide, the head cook, and the assistant cook all got a piece of the cake as well. Hand delivered by me, as the people who passed up their cake would have just as happily thrown it away. Instead I saw 4 people smile. Awesome.

After packing up, and waiting for the Brazilian girls to get there stuff together, we kicked it with this dog for a while.



Then, beginning our last day of true hiking, we gathered up for a group cheer! Whoooooooo!



The first destination of the day was Llactapata; a small ruin 4-500 meters up the mountain side that overlooks the valley between it, and Machu Picchu. The way up was a steady climb, that never became too steep, but never let up either. As a group, we decided it was easily as difficult, if not more so, then day 2.

Alberto agreed.



We started just a bit above the river, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed.



When my body realized that I wasn’t at altitude (by comparison to the previous days) and my mind realized we didn’t have any drastic climbs, my legs responded and I took off. I powered up that mountain like a llama. And then sat for 20 minutes for Alberto to arrive. While I waited, I snagged a photo.



Where we had come from!



At the top of the climb, we arrived at Llactapata, the small ruins. From where you see Kristi standing, directly opposite from here, following the line, lies Machu Picchu.



It looks like this from far away. (I stuck my camera card in Yinon’s (pronounced Ee-non) camera that has a 35x Optical zoom. Result.



And another.



And from a distance.




On the winter solstice, apparently at sunrise, the sun lines up perfectly with the line you see below, illuminating the room from where the photo was taken.


Looks likes this from another angle.



Show me some love!



Group rest point. Since day one, the same group of people have arrived last at each destination. I feel bad for them, because as we are all resting, they are still hiking, and when they arrive, they have to keep going. No resting for them. Too slow…



Couples shot!



Alberto was walking on his hands before he landed flat on his ass! Alberto speaks very limited English, and on his 2 week vacation from school, he had let himself believe that he would find others travelers, Americans, Europeans, etc, that spoke Spanish as well, especially since we are in South America. Well, I was the only foreigner that spoke Spanish on that trek, besides the Venezuelans of course, and the mixed up Spanish that the Brazilians were speaking. The other 11 of us? I was the only one.



This woman is a professional photographer, in the next few days, I’ll have a link to her page. And dare I say, you must visit it!



One of the Brazilian girls busted out a Yoga pose in mid stride.



Pretty soon, we were all ready to head back down the mountain. At this point, I’m pretty sure both of my knees hurt like hell. Left knee, from being over worked, right knee from compensating for left knee. All due to my left fibula that felt like normal. Damn it.


Kristi felt pretty good though!


And like a wonderful friend, she stuck back with me as I pulled up the 13th position of 17 people.



On the way back down the hill, we began to see more vegetation. The jungle was producing again. This time around we found some orchids.



And a BIG ASS leaf.



At the bottom of the mountain, we reached the river again, only this time we were much higher above it, and crossed on a cable suspension bridge yet again.



From the middle of the bridge you get this view.



And when the wind blows, you get this one instead!




... To be continued on next post (too many photos)...
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  #128  
Old 24 Sep 2011
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story continued...

And when the wind blows, you get this one instead!



And when you look back on it, you can see two Australians taking outrageous amounts of photos, and never missing an angle.



When we hit the riverside trail, the heat rose, but we were placated with a nice breeze that cooled it down quite a bit. Which probably contributed to the sunburn I received. This Quechan woman however, was still fully dressed, trekking away. She’s wearing stockings as well. Knitted woolen stockings…



Meanwhile, Kristi was butterfly hunting.



As we walked along the river, we came closer and close to Hidro Electrica, the name of a town that is aptly named due to the Hydro Electric plant that is the main reason for its existence.

A man made waterfall pours from tunnel above, cascading down and providing a cool breeze. Awesome.



After the waterfall, it was another 30-45 minutes along the dusty trail to a checkpoint where we found the rest of the group waiting. As we weren’t the last people, we didn’t mind waiting a bit either.



Sooner than later, we were back in the arms of our lovely cooks, sitting down for lunch and stuffing our face. It was day 4, and we wouldn’t see our cooks again. The same process happened the day before when our horse man left us. We were being appropriated for a tip. Well, I tipped away. I liked those guys.



After lunch, we hit the train tracks. The last 10km of our trek would take place walking next to the train tracks that run all the way from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. The train makes a few stops as well, including Ollantaytambo, and Hidro Electrica.



The sign reads, “Danger, don’t walk in the way”



And so we began the last stretch of our journey.



The river was never far from sight.



We crossed another bridge as well.



