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Trekking Isla del Sol

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We woke up on Isla del Sol around 5 a.m. covered in frost, as you can see by the picture above. We had no idea at the time, but this would easily be our most comfortable night and warmest morning. We broke down camp under the light of a full moon and were hiking by six a.m. along the ridgeline of the island, surrounded on both sides by Lago Titicaca.

(Side note: When we were first planning this trip I couldn’t say “Titicaca” without snickering. I’ve said it so many times by now that I’m used to it, but it helps to have found out that the literal translation of Titicaca in the Aymara language is “gray puma”. As in, Lake of the Grey Puma. Isn’t that lovely?)

It was our first morning on the trail together, Dave, Michael, and me. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to start hiking so early – we couldn’t see a thing. At first I was frightened of the shadows, worried some horrible thing would jump out at us. The moon was so bright and the morning so quiet. We came upon a house and two dogs barked furiously. A man appeared, a silhouette against the darkness. He’s going to ask us for money to keep going, I thought. But instead he called out, “Buenos dias, amigos! Es temprano para los turistas. Eso es bueno!” And we laughed and said, “Sí, al principio es bueno!” and kept going. I felt bad for thinking the worst.

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Around seven the sun began to crawl into the sky over Bolivia to our right, while the moon hung stubborn over Peru on our left. For the next thirty minutes, the sun turned the clouds pinker and pinker as it rose and the moon slid slowly into the horizon. There was a brief moment when both sun and moon faced each other, and we knew why the Incas called this island sacred. (And I knew why someone would want to hike so early in the day.)

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Moonset

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Sunrise

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Breakfast that morning was a box of crackers, split three ways, but we didn’t care. We were giddy from the beauty that surrounded us. The road we hiked was an ancient Incan road, though for a long time we couldn’t tell. And then it changed from dirt to huge, flat stones, interlocking to create a smooth path, thousands of years old. After a few more minutes we passed a large, square-shaped stone table, surrounded by smaller, nearly perfectly cube-shaped stone seats – a ceremonial sacrifice table.

Then we came to the Incan ruins, a maze of stone walls, still and quiet as the night. We dropped our packs and stooped under the entrance. I closed by eyes to see if I could feel the history, hear the whispers of ancient voices, but there was only a soft breeze.

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The Incas were much smaller than Mike.

It was a wonderful morning. We spent a long time wandering in this ancient, revered place. We hiked to the top of a nearby hill to get a better view, forgetting our cameras in our packs down below. It was early still, not yet eight-thirty, and we were the only people for miles. I started getting hungry but there was no food. We had a full day of hiking ahead of us if we wanted to hike the rest of the island (per our plan), and no guarantee of food anywhere along the trail. The day before we’d pre-paid for a private boat to take us from Yumani to Yampupata and it would leave with or without us at 3 p.m. With these things in mind we decided instead to hike the four hours back to Yumani where we knew there were plenty of restaurants allowing plenty of time for a leisurely meal before we needed to catch our boat. We dug through our packs and discovered we weren’t completely out of food; we found peanuts, a few more crackers, and a couple of mandarines. Dave gave me two Cliff bars he had saved from the day before, so we knew we would be fine for four more hours.

…to be continued…

L.A. to Mexico City to Tapachula…

…to Lima to Santa Cruz to La Paz

La Paz = Love

Cementario del Distrito

Copacabana

Isla del Sol en las Fotografias

Hiker Geek

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY! Three cheers for our country’s heroes. Let’s take a minute to reflect on this country of ours and thank the men and women who helped it become what it is. You may say it is  flawed  and I would agree, but it is still a great country and we are lucky to live here. We’d be even luckier if we all had access to health care and jobs, but still.

This post was written on Friday, May 27, 2011. I’m only mentioning it because I think it matters. That sounds kind of weird but I don’t mean it to.

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Today we got all our vaccines. This was, so far, the most expensive part of our trip. We have been saving up for this trip for a whole year, so it wasn’t a big deal, but still. I hate spending money in large doses.

The good news is we are now vaccinated against yellow fever, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus*, hepatitis A, and after we take the live virus pills in our refrigerator, typhoid fever. Isn’t that reassuring?

I was really nervous about the shots because I hate needles, but I kept it together. I kept it together so well that Michael treated me to lunch afterwards. It was awesome. Then we went shopping!

Only not for seedlings or pots at the Garden Center. Instead we went to R.E.I. for their gigantor anniversary sale and we bought the most expensive clothing I have ever owned in my entire life. Not because we were trying to be fancy, but because everything is meant for the utmost comfort while carrying gear amounting to a third of your bodyweight in a backpack on your back while walking uphill for ten hours a day. I let Mike pick everything out and you guys, he picked the cutest stuff. I mean, it’s as cute as convertible hiking pants, merino wool under layers, and fleece hoodies can be, but it’s super cute. He picked colors that look great on me and every.thing.was.on.sale. Also? It’s all really high quality clothing that will keep me comfortable on the trail, and that’s really what counts. I was going to do a little fashion show and post pictures of all my new outfits and everything, but you’re going to be seeing a lot of these clothes for the next couple of months, so I decided against it. But you guys? I am totally hiker chic.

