Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More Inca Trail

So I found this cool link. Check it out. He has pictures and (more importantly) uses names of places and stuff...you know, the stuff I was too exhausted to remember. :-)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Movie Time

I took this short video BEFORE we got to Machu Picchu. The idea was that I wanted to be able to show the boyfriend what I was seeing. I should have taken a second one IN Machu Picchu, but by the time I thought of it, Rindee had confiscated my camera and forbidden me from taking any further pictures. video
It's not as sunny as I would like, and some guy got into my film at the end...but you get the idea, right?

Peru Part V - Machu Picchu

On the morning of the fourth (and last) day of hiking, we began our day by being awakened at 4:00 am. I wish I were kidding. The reason for this is that trail to Machu Picchu opens at 5:30 am. The idea is to be one of the first groups in line to get going on the trail. Why? Because we want to hit Intipunku (the sun gate) before the sun rises.

Let me explain a bit here. The sun gate is not actually the sun rising. The sun gate is the spot in the mountain across from Machu Picchu that the sun first rises over, and thus when the first rays of the sun's light hit Machu Picchu in the morning. So it's not tecnhically the sun rise, but it is the first sunlight that hits the ancient city. Apparently, if you're there on time (and the weather cooperates) it's a beautiful sight to see.

We were not there on time.

Surprise!

And we were booking it, too. I mean, the trail from our camp to Intipunku had one really really (really) steep portion, but otherwise it was moderate ascent with a little bit of descent thrown in to keep you on your toes. I was practically running...at minimum I was at a fast trot. Rindee actually couldn't keep up with me. I think our guide was surprised. He kept saying that we didn't need to hurry, but I really wanted to see the sun hit Machu Picchu. I'm not sure it would have mattered if I had gone faster, though. The clouds were still pretty thick when we arrived at the sun gate. For example, the first picture below was taken at 7:35 am. The second picture was taken at 7:40 am, and the third picture was taken at 7:41 am.

The clouds moved unbelievably fast. We were actually relieved that we got to see the city at all. (Oh yes, that's actually Machu Picchu that we're attempting to take a picture of. It was our first glimpse of our goal.)

Some (sane) people choose to arrive at Machu Picchu early in the morning, and make their way to the sun gate from the city. This doesn't involve camping, just an overnight stay at a hotel in Aguascalientes, a bus ride to Machu Picchu, and a 45 minute hike up to the sun gate.

I'm not judging. :-)

Thus, as we headed down to Machu Picchu, we kept passing all these people in nice clean clothing with hair that had been washed in the last four days. They smelled like lotions and softener and perfumes. I couldn't believe it. I kept saying to Rindee, "They smell so good! And their clothes are so clean!!" Yeah, I think it would be accurate to say that by day four, I was good and ready to get back to civilization.

Before you actually enter the city, there's a point where taking pictures of Machu Picchu is excellent. We stopped here for a while for photos and discussion of the city we were about to see, and it was at this point that we began to be hopeful that the weather gods would be kind to us on our last day. The first picture below was taken about 10 minutes before the second.
Okay, I'll shut up now and post a bunch of pictures. First a little background, though. The last time I was in Machu Picchu, I was 16 years old. I had a point and shoot plastic Kodak 35mm camera. I didn't realize what I was walking into, and I ended up running out of film. I spent the rest of the time walking around the ruins and just absorbing the energy that comes from the mountains. It's ridiculous how powerful that place is. Not to get too "new agey" on you, but you can almost feel it humming. When I was walking around as a teenager, I would get as far away from groups of people as possible and just sit with my eyes closed and relax. But I never really forgot how frustrated I was that I ran out of film and couldn't capture everything I wanted to show my friends back home. (However, when I got my pictures developed, they came back with a personal note from the developer commenting on what beautiful shots they were. The site is really THAT gorgeous. Pictures don't even do it justice.)

This time, I didn't make the same mistake and took about 100 pictures of Machu Picchu. I'm not very good at editing, so I'm just going to stick a bunch of them up here for you to see. I'll try to put a description of what I was taking a picture of, but otherwise, I'll just let them speak for themselves. They are roughly in chronological order, so you can see how the light brightens as the sun came out (slowly but surely.)
The photo above is of an area that used to be a moat. It was another form of protection for the city. The picture below is the same moat looking upwards.






At about this point, I became fascinated with pictures of Machu Picchu through doors, or windows...any stone structure really. You'll see a few of these.