Yinon took a nap.



Kristi tried to hitch a ride and jump aboard a train.



And eventually we made it to the end of the line. For the past 68km or so, I have been carrying the big backpack, and Kristi the small backpack. It wasn’t until I thought my knees would break (they just hurt like hell) that I passed the bag to her.



You see this bus? This bus, along with many of its counterpart, take people up the hill from Augas Calientes, up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Keep them in mind.



My new mule, Kristi, carrying the big bag the last 6 km or so. Thanks!



Alberto is nearly dead.



And then, Andy showed up! What? You guys remember Andy right? Last time we saw him was in Mancora, Peru with the rest of the gang. Well, he’d moved fast since then, and caught up! So in quick succession, Kristi and I, Anna and Rhi took showers, and met Andy and Cass for a quick drink.



Andy! May I see you sometime again in the Land Down Under! He’s moving so fast, with a deadline to meet, that I won’t be seeing him again. Damn. Good luck on the rest of your journey!



Next stop, it was back to the hostel to gather up with the rest of the trekking group for dinner. Did I mention, we’re all sleeping in a hostel for the night? It’s nice. A real bed! Yay! Well, we’re all also going it for one last dinner together as well.



Day 4 ended with an OK meal, and the usual aftermath. Stuffing my face with other people’s food.



Machu Picchu is on the way, and Day 5 will be a winner!

--Alex
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  #129  
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Day 5, Machu Picchu at its Finest.

Remember those buses guys? Well, they would be my friend today! All those who felt the urge to complete their full hike, right up to the gates of Machu Picchu had their shot this morning. Wake up early, be at the bridge before 5am, and start hiking the hill as soon as it opens. Be at the gates to Machu Picchu before 6am, and you’ve made it!

I did this hike 3 years ago. I took the bus up! I felt like a little bitch doing it too. But I could hardly walk down the stairs that morning, and that is not a joke. I nearly crashed and burned!

So the night before, I took the liberty of buying a round trip ticket for myself, and a one way ticket for Kristi for the ride down. She and Anna had already committed to finishing the hike. Kristi laughed at the option of the bus. Go Kristi!

At 5am, I was waiting for the first 5:30am bus; along with half of the rest of the tourists. Luckily they line up three buses that each leave directly after each other as they fill up in turn. I made the middle of the third bus.



On the bus ride up! Alberto is somewhere on the bus, all but 6 of the 17 of us. Those 6 finished the hike.



At the top of the hill, we piled off the buses and got in line for the opening of the gates at 6am. Kristi, Anna, and Nitzen were there wating, feeling like champs.



After entering the park entrance, we all piled into a group to meet with our guide for a 1.5 hour tour. In the back ground you can see a large group of South Koreans on a 2 week, cram it all in, see as much shit as you can tour.



And then…. We walked a little bit more…






And we saw…









Smile girls!



Kristi kept looking around like she was lost. She has a post card from me from 3.5 years ago, that I sent to her when I was in South America the first time around.
Quick history lesson!
Rewind to November 24th, 2007. My 21st birthday. 48 days after the plane my twin brother was in crashed. First birthday ever celebrated alone. Brothers last girlfriend is there, Julianne, along with many of her friends, Kristi is one of them. Lots of other girls there (my brother and I knew lots of girls), and some of my closest friends.
Something happens. Kristi seems to like me. Then I ask her to hang out, and then we hang out more. And then. Well. We began to “not date” for the next 8 months. Then I left for my trip to South America in Summer of 2008,(Titled: Alex’s Excellent Adventurer) When I told her I was going, she got sad (so did I) when I told her I had more important issues in my mind to deal with then trying to think and care about her while I was gone, and that I needed to care about myself first, so that I could care about anyone else in the future.
For the past 8 months though, I hadn’t been seeing anyone else the whole time, but didn’t want a girlfriend, and told her so many times, but never told her no when she kissed me, and always asked her to hang out, and go to the movies, and do all sorts of boyfriend/girlfriend stuff, and gave her rides on my motorcycles, and even my Dads motorcycle one time (2001 Triumph Bonneville T100, remake of the ’76 he used to have… Let’s see if he catches this one… he always suspected… etc)

So while I was in South America, I sent her a post card.

Well anyway, she kept the post card, and someday, like 3 years later, she started painting a picture of Machu Picchu, which is half finished, and now, finally, she is seeing it firsthand, and I guess, from what she tells me, this tree is in her painting.



Couples shot!



