Peru - Day 9 & 10

Friday, September 28, 2007
Day 9 was the day we started our four day Inca trail hike!

The day started way early at 4:30 am in order to take a two hour bus ride to the start of the Inca trail. The weather was rainy and cold, but we were all in high spirits.

My group consisted of 11 people, two Americans (including myself), four Canadians, two Australians, two Bulgarians and a Scotsman.

Our group at the base of the trail.

I can't remember what kind of tree this was, but they're fairly common.

Somewhere along the trail.

Ruins at the first major rest point.

The ruins aren't any more interesting with me in the picture, but at least I can prove I was there now.

Unfortunately I had not recovered too well from the throat and lung infection a few days earlier. By lunch time, I was really struggling to hike and keep up with the group. I had two bites of watermelon and a piece of bread and started experiencing breathing problems. I went and laid down for about an hour, just trying to rest up. After resting, I attempted to continue the hike. I hiked for another two hours, and it came to the point where I was lagging a good 20 minutes behind the rest of the group. At one checkpoint we decided to take my temperature to find it had shot up to 102.2F. We immediately decided that I should not continue the hike. I made my way down the mountain a little way to a nurse's station, where I spent the night under observation.

Day 10 was spent backtracking down the mountain (which took me nearly four hours, an unusually long time for a mostly downhill trek). From there I took a bus to the town of Ollantaytambo, where I rented a hotel room for the afternoon to just sleep. I slept about four hours, then took a train to the town of Aguas Calientes, which you will hear about in Day 11.

Peru - Day 7 & 8

Friday, September 21, 2007
Late on Day 6 I was starting to feel a bit ill. Mid-afternoon I went back to the hotel room to try to nap and recover a bit. But by evening it was clear that I was getting sick with a noticeable fever. We talked to the hotel about seeing a doctor. Luckily they knew of an English-speaking doctor who made housecalls.

We called the doctor and he showed up within ten minutes. After a bit of poking and prodding, he determined that I had a throat infection that was spreading to my lungs. He gave me the most painful shot I have ever experienced (in my rear end, nonetheless), along with three other prescriptions and told me to rest up. Despite my insurance not covering anything, the total cost for the doctor was $40, and the prescriptions were another $45 out of pocket. Not bad for a third world country, eh?

Day 8 was spent in the hotel room resting for Day 9.

No pictures for you these days.

Peru - Day 5 & 6

Day 5 was the last day in the jungle, observing parrots kicking it as a patch of clay. My camera batteries were still dead at this point, so no pictures for you.

After that was a trip back to the lodge and pack for the trip back to Cusco.

Day 6 was spent exploring Cusco. I really don't care for this city. It's very touristy. There are people everywhere begging you to buy the pictures they drew, the hats they made, a shoe shine for one sole*, or food of questionable origin. The city sits at an elevation of over 11,000 feet (3,500 meters)(403.9 centigrades)(67.6767676 millipedes), which means you'll quickly find yourself out of breath after exerting the tiniest bit of effort of telling the eight taxi drivers begging you to ride with them 'no'.

Despite all this, Cusco is overflowing with history. You can't swing a dead cat over your head without hitting a piece of history. "One free piece of Inca history with purchase of Big Gulp" would probably a common promotion here if they had 7-11s.

The main square.

The main cathedral there is in the background. This picture was taken from the top of the CompaƱia de Jesus.

Random musician who played a seemingly random three-chord song. The wall behind him is Incan.

The world famous** 12-sided Inca stone. There were plenty of residents around who would be happy to point it out and count the number of sides out loud for you for a small fee.

Me playing with macro lenses.

* - One sole is about 32 cents. However, once they've performed the shoe shine, the price mysteriously rises to 20 soles (about $6.40).

** - All the locals informed me that this stone was world famous. Despite this, I didn't run into any other tourists who knew a thing about unless they read it in their guide book.

Peru - Day 4

Today we found ourselves taking a two hour hike to Sandoval Lake. No motorized craft of any sort are allowed on most of these lakes, Sandoval Lake included. This combined with its remote location make for a very quiet and relaxing time observing the wildlife.

