Long Lost Love Child of Axle Rose and other Post-trip Product Reviews – Not sponsored.

The list of hiking gear and clothes we posted here pre-trip was cut down significantly after we had our check- in with Alpaca Expeditions and received our itinerary and instructions. Their suggested packing list contradicted wildly with the weight limitations allowed to each person. What ended up coming on the trip, was two sets of hiking clothes, not four. One to wear for six days, and one set of clean clothes to wear the day of Machu Picchu in order to look nice for photos and smell reasonable on the train ride home – this was not a realistic expectation. We smelled worse than the ass end of an Alpaca and a clean tee shirt was not going to combat that in anyway. Especially after running all the way to the Sun Gate at 5:30 in the morning.  We both also packed a set of wool long johns for sleeping in, and a set for hiking in on the cold days.

My daily hiking clothes and day pack consisted of a sun hat, wool hat, two Buffs – one neck and one headband, thin base layer tank top, sun shirt, a thin wool full zip hoodie, a puffy jacket, rain jacket, wool leggings on the two cold days, quick dry hiking pants, silk liner socks, wool hiking socks, thin running mittens, and one pair of hearty winter gloves.

The items that were invaluable were the following:

The sun hat. I purchased the Sun Sombrero from Outdoor Research. Lots of companies make a good sun hat. I chose the OR hat because it was on sale.

Yes, I looked like a mega-super-dork-tourist, and no I don’t care. This hat saved me from gallons of greasy sun screen that was going to run into my eyes anyway. I wanted to avoid using sun screen because the trail was dusty and dry, and we weren’t going to have access to a shower for an entire week. Multiple layers of dirt, sweat, and greasy sun screen day after day did not appeal to me.

Burt’s Bees Sensitive Skin – facial wipes. In general, I try to stay away from single use items, like adult wet wipes, but in this case they were much appreciated. When you don’t have access to a shower, and you have a sweaty, salty, dusty crust on your face – and your arm pits smell like something died, and then fermented, and then died again. It feels good to get that cleaned off. Also – and this is probably WAAAAY too much information, but let me just say – ass crack. Seven days, no shower, the ass crack enjoyed a little tender loving Burt’s Bees care too. We literally rationed these.

The Buff – headband and neck gator. Again I am well aware that the Buff headband makes me look like the long lost love child of Axle Rose, but again I don’t care. It protects my forehead and ears from sun, it keeps bugs out of my ears, it absorbs sweat, and keeps hair out of my face too!
The full Buff used as a neck gator, protects the back of my neck from sun and also absorbs sweat. The Buff is an all-around good tool. I think everyone on the trail had some version of a Buff.

Sun shirt – from Outdoor Research, again because it was on sale (this is a theme you will find in my shopping habits).
I love this shirt, it’s very thin and cool, it’s comfortable to hike in, and keeps the sun off of my arms and shoulders. I do wish it had thumb holes, to protect the back of my hands better. Matt’s sun shirt same brand and style has thumb holes, so mine might just be a design flaw from years past as I got mine on clearance.

Silk sock liners –  We got ours from an REI Garage Sale, so they were super cheap. At first they didn’t feel slippery / silky enough, and I was not convinced of their usefulness, but they worked like a charm. I got a few hot spots on very steep areas of trail, but neither of us developed blisters for the entire seven days. Magic I tell you!

Body Glide –  Cream for feet and other delicate areas. In addition to the silk liners I also used Glide for the delicate areas between my toes, my heels, and later in the week I was using it in the areas of skin that were getting chafed, under bra straps, and underwear lines.

Boots WITH a Vibram sole!
Get a good pair of boots that fit your foot and pay whatever they are asking. In prepping for Peru I tried to go cheap on a pair of boots that I found on clearance, they hurt my feet right out of the box, but I was determined to make it work. Thankfully, Matt saw fit to intervene, sometimes I’m too cheap for my own good. Salomon boots fit my foot nicely and I don’t think I will ever hike in anything else, BUT I will warn find a pair of boots with a Vibram sole, if you are going to hike the Inca trail. I learned this lesson in Europe three years ago on the ancient cobbled streets, but I forgot and the boots I ended up with in Peru did not have a Vibram sole.   On the wet granite steps of the Inca trail I was slipping and sliding along while Matt and our Guide were sure footed and fine. Vibram.

