Machu Picchu, Peru
Did ya ever have one of those conversations with someone who asked you if you new the definition of a particular word or about a famous person and you had no clue? Of course, you didn't want to appear like you had no clue so you frantically accessed your memory banks for any tidbit of info that wouldn't make you look like a complete idiot. After some searching, however, you come up with nada… nothing… no hits…..

Then you rather self-righteously explain that, 'No I have never heard of that person or that word doesn't even exist in the English language!' And then something strange happens… You see the damn word or the person a few days later. They pop up in the newspaper or on the TV just when you were sure that the word or person doesn't even exist…..
My Blog
Friday, January 4, 2002
So Sami and Scott and I were all having dinner one evening and Sami in a rather non chalant manner asked Scott and me if we knew of 'Pablo Neruda.'

Hmmmmm….. Pablo Neruda…. Pablo Neruda…. Accessing database…. Searching searching…. Nothing… no hits… no indirect hits… no clue. 'Nope' I exclaimed, 'never heard of him.' '
WHAT!' Sami exclaimed. 'I can't believe you don't know who Pablo Neruda is?' Ya see my sister's IQ stands around 180 contrasting greatly with her brother's IQ which safely resides somewhere in the mid-teens.
So after some eye rolling my sister goes on to explain in some detail that Pablo Neruda is this famous Chilean poet who won the Noble Prize. Well La de dah…. Like I'm supposed to keep track of Chilean Poets… Like that is a bit of info that would really stick in my brain….I can hardly remember my fuckin' phone number.
Anyway, Scott pipes in to my defense, 'OK GC cubed' (Scott sometimes calls Sami GC cubed which stands for Grammatically Correct Condescending Chicken (Scott's nickname for Sami is Chicken)) like we would really know who Pablo Neruda is! So Sami goes on and on about this poet… Like I care about a stupid poet…. Then the strange part..
Two days later we find ourselves in this swanky little restaurant in Lima. Ok the place wasn't so swanky but the place did have paper place mats. And get this! On these paper place mats were poems. Well actually, just one poem. And can you guess who wrote the poem? That's right our very own Pablo Neruda. So we spent most of our time at dinner trying to translate the verses. And all be damned if it wasn't one of the best poems I ever read. It was so good, in fact, that I stole the paper place mat and took the poem back to our hotel just so I could share it with you readers. Now don't think I'm getting a little light in the loafers just cause I'm sharing Chilean poetry with ya.
 It's just nice that's all and this is MY journal so if I want to share a little poetry I can!

We did our best to translate the poem into English.  I'll start out with the original Spanish version. All you native Spanish speakers out there can email me any corrections…

The original Spanish version of the Poem is as follows:
Muere lentamente quien se transforma en esclavo del habito, repitiendo todos los dias los mismos trayectos, quien no arriesga el vestir un color nuevo y no le habla a quien no conoce.
Muere lentamente quien evita una pasion, quien prefiere el negro sobre el blanco y los puntos sobre las 'íes'.
Muere lentamente quien no arriesga lo cierto por lo incierto para ir tras un sueño, quien no se permite por lo menos una vez en la vida huir de los consejos sensatos.
Muere lentamente quien no viaja, quien no lee, quien no oye musica, quien no encuentra gracia en si mismo.
Muere lentamente quien abandona un proyecto antes de iniciarlo, quien no pregunta sobre un tema que desconoce o no responde cuando le indagan sobre algo que sabe.
Evitemos la muerte en suaves cuotas, recordando siempre que estar vivo exige un esfuerzo mucho mayor que el simple hecho de respirar.
Pablo Neruda
Now the English translation
He dies slowly who transforms himself into a slave of habit, repeating the same laps every day, who doesn't risk dressing in a new color and doesn't talk to someone he doesn't know.
He dies slowly who suppresses a passion, who prefers black over white and periods over exclamation points.
He dies slowly who doesn't risk the certain for the uncertain in going after a dream, who doesn't allow himself at least once in his life to disregard sound advice.
He dies slowly who doesn't travel, who doesn't read, who doesn't listen to music, who doesn't find grace in these same things.
He dies slowly who abandons a project before starting it, who doesn't inquire about a subject he's not familiar with or doesn't respond when asked about something he knows.
We avoid death in small quotas, remembering always that to be alive needs a much greater effort than the simple act of breathing….
Ahhh shucks….. doesn't that just get ya? It got me. Of coarse, the poem reads better in Spanish and some verses don't quite translate perfectly into English….
All right! Enough of the poetry on with the South American adventure.

