And we’re back. I’ve been putting this off for a number of reasons but here I am in a Starbucks in Argentina being that guy looking like a self-important asshole writing bullshit on an Apple product. Woe is me.
Way back in November we hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, which was literally the only thing that we had planned for the entire trip to South America. Due to the popularity of this trail, we were forced to booking the trip to commence on November 16th both at the start of the rainy season and the end of the busy season. There was no need to worry about the weather since there was nothing we could do to change it, so instead we worried about our physical fitness to hike for four days and over as many mountain passes, one of which was over 14,000 feet.
Although we prefer to do things on on our own, this was not a possibility for the Inca trail and were forced to go with a guided tour through a company and other patrons. In my experience, groupings of strangers on excursions always include a couple of shitheads and I was a little nervous about our companions, but this was quickly rendered moot since the group ended up being my favorite thing about the experience. We passed the time hiking playing word games, bullshitting, hating on our beyond-less-than-helpful guide, and chewing coca leaves. Our companions bet me $12.36 that I couldn’t pee/stop peeing and hold it for 30-minutes/then pee again and also offered to pay Jean $2 for every minute she was silent so we made $12.36. We finished the trip and took a train back, drinking beer with the group and noisily rolling dice for money.
The trail features porters who are not unlike Sherpas in that they seem to be made for this job and carried loads of up to 80-pounds. Many wore only sandals and would sprint past us (even up hills) where they would set up our tents and cook us meals. The chef-de-cuisine wore a white coat and a chef’s hat and baked us a cake on the final night, complete with decorative icing. Roughing it, we were not.
The trail itself is the most unique multi-day trek I have ever done and lives up to its reputation. We had heard rumors that the trail itself was so wondrous that the arrival to Macchu Pichu ends up feeling somewhat anti-climactic. While the trail was indeed wondrous, punctuated with ruins and paved with an ancient trail, Machu Picchu lives up to its status as one of the “Seven Wonders of the World” and is worth a visit. The ruins themselves are remarkable in innumerable ways, but the setting is so unbelievably beautiful that it couldn’t be any more perfect, like, stranger than fiction kind of perfect. When glimpsing Machu Picchu from the is easy to understand why the Incans’ religion was the earth, the moon, the sun and the stars. Hike the trail if you can, unless you are fat because you will die or be a burden (we saw a big girl who, bless her heart for trying, was all but being carried by the end of it all).
Onwards to Bolivia, the holy grail for cheapskates. We took a plane to Bolivia, which is apparently a little bit suicidal due to sketchy safety standards and regulations but you gotta die somehow and that certainly would read well in an obituary. We hoped that crossing the border would also mean we didn’t have to hear that Peruvian flute thing again, but no dice. The main reason for going back to Bolivia was to see the “Salar de Uyuni,” the largest salt flat on this planet and, once again, were forced to take a guided tour. This tour guide, Sergio, was great although he had a menacing facial injury that was covered with the same bandage for three days. By the final day, the medical tape was so dirty that he lost the bandage and covered his face with a scarf. We ate llama once and, for me, the last time. We stayed in a hotel that was supposedly made entirely of salt which was a fucking lie since the toilet was porcelain and the shower tiled. We stayed in a family home the final night that had gravel for flooring and Jean gave their children little gifts of Legos for she is a generous god. We saw geysers, active volcanoes, a fox, etc. Not a whole lot else to mention about this experience other than being in the back of a 90s-era Land Cruiser for twelve hours is a torturous affair. Oh, an we saw flamingos. Here are some pictures because I am tired of writing about this topic already and want to move on to the topic of our coke sniffing surf instructor.