Trekking poles – I have never hiked with trekking poles prior to Peru, but they were on the packing list, so I felt compelled to get a pair as did Matt.  Matt enjoyed them right out of the box, but they were mostly in my way. I felt like they were slowing me down, until I needed them. They quickly became invaluable. I would recommend them for very steep up and down hikes. They really helped to take the pressure off of my old damaged knees on the way down, and they helped with stability going up and down.

SaltStick Pills, Huma gel packs, Honey Stingers, and  Nuun tablets –
For the gym or a short run I really like the Nuun tablets for electrolytes, but on the trail with a water bladder the Nuun tablets meant an extra water bottle and there just wasn’t time to deal with it. The StalkStick pills were easy to pack and take on the trail, and kept my salt / hydration levels consistent.
I’ve tried other gels for running and they all hit my stomach really hard. The Huma gels are gentile on my sensitive stomach, GF, they provide a nice energy boost mid-morning, they taste GREAT, and they also contain electrolytes. Huma also makes a gel variety with a little caffeine in it too which is also nice for a mid-morning pick me up.
The Honey Stinger gel chews are nice for trail snacking. They aren’t the mega hit like the Huma Gel, but they help keep you going. I like having both the chews and the gel for hiking and running.

Travel Underwear – I would recommend these for any trip where you want to travel light. They wash up easily and dry quickly. The company claims that two pair will get you through any trip. I like to travel with three because sometimes conditions don’t allow the laundry from the day before to dry completely, and putting on damp underwear first thing in the morning is akin to taping a cold dead fish on your ass and going about you day! Additionally, after a long day hiking or sightseeing, sometimes doing laundry is just not an option.

pStyle – female urination device
Again, maybe too much information, but I need other ladies to know about this. I will never hike, camp, or travel without this plastic gravy boat again. It made life in Peru, and all of my training hikes so so so easy! There is not a lot of foliage to hide behind on the trails of Peru, and I understood why all of the local women wore skirts over their pants and legging out on the trails. Add to that, some of the public restrooms were vile and infested with bugs. Not having to take my pants down to my knees and show my ass to half of Peru was nice. Not having to squat over a bug infested hole in the ground brought indescribable joy! And not putting that additional squatting pressure on my already sore knees was also hugely beneficial.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the gear that we took, and/ or decided to leave behind. We’d love to chat!

All of my best,



We made it! We hiked for seven days and made it to Machu Picchu, with two thousand of our closest friends!


This was such a surreal and bizarre day – I actually need to go back to the day before.

If you read the post about Day 6, you will hopefully remember the trail I pointed out on one of the photos where the two-day treks meet up all at the same campsite. All of the treks, two-day, four-day, five-day, seven-day – they all end up at this one campsite which is right at the main gates for Machu Picchu. There are a second set of gates on the other side of Machu Picchu. These gates are for the train and bus people.

Two things happened the morning of Day 7.
First, it’s a day off for the porters. They need to catch the cheapest and earliest train back to Cusco. In Cusco they drop off all of the stuff they have been carrying and then have their day off – total crap. That is not a day off. In order for them to be able to catch their 6:00 a.m. train all of the tourists have to be cleared out of the camp site, so they can pack up, walk down the side of the mountain, and peace out. Definitely NOT a day off.
Second, the gate for Machu Picchu opens at 5:30 a.m. In order to get a good photo of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate you have to be there first, otherwise your photos will just be of other tourists. Our guide warned us that people try to run this trial to get the best photos. “It’s like Walmart on black Friday – people go crazy,” he said. “Just let them pass and stay safe. The stairs up to the Sun Gate are very steep and very narrow. Let them pass.” He said pointedly to Matt.
The solution to both of these issues. Everyone gets up at 3:00 a.m. in morning packs their shit, and attempts to be first in line at the main gate. While the tourists are waiting in line the porters pack up and vacate. I went back up to the camp site at 4:30am to pee, the entire campsite was abandoned – ghost town.

Since there were only two of us on our tour, and our guide was young and maybe a little too ambitious he got us up at 2:45am. We packed quietly, so as not to wake anyone else in the campsite and rushed to the gates. We were first in line – obviously. Did I mention it had rained all night? Being first in line also meant having a covered area to sit for two and a half hours while it poured rain.