Blue Skies!!!
Ahhh...This is Intipunku from Machu Picchu. It's that little dip in the ridge of the mountain. See it? That's where the first rays of light would hit Machu Picchu each morning. There are actually temples set up in Machu Picchu so that on the summer solstice, that first rays of sunlight will shine through a window to perfectly hit a spot on the ground that will make a sacred shape. No kidding.






A word about the photo below. This was a guard house, and the highest point in Machu Picchu. When I was 16, I remember running (RUNNING) up to this hut in a race with my cousin (who was 36 at the time - whole new respect for the cousin...) From that high vantage point, he took a picture of me with the ruins behind me that won a photo contest at Butler University. Even though Rindee and I were exhausted, I cajoled her into heading up to that point with me to recreate that picture 14 years later. We didn't run.
Once we got up to that vantage point, we were able to take the following pictures.

And while I can't show you the picture that Rindee took of me to recreate the photo of sixteen year old Emily (because I look like a horrible version of thirty year old Emily in it) I can show you this one of the two of us triumphant at the top.

Immediately following this picture, we sat and enjoyed the view (and the warmth of the sun) for a while, and then headed down to meet with our guide to officially end our tour. We had two choices - take the bus down to the town of Aguascalientes, or hike down. Rindee was for the bus. I believe my exact words were, "Come on - we're so close! We started hiking, let's finish hiking!"

The town was five miles away. I don't think Rindee will ever forgive me.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A short break from Peru

Sometimes, I wonder how I got lucky enough to find this job? Meet Olive. She's visiting today until her forever family comes and picks her up this afternoon. The picture doesn't do her justice. She's SO cute. Luckily, I can love on her and call her cute and give her kisses...and then send her home at the end of the day. Three dogs are all I can handle right now. Promise. I look longingly back on the days when all I had was Casey. Sigh.

Also seen at work...the flowers on my desk. Well played, dear boyfriend. Given my disdain for the holiday, he didn't resort to the cliché of roses, but (against my wishes) brought me flowers anyway. Apparently he's in on the secret that even the most cynical of hearts melts when confronted by flowers... Damn. Who told him? He even remembered to look for a boquet with Gerbera Daisies. I guess Valentine's Day brings out the best in all men?

Other random notes:
- I had a chem quiz yesterday that I'm fairly certain I aced. Woo to the Hoo! Unfortunately, in class immediately following, my professor mentioned quadratic equations. Do YOU remember quadratic equations? Me neither.
- I'm venturing out of my apartment tonight for dinner with friends, and Saturday night for game night with other friends. I feel like a normal person again. (though I'm sure my schoolwork will suffer.)
- I bought a book called "All About Us" and asked the boyfriend to fill it out with me if he absolutely felt he must get me something for Valentine's Day. He was as thrilled as you can imagine. (I wonder if the flowers were an attempt to get out of this?) Regardless, it's filled with interesting, thought provoking questions. As long as you're both honest, I recommend this book to anyone.
- It's COLD here. Like "dogs-run-out-to-do-their-business-then-turn-around-to-come-back-in" cold. I dislike cold. I need to move to California or something. Anyone want to pay my rent?
- The boyfriend's birthday is in a week and a half. Any suggestions for what I can get him?
- Tyson is currently on a regimen of drugs to help with his anxiety. I don't want to jinx it, but so far, it seems to be working. That's the good news. The bad news is that he's only on the drugs for 12 weeks. During that time, we're supposed to get him used to being in his crate (and NOT injuring himself). Fun.
- Starbucks is one of the most interesting places on the planet. Did you know that? When the ridiculously short hours for the library closest to my house end, I tend to move the studying to Starbucks. I've seen breakups, I've seen divorced parents doing the child swap, I've seen giggling high school girls (lots and lots of giggling high school girls)... I mean, you name it, I've seen it. I'll blog about this someday. Who knew?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Peru Part IV - The end is in sight

First, one more picture from day two. Here's the entire group at dinner the second night. This picture couldn't be taken at lunch because A) Rindee and I arrived a good 90 minutes after everyone else, and B) Rindee chose to sleep instead of eat lunch. I basically went to lunch and sat comatose while picking at chicken. Yeah. We were tired.

