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Do as the Incas did

 

Waking at 4:00 to hear it raining cats and dogs. Lying in bed, I questioned my committed until Angela FaceBook messaged me:

 

Getting out of bed, and gathering my belongings (making sure I had ALL of my cameras), the rains let up, eventually stopping.

A short walk to the base of Machu Picchu, and a few dozen photos later, we were ready for our climb.  Crossing a metal bridge over the Urubamba River, we looked up to see the tower we were to climb.  Clutching our waters, we entered the forest.

Sprinting up the stairs, with short breaks in between, sweat dripped down my face, my shirt saturated.

After about a million stairs, one bottle of water, and a few trail mix bars, we made it to the top. Actually, we only made it to the base of Machu Picchu.

Standing still, beholding the beauty of the massive civilization that once was. The rain left some lingering clouds, creating a dynamic view of Machu Picchu.

I frolicked in the grass, running around shirtless, throwing rocks, climbing rocks, and jumping off anything I could. I couldn’t see anyone, and for the moment, I felt alone at Machu Picchu, but in a good way. I felt free.

Hiking up further, we made our way to the Inka Bridge. We signed the book at 9:10, and made our journey to the bridge. Walking down a narrow 3 feet wide path with a giant drop on the other side, we moved quickly and efficiently, but stopping for photos every 30 feet.

From here, we could see everything, the city, the river, the history. Looking to mountains in the distance, small crevasses from where water once flowed left their marks.

I wish I could stay on that trail forever. I saw new hues of a green in the vegetation, and the mineral deposits created a pattern that no artist could emulate.

(Of course, R. Kelly – I Believe I can Fly was played off of my phone,  making the moment that much more perfect)

As we got to the end of the trail, we saw the bridge, two small pieces of wood over a large gap. A gate blocked the bridge, probably for the better.

We turned around, and made our way back to the entrance, arriving at 10:01.

We scrambled to get to the gate to meet our class, and got stuck behind some really slow walkers. When we got to the gate, some class members were there, as well as Wagner, the tour guide.ImageImage

Our tour started.

 

 

 

In lue of all of the natural, the most beautiful thing I saw at Machu PIcchu was not the structures, the trees, or the rocks, it was something else. I saw a 12 year old girl in a wheel chair. Machu Picchu is one of the least handicap accessible places I have ever been. It’s all stairs.

Her father would pick her up, and carry her up the stairs, wanting his daughter to see as much as possible. I passed by this family a few times. The father never seemed discouraged or tired, because he was thinking about his daughter. This helped me see the beauty that not only lies in nature, but human nature.

 

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Mario

If I have a choice, I’m riding my skateboard. It’s my favorite thing to do, and has had the biggest impact on my life. It has changed the way I look at my surroundings, influenced my thought processes, and transformed the way I dress.

Skating is all the common ground I need with people to hold a conversation. I have a hard time meeting people outside of skating. What would we do, what would we talk about? Skating in a foreign country, where I don’t speak the language, I was worried, but not too worried.

Skating the same spot for a few days, I started to notice familiar faces. On the last day at Larcomar, I noticed someone that I hadn’t seen before, skating like no one else there, skating like we do in Chicago. He was doing no complies and heelflips, wearing vans with rolled pants, and swerving and smiling through people. Contrasting the rest of the skaters, he seemed more hip than anyone else.

Trying talking to one of my Spanish-speaking friends, my friend Julio asked this kid if he spoke English. He did, and we introduced ourselves. He is 20 year old Mario, from Lima.

Mario had spent time in the States when he was younger, going to New York and Montana. Although he hadn’t been back in years, his English was strong, and we talked back and forth. This conversation forced to neglect the conversation with Julio.

Mario and I talked about as many topics as we could, starting with skateboarding, of course. We talked about companies and skaters we like, both of us agreeing that Dylan Reider and Alien Workshop are dope.

Sitting and talking for 2 hours, the sun started to go down. I complimented him on his sunset, and he told me to follow him. We skated a few hundred feet to the other side of the park, where a few streetlights illuminated a small patch of sidewalk: The after party. Here, kids from earlier, as well as a few new faces, were skating flat ground.

Sitting on a curb, people watched, and an ex soldier, still in all camo, played chess with a park patron.

As Mario and I continued to talk, I brought up religion. With a vast majority of Lima’s residents belonging to the Catholic religion that the conquistadors forced upon them hundreds of years ago, I was curious what his stance was. To be anything other than Catholic, while not frowned upon, labels you as an outcast.

Mario and I agreed on the stance that religion is not the most important thing in life, that we don’t need an ancient book of guidelines to rule our lives. There are much more important ideals to worry about. Following a religion doesn’t make you a good person, being a good person makes you a good person.

We talked about friends that we had that got lost in religion, changing our relationships with them forever.

From religion, we talked about fashion, pop culture, and the materialism of United States culture.  We talked about how cool had become taboo. How people jus emulate what they see on TV or online. With Peru’s economy on the rise, its citizens are starting to adopt the more modern culture of the United States. They want to be movie stars.

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Escaping the group, and having a conversation with a local was good for me. This conversation helped me realize that these thoughts aren’t limited geographically, and there are like minded people all around the word that I have yet to meet.

Clubo Del Caca

Giancarlo, my Peroomie, told me that I had to check out was in the bar room, down the hallway. Excited, I followed behind. Turning on all of the light switching, illuminating the bar, tables, and corner couch, GC took me to the white couch.

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I notice a dark pile, and as I examine closer, I realize it is a pile of poop. Animal poop, old, dry, and vile, although odorless, steals the appeal of the empty and open room. 

A few selfies and Snapchat’s later, I checked my Facebook messages. I saw an opportunity for go explore and take scenic photos of the city of Cusco at night.

On our way out, we ask the doorman if this is a safe area, but he didn’t speak English, and we didn’t speak Spanish, and he told us we could put our stuff in a safe. We decided to take our chances.

Walking up some steep stairs, and realizing the first hand affects of altitude exhaustion, we caught our breathe, and snapped some photos. A few cars, with large gaps between, drove on the road behind us, the same we would have to scale to get to the church. These cars hugged the shoulder and sped. With no sidewalk, we continued our journey to the top, getting startled by a large stray dog that followed us. Avoiding eye contact, we arrived at the top, and admired the overhead view of Cusco.

 

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I snapped photos and video with my multiple cameras, we were on our way back. Not wanting to walk down the steep hill to stairs, we took a slightly different path, walking through alleys, passing hostels, and listening to the roar of the gogo bar.

Safely getting back to the hotel, I danced around in the open space of the first floor, enjoying a chocolate popsicle.

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Traveling in Transit

 

 

 

As much as I hate being in a car, the cab, bus, and train rides were amazing.

 

Stepping into a car in Lima is a gamble. Traffic is as congested as possible, and there are no rules. It was great. Every time the driver hit the gas or brake, we were on the verge of hitting another car, but we didn’t. Drivers know exactly how long and wide their cars are, resting just inches away from the next during rush hour traffic.

 

Through these cab and bus rides I got a feel for my surroundings. I was comfortably sitting, observing, from the inside looking out.

 

Driving through Sacred Valley and the Andes Mountains, I saw views that I never would have walked to. My finger stayed on the shutter of my camera, pointing and shooting at anything. I shot about 1700 pictures from the window of the bus in one day. Some turned out, some didn’t, but through quantity, quality emerges.ImageImage

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