This Sunday we will hike Mount Wilson. I don’t even know what Mount Wilson is, but Mike had me read a yelp review about it (read the fourth one down – it’s hysterical) and it sounds pretty serious. It’s six miles and will take between five and six hours. And it is almost entirely uphill. This is going to be a six hour walk, friends. Six hours, uphill, in the California heat. But I have a brand new, really cute and unbelievably comfortable outfit to wear (I am so excited about these clothes it is ridiculous) and we’ll be hiking a real trail in a real national park, instead of just the empty lots behind fancy houses we’ve been hiking.

It’s funny that I had that complete melt down last weekend, and now I’m so excited to hike this weekend. It’s just that I finally remembered why I decided to go on this trip. I didn’t want to miss sharing this with my husband. The John Muir Trail was such a hugely positive experience for him and I was really sorry I chose not to go. I didn’t want to miss another one. Besides, I’d rather be miserable in a field of stickery thorny waist-high weeds with him, then miserable in the comfort of our apartment without him.

And now a photo of a hairy wiener:

needsSLR

Mama needs an SLR

*Have you had your tetanus booster? Because it’s really important to. Apparenty you don’t only get tetanus from a rusty nail. Tetanus lives in the soil everywhere in the world, including where you live, and tetanus is a terrible way to die. GET YOUR TETANUS BOOSTER.

(Not) The Garden Center, 2

Picking up from where I left off yesterday…

We turned around and started trekking back through the waist-high thorny weeds towards home. And then I started crying. Really quietly, because I didn’t want him to know I was crying. After all, what kind of wimp starts crying because of some thorny weeds? This kind of wimp, apparently.

I trekked along, quietly crying, a litany of reasons why I’m horrible and hiking is horrible and all of this is horribly running on a loop through my head when suddenly the stickers poking into my socks, tag-alongs (care of the weeds) I’d been collecting for the last hour, became intolerable. I stopped, trekking poles tucked under one arm, right foot propped on left knee yoga-style, lost my balance. Squatted slightly and started picking at the stickers that stabbed at my ankles. But they were horrible things, twisted and curled through the sock, through the silk sock-liner, scratching into my bare skin. And then I noticed that the tongue of my boot formed a cup against my foot and that cup was brimming with weedy stickery things so I tried to pick them out but then I thought, what if there is a bug in there? Or a spider? Or a tick? WHAT IF THERE IS A TICK?

And then I really started crying. By now Mike was a few hundred feet away (I have no idea how many feet. Maybe it was forty, I have no concept of distance) and so I had to call attention to my plight by shouting, “I need to stop! I have to take my shoes off!” Mike stopped and turned, stunned I was so far behind him. I stared at the ground, tears dripping off the end of my nose while I grit my teeth and tried to stop f***ing crying.

When he got to me I was a snotty, sweaty, blubbering mess. You think you know ugly crying? You have never seen ugly crying.

“I f***ing hate this! I f***ing hate this! This is horrible! Why do people do this?!?”
“Ok, can I help you take your shoes off? There you go. I’ll pick the stickers out of your shoe while you do your sock.”
(Sniffling) “Thank you. This is horrible. I hate this. You married the wrong girl if you wanted someone you could do this with.”
“That’s ridiculous. Just stop.”
We were both quiet for a minute. We picked the stickers out of my footwear.
“What do you hate?” he asked.
“This! It’s horrible! The weeds and the foliage in my face and bugs smacking into my head. It’s horrible!”
“This has sucked. This is not what Bolivia is going to be like.”
“YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT BOLIVIA IS GOING TO BE LIKE. YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO BOLIVIA.”
“We’re going to the highlands. This is not the highlands. This is the valley.”
He looked at me. I swiped at my tears and sniffled. “You don’t know.”
“We’re going to be hiking Inca roads, not fields of weeds.”
“But I don’t want to spend every weekend for the next two months doing this.”
“We don’t have to.”
“But we have to train!”
“We have to train, but we don’t have to do this ever again. This was a bad hike.”
“But I hate it!”
He heaved a sigh, but even I was getting tired.
“If you hate it next weekend, you don’t have to go. Ok? Honestly. I thought you would enjoy this but if you really don’t enjoy it you have a free pass to stay home. No hard feelings.”
“Really?”
“Of course! There’s no point in forcing yourself to do something that makes you miserable. You wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors. But, I don’t think you’ll hate it. I just think this was a bad hike. How are your feet?”
“Good. Thanks for helping me pick the stickers out.”
“Anytime.”

I don’t know why on earth he puts up with me, but I’m super glad he does. It helps that he has magical skillz when it comes to talking me off ledges. It is one of the reasons I married him. That and he’s really handsome. But I digress.

But wait! There’s more! (For tomorrow…)

(Not) The Garden Center

apricot

Taken Sunday, May 15, at the Garden Center.
(You guys. It’s a baby apricot!)