I hiked most of the past 75km with Alberto, blabbering away in Spanish, practicing, learning new words, and gaining a friend. He has invited me to stay with him when I make it to Southern Chile. I’ll be glad to meet with him again. Nitzen has a habit of being in other peoples photos. He’s famous for it. I didn’t mind.



And here begins most of what is to come, a photo montage of Machu Picchu and some more.



There is a bit of wild life up in these hills, and this bird was chirping away that morning, making music.



Look at this rock closely. Many people stop to think and wonder how the Incans cut their stones to build their structures. Well, as our guide told us; they used bronze bars to chisel out holes in the stones in a straight line about 10cm (4in) apart from each other. When the holes were deep enough, they would jam wood into the holes, and then pour water over the wood. The wood would then absorb the water, expanding, and easily breaking the stone off into sectioned pieces, perfect for building with. Clever stuff.



This stone, obviously not naturally made, was carved to point due south, with its corners representing the other 3 cardinal directions. North, East, and West.



No one in our group had a compass to prove it, but the next guide that was in line to show his private group the stone, did have a compass, and laid it down to show us the proof.




Then, the Andean Rabbit (named by our guide, also called a Chinchilla by someone else) popped out for a visit.


This happened to the area where the building blocks were being created. Call it the construction yard if you will.



And way down below, was the river we hiked along to get to where we were at the moment.



Hello everyone!



Kristi was taking a break for a moment.



And this little bird, which looked more like a hawk to me, was swooping around chasing other birds.



Kristi was still lost. Everything she saw made her happy!



This is a map of Waynu Picchu, the mountain that overlooks Machu Pichu, is 400meters above it, and a bitch of a hike. All three of us, Anna, Kristi and I, signed up back in Cusco and paid the extra $10 to do it. We were in too deep to back out now!



Well, there are two openings, of 200 people at each time, to hike up Waynu Picchu. One is at 7am, and the next is at 10am. Anna, Kristi and I had 10am tickets. So we walked around a bit.



In the background, up on the hillside, is Llactapata, the viewpoint with the line that intersects Machu Picchu.



And this is Waynu Picchu.



A lot of these scaly little buggers were clinging to the rocks in the sunshine.



While the rabbits/chinchillas hung out.






Too be continued...
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story continued...

This has become a classic photo. I shall explain.

While the Israeli guys, Yinon and Nitzen were on top of Waynu Picchu with the 7am group, they whipped out their fancy cameras with a 35x zoom lens, looked back at their photos from earlier that morning, and then proceeded to find as many of the group as they could from their perch on top of Waynu Picchu. They nearly immediately found Kristi in her bring pink shirt. Among the rest of us, they found Alberto, who, at the same time, was taking a photo of them, who at the same time was being photographed by me. All the times on the cameras match.

The Sequence shows First a photo of Alberto, from far away, looking out from behind a stone pillar, taking a shot of Waynu Picchu in the distance. Alongside Alberto is Alex, off to the right side, with his camera out, taking what would in turn be the photo you see below. As I took a photo of Alberto, he took a photo of the Isrealis while they took a photo of us. Coincidence on the mountain top.



Some of the pathways in the ruins were quite narrow. Kristi had a good time exploring all over the place.



And soaking in the views.



While I looked for more lizards.



And they stared back at me.



So I gave one the big who’s who talk, and caught the son of a bitch, and nearly fed it to Kristi.



After a quick jaunt out to the front entrance to use the bathroom facilities, we were back at the gates for Waynu Picchu, and getting ready to climb.



About 35 minutes later. We were looking down at Machu Picchu from a new perspective.



You see those switchbacks? That’s what I bussed up that morning. Kristi, Anna, Nitzen and a few others hiked it. Success.



AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!



Grrrr! Show them your muscles Kristi!



Well, we hadn’t made it to the very top yet, and had a little more to go.



Kristi posing on a rather precarious precipice.



These two girls were proud themselves. I was proud too!



The wind was blowing pretty strong up there!



Smile for the camera everyone!



I’m a Giant in the Clouds!



Same shot.




We’re number 1!


From the other side, you see this view.



I took a seat on the wild side.



Kristi took it a bit easier. I learned that day, that she’s afraid of heights!



After all of our, “On top of the world” photos, we decided to go back down. I caught Anna taking a break waiting for us to finish our photo session.



Here is the same staircase looking up.



A last glimpse of Machu Picchu from the sky. As it has been said, the Incans made Machu Picchu in the shape of a Condor. From this photo you can clearly see the shape of the wings above the bulbous body of the condor, flanked by its tail, hovering over its rectangular feet.