At 5:30 the gates opened our guide signed us in, asked if we were ready and then he started running. WE WERE THE CRAZY ONES!! We ran / speed walked the entire way – yelling THUNDER DOME and cackling manically as we went! A one-hour hike up wet treacherous stairs and stone paths took us 40 minutes, but we were first! No matter that Machu Picchu was engulfed in clouds and fog since it was still raining – we were first!
Close on our heels the entire way was two couples from Utah. We had met them on the trail a few days earlier, and they did not seem surprised to see us at the gate when they got there at 3:10 in the morning. They also had a Jill, and she also was swathed in purple all of the time. We bonded.


Saul signing us in.


The first photo of Machu Picchu! Fully engulfed in clouds.



We are exhausted in these photos. It’s 6:10 a.m. and we had just ran for 40 min. flat out, up hill. I can’t even keep my one eye all the way open. 


Second take – still can’t get my eye all the way open. Machu Picchu still covered in clouds. 


This is the other Purple Jill – we had the same Buff in purple. 


Myself – eyes still closed, Matt, and Saul – wearing jeans like it’s no big deal.


Clouds slowly clearing away. 


Jill! No idea when she stole our phone, but I respect her for it. 



Down at the site waiting in line to get our photo taken at Machu Picchu.

After resting and having a snack at the top near the sun gate we leisurely wandered down to the actual site. There was no need to rush as the other set of gates also opened at 5:30 a.m. and hoards of train and bus tourists had already flooded the site.

Saul gave us a tour of Machu Picchu the history and all of the important parts.



More llamas and babies!

Then, because we are fools and we paid $75 US dollars each. We climbed THIS.
After anxiously not sleeping, waking up at 2:45 a.m., sitting in the rain for 2.5 hours, sprinting for 40 min. up hill, tourist-ing for two hours, we got in line to climb Waynapicchu.


Waynapicchu – it’s the big one!

Waynapicchu is the most terrifying thing I have ever done. It was so steep, the stairs were the most narrow and harrowing we had experienced thus far. There are no photos of us going up because we were hanging on for dear life. If you are interested search YouTube for people falling off Waynapicchu – it’s a thing. There are cables attached to the mountain, but they end at the most inconvenient times. The photos at the top were taken only because Saul insisted.


Machu Picchu waaaaay down there.


Not dead yet. Too bed we still have to get down.


As close to death as I’ve ever been. 


Going down. 


Matt at the top. Park rangers supervising the whole up top procedure. Or counting the bodies falling, not sure which. 



Spent! We lived and we are 100% done. 


Got the tee shirt.


We took a bus down the hill, had lunch in the small tourist town at the base of the mountain, and waited for the train to take us back to Cusco. I fell asleep on the train, Matt drank a lot of beer, and while we loved every single second of our trek, we were so happy to shower and to sleep in a real bed. It was without a doubt the trip of a lifetime!


Day 6 – Crocodile Tears

I didn’t wake up overly tired on day six, which, when you consider how harrowing day five had been was a small miracle. However, a small insignificant sigh in the wrong tone set me off for about two hours. I was not ugly crying by any means, there were just small rivers of uncontrollable tears streaming down my face. I wanted them to stop, the tears were making Saul very uncomfortable, but I had no control over these tears. They were the tears of the overly tired and worn the fuck out. And again I found myself in a situation where the only way out was to go up. And up we went.
After I got my blood pumping, the tears slowed and eventually stopped. With a clear head I was able recognize my mistakes. In the cold chilly rain of the day before, I was so focused on the wet trail in front of me, I had neglected to take care of myself. I had not ingested a single salt pill, zero electrolytes, not one ounce of additional protein, goo, or gel – nothing. I was officially spent. It was a rookie move, and I know better, but it just goes to show how even experienced hikers get themselves into trouble.

Thankfully and because I’m super lucky, Day Six was a half day – for the most part. All we had to do was get to lunch, eat, nap, and then Saul our delightful guide had a “small surprise” for us. If you’ve been reading along, you will know that Saul’s surprises were always super cool, but were not free. We had to work for them.



Our first attraction of the day was Phuyupatamarca, a small, but mighty ruin.



Oh Good! More stairs. I was afraid we had run out.



A slow day made for looking at bugs and other interesting bits.


