I entered the Bus to Lima. Before I sat down a little boy, no older than three shouted, ¨Blanco!.¨ I being the only white person on the Bus, realized he was talking about me. Everyone who heard, meaning the whole back of the bus, laughed histerically. I also chuckled to myself. It was adorable.
That whole bus ride was a little strange. The ladies behind me were claning up some kind of mess. I couldnt tell what it was, but i offered them hand sanitizer and tissues. They seemed grateful. We woke up the next morning, stopped bu a beautiful river in the mountains. It was incredible and reminded me of a movie.
We all got out to take photos and enoy the view. Many people bought fruit from a lady at the side of the road and ate it next to the river, myself included. However, once everyone was done and started walking back to the bus, all the plastic containers from the fruit was litter all along the beautiful riverbank. I was apalled and filled with anger.
I couldn´t understand how these Native people could litter their garbage all over their home, their land, mother nature, our home, our mother. Furious, I collected all the containers and tried to give them to the fruit lady to dispose of, she refused, saying she did not have a garbage. I asked the driver if he had a garbage and he just laughed at me. The lady returned with a garbage bag and took them, but who knows if she really threw them out or just threw them on the street once I left.
This was not the first garbage I´ve seen littered by South American People, but this was the first time I had witnessd it, and it enfuriated me.
I stepped off the Bus in Cusco, admittedly a little disapointed. It did not look like the Cusco of my dreams. Expectations right… Maybe I was just bitter about the bus ride. l looked for a taxi to the place I would stay.
I had met a friend named Pete in Buffalo who told me about his brother and his wife who owned a bed and breakfast in Cusco, so in the months I had been traveling, I was simultaneously talking to Bill and Nicole about when I was coming down.
After some searching, I found the place.
I talked to Bill and Nicole, they were awesome people.
They gave me a room and we talked anout the various jobs I could do around the place to help for free room and board.
I had told them I was good at fixing things so they seemed eager that I help out.
The first week there I spent doing various jobs, painting putting walls up, and playinng with the kids.
They have four children, all adorable and bilingual.
Bill and I discussed the plans for the week. He told me that when he and his eldest son Liam returned from Bolivia, he would teach me how to ride a motorcycle. One of my earliest childhood dreams. (ask my mom)
Bill and Liam left and I helped Nicole cook and take care of the kids here and there, while doing handy work as well.
Once Bill returned from Bolivia, we went out to a local Irish Pub that night. I dont remember the reason, seeing as I dont drink, but as we were standing at the bar, Bill waiting for his Beer, and I for my coke, I heard my name called out.
I turned and saw three of the most beautiful people I had met in my life, Collin, Angie, and the ever eandearing Caroline.
When I was in Huaraz, Peru, we met at the coolest most relaxed hostels I have been to in my travels, Joe’s Place. Even the name has a soft place in my heart and I feel warm and fuzzy thinking about it.
I met those three there and we spent three days hiking in the Cordillera Blanca Mountains, singing songs around a warm fire, under a sea of stars and vast mountain ranges. We talked about all things from God to our experiences growing up. They were lively, hapy folk, so we got along great.
When we finally arrived at the beautiful glacial laguna under a mountain, Collin and I could not resist the urge to jump in. Caroline protested and said we shouldnt. The water was the coldest Id ever been, I lasted about 6 seconds in that water. I was beginning to feel the onslaught of shock moments before I got out.
Collin and I did jumping jacks and push ups to warm our bodies back up, under the glaring eye of Caroline, who was less than pleased I jumped in after her protests.
The next morning, I had the most deep and profound conversation about life, with our friend Abe, who was also with us, while we soaked our feet in the glacial waters. The bluest I have ever seen. Before or since.
These memories bring tears to my eyes, and at that moment as I turned around and saw these angels, all the love and the memories came rushing back.
We all hung out that night and talked about our experiences, where wed gone abd what we did since we split up.
Collin got a little drunk and left without saying goodbye. Normally we would say that was rude, but the way he did it was just hilarious. Collin had a great way about him that infuriated and fascinated the girls.
Bill took us to this little place close by that had the most amazing Greek Gyros I have ever had, even after all the mediocre Greek Ive had in Buffalo.
Carolin left the next day, back to Virginia, we missed her. She always brought a fun atmosphere wherever she went.
The next night, we walked around Cusco, Collin told me about their trek to Machu PIchu, and as he was telling me where they went and what they did, we stumbled into an alley of Inca walls.
It was such a magical night. We stood next to them and took photos, there was such an awe inspiring vibe, I loved being around them.
The next night Angie and Collin left as well.
I walked them to their taxi and afterwards took a long walk home.
A few days later, another of my friends, an argentine girl Id met in LIma, named Valeria, told me she was coming to Cusco and wanted a place to stay.
I told her about Bill and NIcs place, so she decided to come.
She arrived and said that the price was a little out of her budget, so i talked to Nicole and she offered her a deal to help out a bit and in return pay the same amount for a cheap hostel nearby,
Valeria seemed keen on helping me paint the bathroom, which was one of my jobs.
We joked around and laughed a bit.