Unfortunately my camera battery died early this day and I failed to bring my charger, so you only get a few pictures from me. I will post some pictures from my friend's camera in a few days (plus some pictures from the impromptu birthday celebration we had that night).

Some vultures decided to set up shop in this tree for a while.

This picture absolutley pisses me off. The owl moth is really neat to see in person (they're quite large and distinctive looking), and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to photograph one. I was only able to get in two shots before it flew off, and I thought this one had turned out perfect when I looked in the viewfinder. Unfortunately when I got to a computer, I found that I had used too much aperture, leading to blurriness on the left part of the wing. Lesson learned.

On the lake.

Peru - Day 3

Sunday, September 16, 2007
WARNING: This entry contains pictures of some big bugs that you may find gross.

The second day consisted of several sections.

I started the day by running across this large cockroach-like insect. Take a look at the surrounding footprints to get an idea of size:

After a quick breakfast, it was off into the boat again to head a few miles upstream to our next adventure. Along the boat trip, a random dead animal similar to a beaver floated by. I took this opportunity to embrace my morbid side.

These odd boats are located throughout the river. They are actually mining for gold in the riverbed. They pump the sand at the bottom of the river through a mercury pan. The gold in the sand sticks to the mercury and the remainders are dumped back into the river. They are notorious polluters, and most of them are running illegally.

The first section of this area consisted of a visit into the forest canopy. We had to cross several sketchy bridges to get to the right area:

From there it was to a half-assed series of platforms to climb up into a tree:

Once on the top platform, it was onto another one of those sketchy bridges which spanned several hundred feet across (and above) the forest. Unfortunately my fear of heights kicked in at this point, and I chose not to go across. That bridge scared the crap out of me, especially since it was only supported by being tied to nearby trees!

After everybody returned from the canopy walk, it was off for a lunch of fish spaghetti. Yes, fish spaghetti. It was actually wasn't too bad! Following lunch was some time to doze off in a few hammocks they had set up:

I bought that hat back in Puerto Maldonado for about $2. It was made entirely of recycled materials, but not because they were trying to be environmentally conscious ... those were just the materials they had on hand! You could read the writing from grocery bags in some places on the hat.

The second half of this area was to tour a zoo-like exhibit. I hesitate to use the word "zoo" because these animals aren't on display for the public (not that there is a public here anyway). This is actually an area set aside to care for animals that have been recovered from the black market or from animal smugglers. These ones were deemed unfit to return to the wild, so a few enclosures have been set up for them to be cared for, yet to also remain in their native rain forest environment.

I'm not sure who would smuggle a tapir, but obviously somebody did:

Exotic birds like macaws, toucans and parrots are always turning up:

Monkeys are also very popular for smugglers, especially small ones like spider monkeys:

Here's an odd tree I ran across. All of those large sacks hanging from the tree branches are birds' nests.

After all of that, it was time to head back to the lodge for dinner. There are two resident macaws at the lodge who were also recovered from smugglers. They were in really poor health when recovered and the staff is trying to nurse them back into shape. They chose to make an appearance today:

After dinner, it was time for my favorite part of the entire trip: the night walk! All of the big fun insects come out at night, and tonight proved to be no disappointment. There were huge grasshoppers:

Walking sticks:

All sorts of spiders (most of which are poisonous):




This tree is known as a Walking Tree. It is one of the few plants that can actually move positions. This plant will move up to several inches per year in search of sunlight and nutrients. It will grow a new root in the position it wants to move and let an old root on the opposite side die out over time. Repeat this over and over and you can see how it can pivot itself across the forest. Most of them tend to move in a circle of a 10-15 foot radius rather than go in a straight line across the forest.

I was about to head to bed for the night when a scream eminated from one of the other bungalows. A quick investigation found that a girl had discovered this little guy in her room:

She refused to sleep there at that point, so I switched her bungalows for the night and spent the night with crawly here lurking in the ceiling.


