A Travellerspoint blog

Ever Tried Fermented Spit?

all seasons in one day 65 °F
View The Big Trip on tommydavis's travel map.

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The setting was picture perfect: After hiking a 2 km altitude drop trail down a dry and dusty Colca Cañon, I crossed a bridge and suddenly found my senses overwhelmed. Small green fields and trees replaced rock and cactus, while the trickle of path-side irrigation canals and occasional sheep call displaced the crunching of hiking boots on loose rock. The distinct and memory-evoking smell of figs brought a welcome change from the olfactory void of the desert (if you discount the occasional smell of donkey shit.) Maybe it was pure relativism that made this place seem so special, but for a moment, I was sure that San Juan de Chuccho was the Garden of Edin.

In the middle of this small piece of paradise I stumbled upon a group of about ten locals who invited me over; middle aged to very old men and women in traditional garb, with few remaining teeth, sitting in a circle apparently drinking some midday moonshine. I felt like I was transported back to the Sapa, Vietnam motorbike journey, only this time the town was only accessible by mule and I was able to join in the banter. They were impressed that I could speak Spanish and were quick on the draw with a shot glass for me to try their own brand of ¨pisco¨ whiskey. Of course I am never one to refuse such an offer and drank down two shots amidst riotous laughter. They soon told me that their ¨special¨ pisco was made by fermenting the spit of old women chewing on some plant. Sure enough, the two old women across from me were chewing away on something with their spittoons close at hand. Oh well, it tasted decent and was probably strong enough to be sterile so I didn´t let it bother me.

Beside the three day Colca Cañon trek, there was some class 3-5 whitewater rafting in the Amazon headwaters on a boat full of Israelis where the common language was Hebrew (even the Peruvian guide seemed to speak a bit which was rather bizarre.)

After a long bus day, I arrived at Copacabana, Bolivia on the famous Lake Titicaca, which kind of looks like a dry and uglier version of Lake Tahoe, but the trucha isn´t bad.

That´s all for now. In the next couple of weeks expect death-defying mountain bike rides, creepy jungle creatures and a bit of playing with dynamite.


Don´t ask me what´s going on here

Another classic look on my face

Arequipa alleyway

View of Mt. Misti from Arequipa

Growing a beard specifically to piss Erin off

Confused looking sheep

Petting a big pig

Paradise found at the bottom of Cañon de Colca

Organ pipe rock formations

I think these irrigation channel shots are my specialty

Church in tiny Tapay

All decked out in my finest hiking outfit

The many landscape of Cañon de Colca

Cabanaconde countryside

After the rain in Cabanaconde

These mountains didn´t have snow the first day of the trek

Andean Condor flying high above the canyon floor

View from the touristy ¨Cruz del Condor¨

These hot springs used to be five degrees hotter

An indigenous man runs to greet me at the public toilet

Looking out at the great Lake Titicaca

You gotta love this Bolivian war monument

Posted by tommydavis 12:46 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Muling it to Machu Picchu

all seasons in one day
View The Big Trip on tommydavis's travel map.

To view full size photos and captions click here:

Cuzco is a charming, if not annoyingly touristy, place to spend a few days setting up a trip to Machu Picchu. The problem is that the trips tend to be expensive, and from an overwhelmingly large number of questionable operators. After a very frustrating day of sales pitches, Shaun and I decided to go the ¨hardcore route¨ and rent some camping gear and walk the ¨Salkantay trek¨ without a guide.

There is a reason the organized treks take horses along: carrying a 40 lb backpack over the Andes for five days tends to wear you out. But we self-proclaimed ¨American bad-asses¨ trucked along through freezing passes, wet cloud forests, and hot, mind-numbing railroad tracks for about 80 km to Machu Picchu. Yes, it was a sore and sweaty hike, but now finished, I am probably in the best shape since playing basketball for Coach Dustin in high school.

Coincidentally (or was it?) Ross was on an organized tour on the very same trek, and we tended to walk and camp with their group for company and hopefully a few table scraps to supplement our mostly ramen diet. Their guide was impressed by our bad-assedness and helped us out a bit with info on paths and campsites for the last couple of days. Toward the end of the trek, they just started inviting us to eat with them (which we were usually too proud to accept.) At first I think the high-dollar trekkers were a bit pissed off at us leveraging their guides for free, but in the end, we won the appreciation of the all-girl group with our rum-carrying, instant noddle-cooking shticks.

With Ross and Shaun, the morning climb to Machu Picchu was done in true bad-ass form, making the 1.5-2 hour trip in less than an hour. The high-altitude, high-intensity training gave us the kick we needed to be the very first ones into Machu Picchu that day. Literally, we for a short while, we had the park to ourselves. Mother Nature rewarded our hard work with outstanding weather and clear skies. If you think Machu Picchu is an over-hyped attraction, you are sorely mistaken. It was probably the most impressive ruins I have ever seen, and there is a lot of competition for that spot. We left at about noon when the package tourists with name tags showed up on the day trips from Cuzco.


Cuzco at night

Many games of ¨baby or stuff¨ at the Pisac market

Mountaintop ruins above Pisac

Not quite level water channel shot

Ruins and mountains

Am I back in Vietnam?

Sunset at Plaza de Armas in Cuzco

View of Salkantay Mountain on day one

Campground Scenery

Team America kicking day two´s ass

Postcard shot of Mt. Huayanay

Crystal clear lake

Descending at last

According to Ross, this looks a bit like Scotland

Ross brings Shaun and I some table scraps from his group

Eating ramen under a rock to avoid the drizzly rain

Ross wrestling Raul, one of the horse tenders

Horses in the cloud forest

Drying all kinds of crap from my bag

Barely visible river on day three

How many engineers does it take to get to Machu Picchu? (electrical, aero/mechanical, electrical)

Still hiking after three days

Nearing Machu Picchu

A view of the hidroelectrico means we are close

First picture taken of Machu Picchu that day (6am)

We´re there man

Some obscure Inca ruins called Machu Picchu

You see a face in the mountain?

That´s me on the top right terrace

Sitting on a cliff ledge, looking at the Inca Bridge

Nice shadows

Tina, come get some dinner! (I think I used the same caption in New Zealand)

Another Machu Picchu view

Lonely tree

On top of the Incan world

Proof that I climbed to the top

One more of Machu Picchu

Shaun eating a cuy in Aguas Calientes

Posted by tommydavis 12:38 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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