March 23, 2014

Preparing to hike the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

I am writing from my sleeping bag in the Lima airport, getting ready to go to “bed” for the night on the food court floor. Today starts my two week trip to Peru, and I have an early flight to Cusco in the morning. In some ways I feel prepared (for instance right now I have a sleeping bag, ear plugs, and eye mask, while I see other struggling to sleep/fight sleep at food court tables), but in most ways I feel very unprepared for this trip. It was a spontaneous decision that myself and two girlfriends made just a few months ago, after finding ourselves on the same continent for the first time in over a year. Why not fly halfway around the world and hike Machu Picchu? I think a good bit of planning could have happened if we had really put our minds to it, but instead this will be an account of travel “winging it.”

It seems that the more I travel, the less I prepare. This is good in some ways, but of course could result in some major inconveniences. When I first left for a round-the-world trip in March of 2012, all I could think about for months in advance was plan, plan, planning. I even committed to the decision to save money and leave everything behind a full year in advance. Today, I find myself running to my flight as they are paging my name, only vaguely knowing the name of the hotel I am staying, not knowing the exchange rate for the country I’m visiting, etc.

Here is a photo of the things I packed before I left in 2012:

Here is a photo of my preparation for this trip:

This picture is a good representation of my current attention to detail in planning. Not at the top of my game, and maybe not completely recommended, but also not completely detrimental to a trip. Sometimes you just have to jump in without a plan.

Thanks to some internet research we came to the conclusion that a few basic tasks were necessary prior to arriving in Peru: booking a specific trek with a tour company due to limited availability, booking some basic internal flights before the price jumped, and knowing where to find the llamas (apparently they are quite bountiful). Some trips to our favorite outdoor clothing stores fitted us with sturdy boots, warm gloves, and plenty of layers for the high altitude weather. We used the company Cuscoperuviajes for our Salkantay trek. They were a bit cheaper than a lot of the other companies out there, and the reviews we saw were positive.

And the plan is to meet in Cusco.

I have a unique situation where I absolutely completely loathe flying, every single time. Unfortunately it doesn’t get better with experience. I also get anxiety and motion sickness on fast moving buses, and the thought of altitude sickness stresses me out. It’s not easy to want to travel so often but to be so scared of your means to do so. Sometimes you find yourself thrown into a situation by no one other than yourself, only to love and hate it at the same time. You might find yourself on a plane to get to the one place you’ve always wanted to go, only to wish you could call the whole thing off to escape the sudden onset of rough turbulence at 35,000 feet in the air. Climbing a mountain for four days to get to a World Heritage Site sounds like a great idea until you realize you aren’t really in shape for it and that you may suffer from altitude sickness and will be forced to ride on a disgruntled donkey along the edge of a cliff for hours on end. Travel has a way of pulling out the very best and worst of you, the most adventurous and the most fearful parts. But, you do it because you get something more out of it. You learn to depend on yourself in ways that you never thought you were capable. You have a new appreciation for where you are from, or maybe you find that you belong somewhere else. You meet people that inspire you to embrace life and adventure that you would have otherwise never met. Travel is one of the most enriching things you can do for yourself, and hopefully the people around you.

So all that said, here I am, waiting for an early flight, pushing all the anxiety I have to the bottom of my thoughts, and thinking about the positives. The photos I will take, the physical challenges I will overcome, and the new foods I will try. I’m thankful for my equally spontaneous friends and the chance to go see a new country and culture. Assuming I make it out alive, I’ll be back with an update on how it all went.

Has anyone else been to Cusco or hiked the Salkantay? Any advice on what not to miss or important things to pack would be welcomed!

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Category: Adventure Travel, Backpacking, South America

January 2, 2014

Want some free Travel Wickedness?

I admit it, I have been lacking a few posts and overall been bogged down with work (yes, work, because even to sustain a life abroad we need some, in a form or the other), and I beg your pardon. To start off the New Year right, I believe you might love reading some quirky, wicked travel narratives from around the world.