Some of the stairs on the way up and down Waynu Picchu were quite intense, and nearly like ladders in the sense that using your hands wasn’t out of the question.



Back in Machu Picchu proper, we made our way up to the base of the wings, and found the guard house, where the Llamas were hanging out.

Eeek!



Standard M.P shot.



Kristi went for a short walk with the Llama.



Machu Picchu in its full glory.




Too be continued...
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story continued...

Kristi enjoying the view again.



Feeding a baby llama.



Couples shot!



Getting all artsy fartsy with the camera.



After the art session, we realized that we had seen as much of Machu Picchu for the day as we cared to see. We had walked around, seen lots of stuff, hiked to the top of Waynu Picchu, seen M.P from way up high, walked back down, petted Llamas, fed them, and battled other tourists for space the entire time.

So we made our way out the front gates, headed for the buses.

That is when I saw the 80+ year old version of my Father, with his personal Sherpa, (man behind him in the hat with sandals), who had just also been in Machu Picchu. I love you Dad! My Dad has told me, many times, that when he goes back to Europe, i.e. Spain, he’s going to hire a beautiful college bilingual co-ed to show him around the city and be his guide. Don’t wait as long as this guy did Dad!



Back on the bus, headed down the mountain.



Back in Aguas Calientes, we walked around for a bit and found a shop selling postcards and stamps, and had a post box outside. Excellent. Off we sent a couple of post cards.



Not much later, we had a pile of food from the local grocery store, and we were at the train station along with everyone else from the trek. The last bit of our journey involved a train ride to Ollantaytambo, and a bus ride back to Cusco.



Onto the train we boarded, and the rest it pretty much history.



Do I look tired? Well, I’m also sun burnt. Apparently at 2300 meters, in the nice bright sunshine, a white boy like me gets burned. Damn.


And there you have it folks. Our Salkantay Trek to Machu Pichu comes to a fantastic end.

--Alex
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A video of Machu Picchu.

Let's see if this link works.


http://s979.photobucket.com/albums/a...t=MVI_7911.mp4


How do I embed the video?

--Alex
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  #133  
Old 27 Sep 2011
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Back in the saddle again.

Alright! 7 days ago I left Cusco, and all you have heard about since then was the awesome Trek that Kristi and I made to Machu Picchu. Since then, a lot of not too exciting things have happened, and I made it via 2 buses, 2 flights, and 2 taxis to Bogota, Colombia.

My bike was where I left it, my luggage still in storage, my gear all musty/moldy and stinky, and everything else in basic, normal, working condition. The bike fired up on the first go, easily, after I turned the gas back on, and all is well!

Well, leading up to this point were many mild events, and I’ll start with that, here.

Well, after making it back to Cusco, Andy, Cass, Ty, Jill, Anna, Kristi and I went out for lunch at a place that serves Hamburgers as big as your head. Most of us ordered a kind of Hamburger or Sandwich, and dug in. Kristi didn’t know what to think about it…



So she just gave it a good effort.



Holy shit! (I ate 1/3 of it, it was huge and she couldn’t finish it.)



Well, that was Sunday afternoon. Earlier that day, Rhi (from the trek) and Anna went for a full body massage. 20 soles later ($7.5) and they were in for a 1hr massage.

Well that sounded nice to Kristi, and though I actually had no urge to go for a massage, as that’s not my thing, I went with her. So $15 later we were fully bodied, inca hot stone massaged, and ready for bed. And so we went to bed.

Monday morning. The dreaded Monday morning (Sept 19th) would be the day that Kristi flew home. So, we had stuff to do!

Did anyone else know that the highest bungee jump in South America is 20 minutes outside of Cusco, Peru? Well, we learned about it at the Loki Hostel, and who would believe that Kristi has this activity on her “bucket list”? Well. Here we go! Think she’s nervous/excited?



Well, we arrived in good fashion, to see the bungee jumping cage on its grounded platform, and the support wires towering above it in the sky above.



Well, Kristi was first up. So they started harnessing her up, and strapping her in.



This time I think she’s nervous.



Rope her in boys!



Inside the cage, the jump operator was checking her harness for a third time. All set?



I think so! And lift off!



This is the exercise board/diagram that labeled and listed the exercises that we performed before jumping. Need to be limber!



And then… She was airborne!



And two minutes or so later, she was being lowered to the ground.



Hey! That was fun!



After that, it was my turn. Same basic setup, except the video that Kristi tried to take of my jump failed, and so no visual record exists. Suffice it to say, I jumped off like a pro, and it was awesome.

