Adios Zapatos part 2

30 01 2008

For a girl who loves her shoes, I haven’t had much luck with them on this trip (See Adios Zapatos Part 1).

While at home in California for Christmas, I went to several stores with my brother Scott on the quest for the perfect pair of hiking boots for my trek in the Andes. At the first store, we told the salesman that it would be cold because of how high I’d be, and he tried to sell me a shoe that would be good in negative 30 degree weather (that’s Faranheit folks). Perhaps he misheard South America and thought I was going to the South Pole?

At the second store we fared little better. The girl said she knew nothing of Machu Picchu but she did know a little about hiking. When we explained that this would be a little more intense than hiking, that I would be trekking in the Andes, we could see the wheels in her brain moving. In the end she couldn’t make it past the after-dinner mint. Finally, however, I went home with a pair of shoes.

After two days of wearing them around the house per Scott’s orders, I decided they were uncomfortable and we were back at the store, this time with a girl who knew her stuff and who sold me the other shoe I had been looking at the first time.

I took them back to New York and wore them to run my errands (yes, I did in fact go out in public in Manhattan in my hiking boots), and by the time I got to Cusco they were comfortable and fantastic.

All through days one and two Hans and Frans (as I christened them because they did in fact “pump me up”) held strong. They kept my feet dry and happy no matter how much it rained of home much mud I stepped in. But come day three, I accidentally plunged my whole foot in the river while trying to cross: waterproof does not work if the whole shoe is sumberged.

Nontheless Frans served me well, and Hans was great too despite a little water. By the end of the day, however, my feet were less than happy, and when I finally sat to take off the boots, I found that my brand new shoe (Hans) was starting to fall apart. The leather on one side was coming away from the gortex, which doesn’t quite help with the whole water thing. I tried to patch it in the morning, but the thing about sticky-backed gortex is that it only sticks to dry things, which Hans was not.

So now Hans and Frans are sad, broken, and muddy, but still hanging out in my backpack, unlike the heels that were worn once and sent back to New York with the girls.

Lesson learned: My flip flops haven’t failed me yet.





Olfactory Overload

29 01 2008

Some things that smell worse than the lady on the plane from Buenos Aires to Lima…

1) Me, on days 2-5 (ok, day 1 too) of the Salkantay trek. There is just something about mud and sweat (and possibly horse excrement) caked on your body that smells just lovely. Did I mention there were no showers?

2) The “ladies” on the plane from Cusco back to Lima. Yes, we did spend day 5 (after showers at the hostel, please be impressed) hiking at Machu Picchu, and arrived back in Cusco at 10 p.m. to throw on clean clothes and hasty makeup jobs (no showers here folks) and meet the rest of the backpacking gang for a night on the town. And yes, the next morning saw us rolling out of bed after two hours of sleep to make our way to the airport. Please don’t ask if I was able to locate my toothbrush before the cab picked us up.

3) The lady on the plane from Lima back to Buenos Aires. This time, not me. The woman next to me looked like she might be addicted to any number of drugs, had the nervous habit of picking at her very dirty nails, and radiated an un-defineable stench that seemed to be a mixture of dirtiness and gasoline. (Payback?)

4) My fleece, which I had to put on this morning for the bus ride to my hostel. Somehow the mud/sweat mixture, combined with having been thrust in a bag with the cigarette-smoke-ridden jeans from the night out in Cusco meant I felt a little ill on the bus.

Laundry time?





I May Cry, But…

28 01 2008

I am still hardcore.

After a very trying day three, I awoke for day four—feet no less blistered and muscles no less aching, but refreshed nonetheless. Running through a river with no bridge meant squishy shoes, but when we reached the entrance to a portion of the Inca Trail, physical discomfort ceased to matter.

Lush jungle and centuries old stone steps made for a hike I can only describe as spiritual. There was something intense and heady about walking a path that the Incas themselves climbed, and I once again found myself overwhelmed: all the physical and emotional trials of the past three days had led up to this moment. And that I had survived them made me (yes, I admit it) tear up yet again.

But when we found ourselves face to face (literally) with the end of the road, I held it together. There we were, two hours into the six hour hike, and a landslide had broken the trail, leaving a gap about thirty feet wide in the mountainside.

Even Roberto looked nervous, though undeterred. After making it halfway across the gap trying to recreate a tiny trail, he gave that up and came back to our side. The only thing to do was to climbe up and over the gap. Through the jungle.

Soon I found myself hoisted into the trees, weaving Tarzan-style in and out of the tangled vines as I gripped larger trees and tried not to hyperventilate. When halfway through the venture Roberto asked if anyone had a knife the comedy of it all was only a slight relief.

But when I reached the midway point I finally looked out. I saw not only the gaping hold over which I was standing, but the thick jungle below, and the valley beyond that, and, remarkably, all anxiety melted into exhilaration. Even fear can’t overpower a once in a lifetime experience.

I won’t lie: I was much relieved to feel solid ground under my feet again, but I made it through what should have been a far more terrifying adventure than the previous day without shedding a tear.

Lesson Learned: I am Inca.





Boys Don’t Cry

27 01 2008

Nor do hardcore girls.

I, however, do cry. But I don’t think that makes me any less hardcore. I survived day one’s bumpy ride (on narrow mountain roads in the back of a truck) with a smile on my face. And come day two I climbed to 4600 meters (15091 feet!) without complaint.

But when day three rolled around I found myself (aching muscles, blistered feet, backpack and all) on a seemingly crumbling trail barely wide enough to fit both my feet, miles above a raging river… and crying. Yep, right then and there, I lost it, feeling, mid-mountain, as though I simply couldn’t go on.

But the beautiful thing about being in the middle of a mountain is that, terrified or not, you don’t have a choice but to go on. So with the help of my superstar guide Roberto and my fabulous friends, I made it across the ledge (and across each of six progressively more dilapidated bridges) to find my triumphant self on solid ground at the end of the day.

I am still terrified of heights, and the thought of day three makes my legs a little shaky and my stomach a little queasy, but the fact of having faced a fear and survived it makes me nonetheless jubilant. (Though not in a hurry to do it again.)

Lesson Learned: Never let ’em see you sweat is not a mantra for the mountain. Sweat (or tears) and a little weakness only means a whole lot more strength.