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Published: August 7th 2005
On the 2 hour bus ride to the starting point for our llama trek I finally finished ¨CHE¨, the biography of Che Guevara, and I can say I now see why he is held in such high regard here and elsewhere in the world. He was a violent man, but a dedicated man as well. Maybe a little misguided, but a man who wanted the right things for people. Finishing that book really added to the excitement of trekking off into the Ayacucho Highlands, a place he had been. It gave me the drive I needed.
The hike was not as bad as I expected. I wrapped myself in an ace bandage for my rib, loaded my pack onto the llama, and then began the trek.
We hiked through beautiful mountains, which would have been silent if it weren't for the bells hanging around the llamas necks. We went through a few villages in the beginning, then began to climb into no-man's land.
As we starting climbing in elevation, Poncho (our guide) gave us coca leaves to chew. These are the leaves that are used to make cocaine, but here they have many legal uses, one of these being to prevent
altitude sickness. I bunched them up and put them in my lip almost like chewing tobacco. It really helped. I never once had any problem from the altitude, my rib, or my asthma. However, some of the girls did get altitude sickness. Luckily we brought a couple horses, so the people who couldn't hike anymore could ride.
We reached 14,500 ft. around 1:30 in the afternoon. We perform a semi religious ceremony to the mountain and then began the decent to 13,000ft. where we were to spend the night.
On the way, one of the girls was really hit by the altitude and we had to get her off the horse and sit her down for awhile. Poncho and I stayed with her for a bit while the others went on. It only took her about 20 minutes and we were back on the path. And it was actually kind of nice because it was just the three of us and no bells....so it was pretty peaceful.
That night we spent the night in a schoolhouse in a tiny village (reminded me of your Cabo experience Mom and Danny ;-)). They cooked for us in the same little room we
all slept in.
The next morning we woke to a blizzard. Poncho said it has never snowed on this trip before. So we were the lucky ones. It was actually pretty cool, but put our horseback ride on hold. I ended up hiking around with some local kids, while the others visited a local hut. We also watched (and participated) them sheer an alpaca with a big blade. Pretty crazy.
Around 10:00 it cleared up and we rode the horses to a nearby village. It was cool, but started snowing hard on the way back. It was freezing!!!
Anyway, I'm back in Ayacucho now, and will be off to New York in the morning. I really don't know if I'm ready for the reverse culture-shock. I will be picked up from JFK in a town car, driven to Islandia, where I will put on business attire (that my roommate, Greg, was nice enough to send to New York) and go back to work in a building larger than anything Peru has ever seen.
Thanks again for listening...and for all your comments and support!
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