You might take this as a shameless example of self-promotion, but the third issue of Wicked World, an alternative digital magazine I edit with British travel writer Tom Coote, is finally available as a great eye candy: just love the gloriously wicked Ethiopian Mursi warrior on the cover!!

As well as a range of alternative travel articles and photo features, for the first time we have also included some travel related fiction. At one end of the story telling scale, is a traditional Moroccan folk tale, The Red Lantern, selected by Richard Hamilton. In a more contemporary vein, where the lines between fact and fiction blur, we are also showcasing The Death Kiss of a King Cobra Show by Jim Algie.

At the reportage end of the travel writing spectrum, in Barbed Wire Scars, Marcello Di Cintio encounters desperate African migrants determined to make their way across the razor wired walls at Ceuta, in the hope of making it to the promised land of Europe. Equally contemporary, E T Laing investigates recent political upheavals in Bangladesh in A Savage Fundamentalism. (more…)

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Category: Adventure Travel, Africa, Asia, South America, Travel Writing

April 24, 2013

Vagabonding Field Report: Dengue Fever in the Indigenous Village, The Jungles of Ecuador

 

the nomadic family in the jungles of ecuador

 

Cost/day (for a family of five):

Strangest thing we’ve seen lately:

Before his wish to die, but well after 40 degree fever and horrifying nightmares, the kindly villagers performed ritual healing ceremonies on my husband Kobi. They picked two of this leaf, four of that one, this root, that berry and cooked them over a banana-leaf-sealed open-fired vat. Then, with ritual prayer chanting, candles, and incense burning, he was stuffed under a dozen thick blankets to breath the steam, drank a cup o it, and bathed in the waters. Their love and earnest determination to cure him were touching. Two days later, he was hospitalized.

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Category: Family Travel, Languages and Culture, South America, Vagabonding Field Reports

December 19, 2012

Vagabonding Field Reports: Peru is much more than Inca ruins

Cost/day: $15

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

Visiting the Huaca del Sol ruins near Trujillo was fascinating and is a great reminder that there is a lot more to Peru than just Inca ruins. Indeed, the Huaca del Sol is around 1500 years old and well predates the Inca ruins which are, relatively, brand new. The Huaca del Sol has some incredible murals. This guy was probably the most fascinating image we captured while we toured around.


(more…)

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Category: South America, Vagabonding Field Reports

December 6, 2012

Vagabonding Field Report: disappointment on the path to Machu Picchu

 

Cost: $130/day!

 

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

 

Diminutive, lean, weather-worn, mountain men carry immense packs stuffed with tents, cooking implements, sleeping bags and the like for tourists making the three and a half day trek along the official Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. These are the Chaski’s.  They charge up and down the mountains in ragged leather sandals, past lines of tourists with expensive hiking boots and tiny day packs. Strict regulations impose a weight limit of 20kg (44lb) per porter, but in the past they carried dangerously heavy loads. Their high altitude conditioning is in some ways as impressive as the ruins at the end of the path.

A curious lama along the way

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Category: Adventure Travel, General, South America, Vagabonding Field Reports

November 17, 2012

Vagabonding Field Report: Getting chased by a pack of dogs in Banos

Cost/day: $15

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

If I could have seen myself, it would have been me as I climbed over a fense into a field with a bunch of cows to go around a pack of angry dogs that were on our hiking trail and scared the stuffing out of me when they started to chase me off their path.

I know the cows thought I looked funny trying to quietly sneak through their pasture since they made a fuss and blew my cover and attracted the pack’s attention. Darn cows!
(more…)

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Category: South America, Vagabonding Field Reports

November 3, 2012

Vagablogging Field Reports: chasing altitude in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Cost: $20 a day

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen recently?

In and around Huaraz it’s common to see elderly Quechua woman ambling along paths, bent backed, hauling heavy loads in carrying cloths called K’eperina. Garbed in colourful attire, bowler hats perched upon their heads, they doggedly trek along steep, high altitude slopes that would have fit twenty-somethings huffing and puffing. One of these woman I remember particularly well, because she looked positively ancient. She hopped into a colectivo van I was taking into Huaraz, plopped her K’eperina down and took a seat. She was a tiny desiccated figure, with dark leathery skin and an expressive face full of crevices like the surrounding glacier ridden landscape. When she croaked in the local Quechua dialect she revealed a few crooked, yellowed and lonely teeth. Despite the heat she was heavily bundled in traditional attire and I couldn’t help but make the ghastly comparison with one of the wrapped Incan mummies I had seen recently in a museum in Lima. But alive she was, and after she got out of the the van she hoisted her goods over her shoulders and started shuffling determinedly onward to her destination.