In the distance Intipata


We spent a lot of time at Intipata, sitting in the grass, and enjoying the warm sun. We had made good time getting there, and so needed to give our chefs time to prepare lunch for us, as well as the other two day groups that would be converging on the trail with us.



In the mountain opposite from the Inca plateaus you can see the trail coming up from the river. This is the trail that the two day treks take to Manchu Picchu.


After resting and exploring we headed to camp / lunch.

This is the only camp we didn’t take photos of. It was a super highway of porters, tents, tourists, and super stinky bathrooms. It was the Grand Central Station of pre-Manchu Picchu. It wasn’t noisy enough to prevent me from taking a nap though I promise you that! After a HUGE farewell lunch I napped for a good two hours. Saul woke us up to go see his surprise. We almost blew him off in favor of a continued nap, but he promised us it would be worth it, and he was so right.

We went to Peru with the intention of going to Manchu Picchu, but I have to say Winay Wayna was by far my favorite place on the entire trek, and it wasn’t just because of the baby llama. It might be because of the baby llama.





An entire family of llamas lives at this site , cutting the grass, and maintaining the site.



OMG! He was SO CUTE!!!



I was not shaking at all when I took this photo.

At this point day six had been the best day ever, and then it got even better!


Our wonderful chef made Matt a birthday cake and it was GF too! Such an amazing company! If you ever go to Peru book with Alpaca Expeditions!


Day 5 – Hard. Hard. Hecking Hard!

You know that feeling when you wake up tired? That was Day 5.

Our training had been paying off, but the problem with training in a gym, or by running is that you train for an hour or two each day. During our journey we had been hiking on average 6 to 8 hours a day, and there is no good way to train for that without taking additional vacation time – which neither of us had.

The biggest issue with waking up tired on Day 5, was that it was going to be our longest and most taxing day of the entire trek. It was only ten miles, but it would take us an estimated 11 hours as we had two mountain passes to hike up and over.

The first pass was Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,779 feet. Then back down the other side to our lunch spot at 11,700 feet. The second pass was Runkuracay pass at 13,123 feet and back down again to our camp site. On a dirt trail this would not have been so demanding, but now that we were on the Inca Trail which is paved in stones and carved stairs it was downright punishing.  Our knees are still sore almost a week later.


You can see the boob of the dead woman – she is cold. 



It was super cold and shitty up on top of the pass.


Still cold!


We stayed at the top of Dead Woman Pass long enough for a few photos, and an army of porters to pass us. We had been warned that morning at breakfast that the porters will be running down the hill and that they have the right of way on the trail. They will not stop or slow down for a mere tourist. Get out of their way!


And I do mean an army.


Porters resting – These were Alpaca Expaditions porters, but not for our group.


The entire Inca Trail was paved with rough stones like this.  


Once we got to the bottom of this ravine we would stop for lunch, and then start back up again on the second pass of the day. 



This is a lunch spot. As you can see the Inca Trail is much more crowded than anything we had experienced previously. Those are all lunch tents and one toilet area. 


This was the only photo taken from the Runkuracay Pass.

After lunch we started hiking again and stopped to explore this small ruin which was also named Runkuracay. It was a checkpoint / lookout for the Inca. As were were admiring the views we heard what sounded like a very loud, very low flying air plane. Our guide’s eyes went wide as he clued into what it was we were hearing. “RAIN!” He yelled. “Rain gear go go go!” And in less than 10 seconds were were in the middle of a nasty rain and hail storm. The granite stairs in front of us became slippery and treacherous, but there was no way to go other than up. Slowly we began to climb in the rain, testing the footing of every rock before trusting it. If we had not been tired before, we certainly were now.

We made it across the pass and down the other side at a snail’s pace. As we were reaching the bottom of the valley we hiked out of the clouds onto a delightful spring day.  Thankfully it cleared enough for us to enjoy the Chaquicocha ruins. Another overlook / outlook point situated right above our campsite for the night.





Our’s were the green tents. Again a fairly crowded camp site. 




Our campsite had the best view!

We slept like baby alpaca that night!

Day 4! Wait, It Was Supposed to be an Easy Day!

During breakfast the morning of Day 4 our guide, Saul said to us “I have good news, and bad news,”. Foolishly, I didn’t believe that there could be bad news in Peru, especially not while on vacation!

I was wrong.