A quick note about camping. I was as comfortable as possible with my sleeping pad and down sleeping bag. The bag had a hood type thing that you could tighten with a drawstring and pretty much wrap your entire body in the blanket - which is exactly what I did on the second night. Being up that high is COLD. I would never have made it if the guide hadn't suggested filling a water bottle with hot water and putting it in the sleeping bag with me. Genius. It may have been the coldest night, and I may have looked like an inchworm, but MAN did I sleep well :-)

For day three, I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves (with a little help from Emily commentary of course.) Please note that there are MANY more pictures from day three. This is due to the fact that A) we slept more than we had at any other point since our adventure began, and B) we didn't have to carry our packs. Even though the weather on day three was the worst out of all three days, we took more pictures to document our trek. The weather changed this day from drizzly to flat out rainy and since we were at a higher elevation than we had yet been, it was cold. When we stopped for lunch, we were damp from the wind and rain, and even though we were in our food tent we had ceased all exertion, so it was actually bone-chillingly cold. We listened to the rain pour down outside the tent and were torn: stay in and try to stay dry, or to out in the rain where at least we're warm from the hiking. Luckily, day three was mostly descent, and we went down into the "tropical jungle" portion of our hike. The rain did eventually taper off into drizzles and then nothing at all.

The morning of day three, our guide "let" (read: strongly suggested) Rindee and I leave about 5-10 minutes early so that we could have a head start. After our 90 minute late arrival the day before, I can't say I blame him. We made pretty good time without our packs. After about 15 minutes, I asked Rindee to take this picture of the campsite we had left behind.
Our first stop was Runkurakay. Unfortunately, when we arrived it began to rain so we pulled out the ponchos. I have no pics from the ruins for you. Sorry. You'll have to make do with the pic of the ugly chick next to the sign for the ruins. At least I can prove we were there somehow. (Hey - it was early. Early morning + hiking does not = flattering pictures.) I would like to point out that we arrived at the ruins in the middle of the pack this time - not last as usual. Go us!
As we continued on our hike, the rain cleared a bit, and we got the following pictures, one of the trail we were traveling and the other two of the view when we could see it.


This next picture was taken when we stopped for lunch. As I mentioned, it was FREEZING. I took this picture of one of our fellow hikers because it perfectly summed up how we were all feeling.
After we had all eaten lunch and waited for as long as we could, we continued out into the rain. Along the trail, we came to this Inca cave. It was only about 20 meters long, but it was pretty cool nonetheless. This is actually one of my favorite pictures from our trip - not only for the cave, but because the way Rindee and I look perfectly sums up the day.
Then Rindee wanted an action shot - I think she was trying to show the drop off on one side of the trail. The stones (that were actually laid by the Incas by the way) were actually pretty slick...and I think she had a fear of falling off the edge...

As soon as we could see the next set of ruins, we paused for another photo op. We couldn't quite get the ruins in the pic, so we settled for the view instead. (This photo also serves as proof that without our packs, Rindee and I kept up with the group pretty well :-) (Random note: this was actually one of the many points on the hike where I actually said, "My boyfriend is a genius!" The hat that I'm wearing was soaked from the day before, and did not dry in the cold overnight. However, since it's wool it was still just as warm as ever. I didn't even care that I looked like "cancer-patient Emily" in these pictures. I was warm, and that's all that mattered. Genius!)
The following two pictures were of some ruins (Wiñay Wayna which actually means "Forever Young.") that were about 30 minutes from our campsite. Had the clouds pulled back a bit, we would have actually gone into the ruins. As it was, the views were obscured, so we just took pictures from afar. The first picture is the first time we could see the ruins on the trail, and the second is when we were much (MUCH) closer.

From the same point where I got the closer picture of Wiñay Wayna, I rotated about 45 degrees and wanted to get a picture of the mountain and the river. We could actually hear the river from where we were. I couldn't believe that. Man it was LOUD!
From there it was just a quick 30 minute hike to our campsite for the night. Since it was the last night, we took a bunch of pictures like:
Rindee and I in our tent.
The entire group at our campsite before dinner:
Our dinner spread on the third night. They served us restaurant quality food each and every night. Amazing since all they had to use they carried on their backs the entire way.
And finally, our porters. A word about them... They were responsible for carrying the necessities for our campsite. This included all the food, the tents (both the meal tent and our individual tents,) and all of their personal belongings. (On the third day, they carried the personal belongings of Rindee and myself as well :-) They carried an average of 50 pounds on their back - per porter! Additionally, they were the last ones to leave the campsite (as they tore everything down for travel) and the first ones at the NEXT campsite so everything was set up when we arrived. It was truly remarkable what they did. As we were hiking, people behind us would shout "Porter!" and everyone would draw to one side to allow the porters to run (RUN!) past. Man.

Okay - this weekend I'll finish up the last post about Machu Picchu. If you think I had a lot of pictures from day three....you ain't seen nothin' yet.