Salkantay/Inca Trail Trek, Peru

Guest post: Todos Los Lagos Es Mi Baño

By Jake Makler

 
Hello Soy Sauce and Rice followers, 

It is my honor to be a guest contributor to this prestigious publication after an amazing trek through the Andes with our very own Melissa and Daniel. This will be the first in a series of posts required to do this experience justice, so look out for the follow-ups.
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The Trek

Seven days, six nights, 81 kilometers hiked,  5200 meters elevation (that’s over 17K feet for my fellow dumb Americans). Freezing nights, blistering hot days, torrential downpours, hail, wind, and the soundtrack of avalanches in the background.
 
No cellphone, no contact with the “real” world. A nuclear bomb could have been detonated, Donald Trump could have offended another demographic, The Cubs could have won the World Series…a lot can happen in a week and we would never have known. 
 
Bed when the sun goes down, awake to coca tea when the sun rises, daily siestas, no showers, conversations with Llamas, Guinea Pigs, and Alpacas, one with nature.

Highest vertical climb and highest elevation highlighted the longest trek of our lives thus far, and we kicked ass. 
 
This trek was a challenge that I was only partially prepared for. I knew we would spend our days trekking and thought I understood the impact of altitude from Colorado skiing, but everything was on a scale that was larger than I could have imagined.
 
We started day one with the “proving” day…proving to ourselves and our guide that we could survive altitude and inclines. We also got to know our hiking partner Fiona (a Kiwi on a one-year journey around South America), a true homie. As well as our guide, Javier, a real joker. This became our family.
For the next six days, we saw every type of terrain, climate and altitude. We befriended our tour group (6-10 Peruvians who brought everything we needed to survive). We ate three incredible Peruvian meals per day all created from scratch by our chef, Raymundo, without a table and with only the ingredients he could schlep up and down the mountain. At night, we would play cards, reflect on the day that passed and plan for the day that was to come before going to bed earlier than a 3-year old would.
 
The trek culminated in Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world. After 6 days of physical and mental challenges, the biggest challenge yet arose: selfie sticks. More to come in a future post on that one. 

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“A wise man once said that the journey is the destination…especially when the destination contains a bunch of foreigners wielding selfie sticks”

The Cast of Characters

Melissa “el Rock” Richardson 
Voted most likely to get embarrassed by something Jacob or Daniel says or does
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To her credit, a lot of inappropriate things were said and done
Dan “Wallyabamba” Silveira
Winner of the “It’s better to look good than to feel good” award
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Dan received many compliments for his Danner boots. He also received a daily gauze treatment from Melissa for the blisters
Jacob “Que Pasa” Makler 
Voted least likely to survive on their own in Spanish speaking country (but most likely to find the library)
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By the second day, I had earned the name “Que Pasa” due to it being one of the few Spanish phrases I knew. I celebrated a birthday during the trip and of course found that on my cake
Fiona “Poco Loca” Yip
Voted most likely to be confused with a San Francisco Hobo 
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Fiona carried her life on her back, and looked like someone I often see in the Tenderloin
Javier “Baby Puma” Alvarez
Winner of the “Least accurate weather and distance estimates” award
 img_2406 Javier – “today, no more up”
Melissa – “only down?”
Javier – “only down…then up and down, then up and down”
 

The Never-ending Layering Process

With daily temperature swings in excess of 60 degrees fahrenheit, the layering and de-layering process became an institution in and of itself, to our guide Javier’s amusement. Here is a typical day in the life of our wardrobe situation:  
 
5:30amawake, its below freezing, put on thermal on top and bottom plus pants shirt fleece and jacket along with buff and beanie hat
 
7am – as hike begins, sun comes out, its getting hotter. Take jacket off and put in day pack, swap beanie for sun hat, buff goes in pocket
Javier shakes his head
 
8am – in first part of hike, combination of ascent and sun makes it unbearably hot, take off fleece, roll pants up and socks down
 
9am – clouds cover sun, temp immediately drops 20 degrees, put fleece back on, roll pants down, take buff out-of-pocket, swap hats
 
10am – sun is back, repeat 8am ritual
Javier laughs
 
11am – it gets cloudy again, 9am ritual repeated. clouds have turned ominously grey, rain is imminent, getting colder. Take jacket out of day pack, take gloves out of day pack and put in jacket pocket, put waterproof cover on day pack. 
 
Noon– starts raining, put on poncho
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The layering process…in one expression
 
12:30 – despite rain, continued physical exertion makes it uncomfortably hot, delayer under poncho, open vents on rain jacket, swap hats
 
1p– sun is back, switch back to 8am attire. 
 
And repeat for 7 days….

What did we learnt?

  • “Learnt” is a real word in New Zealand
  • Clean is a relative term 
  • We are not allergic to rain
  • Positivity and attitude can overcome physical challenges
  • The fortune of growing up in an upper middle class 1st world country
  • If these guys can cook a 5-course meal at 16k feet, I can cook chicken
  • The value of being off the grid, no FOMO if you’re not connected.
  • A cold shower is better than no shower…for some

Todos los lados es mi baño (all the lands are my bathroom)

Now we wrap with the title-section of this piece. When you are trekking in the Andes, you get the opportunity to relieve biological needs while taking in some breathtaking views. I decided that I wanted to remember the incredible territories that I had the pleasure of leaving my mark on by taking a photo and including my index finger as a reminder of what I saw while peeing. Here are some highlights, more to come:

If you need us, we’ll be recovering in Cuzco…

We finally returned to civilization, to modern toilets, to internet, and to the comforts that are afforded through modern living. We are currently O.D.ing on information and going through photos, expect more posts in the coming days…
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