We paid a bit extra ($8 or something) and they made Kristi a mini dvd of the jump.


Then, it was back to the market. Cusco is a great place to find cheap things to bring home to your family. They are unique (more or less) to the area, and lots of fun for family and friends. So, we went back to the shops, and bought a few souvenirs for Kristi’s family.



Then, we took a little walk around the plaza. Here you can see part of the Old Cusco buildings, built from stone hundreds of years ago.



Here is Kristi in front of the locally famous 12 sided stone. Count it. Real deal. Stone Mason Mastery.




Well, then, it was time to go back to the hostel, grab everything she had brought with her and the stuff she bought to take home, and hit up a taxi to the airport. She had to go home to go back to school to finish her last year! Damn.

Airport waiting room parting photo.



Awwww. She’s more sad than me! She has to go home and finish school, and I get to keep traveling. Damn. Life is unfair.



Group “sad” photo. I think we actually were sad.



And then she was gone. BUT, She’ll come back in December! Woohoo!

Well. Damn. My first days of Solo travel began then, and have continued since. It’s nearly normal for me anyway, as I don’t mind making decisions, and I already have a plan in mind. So, for me, it was back to Loki Hostel to find a bus/plane to Bogota.

That night, I found tickets to Bogota from Lima for $600. No way was I dropping $600 to get to Bogota via plane. I would bus. Well, the next morning (Tuesday) I saw flights leaving Lima on Thursday for $357. I just needed to be there in time to catch the flight. A bus takes 21 hours, and costs $66. I can make it if I leave now! That sounded much better, as busing it all the way to Bogota was 87 hours of bus riding. 4 days (STRAIGHT) and $280. And flying from Lima was a day and a half and $420.

So I went to the travel/tour agency inside Loki, and booked a bus that was leaving 4 hours later for Lima. Then, I went back to buy my plane ticket, and they were sold out. Everything was sold out. No flights for less than $600. Damn. Well, I already bought the bus ticket, so I was on my way out the door anyway.

From the front of the bus, through the bugs.



Side view. Less buggy.



Well, in a 21 hour bus ride, they serve you food. I eat much more food than is ever served, so I planned ahead. I.e. 3 liters of fluid (2lt water, 1lt Gatorade), 6 packs (4ea) or oreos, and a banana.

The accompanying chicken, rice, and pastry went along nicely.



Well, I before I got on the bus in Cusco, I saw listed on the bus station schedule, plastered massive letters on the wall, that there was a direct bus leaving from Lima to Guayaquil, Ecuador 3hrs 45minutes after I was meant to arrive in Lima. The price for that 30 hours bus ride was the same as the 21 hrs I would be riding from Cusco to Lima, I didn’t have to pay for a nights’ accommodation, and I would arrive in Guayaquil where flights to Bogota are way cheaper. So, I bought that ticket and signed myself up for 55 hours of nearly consecutive bus riding.

On the way I met this Chilean guy who was traveling for a month, headed north to Colombia, looking for a job when he got there. He was a large scale mechanic that worked in the mines in Chile. He’d be looking for similar work in Colombia.

In Lima with nearly 4 hours to spare, he also bought a bus ticket to Guayaquil, and with the next 30 hours of our lives scheduled in the same direction, we got in a taxi with Felix (another guy making the same trip from Cusco, flying from Guayaquil to L.A. to Sydney) and went down to the local Molino Market.

When we arrived, Felix took off to find gifts for his extended family in Australia, and the Chilean and I (can’t remember his name damn it) went in search for food.

We ended up walking a few blocks and I began to realize that I had been there before, when I was in Lima with Kristi. I turned a few corners and we found Pizza Street. A street lined completely with restaurants and bars. Eventually we came to the end, and the only restaurant not trying to ply us with free/discounted drinks just to enter.

We ended up stuffing our faces on a order of grilled meats, French fries, salad and Inka Cola. Meet the Chilean.



Well, shortly after the meal we walked down the street to the grocery store I remember existed there, and bought provisions for the next 30 hours. Bread, 2 apples, an orange, more water and more Gatorade.

Then it was back to the bus, a front row seat on the top level for me with what turned out to be nobody sitting next to me for the entire ride to Ecuador. Awesome.

Along the way we passed a town, dominated by small motorcycle and motorcycle taxis. They were everywhere!



25 hours later, we arrived at the Peruvian Immigracion office, and I was first off the bus. Waiting in line to have your passport stamped can truly suck when there are 50 people in front of you. If you’re the first one, you get to do this while everyone else is standing in line: eat a chocolate ice cream bar with peanuts. Damn, they are so good.