Heading to Punta Union pass on the Santa Cruz Trek

 

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Category: Adventure Travel, South America, Vagabonding Field Reports

October 20, 2012

Vagabonding Field Report: Visiting the Galapagos islands

Cost/day: $100 to $150 – There aren’t many cheap ways to see the Galapagos

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

The Galapagos islands are full of some fascinating and beautiful animals. The most striking part of any trip to the Galapagos however, is how absolutely unafraid the animals are of humans. We walked around the islands as blue footed boobies and frigate birds swirled around us and nested in trees no more than a handful of feet from our reach. As we walked about, they did whatever it was they felt like doing while we snapped photos and peered into their daily lives.

In one particular moment, we were sitting no more than four feet away from a blue footed booby as it was trying to feed its young when all of a sudden a frigate bird swooped in to try and snatch the food being exchanged. I felt the rush of the air from the giant bird’s wings as it swooped down on the boobies. The adult booby fought it off and for the next 10 minutes we watched as it alternated from feeding to fending off attacks from above, all while being completely uninterested in the dozen or so humans standing about watching. It was an amazing feeling to watch a day in the life of these birds without seemingly having any impact on their behaviour.

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Category: South America, Vagabonding Field Reports

September 29, 2012

Vagabonding Field Report: living the high life in La Paz

A lady at the witches market in la PazCost/day: $15

Whats the strangest thing youve seen lately?

Hundreds of llama foetuses at the witches market in the centre of La Paz. People buy them and bury them under their porches to bring luck and prosperity to their families. It wasn’t the most pleasing sight for a vegetarian, although I’m told most have died naturally. (more…)

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Category: South America, Vagabonding Field Reports

September 6, 2012

Long-distance footpaths

My two horses stop for a snack along the Continental Divide Trail in Montana/ photo/ Lindsey Rue

Recently I’ve been reading, “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. When the author was in her mid-twenties she solo hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. Her book unfolds as she treks north, nursing her blistered feet and cumbersome heavy pack along a majority of the 2,663mi (4,286km) trail. It initially begins at the Mexican border, passes through California, Oregon, and Washington in the USA and over the border into Canada. Several years ago I’d been gearing up to ride my horses along the same trail, but heavy snows in high mountain ranges and challenges with support team coordination threw a wrench in the trip–so it never happen. But I did ride sections of that trail, along with parts of the Continental Divide Trail, Chilkoot Trail, and the historic Oregon Trail. On foot I’ve graced sections of several other long paths, and driven a dog cart on one pulled by twelve huskies.

Riding the Divide/ photo/ Ryan Talbot

Reading Strayed’s book got me thinking about other long-distance footpaths around the world. A popular one in Europe that comes to mind is El Camino de Santiago which starts many different places but ultimately ends at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I first heard of the trail in a novel by Paulo Coelho called, “The Pilgrimage.” Other countries in Europe such as Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have quite a lot of paths. In Asia I’d looked into hiking the Annapurna Circuit in central Nepal. But it appears that Israel and Japan have many for the choosing as well; Japan’s most popular being the 88 Temple Pilgrimage.
Here are the worlds’ best hikes according to National Geographic.
Mark Moxon has an extensive website of information and stories from his long walking adventures.
The UK has a Long Walkers Association.
One Canadian man even walked around the world in eleven years.

 

Have you ever hiked or ridden on a long-distance path? Or do you have plans to do so?
Please share your stories or plans in the comments!

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Category: Adventure Travel, Africa, Asia, Central America, Destinations, Europe, Female Travelers, Images from the road, North America, Oceania, On The Road, Simplicity, Solo Travel, South America
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