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Up, Up, Up!

The city of Cusco
The city of Cusco
Early morning Ollantaytumbo is quiet. Uniformed children are beginning to walk to school, vendors are setting up food tables, and travelers are beginning to orient themselves to their busses or the train to Machu Picchu. We gathered for breakfast, anticipating the staging of the trek with horses, llamas and porters. It would be an hour or so along the beautiful green Urubamba River to our turn off and then up road adjacent to the Rio Huarocondo. We knew we had arrived when Aurelio stopped and announced, ''Aqui!'' Several men stepped out of the shade leading horses. They whinnied and snorted letting everyone know that were not too happy dealing with the smell of llamas. Naturally the llamas could care less. We stood back as the men arranged and loaded pots and pans, a propane tank, food, tents, and our gear onto the animals. Augusto our chef would share some of the gear with Valentin in their packs. Marcelino set aside an incredible load to be hefted up the mountain. He and Pedro were the llama herders and had their jobs cut out making sure our duffels were secure on the animals. Antonio, our arriero, carefully checked his horses and the ropes holding the gear.

Juan issued final orders to the men and gave us a nod to go; they would catch us soon enough.

This would be us in the Andes. Peru! The music was filling my ears and there were little drops in my eyes. I think that is what happens as dreams are born. The tic of my trekking poles were the timpani, my nerves the violins, Melissa and Jill the woodwinds and brass.

Hopefully our Colorado workouts above 13,000ft would pay off. Although Jill lived a sea level, her youthful strength was her mojo, so to speak!

The valley unfolded around us as we ascended. Occasionally a local would pass us with a loaded horse and a few children came out for dulces. Water and a light wind were the only sounds under a sky billowing with cumulus clouds. It was a time to walk silently and absorb people making mud blocks for homes, hoeing corn or potatoes, or hanging wash on the line. Cows and horses occasionally added a melody, and always the chickens had something to say. Everything went slowly, and it was Peru.

Several miles up we could hear the 300 foot waterfall well before we could see it. Plastic bags rattled at the end of sticks to act as scare crows to help the seedlings survive. Inca ruins were the ever present ghost windows in walls once standing straight. The leitmotif of the Inca was present with each of our steps.

Late in the afternoon we passed a school and wondered how far each student had walked that morning. We learned later that truly some of the students had walked miles and maybe 2000 vertical feet for an education that day. We admired one student who kicked a soccer ball all the way uphill from school.

We passed by a tambo which Juan described as a way station for traveling Incas. Many of the walls remained straight. Our destination at Perolniyoc was a welcomed sight as the men had set up our tents and good smells were coming from the chefs tent. Magically our guia Juan had arranged for libations chilled with mountain water. We sat down to enjoy our surrounding mountains, our day's efforts, and discover a sense of humility from being there.

There were several communities around and above us. Needless to say there were horses, sheep, pigs, cows, llamas and need I say chickens? Several Quechan children wandered past, one woman had been collecting sticks for the evening cooking and another was bringing her sheep closer to home. Little did we know that in the morning an elder man would sit near our tent and play his harp for our enjoyment. He was working for a few soles.

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