Cuzco!

05/10/2014

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I haven't wanted to write much since meeting up with Elle. I think journaling was keeping me company while I was alone, but now I have someone to share my random thoughts with, so they aren't bottled up any more.

We met up at 7am in Cuzco at the Hostel Samanapaitca - a bit spendy but well reviewed - and now closed apparently. When we returned to Cuzco Martine (hostel manager with a crush on Elle) said there was some issue with the owner and the court. Anyway, at 7am we made plans to see some of the surrounding country. We met Lindsey from Toronto and caught a tour bus out of town, headed to the Moras Farming archeological site and the Salineras salt mine. I sat next to John from Miami/Venezuela and learned all about his home and when he had seen already. He gave us some good tips for our leg up to Machu Pichu.

The Moras site was stunning. Concentric circles terraced into a natural depression in the mountain, built with the intention of seeing what grew best at what temperature. I did an unsuccessful hand stand under the floating stairs.

I'm reluctant to write more because most of the good photos I have are on my camera, not my phone which. Is where I'm posting from.

The area we drove through was so green and beautiful. There were snow capped mountains in the distance - definitely a place I could live. We've been blessed with amazing weather, and Elle is an awesome travel partner. I've been noticing how my beliefs about myself influence how I act with others - not to get too in depth, but it's been fun to shed those a bit and experiment with a new way of being. After all, no one knows me here, so change isn't so hard. I am what they see, and that is whatever I want at the moment.

The salt "mines" consisted of flat terraced ponds, filled by the super saturated salt water that naturally comes out of the mountain. The flats fill up, dry, then the layers are harvested off by workers in big hats. Every stop was loaded with touristy shops, but at this one they had fresh plantain chips, warm and salted with the stuff we had just seen drying.

After returning to the city we found a tiny place serving super cheap food, and made an equally tiny old lady happy with our tip. She kissed everyone's cheek and gavels a hug. Elle and I wandered around town and found a bead shop - all the colors and textures I love immersing myself in, inside hundreds of bins and for pennies each. I held back. Mostly.

We decided wandering would be more fun after a shot of Tequila, so we asked a guy handing out party fliers where to go. He took us upstairs to what turned out to be a party hostel, where Tequila shots turned into beer pong with three guys: English, German and Californian. Chaos ensued. I got to see the hills of Cuzco at night, dark and studded with what looked like thousands of white, blue and Christmas lights.

Our next move was a 7 am train to Machu Pichu, from another town an hour drive away. At 4 am "collectivas" aren't so popular, so it took a while before there were enough passengers for the van to leave. Sleepy, we made the train in time.

Machu Pichu needs it's own post, and since it's midnight here the day before we leave for the mountains, I'll have to put it off.

I just keep realizing how much more there is to this country, and how three weeks isn't enough. I already can't wait to come back.

 

El Misti

05/06/2014

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I slept in until 10 am this morning, not for laziness, but because I couldn't make myself get out of bed. It was warm and there was so much... oxygen. Nothing special, except that the night before I was in a bivy somewhere around 14,000 ft.

My first day in Arequipa I spent walking around the city looking for someone to drive me to the XXX trail head. Most said it was "unadvisable" and that I should have a guide - then they would quote a price half my total budget. Persistence and a loud mouth paid off. As a fellow hostel resident said "Don't listen to them, just stay true to yourself." I'm big on listening to others, maybe too much sometimes. This time I held my own.

Jack, my reasonably priced driver, met me at 7am the morning of the 4th. We drove through a gated property and up a 4 wheel only road (is it considered a road if only 3 wheels ever touch the ground?). The gate is manned by the family that owns the property you drive through before getting to the mountain road. The guide pays them per trip he makes, a nice source of income for the family and an extra layer of protection for hikers. It's safe enough to leave your gear at base camp for an ultra light summit day. The trailhead is at 3,300 ish meters above sea level, and clearly marked. He left me with "It's easy. The trail is well traveled, and base camp is right there - two features up after the foothills turn to volcanic sand. The trail follows the ridge directly above."

His directions were incredibly accurate. The high desert flora seemed very familiar: cacti, pokey plants, sand and small grasses. The trail wound uphill, then left to the next ridge, then left again and straight up. At the crest where sand turned to ash, I went left again and found a "false" base camp. I decided to camp there rather than hike up another 30 minutes to the next one. It just didn't seem worth it. I started hiking at 8, and made it to camp a little before 2. That left a whole afternoon to eat, nap and pack for the morning. It was awesome. That much solitude and time in the sun with those views... Worth the hike up alone. I slept for an hour or two, took some pictures, cooked dinner and aimed my bivy at the setting sun. The horizon was on fire, and if I'm not mistaken, I could also see the ocean in the distance.

I slept for 6 or 7 hours, woke at 1am and contemplated an alpine start. The sky looked good, but I wasn't sure about the clarity of the trail, as there had been many offshoots (always leading up, though) during the hike below. Also, the thought of doing it in the dark was incredibly demoralizing. I re heated my water bottles and went back to sleep. I woke right before dawn, made a hot breakfast and was hiking before the sun was fully up. Much better. I figured I'd go until I felt I might not be able to safely get down again if I continued, due to altitude sickness or whatever.

In an hour I was already higher than if ever been before. I called my ride (full bars there) and asked him to meet me at 4pm. I kept hiking, feeling myself get slower and slower, stopping frequently to assess my progress and the possible path the trail might take. And breathe. I would look at my watch and say "well, I might as well keep going, I have nothing better to do." Same approach I took on the Grand. Worked out well. My hard stop was noon, and my goal was the crater rim, not the true summit with the cross on top. Too many steep cliffs around it, so I figured I'd pass.