So We all flew from Lima to Cuzco, Peru. We spent 4 days in Cuzco acclimating to the altitude before embarking on our Inca Trail trek. Cuzco is a beautiful colonial city. There is a main plaza that is surrounded by churches, cafes and shops. There are Quichua Indians strolling about coble stone streets. We had planned to spend Christmas in Cuzco and then leave for Machu Picchu the next day. The main plaza filled up on Christmas eve with a spectacular market and on Christmas day there were parades of Indians dancing in their unique customary way. On Christmas eve I went on a bit of a buying binge. So if you were good this year and made it on my Christmas list, you might just get some type of alpaca present….
We awoke the day after Christmas at 4:00 am to embark on our trek. We piled into a minibus with 5 other trekkers: two from England, two from Holland and one from El Salvador. The ride to kilometer 82, which is where the Inca trail begins, was spectacular. Mountains, Indians, rivers, valleys, llamas, shepards, children… Stunning!

It all started innocently enough. That is me packing my backpack. First I thought well it might rain and nothing is worse than wearing cold wet jeans. So I figured I best bring an extra pair. Then the same logic held for socks, underwear and t-shirts. Of coarse, a sweater and raincoat was necessary. Oh! and hats and gloves and sunglasses. Maybe even a pancho or two…. Hmmmm it's getting a little difficult to fit this sleeping pad and sleeping bag in here too. I think I can squeeze these toiletries in the top pouch. Oh and my camera.. or should that be cameras…. Of course, I was going to bring my digital camera but I couldn't just
leave my standard 35mm camera behind. I mean what if I ran out of batteries or my memory card filled up. Well I couldn't just leave my telephoto lens behind. The tripod would be nice to have too. Can you see where this is going? The mass of my backpack was starting to approach infinity. And everyone knows that it takes an infinite force to move an infinite mass.

I walked past a mirror and thought I caught a glimpse of my step dad, Koshie. Egad, I had turned into my stepfather. I had somehow managed to bring a small cargo van's worth of gear on a four-day hike through the mountains. The only hitch was I didn't have my mother to help carry all the gear. (my step father has been known to use my mother as a burro. They have a special relationship.)
So I attempt to hoist this crushing backpack over my shoulders. I attempt to walk across the room. I attempt to convince myself that I can carry this pack 20 something miles through the Andes. No problem! I'm tough! Remember that blurb I wrote about winning a wrestling match in the 8th grade. Besides, what's the worst that can happen? So I take few extra breathers here and there……
Day 1 was a 13-kilometer trek maintaining somewhat of a constant elevation. My backpack did it's best to crush me but I wouldn't let it. To be honest it did crush me but I never let my pack KNOW it was crushing me. That is until the second day when my muscles had a small chat with my brain. They threatened to go on strike with no chance of reprieve until all extra crap was removed from the pack. That's when God stepped in. He sent me an angel in the form of a 13-year-old porter, Aneseto. Aneseto saw me struggling to hoist my 4-ton backpack upon my shoulders and saw
a golden opportunity. He asked if I needed a porter to carry my pack up to the top of dead woman's pass (I'm not making that name up). That was approximately 3000 feet in elevation. So I start thinking, if I take out a second mortgage on my house I might be able to pay whatever this guy is asking. Cause I don't really care what he is asking, I am buying his services. We agreed on the steep price of 6 US dollars. CAN YOU IMAGE!!!! Carrying some stupid gringo's 4-ton pack three thousand feet straight up a mountain for 6 US dollars.

