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Day 6; Tuesday April 6, 2010 (Day 2 of the Inca Trail)
Machu Picchu Pilgrimage

Guinea Pig on a stickGuinea Pig on a stick (Robert Anaya)
We were going to get up at 5:20 a.m. and on the trail by 6 a.m. I woke up a few times during the night, but overall I felt rested in the morning. Before we even got out of the tent we repacked our personal belongings and got ourselves ready for the upcoming day. The porters came to our tent and offered us coca tea or instant coffee and brought us two containers of hot water to wash. You can’t be shy when you have to use the bathroom. There are bathrooms along the trail, some are very primitive and some are a little more modern with running water. Our first camp had a permanent building setup that resembled an outhouse; three walls a door and a hole in the floor, Ayul called it a squatty potty. No running water, no toilet paper, and worst of all, no magazines. Breakfast consisted of hot oat cereal, scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. We finally got on the trail about an hour later than we planned. The trail started immediately uphill. The weather was warm but overcast; we didn’t need sunglasses today. There weren’t many trekkers on this part of the trail, only the porters running by us to get to their next point ahead of their tour group. We walked for about 3 hours until we came to a rest area where most of the other tour groups were taking a break or eating their lunch. There was a large bathroom at this stop with squatty potties, but I can’t remember if it had running water or not. We had a snack and rested for about 30 minutes. Ayul told us we were 80% of the way to the top of Warmiwanuska; AKA “Dead Woman Pass”. Linda had an altitude headache and the higher we walked the worse it got. Along the trail, we met up with an older woman from Australia who had a very calming demeanor. She and her husband had been traveling all over South America for several months. We walked with her for awhile and she gave Linda some good advice “slow but steady, just keep moving”. She told us that her husband was ahead of her on the trail and that I should go ahead and let Linda go at her own pace because it puts pressure on her to try and keep up; slow but steady. I was worried for Linda because of her altitude headache, but I felt confident with our very experienced guide; he stayed with her while she finished the final section of the trail. The last section of the trail was tough. The terrain was rocky and steep. This was also my least favorite part of the trail, not because of its difficulty, but because it was very crowded. Between the trekkers and the porters it reminded me of a traffic jam. I really don’t remember a whole lot about the scenery on this part of the trail; all I remember is I just wanted to get to the top. At one point, I looked up and saw what I thought were several large trees. As I continued to climb, the trees began to multiply and then I heard them talking. No I wasn’t hallucinating! What I was seeing and hearing were people ahead of me making it to the top and clapping and encouraging others on as they made their way up the trail. I finally made it to the top at around 12 noon. I grabbed my binoculars and looked down the mountain to find Linda. I saw Ayul’s hat, then I saw Linda emerge from the mist that was settling over the mountain. I don’t know how far down the mountain she was but I know she had the most difficult section ahead of her. I said a prayer and ask God to give her strength to make it to the top safely. Ayul finally crested the top and said Linda was doing great but just going at her own pace. When Linda came up to the top, she still had enough energy to do a “celebration dance”. I sure wish I had videoed her dance. I thanked God for getting us all safely to the top. We rested for about 20 minutes and snapped a bunch of photos, and then the rain started. We put on our rain gear and started down the other side towards our next camp sight. It was the first time in two days of hiking that we had to walk downhill. The first part of the trail, after we crested dead woman’s pass, was very steep with rock steps. The rain made it even more difficult. We descended for about an hour before the rain let up. It never completely stopped, it continued to sprinkle off and on for the remainder of the day, but not hard enough to keep our rain gear on. Ayul called the rain “liquid sunshine”. There was nothing significant about this part of the trail but there was one memorable moment. There were quite a few trekkers trudging along downhill and at one time there was a group of American men behind us singing A coppella to songs that I have never heard. I think they were making them up. After 20 minutes of listening to their songs, they finally passed us and one Australian hiker made the comment “I hope they can dance because they sure can’t sing”. We all had a good laugh over that comment and kept on trekking. We walked for about 2 ½ hours downhill before we reached camp. At this point, I decided I liked walking uphill more than downhill.

We arrived at camp around 3p.m., and found it already set up. We immediately had lunch. Lunch was delicious! Hot asparagus soup, bread, guacamole dip, pasta with hollandaise sauce and stuffed yucca. After lunch we went to the tent for a short nap. Mario had dinner ready for us at 7:30. I was still full from lunch but Mario’s cooking was so delicious you couldn’t turn it down! Dinner was: chicken noodle soup, chicken, rice, mixed vegetables and flan for dessert. Following dinner, Ayul brought out his astronomy book and we looked at the stars. The sky the previous night was breathtaking for sure, but tonight’s sky was overwhelming. I can’t explain the clarity and the brightness of the stars in the sky. This was the first time that I observed the Southern Cross constellation. The Milky Way engulfed the whole mountain. Our conversations turned to, probably the most common topic when looking in space, UFO’s and aliens. Are we the only ones out there in our galaxy? Realizing that we are only one of the millions of stars in our milky way, I’m beginning to believe that we are not the only ones in this galaxy. We closed the evening talking about the possibility of a parallel universe and if there someone looking at us from another star saying the same thing. We went to bed at 9:15 p.m.

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