I was thinking that permanent damage was unavoidable, as I limped to the mess tent for a cup of coffee. Every muscle was hurting, and my ankles felt like they were made out of rubber. Amazingly we all rallied and after a few warm up steps were kind of ready for the day ahead. According to
Eder all the difficult parts were behind us, and the way
ahead had easy ups and downs (easy for him to say!). However, we had to make
for the distance lost in the first two days, and the goal was to cover 15 km
from dawn to dusk.
It was not as easy as
had claimed, and I had to tackle every uphill with the old technique of walking
50 steps and then stopping for a little rest. I was back to carrying my
backpack, and so was Tita, who alone of all of us carried her full load for the
full trip (Brava!).
The road was very beautiful, and once we got on our stride, we actually enjoyed ourselves very much. Our dear Aussies, being full of youth and energy, soon disappeared behind the horizon, but Annie, Tita, Tom,
Eder, and myself stayed together as a group, which
afforded us a good chance to talk.
Eder is a very smart young man, who studied Biology in
, worked as a porter for a spell, and
then studied and passed the examination required to get his license as a guide.
He is now studying Environmental Engineering, and I have no doubt that he will
eventually realize his goal. He is in true love with high school of JC and its ancient cultures, and
has an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Upon knowing that I was a geologist he
asked me all sorts of interesting questions about the rocks and the origin of
the mountains. (Andrew, one of our Aussies, also asked me a couple of questions
that required a long answer, and he complimented me by saying that he had never
learned so much from such a short conversation). Peru
Along the way we visited two or three Inca sites. Each is amazing in the scope of its engineering and architecture, and I wish had the words to express my admiration for these fantastic engineers and agronomists. For example, they had terraces that extended over a 100 m altitude range. They would plant thousnads of low elevation plants (say potatoes) in the lowermost terraces, waiting for only a handful to survive. Then they would plant the potatoes from the survivors at that same elevation, and pretty soon they had a strain that would thrive at that elevation. Afterward they would transplant a few thousand plants to the higher elevations, and again only two or three would survive. The survivors were selected and planted again, until a whole new generation was “created” that could survive the high elevations. In a similar way they adapted many of their basic plants from the lowlands to their preferred high mountain environment. Pretty clever folks, those Incas.
We had a long but pleasant day, and were happily trudging along, until we realized that its was 5 in the afternoon, and we still had 5 km to go. Now, up here where the atmosphere is thin we have a very short dusk, so all of a sudden we were facing the prospect of a night walk.
Meanwhile, our Aussie friends were already in a site that is close to the campsite, and they were all alone, and the moon was rising early, and they are slightly insane, and their insanity led them to take off all their clothes to do the ol’ dancing under the moon. And a fine spectacle they did of themselves when the camera went off!
Night did come upon us, together with a light drizzle. Now, our amazing
Eder, who is some kind of Peruvian
McGyver, pulled out his poncho and insisted I had to wear it, so soon I was
encased in this tube of plastic, which in no time whatsoever raised my
temperature to sauna levels. Annie took the lead, with her powerful REI
headlamp; behind followed Tom, who had no headlamp but who has a good night
vision and could follow on Annie’s footsteps, then came Tita, me (sweating like
the proverbial pig), and then Eder. After about 5 minutes Annie’s mighty REI
lamp took a crap, so Eder exchanged lamps with
her. As they were doing this Tom spotted a little snake across the road and
started playing with it. Eder froze as he
warned Tom to leave it alone, because the little guy is one of the most
poisonous snakes in this region. Annie had just stepped over the viper, and
when she heard that she almost fainted (have I told you that Annie is snake
phobic?). So Annie refused to stay on the lead, which was taken by Tita, and I
was ready to faint inside my personal sauna, so I had to get rid of it, and in
that sorry way we made our way down to the Intipata campground, at 3,250 m
amsl. Our excellent Australian friends cheered us in, and broke open the
victory beer they had been carrying since Cusco,
so we could all toast to “all that ends well is well”.
That night we talked about the origin of llamas and alpacas. It is an interesting story so let me repeat it here. Camelids evolved in