At some point Valeria walked up and kissed me.
It was the first time in a long time I had been kissed by a girl. Usually it was the other way around.
It was cool though.
We finished painting the bathroom and relaxed a while.
I went out to eat with Nicole and the kids and was rather busy the rest of the day.
I returned and hung out with Valeria….
Valeria left the next day.
Then Bill took me to buy my Machu Picchu ticket and help me prepare for my trek to Machu Picchu.
Most people who do the Salkantay trek to MP, hire a guide who carries your campng gear and food on horseback, while you follow the other guide on the trail. All for about 200 dollars.
I, however, wanted to trek there as cheaply as possible, and carry my own camping gear.
I bought my food at a market, made my own trail mix, and a Pop-can alcohol stove i made from Youtube.
I also carried a few cans of tuna with oil. A few Dutch girls I’d met in Norther Colombia taught me an Israeli trick where you, with some toilet paper and some matches cook your tuna and use the flame to cook ramen, so I was ready to go.
Also, Bill gave me a pair of his long John’s for the bitter cold on the first night, as well as his expensive trekking poles, which proved to be a lifesaver on the trek.
The night before I felt tense and anxious.
Many of the other travelers who passed through, shared with me their tales of their trekks and their experiences of Machu Picchu.
I had noticed that those who trekked there had a much more spiritually rewarding experience than those who took a train or bus, so I was excited.
I woke up early the next morning, gathered my things, prayed, meditated, and had my breakfast.
I remembered meeting a Brazilian guy the morning of his trek and just sitting and briefly talking to him was a spiritual experience.
My early morning felt this way also, except I had no one to share it with, but that was okay.
I took a cab to the collectivo that was to take me to the first town where I would start the trek.
It was still dark, the city light went past in blurrs of gold.
I felt like a real explorer. I felt like a badass.
I hopped in the collectivo and they put my bag up top.
I was worried about the trekking pole Bill had lent me, The last words he said to me about them was, ¨dont lose them.¨ I prayed they would be alright.
Our collectivo was stopped by a police officer, but we continued on the road.
We rode for a long time in the dark, until the sun started coming up.
We rounded a corner and below us were clouds. I realized, we were descending into heaven. It was beautiful.
All around us were mountains and sky, yet below us was heaven.
We descended into the coulds and for a moment I felt one with them.
We rode into the clouds for a long while, barely able to see anything but the cliff to our right and the mountain to our left, but i was at peace, and at the same time incredibly excited.
I was ready.
Along the way our collectivo broke down so we waited for another.
Finally I caught a small collectivo with a few people from the other collectivo.
One was a campasino woman (Native Peruvian) al decked out in her traditional dress and little top hat.
There wasnt enough room for us all to sit up front so I offered to sit in the back with my bag, but the campasino woman and the driver insisted I sit up front and let her sit in the back. I tried to change their mind but there was no use.
They told me she lives close.
We dropped her off and continued to the town where the Salkantay trail started.
The driver insisted on taking me to the next town but i declined, paid him his money and continued down the road.
I stopped at a store and bought some fruit.
I reached a square in the center of town and asked a woman where the trail started.
She walked with me to the beginning of the trail, which was right next to her house.
I thanked her and continued on.
There was one last store at the end of the trail. I decided to strop and get a roll of toilet paper.
It proved to be a lifesaver.
I continied on the trail for an hour, taking photos here and there along the way, until I came to a man standing in the road. He wore a sombrero and nice smile. He was a short man but thin.
He told me of a road above the road I was on that was better and shorter .
He said to me that the one I was on led to the highway and it was an long, ugly five hour hike.
I learned that south americans seem to have a poor sense of time, because the road I was on also took five hours, but it was a beautiful hike, so I was happy.
I continued for a while. I noticed a group coming up behind me a couple hundred meters away.
I tried to stay ahead of them, and was making good time, but they seemed to be flying. they were moving so fast I didnt understand how.
I reached the top of a great, steep hill, and decided to rest and just let them pass.
A Brazillian guy came up first. He was a nice guy, very big and muscular, with short hair and Ray Ban Sunglasses.
I now realized why their group was moving so fast.
They were carry virtually no gear. They were with guides, one of whom carried all of their gear on horseback, so they coul enjoy their hike.
I on the otherhand, was carrying all of my camping gear and food. Everything I needed on my back. It was heavy but I was happier knowing I was truly on my own and providing my own food and shelter. I was also my own guide.
The only thing was, my gear slowed me to the pace of a turlte compared to these folk.
Which was ironic, because my bag was green and looked like a shell. I probably looked like a big turtle come to think of it.
Anyways, I talked to the Brazillian fellow a bit and he told me that so many people travel to find themselves, but you cant find yourself because we are evolving everyday. Every day we grow and learn something new.
I continued walking with them a while, seeing as I couldnt lose them and I was too fast to let them pass.
I talked with most of the group, little by little.
They were very friendly.
We came to a point where their guide said to me there is a path that is quicker and leads above the other trail. I think he wanted to get rid of me, becasue I was hanging out with their group too much. Whatever the reason I took that path, and it made all the difference…