I need to go here. ASAP.
I need to go here. ASAP.
My favorite scene from my trip so far (I know it looks fake, but the lighting was perfect and this was taken with my little Olympus snap shot camera!):
I made it to England early yesterday morning and I think I am finally over the jetlag! I had NO idea how hard that was going to hit me! I could barely keep my eyes open all day yesterday and even after sleeping 11 hours last night, it was still hard to get up this morning. I took a half hour power nap this afternoon and then went for a run in the cold rain, so I think I have it worked out.
We are currently staying at a family friend’s house in the town of Rustington, which is right on the beach. It was actually sunny and beautiful here yesterday (though a little cold for swimming) but we walked down to the beach just to check it out before having my first try at fish and chips. I absolutely loved that meal! Not sure I would eat it very often because it was GREASY and really heavy, but I am definitely going to have it again before I leave!
Also, as another first, a wonderful and generous neighbor brought over a feast of roast lamb for us for dinner. It was so good! She has stuffed the lamb with garlic and rosemary and then made a gravy with the same stuff. There were roast potatoes, honey glazed parsnips, and some other great veggies to go along with it. I’m not kidding…it was like Thanksgiving dinner…but with lamb.
So here are a few shots of my surroundings, just in case you are curious!
This is the house we are staying in for awhile. Shot from the front.
The back of the house
The pub across the street
The beach on the English Channel
(The title of this post was completely ripped off from the title to my friend’s (Eddie Kirkland) song. So thanks, Eddie even though I didn’t get permission from you to use it!)
Last week I had an awesome trip to Southern California! I have two sets of friends who’ve had babies in the past year or so and I wanted to meet them! I spent the first few days in Riverside visiting Aaron and Sarah, who recently welcomed Talia into their family. I have known these guys since my Costa Rica days and since before they were dating, so they are definitely special friends! It was amazing to get to meet Talia who is so precious! Sarah also gave me some great photography tips (she taught me how to use the manual settings on my camera). I love hanging out with these guys! Sarah is also the best photographer I know, so check out her website here and her blog here.
The last few days I spent in San Diego visiting the incredible Leeman family! I worked with Lisa at NPCC for a long time and we became friends through that. Then she met and married Troy who lived in San Diego. He stole Lisa and sweet Arden away from Atlanta, but I am so happy for them, and was so excited to meet their little Ryker! It was a blast!
I was also able to spend about 24 hours by myself in Newport Beach and Balboa Island. That is definitely my favorite part of California, so it was nice to walk around, take pictures, look into shops, and talk to random people along the way. I loved it!
Here are some of my favorite shots from my trip using my new camera skills taught by Sarah!
In June of 2009 it was the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Coming Summer of 2011…
I have never been so sad to leave a place as I was when flying out of Cusco.
Out of the plane windows I could see the snow-capped Andes mountains and the feeling of being in them and all that it required of me physically, mentally, and emotionally began to sink in.
I wanted to go on this trip to see Machu Picchu. It was on my list of things to do while I am alive and I wanted to check it off. Machu Picchu was absolutely amazing, but the Inca Trail was life-changing. It required all that I had to give. I can honestly say that it was the most difficult thing that I have ever done, but the pay-off was huge.
Every step of the way we were surrounded by the majesty of the Andes mountains. No matter how difficult the trek, there was a constant reminder of the beauty of all that God created. It took my breath away several times a day.
The physical challenge of it is almost indescribable. Almost the entire trail is made up of rocks. You cover a distance of about 27 miles and reach an altitude of 13,800 ft in 4 days. You sleep outside at very cold temperatures, but during the day you are so close to the sun that you feel it burning your skin. You have altitude sickness in some form. Your muscles ache after about day 2, but you have to push through. On day 2 you go up hill for 5 hours. It never lets up. Because you are on rocks the whole time, there is no give in your steps and you turn your ankles several times a day. Every morning you wake up on the ground knowing that you are going to be hiking for around 10-12 hours. It is indescribably difficult. But it is the only way, in my opinion, to see Machu Picchu. To take the train up would be a disservice to yourself.
Then there are the relationships built along the way. Chris and I were with a team of 15 people (including us) from different parts of the world. They were complete strangers to us when we got on the bus on Wednesday morning and as close as family when we got off the bus on Saturday. Part of my sadness in leaving Cusco was knowing that I was leaving them behind.