We love the Garden Center. It’s our favorite place to spend a Sunday afternoon. We love it so much we spent the morning of our fifth wedding anniversary at the Garden Center, then we spent the afternoon planting our treasures and tending our little balcony garden. It was the happiest day of the year.

We try to spend at least an hour together, every Sunday, working in the garden. This often involves a trip to the Garden Center for a bag of soil or something and it’s wonderful because it’s garden + shopping = love, you know? But this Sunday we didn’t get to go to the Garden Center. We didn’t even get to work on the balcony. No, no. Instead we spent four hours stomping around in waist-high grasses carrying twenty-five pound packs on our backs.

It’s not that the backpack was heavy. Because actually, my backpack felt great. The weight is evenly distributed across my hips so that I’m literally lifting with my legs. Last weekend I had burns and pale bruises from the hip straps after only two hours, but this weekend, after four hours, my hips were fine. Plus, I am totally working out butt muscles I didn’t even know I had, which is awesome.

And it’s not that my feet hurt, because my feet felt fantastic. Mike had a couple of hotspots, but he didn’t get any blisters, and I didn’t even have hotspots. My hiking boots are like giant blocks of oddly comfortable wood. They are awkward as anything in day-to-day life but on the trail they are the best thing I have going for me.

I didn’t even mind when we were hiking uphill for fifteen minutes through a field of wildflowers so full of bees the air was vibrating. (I am horribly, awfully, terribly, very, very badly phobic of bees.) But I wasn’t thinking about the bees because I was distracted by the sweat pouring down my face, into my contact lenses, rendering me nearly blind. (I think it was the polyester shirt that made me sweat, because Mike wasn’t sweating at all in the sixty-five degree breezes.)

The part that did it for me was the part where we were hiking through knee-high stickery weeds for thirty minutes, followed by waist-high thorny weeds for another ten, until we came to the over-Mike’s-head stickery thorny bushes. That was when Mike finally stopped and said, “This sucks. We’re turning around.” Up until then he’d been stopping every ten minutes or so to say something like, “Look at that view!” Or “Do you think that’s a rabbit den?” To which I would roll my eyes and grumble, “Hmph.” Or “Whatever,” like a moody teen.

Why did I have to act like that? Because if one more branch of Goldfish-knows-what whacked me in the face I was going to f***ing kill someone. That’s why I acted like that. Not that it’s a good excuse, but still.

I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow…

Quinoa Comes From Bolivia

Quinoa comes from Bolivia.

Wikipedia says:

The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as chisaya mama or ‘mother of all grains’, and it was the Inca emperor who would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using ‘golden implements’. During the European conquest of South America, the Spanish colonists scorned quinoa as ‘food for Indians’, and even actively suppressed its cultivation, due to its status within indigenous non-Christian ceremonies. In fact, the conquistadors forbade quinoa cultivation for a time and the Incas were forced to grow wheat instead.

While Quinoa is a particularly wonderful thing to eat, I don’t just want to eat it, I want to know it. I want to know more about it. Where does it come from? I’ve done lots of Internet searches trying to find out more about this wonderful little seed and the land from which it comes, but other than a few articles, I haven’t found much. Sure I’ve found information, facts, crime stats, but I want to know more.  I want to know what the stars look like from that part of the world.  I want to smell the streets of La Paz. I want to use the public restrooms, buy food from the vendors, cozy up to the locals. (But probably not really because apparently they really like to steal your wallet and they aren’t shy about it either.) I want to spend a day (or 5) trekking the Apolobamba, pooping in holes I’ve dug myself, and using llama dung to fuel the fire that cooks my evening meal. I want to know where quinoa comes from.

This July, Michael, his brother, and I will make the journey from Los Angeles, through Mexico City, past Lima, Peru, to La Paz, Bolivia, where we will learn all about where quinoa really comes from.  We will spend a few days tooling around town before we take a lovely (two day) stroll from Isla del Sol to Lake Titicaca.  (No, I won’t ever be able to say that out loud without chuckling. Titicaca. Titicaca!) After that we’ll take a bus from La Paz to Charazani where we hope to stay in a hotel, take showers, and possibly shave my legs if Mike will let me bring a razor. (I’m only allowed two pairs of panties so I’m guessing a razor is out of the question.) (What? We’re backpacking. Would you want to carry all my extra pairs of panties?) Our goal is to hit Charazani’s winter fiesta (it’s winter there! In July!), but I guess maybe their town has limited Internet because there’s no website or anything, so we don’t know what the exact dates of the festival are. We’ll spend a day or two in Charazani either way, and when we feel nicely acclimated to the 9,600 foot altitude, we’ll hike from Charazani to Pelechuco, which should take four to five days. And it will probably kick our asses.  Apparently, there’s going to be a lot of walking up and down hills. While carrying forty-some-odd-pound backpacks with all of our food, water, and other supplies. And also ziplock bags full of our poopy toilet paper. Because we don’t want to litter.

It’s going to be a Very Big Adventure.

mummybag

Omg, do I really have to sleep in this?