On Day 4 we would be transitioning from the Salkantay Trail to the Inca Trail. Horses are not allowed on the Inca Trail, because their shoes break up the rocks used to pave the trail. We would be saying goodbye to our horseman, Juan, and hello to four new porters that would take the place of the horses. I promise you, I have never felt more ridiculous than I did on the Inca Trail with not just a guide and two chefs, but also four men carrying all of our stuff. As the Inca Trail became steeper and steeper I felt less and less ridiculous, and more and more grateful that I didn’t have to carry a fully loaded backpack – or cook any food.

The bad news, our four porters had gotten jammed up with the small army of porters that would be caring the gear for a 12 person trek just starting out on the Inca Trail. Our porters were supposed to meet us at 10 a.m., but due to the mix up they were going to be two hours late. The worse news, this meant our lunch would also be two hours late, as they were bringing fresh groceries with them.
The good news, our guide had a surprise for us. As a way to kill time we were going to go to an Inca site not on our itinerary. For those of you paying close attention, you guessed it.  This meant that we would be hiking for two additional hours – without lunch. My poor lonely tummy!

The hike was of course, beautiful and it was well worth the extra time hiking. The site too was very cool. The other nice part was that because it was a down-and-back trip, we dropped our packs with a local store merchant allowing us to cover more miles in less time.



The village / town of Wayllabamba. There are no roads to this place. Horses and feet are the only transportation to and from this area.



Watch out for small bear like animals and bathrooms!


His bowl was bigger than his entire body!


After our detour, we collected our packs and then hiked up the mountain to the first of many check points for the national park that contains Manchu Picchu. The number of people allowed to enter the gates each day is very heavily restricted. We purchased our permits a year ago, and I’m so glad we did!


First check point – waiting for paperwork to be completed…



So excited!!!!

The terrain from this point on changed dramatically. It was mind blowing! Our guide called it a micro-climate, but one moment we were hiking a river valley, and after only a few hundred feet of elevation – JUNGLE! And steps. SO. MANY. STEPS! The Inca were as extra as any one group of people could possibly be. Why build a dirt trail when a trail paved in stones and carved steps would do just fine?!?


When our dear chef’s reached us, they were so upset at not having fed us on time. They scrambled and within minutes had a four course lunch ready. These guys were beyond amazing!


After our quick lunch we hiked only two more hours to our camp site.  It was during this leg that we started to run into other groups and porters. Up until joining the Inca Trail we had had the trail all to our selves and in the process had gotten quite spoiled.





A group of porters from another company – playing soccer in the field after hiking 6 or more hours with roughly 55 lbs. on their backs.


The cutest camp invaders ever!


This camp site also had a bathroom! It was referred to as a proper toilet, to be clear I was quite fond of the original Squatty Potty. Unfortunately, the bathroom pictured below was one of the cleanest toilets I visited in Peru. In fact I have an entirely new bathroom rating system after Peru. I used to think that the dirtiest place I had ever pee’d was a Starbucks in Paris. Again, I was wrong.


Mom, you aren’t going to like Peru.

Day 2! Salkantay Pass 17,060 ft.

September 12 – Happy Birthday Matt!

After a successful first day we were excited, but anxious to tackle the second day. Since we had already been to Humantay Lake, and had some bad feelings towards it, through no fault of its own. We decided to skip the lake and take on the Salkantay Pass, essentially cramming day two and three into one day. The pass rests at 17,060 feet. It would be the highest either of us had ever hiked, and we were only on day two. Our guide was confident that we could do it, and assured us that he had lots of oxygen. He also tested our oxygen levels and heart rate multiple times during the day.

To be perfectly frank, I was terrified. After the first Humanitay Lake experience, in which I ended up on the floor of our hotel room with a pounding headache, fighting tears, and too nauseous to stand. I had no idea how I was going to survive 17k feet, but at the end of the day the only option was to try.

The Pass was challenging to say the least. Thankfully it wasn’t scary steep, or technical hiking. It was just up. It was about half way up that I realized that I had to change everything about the way I was breathing. I shifted my body into it sloth mode. Taking one step for each breath. I also focused more on slowing my exhalations rather than my intake. At points I was huffing air trying to get enough, but the more I controlled the exhale the better I felt. The most frustrating part for both of us was that our legs were fine. The legs wanted to go, but the lungs said absolutely not!

Lots of photos on the pass, mostly because we were alive. And that was a big deal!

