Peru – Rivers and Mountains

My Dream Adventure

After months of careful research I felt I had packed every possible item I would need to bring to Peru and the Galapagos Islands. We had all our immunizations and special malaria pills. We had altitude medicine for our trek to 13000 ft in the Andes mountains and of course my special hiking shoes that I had dutifully spent a month breaking in. I was very responsible and even bought every organic, biodegradable soap, shampoo, bug spray, sunscreen, and lotion on the market. I was prepared with the latest in light clothes, heavy clothes, day packs, rain gear and swim clothes. I had done my research and I was ready to take on this part of the world.

After leaving the Victoria International Airport via Air Canada I was told I could not take my precious luggage into the cabin with me as it was a bit too large. I reluctantly handed it over to the flight attendant who assured me she would take good care of it. When I arrived in Vancouver without my bag I began to panic. After an hour of searching, I had to get onto my connecting flight or I would miss our tour. I was assured that my bag would be waiting for me in Lima, Peru.

I did my best to relax on the long flight to Lima however my worst fears were realized when the baggage department in Lima had no knowledge of my carefully packed suitcase. We tried all that night to track down my bag and even had family back in Canada try to track it down. The next day when there was still was no sign of my bags I had to make a decision, do I let my frustrations ruin my trip or do I smile and begin my adventure?

I guess I wanted this once-in-a-lifetime experience too much to give up over a petty piece of critical luggage. Still wearing my traveling clothes my husband and I wandered the streets of Lima in search of the bare essentials. Our first stop was a huge garage style shop with dusty clothes piled from floor to ceiling in two huge heaps. All of the clothes were new, defective clothes from factories like Old Navy or American Eagle. There was no order to the piles, just giant heaps of light cotton clothes.

For the first time in our marriage my husband actually enjoyed shopping with me. In fact he was having more fun than I was. He simply had to reach into the pile and grab any style or colour of shirt. If it looked like it might fit me, we would buy it. Each item cost only a dollar, so he did not care if it was out of style five years ago. In this manner we wandered in and out of similar shops trying to replace what I needed. After an exhausting day, we were ready the next morning to join our group of fourteen on the first part of our tour to the Amazon Jungle.

As we floated down the muddy waters of the Amazon river for hours on end in a dug-out canoe I knew we were entering a new world. This world cared neither about my organic biodegradable lotions nor about my new out of style clothing. It was evening when we finally reached the soft muddy shore and all thoughts of lost luggage had long since slipped away.

Although we saw no life on our short hike to our jungle lodge we heard a music I will never forget. The music of insects chirping, animals calling and birds, bats and fireflies flying in the night. I lay awake for hours listening to this music half out of delight and half out of fear. Our beautiful lodge was more like a glorified hut. It had a roof to cover us during those terrential monsoon like showers but only three walls. My bed was facing the open jungle with all its sounds, dangers and mysteries.

Two days later I did not want to leave the jungle but the seven of us that were going to hike the Machu Pichu trail were excited to get started. We again checked for my luggage but there was no sign of it anywhere. After a flight to Cuzco our guide took us in the evening to the Black Market. This turned out to be an underground market where one can buy anything. All the big US name brand items were sold there. Where they came from or whether or not they were even authentic items were things I never considered until later.

I bought a great pair of Adidas hiking shoes very cheap. I managed to grab a bright green track suit that had to double as my light clothes, heavy clothes, sleep clothes and even rain gear. There was only time to find one or two more things and we were off. I definitely had no trouble staying under my maximum weight allowance for baggage on the trail.

Every step of the Inca trail on the first day was wonderful. My husband had generously given me his altitude medicine as he did not think he would be affected. Other than the odd tingling feeling caused by the medicine I was feeling great. After hiking all day we fell down exhausted into the food tent our porters had set up for us. I had made it a rule not to eat anything raw and I became an instant vegetarian. I only drank boiled or bottled liquids and I enjoyed the boiled lupine seeds and quinoa.

The night soon became cold and I was grateful for the fatigue which set in allowing me to sleep soundly on the hard ground. As hours turned into days we enjoyed sweeping vistas, ancient ruins from lost civilizations and even witnessed daily life of the Incas who still roam those high mountain trails.

I had been intrigued about the bathroom situation on the trail for months and no matter how much I researched, I never seemed to get answers to my questions. I soon learned what no one wanted to talk about. Needless to say I was grateful for the altitude medicine and my new veggie diet that kept me from getting the dreaded condition that seemed to affect most on the trail. Most people became grateful to pull over into a bush without any warning to take care of business.

Each day on the trail brought us higher into the mountains and deeper into an ancient world created and hidden by the Incas centuries ago. I felt sacredness within the crumbling walls of their homes and temples. Machu Picchu is a journey not a destination. With or without my luggage I would do it again in a heart beat.

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