Well, after exiting Peru, entering Ecuador (same first off first back on routine) it was 5 more hours to our destination for the bus ride. 5 hours later we were all shaking hands, (Felix, Chilean and I) and going off on our own way to do what we had planned.

Briefly I considered catching one of the buses that leaves every hour to Quito, 9-10 hours away on the bus. But, after 50 hours of poor sleeping, poor eating, and urge to sleep in a bed, I made my way into the bus terminal (A MASSIVE two level shopping mall of a bus terminal), and found an internet café.

After 2 hours on the internet I had found a hostel nearby, updated my friends and family , and the most important thing to me at that time; found, booked, and paid for a 2 hour flight to Bogota.

20 more minutes later and I was at the Funky Monkey Hostel near a shopping mall, on my laptop. My flight was scheduled for Saturday, and it was only Thursday night. Time to catch up on sleep.

And so I did. And it was Friday morning till night that I spent a considerable amount of time uploading photos, writing captions, and connecting the dots along our trek to Machu Picchu. Relatively up to date by this time, I passed out.

Saturday morning had me packed and ready to go to the airport. Less than 10 minutes later by taxi, I arrived in good order, 1.5 hours before the flight, (I wasn’t risking anything this time), and was checked in for the first of 2 flights that day, to Cali, Colombia.

In Cali, I made a slight error and checked myself into the country of Colombia with the immigration officers there. Instead, I was meant to take a different route and head to the waiting area for my connecting flight to Bogota where, at my final destination I would check myself into the system. So, after erroneously checking it, I had 2.5 hours to wait for my connecting flight. No problem.

The older women here like to dye there graying/white hair into hip and fashionable colors. The choice of these two nice women? Purple!



A normal scene at banks and airport ATM’s are armed guards ready to whoop ass if you try to rob them.



After eating ice cream again, and reintroducing myself to the third currency in 3 days, I was boarding onto the 35 minute flight to Bogota, and ready to rock and roll. I had saved a business card to the Hostel where I left my bike, and after collecting my luggage in Bogota, grabbed one of the authorized taxis, and was checked into the hostel that night. After retrieving all of my luggage from storage, my bed looked like this.



Well, that was Saturday, the 24th, and since then, I have picked up a package at the post office that my dad sent to me, (Sprockets, clutch cable, throttle cable, oil drain plug, carb screws), installed the new sprockets with a new chain that Kristi brought down when she arrived, tuned the carb, checked the tire pressure, loctited every pannier rack bolt, drilled 4 holes in my top case and mounted it, and changed the oil.

That took me a few days as I am hard pressed to be in a hurry. However, TOMORROW, I leave bright and early in the morning.

In the mean time, I have been to the grocery store, bought way too much meat, potatoes, broccoli, green beans, rice, bell peppers, an onion, and cooked the hell out of all of it.



Over the past two days I have eaten a kilo of meat, a kilo of potatoes, 2 peppers, and onion, and some rice. I am fattening myself up before I go back south again where large quantities of beef don’t grow until Argentina.

On top of all of this, Tom and Charlie have decided to backtrack to Lima where a larger level of motorcycle related assistance can be found. Tom’s shock is trashed, and Charlie’s fork seals are leaking. That just means I’ll catch them sooner than originally thought.

I leave tomorrow. Route as halfway considered is as follows:
Wednesday, make it to Cali, Colombia.
Thursday, make it to Ipiales, Colombia.
Friday, make it to Quito, Ecuador.
Saturday, make it to Cuenca, Ecuador.
Sunday, make it to Mancora, Peru.
Monday, half way to Lima.
Tuesday, arrive in Lima.

Onward!


--Alex
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Old 28 Sep 2011
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Great thread Alex.....enjoying your trip...while planning mine.....though I am 64. Purchased the bike 2 weeks ago....VStrom 650 and hope to be there in the fall of 2012. Alaska 1st ....May 2012.....from Muskoka Ontario Canada.
Stay Safe.....
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Hola.

Hickery: Thanks for the compliment on the RR. I envy the Vstrom650. A great power plant, fuel injected, better fuel economy, and nice on road comfort with mild off road capability. Your side boxed look great as well! In my experience as well, age means very little. You'll kick ass at 64. Alaska was in my plans as well, but leaving early nixxed it.

You're going to have a great time on a great bike. Nicely done, well planned, and surely it will be properly executed.

Thanks for following along

--Alex
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