We didn’t take any photos on the way down because it was quite steep, and we had to move quickly. A storm was trying to roll in and we didn’t want to get caught in the rain.

Our chefs and horse man passed us, right as we crossed the pass, and were down the other side in no time. As we made our way down we could see them set up on the valley floor. We were about 30 minuets from the camp site when our head chef Selveleo radioed that they wanted to break camp and move further down the valley. It was very cold and windy due to the storm, and there was a large heard of cows already trying to trample the tents. They said they would move another 45 minuets down the trail, but we were so tired that it took us and extra hour and a half to get to camp making our total miles for the day 15.5. So tired, but also very proud of ourselves.

Our camp dog for the night. The dog lived at the house in the background with Juan’s brother. Juan was our horse man and the dog was so happy to see him. The dog followed Juan all night, and was so gentile when we gave him scraps. He was a good boy.

We slept like baby alpacas that night.

Day 1 of the Salkantay and Inca Trail Trek

On Tuesday the 11th, we were picked up from the hotel yet again at 4:30am in a van. This van however was smaller and piloted by a responsible and respectable young gentleman. We were given fleece blankets and were instructed to go back to sleep. Our guide was in the front passenger seat and there were two men asleep in the very back. I had no idea how much I would come to adore these two sleeping beings.

The journey took us back the way we had gone only two days before, but with much better results. After a three hour drive and a few stops at local markets for fresh produce we arrived as a small roadside store deep in the Peruvian country side.

Waiting for us was a man with three horses. In record time the van was unloaded, the horses hitched up, and magically breakfast was served.

Our guide, Saul posing with our first breakfast of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, GF potato biscuits with butter and jam, tea, coffee, and juice. I was so full I almost couldn’t hike, but hike we did!

The two men sleeping in the back of the van turned out to be Silveleo and Miguel our chef and assistant chef for the trip. These two pumped out meal after amazing meal on the trail. Magicians!

We took some start of trip photos, and then we were off!From left to right – Saul, Miguel, me, Matt, Silveleo, and Juan our horse man.


After breakfast we started hiking leaving the horses and the other three behind to clean up after us, which felt really odd. The odd feeling of not helping or not being able to clean up after ourselves never went away.

At first I was concerned that we were just going to ditch these folks with all of our stuff and a bunch of dirty dishes, but they passed us in no time, as if we were standing still. Laughing and joking the entire way. They were soon out of site, and we were on our own again.

The planned lunch spot was high up in the hills, and on a cold day could be very windy. As we were making good time, and it was threatening to rain, Saul suggested that we stop there for a snack and press on to the lodge for lunch. We agreed. He radioed Silveleo with the new plan and we continued on. Since we were the only people on our trek Saul felt comfortable making other suggestions and changes to our itinerary. We were supposed to just walk a dirt road the rest of the way, but Saul took us along the Inca canal instead. It was much more scenic and less dusty. There were some high points with sheer drop offs, that got the adrenaline pumping, but it was very good practice for what was yet to come.

Our first night was surprisingly spent in these quaint lodges. They were simple, just a room with a bed, but the view of Humantay Mountain was amazing. We laid on the bed after luch just watching the mountain change with the light of the sun. After dinner we laid there watching the stars from the sky lights. It was a very good first day!

Humantay Mountain from the bed. These photos don’t do it justice at all.

Stay tuned for day two!

Matt and Jill

That. Was. AWESOME!

I am at a loss right now as to how to accurately describe the last seven days. It was the trip of a life time, to say the absolute least. It was amazing, wonderful, hard, exhausting, beautiful, meditative, stinky, challenging mentally and physically. In short, it was everything.

Each day deserves its own post as we have hundreds of photos to share, and each day was so different that they felt like separate trips.

We are back at the hotel, and about to go for a much deserved hydrotherapy spa appointment. However, if Alpaca Expeditions knocked on the door right now and said “Want to go again?” Neither of us would hesitate to strap on our packs and start walking. I feel naked without my pack, it has become a part of me. I miss our guide, Saul. I miss the solitude of the mountains, and believe it or not, I miss hiking.

Here are some choice photos to tide you over while we spend the rest of the day mentally processing the trip, and reintegrating back into the real world – which is actually quite painful.

Wish Us Luck! Please.

Here we go! Again.