Sunday, September 9, 2007
On Tuesday, I wasn't feeling too well. After a few hours of exploring the city of Cuzco, I felt I had to go to the hotel and rest for a bit. After a few hours, I felt worse and worse. We called in a doctor (which is a whole different story to be posted soon). He found I was running a fever of 100.4, and had a throat infection that was spreading to my lungs. He gave me four prescriptions (one of which included the most painful shot I've ever experienced) and told me to rest as long as I could.

My Inca trail hike was on Thursday, so I stayed in the hotel all day Wednesday to recover. On Thursday, I went to start the hike. After about four hours, I was extremely tired and having some breathing problems. We stopped and rested for two hours, and then I attempted to continue. After another two hours, I felt I could not physically go any more. We took my temperature again, and found I had a fever of 102.2. Both the guides and I said I needed to turn around and head back to town. They took me to a doctor's station where I spent the night.

The next morning I hiked four hours back to the beginning of the trail (I had the option of renting a horse, but passed ... and wish I hadn't). From there, we took me into a small town where I rented a hotel room for the day. After resting for a few hours, I took a train to Aguas Calientes, where I am now. I am staying in a hotel with an onsite doctor, and will just be resting for the next few days.

I would come home early, but my luggage is scattered all over right now ... some of it is with me, some is with the group on the hike, and some is waiting for me at my hotel back in Cuzco. I'm going to just rest for the next few days until the rest of my hiking group finishes the trail, then evaluate how I feel and my options from there.

I don't have my cell phone here, so the only contact with me is via email which I'll check twice a day if possible.

Peru - Day 2 (Part 2)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007
I left early to head to the airport to catch my flight to Puerto Maldonaldo. The Puerto Maldonaldo is a massive airport, complete with two gates AND two luggage claims. LAN Peru flies there once daily, and Aero Condor flies there three times a week, for a total of ten flights per week.

Just as expected, the roads in Puerto Maldonaldo were an uneasy combination of rickshaws, tak-taks, motorcycles, buses, cars, and whatever else you could find that had wheels.

I also saw the Batmobile on the streets here. I never knew Batman drove a tak-tak.

From Puerto Maldonado it was a 45 minute boat trip up the Alto Madre de Dios river to the lodge.

My travel companion Ngaio on the boat.

We arrived at the lodge and checked out our private bungalow.

The white net hanging from the ceiling is mosquito netting.

The view from the outside.

After a quick lunch and nap, we took the boat to Monkey Island. The island was formed when the river split against an old river bank. The monkeys aren't great swimmers and were stuck on the island once the river added the second branch.

The monkeys were pretty crazy and would take bananas straight from your hand.

Some wasps building a new nest. Looks like it's gonna be pretty big.

The forest canopy as dusk approaches.

Peru - Day 2 (Part 1)

Lima is a dirty nasty city. Well, at least the part of it I saw in the few hours I was there was dirty and nasty. The area by the airport is extremely poor, and it's probably not the greatest reflection on the area. Most of the building are constructed with cinder blocks and homemade cement, and if there are any city code issues for buildings, you would never guess it.

The traffic is crazy. At 1 am there was a healthy mix of pedestrians, cars (most of which were a horribly cheap little car called a Daewoo Tico), rickshaws, and whatever else you can name that could be used as transportation. I even saw a man walking an ox along the street.

When leaving the airport, you have the option of paying about $27 for a licensed taxi, or taking one of the unlicensed ones (all driving Daewoo Ticos) outside the airport. The licensed one is worth every penny and I wouldn't even remotely suggest doing otherwise.

We arrived at the Sheraton Lima, and within 30 seconds of checking in at the desk, both of us were overcome by fumes that were burning our noses and lungs. They were cleaning part of the lobby with some vile concoction (it wouldn't surprise me if it was hydrochloric acid). Obviously OSHA doesn't have much influence here.

7 am arose and it was time to wake up and enjoy the site of a beautiful sunny Lima:

Peru - Day 1

Tuesday, September 4, 2007
The first day was spent flying all day ... leaving at 8:30 am and arriving just after midnight. Nothing exciting today, although I have to take a picture of me crossing the equator for the first time:

0 degrees, 15 minutes north of the equator.

Crossing it...

0 degrees, 9 minutes south of the equator ... my first time officially in the southern hemisphere!