So Aneseto saved my sorry tired ass by carrying my pack up the hill. Up up up and up we went. We broke for lunch and that's when the enormity of the trek hit us.
This was not a light stroll through the countryside. This was a crushing trek through the mountains. This was a REAL mountain trek. Sami Scott and I all made it to our lunch resting place before the others. The Brits followed soon there after but the folks from Holland were hurtin'. We had climbed so high in such a short period of time that the guy from Holland got bitten by a case of altitude sickness. So our guide broke out the oxygen and tried to help alleviate some of the nausea. No go. Sami and Scott gave their professional opinion and advised the folks from Holland to turn around and go back down in elevation. That is the only real cure for altitude sickness. After lunch we climbed another 1000 feet and then walked down a leg splitting 3000 feet to make our second day base camp.
Day 3 involved another excruciating hike up and up and up and just when you thought you couldn't go any higher, you caught glimpse of the next bend in the trail just at the summit of the mountain across the valley. Although, on the third day we began to come upon some very interesting Inca ruins. Our guide was great and explained all about the Inca and preinca culture. The weather was great. We were really lucky because we began our trek at the beginning of the Peruvian rainy season. With the sun shining we steamed ahead. We just couldn't wait to get to Machu Picchu.
Day 4 was supposed to start at 4 am so that we could hike to what is called the 'sun gate' for the sunrise. Supposedly it's magical to see the sun break over the mountain tops and expose Machu Picchu below. However, it was raining in the morning so we slept in until 6:00 am. Luckily it stopped raining just as we began our final descent onto Machu Picchu. We hit the sun gate around 8:30 am. Wow! Machu Picchu was absolutely stunning. We almost raced down the rest of the trail to go explore the ruins. We were in somewhat of a hurry as there is a big train that comes at 9:00 am with all the tourists. We were hoping to get to the ruins before the masses of tourists showed up.

Surprisingly, the masses of tourists never showed. It turned out that early in the morning (around 4 am) there was a HUGE landslide.
The landslide completely (and I do mean completely) covered the road and railroad tracks leading to Machu Picchu. The only way up to the ruins was a rather arduous trek up the side of the mountain. It was a good 1 hour hike up the side of the mountain with steep rocky steps the whole way. On our way down, we saw a few gringoesque folks wearing their stiletto pumps and Gucci purses making their way up the trail. They were about 1 tenth of the way to the ruins and were sweating and wheezing and asking us, 'is it much further?' I felt bad for them but what could I say????
So we explored Machu Picchu for most of the afternoon. You can't really adequately describe a place like Machu Picchu so I'm not even going to try and describe it. Check out the pictures. They speak more eloquently than I can. Suffice it to say it was one of the most magical places I have ever been to. It rivals the Taj Mahal, Tikal, the Segrada Familia, the Vatican, you get the picture.
We spent the next day in a small town at the base of Machu Picchu called 'Aguas Calientes' which means hot waters. There were some hot springs in the area. Scottie wasn't feeling so hot so he hit the natural springs while Sami and I trekked back up to Machu Picchu to explore the very tip top of the ruins. We didn't get a chance to visit them the preceding day as a rain cloud blew in just as we were about to hike up to the summit. So we raced all the way from town to the top of Waynu Picchu and back. Upon reaching the summit, I had a bit of a moment. I promised Molly I would squeeze every bit of life I could out of the time I had left here on earth. After completing the 42-kilometer trek through the Andes and now gazing down at Machu Picchu from the summit of the highest mountain, I realized I had kept my word to Molly. I must admit I had a bit of a cry. I was viewing Machu Picchu for the two of us and I could almost see Miss Molly jumping up and down and exclaiming 'isn't this the most amazing thing you have ever seen?'

So I'll wind this journal entry up quoting my new favorite Chilean Poet, Pablo Neruda.
'Evitemos la muerte en suaves cuotas, recordando siempre que estar vivo exige un esfuerzo mucho mayor que el simple hecho de respirar.'.....'We avoid death in small quotas, remembering always that to be alive needs a much greater effort than the simple act of breathing….'
Con Mucho Amor