At noon I was struggling against lethargy, nausea and a small but persistent headache. I was also at just under 19,000 ft. I gave myself another 20 minutes and pushed hard for the top. I made the crater rim, took some photos, and wondered how the hell all the guides got their clients down in only 2 hours. Then I noticed, the skid marks down the chutes on either side of the ridge.

I aimed down the steep volcano ash and immediately fell on my ass. Then I tried again. It was amazing. Like skiing. It took me an hour and 20 minutes to make it to my bivy, sliding the whole way. I had left it to dry in the sun, so I packed up, and headed down. More sliding, then a right to the original ridge I came up. There I met the first people I'd seen all day- three hikers and a guide. The guide called me a crazy lady, and said people get lost. How, I don't know. You can see the entire route from the entire route. Maybe I've just done enough vague climber trail finding to make it seem easy. He have me a tip, to go one ridge more over and slide down the rest of the way, taking a left up a small hill to return to the original trail once the scrambling was over. I was down to the parking lot by 3:15. That's a net loss of 6,000 feet in just under 3 hours. SO much fun.

My only regret in the whole trip is not applying enough sunscreen to my face. My forehead hurts today :-P

I may be a crazy lady, but I know myself and I'm happy. That's all that matters. And today I'll go find aloe.

Better photos to come once I find a place to upload from an SD card.

 
 

Rough start today.

Rolled in to Arequipa at 8am after a weird sleeping bus ride, still dazed and groggy. Managed to find a cab to the hostel I'd decided to visit. Took a shower at La Reyna Hostel, and left my stuff there in order to find food.

Couldn't find food, at least food I was familiar with. Couldn't get any guide service to just drop me off at the El Misti trailhead. Kept saying it was dangerous and I would fall off a cliff. It was incredibly discouraging. Found an Internet cafe with kids playing video games. It was nice to say hi to Rick and Elle. Got super strong coffee down the street. Arequipa is called the white city because of the white stone used for most of the buildings. It's beautiful, way more pretty than Lima. The streets are cobble which makes the cars clap rather than zoom down the street.

Still no clue what I was going to do. Went back to La Reyna and made friends with the 18 yr old innkeeper. The owner came in, I was able to explain my situation. She called her brother, Jack, who promptly came in and said "it's easy, I'll take you."

Holy crap what a difference that made. I'm so glad I kept asking. The whole afternoon I then spent wandering the markets and streets with way less stress. I'm stoked, and everything is bonito. I can do this, even if I don't summit.

Last night on the bus I go up to use the bathroom and saw my reflection for the first time since leaving the US. I stood there for a while and tried to take in the fact that it was me. Messy Aleya is kind of cool.

Overall today gets a huge "fuck yeah!" rating on the awesomeness scale.

Note to self: a day wandering around isn't a day wasted. Super useful actually. I think I've walked 10 miles at least, but I've seen everything. Twice.

 
 
As I prep to take off on today, my pack is getting progressively heavier. I'm not sure I like this, not because I am a minimalist, but because I'm a wuss. I would much rather be uncomfortable than have to lug a bazillion things around that I never use. My goal has been to fit clothing, camping stuff and food in a single back pack that I can shoulder with relative ease. 

Below I'm including my pack list, with some specific gear I'm stoked about using - Many thanks to the friends who helped me cut down on the unnecessary things!

 
 
As all good stories go, my decision to go to Peru started in a bar. 

"Hold my beer, I'm gonna go to South America."

I've been dying to leave the country for quite some time now, but being in grad school put a hold on most of my adventure plans. Last year was particularly tough, with 30 hours of internship, 30 hours of work, and 4 classes to attend to each week. I had ambitious plans to open a practice immediately after graduation in December, but found myself needing space to explore what it meant to be out of grad school and on my own again, instead. 

 
 
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Bonus Monday morning pick me up!

Rock and Sky presents: The alternative fashions of the #OmniGames. 

We may have worn Columbia gear, but we didn't let that define us...


 
 
This whole #TryingStuff experience, recapping the adventures with Columbia, and making such amazing friends has made me a bit antsy... 

After all, what good is life changing if you don't change your life?

 
 
The challenge in recapping any trip is in capturing the things you will want to remember later on, the things that made you smile and the moments that made you feel close and connected, or brave and daring, or in awe of where you are. 

Here are some tips for documenting the things worth remembering:

 
 
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Weston Shirley Photography
It happened!! The event I've been clueless about, yet talking about constantly, happened!

The Columbia Omnigames in Park City Utah brought together the crews from Omniten Seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4 to compete in Olympic-style (more like Hunger Games style) events, see first hand the US, Russian and Canadian Olympic Ski uniforms, and do some all-in #TryingStuff with brand new Columbia technology. 

There is so much to tell - so it's going to come in waves. The most important thing, however, is that this trip was COMPLETELY successful due to the amazing people that crafted it and that attended it as well. Here is a little bit of the mayhem... 

 
 

Subtitle: How to Stay Warm.

Normally I get really irritated when people (TSA) try to look through my luggage, and now I've gone and posted a photo of the inside for all the internet to see. Today I pack for Park City, Utah, and the epic #Omnigames. Here are a few of my favorite pieces of winter weather gear - and some aren't even by Columbia! (GASP!)

*note, most links are to women's products, but that doesn't mean the technology isn't there in the men's stuff too.