The Inca Trail required everything from me. From day 1 I had to abandon everything. The clothes I normally wear, the food I eat, the water I drink, the people I am around, the way I go to the bathroom, the air I am used to breathing, the physical exertion I thought I wasn’t capable of, the way that I sleep, the time that I wake up…
The Inca Trail required everything, and because of that, part of me will always be in the Andes mountains. Part of me will always be with each of my team members.
Machu Picchu was incredible, but I am forever changed by the Inca Trail.
We woke up at 3:45 this morning to get ready for our final trek to Machu Picchu. Our camp was at a much lower elevation than the other two camps so it was actually a pretty warm night and I got a decent amount of sleep (3-4 hours instead of my normal 2). We ate breakfast at 4:20 and hit the trail at 4:45, so I never actually saw this campsite in daylight.
We left so early (with head lamps on) because there were about 20 other groups out there that would be heading to the Sun Gate at the same time. We wanted to be one of the first group in line at the check point so that we could be the first on the trail when it opened at 5:30. I still am not sure why we wanted to do that, but it seemed really exciting at the time!
After making it through the check point at 5:30 we started on the trail toward the Sun Gate. The majority of the group took off at turbo speed, as usual, and Erin and I stuck together again. This portion of the trail is what they call an “Inca flat.” Not exactly flay, but definitely Inca! It was a good variety of all types of terrain and most of it was walking on stones as usual.
By this point on the trip everyone was very sore. Every part of my legs hurt, specifically my quads from the hills and my ankles from the rocks. Because of that, Erin and I took our time and enjoyed hiking at sunrise in the lush, green Andes.
We were making our way along pretty well when we came to a long set of stairs heading up. We pushed our way up and turned a corner, thinking that it was the top, and we just started laughing! We had come to what they call the “monkey stairs.” It was basically a vertical wall with tiny stairs on it that we crawled up like monkeys! It was so scary! But, we make it to the top and eventually to the Sun Gate.
The Sun Gate is where you get the very first view of Machu Picchu and it was so amazing from up there! While we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, we took tons of pictures and watched the sun slowly rise and hit the sacred Incan city. Once the rest of the group arrived we took some group pictures and started the 45 minute downhill trek to our main destination. Erin and I were together again and we took tons of pictures along the way.
Machu Picchu is truly an amazing thing to behold, and the fact that we had pushed our bodies to the limit to get there made it that much sweeter. Once we were there, our guide gave us a tour of the ruins and then we had some time to explore on our own.
The group then took a bus down to a town called Aguas Calientes where we met for lunch and said good-bye to our guides. Our train out of there wasn’t until 6, so we had four hours to kill. We ended up sitting together at the restaurant most of the time and just laughing and talking about the trek. It was a blast!
We were truly blessed to spend four days trekking with 13 amazing other people. I truly believe that God put us all together for a reason and saying good-bye was so hard! We are bonded for life! After saying good-bye in the Cusco plaza, Chris and I walked back to our hotel where I showered for the first time in four days. It was bliss! Now for sleep in a bed…
Today was my favorite so far!
I woke up this morning a little bit emotional after such a tough day the day before. I honestly almost started crying thinking about today’s hike. I know it started uphill for two hours and that was a completely overwhelming thought.
We got up at five and were on the trail by six. It actually wasn’t as difficult as I had built it up in my mind to be and we got to stop at some ruins halfway up. After the ruins I huffed my way up to the third pass and was completely blown away by the view. I was excited to be at the top because that meant some time going down hill.
After a short break we hit the steps to go down. We found some more ruins along the way and spent some time exploring there. After that we made a short trek (20 minutes) to our lunch site. Chris walked with me on that part and we had a fun time catching up.
Then came the best part of the day. I left a little earlier from lunch than the rest of the group to get a head start since I know we were starting up hill. The group (minus a couple of people) passed me of course, but I totally expected that. The next two hours were filled with ups and downs, tunnels, amazing view of snow covered Andes, and some fun new trail friends. I am not sure if I finally found my trail legs or what, but I was walking at a pretty fast pace for me and I ended up at the summit just 20 minutes after the first part of our group.
It was such a huge accomplishment when I walked over to my group and they were shocked to see me! I don’t think anyone thought I could handle it after my incident the day before. We stayed up there enjoying the view for about 40 minutes while we waited for the others to catch up. When they weren’t there at that point, we decided to more on because we know we had another two and a half hours to go to make camp.