We went to a briefing last night. It was very nice they had tea, an agenda, a check list, and we met our guide Saul. I already like this tour company much more than the last one.

Saul walked us through each day. What temperatures to expect, which days would be the hardest, etc. He also promised me that we would drive to the trailhead in a small van. He has done this trek more times than he can count, and couldn’t recommend bug spray enough. We also learn that he hates mosquitoes and enjoys chocolate. Saul and I are going to be good buddies by the end of the seven days.

I’m not sure what type of internet access we will have on the trail, so we will see you on the other side!

Until then here are some photos of the dogs of Cusco. They all seem to be strays, but they are not skinny, and they get lots of petting and attention. While they are strays they seem to have some people. I saw a dog run up to a sidewalk vendor wagging his tail. The vendor sat down and they shared a snack.

Well, That Was Fucking Terrible

It’s hard to complain sitting in a five star hotel wrapped in a bright white fuzzy hotel bathrobe, and wearing cute little hotel slippers, but I’m going to try my absolute best!

Saturday we arrived in Cusco, the hotel sent a car to pick us up from the airport which was very nice. The driver worked for a tour company and asked if we wanted to do any tours while we were in Cusco. He had a tour book in the car, and we had already decided we wanted to go to Rainbow Mountain. He took our name, and said he be back tomorrow at 5am to pick us up. He was very pushy and we both got a bit of a dodgy feeling about him, so we decided to visit the tour company office to make sure. Sure enough he was trying to overcharge us for the tour, $50 USD vs. $28 USD. He was clearly going to keep the extra for himself, but that’s between him and his company. We booked a tour to Rainbow Mountain for the next day.

As promised, at 4:30am a large 20 person Mercedes sprinter van showed up, the woman had our name on her list, and we loaded into the van like the cattle that we were.

This is clearly the 4:00am thing to do in Cusco. The vans go from hotel to hotel gathering their tourists before heading out of the city to the different locations. They do this at top speed racing through the cobbled streets without the day to day traffic to contend with. Being a passenger in one of these vans required full participation, it was a core work out trying to stay in one’s seat.

Once the van was full we began the journey to our destination. The journey was also driven at top speeds. Our driver had zero regard for his passenger’s comfort, as he was quite literally drifting the van around corners, tires squealing and all. He was also most comfortable on the wrong side of the road. Passing other cars, vans, even an ambulance (with lights flashing- on its way to the hospital) at one point. He owned the wrong side of the road, the oncoming traffic was merely a small inconvenience.

We stopped for breakfast at what can only be described as a tourist warehouse. Multiple vans stopped here at the same time. We were herded into a large room with long rickety tables and food was rapidly flung in front of us. Everyone had a single gelatinous pancake, and a bowl of old fruit. I ate as much fruit as I could stomach. The coca tea was good.

It was here that we learned that we were not going to Rainbow Mountain. We were in fact on our way to Humantay Lake….the exact same lake that we will hike to during our 7 day trek. Of course by this time we were two hours into a road trip and there was nothing to be done, but go to the lake.

It turns out that there is no tour to Rainbow Mountain on Sunday, but we wanted a tour on Sunday, so we got one! Peruvians are very helpful. They were a little confused as to why we were upset. A tour is a tour!

At the end of the day, despite the 6 hours of nauseating van ride, the hike was at least beautiful. And we got a very good taste of what our next seven days will be like.

The horses were for the tourists who couldn’t make the hike. The poor beasts looked miserable going up, but they seemed to enjoy running down hill.

By the way hiking at altitude is really hard! Our training paid off, but breathing was a bitch. From base to the lake was a 3,000 ft elevation gain. The lake rests at 13,800 ft. It took three breaths during the hike to get the same amount of oxygen as a breath at regular/ accustomed altitude. I could feel the lack of oxygen in my muscles as well. The pressure in my head was the oddest thing. It was in spots. It felt like I was wearing a too-tight hat. The cocoa candy helped, but I was definitely feeling a bit woozy. The tree hour speed-racer van ride home has really put me off of #vanlife, and I’ll be ok with never stepping foot in another van for many many moons. Matt has had almost no issues at all with the altitude, and hasn’t the entire trip. Which is total bull shit in my humble opinion.

Tomorrow we begin our seven day trek!

Thanks for reading my rantings,

Matt and Jill