The rest of the day was down hill and included some extremely steep steps. Crazy Incans! I ended up walking with Erin because we were moving at the same pace. We had a blast getting to know each other and sharing our thoughts on the trail and our group. I am so glad that we were in the same group and was(am) really blessed by her friendship. We were so glad that we ended up walking that entire portion together because the last 10 minutes of it were in the dark, which would have been pretty creepy by ourselves! By the time we got to camp we agreed that the Incans had to be absolutely insane to build steps like that.
One of the highlights of the day was when our group started out going down the steps and we came to a section that looked like a really steep, rippled rock. When one of the girls in our group saw it she yelled, “What’s that supposed to be? A slip and slide?!” It was hilarious!
Today went a little differently than expected.
The day started out completely up hill. When I say uphill, I’m not talking about a little incline. It was very steep and loaded with steps. We walked up hill for an hour to start off the morning. I spent that hour pretty much trekking alone as most of our group is significantly faster than me. We then took about a 10 minute break and started a two hour trek up the first major steps on the trail. It was so difficult. I ended up with the two girls that had been a little bit slower than me up until that point. It was fun to talk with them and they helped me make my way to the lunch point. It took us about 2 hours and 20 minutes and then we had a 20 minute lunch. That was a little frustrating for me because the fast group had been there resting for more than an hour so they were ready to go when we got there. It’s hard when most of the group has been resting for that long and you are dying for a rest.
After lunch we headed out for another 2 hour trek completely up hill. I did OK for the first hour and then all of a sudden I took a turn for the worst. I felt like a completely different person. All of my energy was goon and I could barely lift my legs. I pressed on for another hour but I would eventually take two steps and then have to stop. I was making barely any progress. Chris could see me from the summit (I was about 200-300 meters from the top) and could tell that something was wrong. He started making his way down at about the same time our rear guide showed up. They decided that I had some pretty bad altitude sickness. The rear guide assured me that this happens with lots of people in every group, which didn’t make me feel better at all at the time, but at least he tried! He gave me some gatorade and then smeared this solution on different parts of my face. I also had to sniff some of it with deep breaths. They said it was all natural stuff that they had made and it was supposed to help with altitude sickness. Chris took my back for me and I slowly made my way up the short, but steep, remaining distance to the summit of Dead Woman’s Pass. (Special thanks to Jane and Pauline for sticking with me and helping me during that rough hour!)
Once I was at the top I sat for a bit, had some more gatorade and a Cliff bar, and started feeling much better. I started feeling completely better after about 20 minutes so Chris and I started the two hour trek down steps. We made it back to camp and are now waiting on dinner!
I have a lot of mixed emotions about today. I am proud of myself for finishing the most difficult day of the trek, but I am also extremely disappointed in myself and frustrated. Chris told me that I shouldn’t feel that way at all because I finished the same way everyone else did and I didn’t give up. I understand what he is saying and it made me feel a little better, but it’s still hard not to feel disappointed. I am hoping for a much better day tomorrow. It will be our longest distance, but it will be a better mix of up and down, so no more 5 hours of going up steps!
There is one word to describe the Inca Trail so far: breathtaking!
I mean that in two different ways. The views are absolutely breathtaking. Around every corner, over every incline, there is another view of a beautiful snow-capped peak of the Andes mountains. It is also breathtaking in its level of difficulty. The altitude up here is incredible and on every incline my lungs and leg muscles burn.
Luckily they made it very clear to us that it’s not a race and that it’s important to take it at our own pace. I have definitely done that, which means I have been near the back of the group most of the time, but that’s ok.
Today is supposed to be the “easy” day, but included several steep inclines and some rough terrain. To be honest, the trail started on a fairly steep hill and I was wondering if maybe I had made a mistake in coming. I have tried to keep hydrated though and it seemed to get better. When I got to each straight away or down hill portion I felt extremely accomplished.
Chris is doing really well and moving at a very fast pace. He stays at the front of the group most of the time, but falls back to walk with me on some of the straight aways. It seems to work out pretty well.
We are hiking with a group of 15 trekkers, 2 guides, 2 cooks, and 22 porters. The porters carry everything except our day packs and walk way ahead of the group. They set up the campsites and everything is all set when we get there. They are completely amazing!
Right now we are at the first camp and waiting for dinner to be served. Each meal is hot which is the best!
As I sit on this mountain top looking into a valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains, I am a little nervous about tomorrow. The first 5 hours we will be going up hill and changing altitude by about 4000 feet to our highest point, Dead Woman’s Pass (13,800 feet). It’s going to be a huge challenge for me, but when it’s over it’s going to feel so good!