Archive for the 'Backpacking in South America' Category

A special moment in South America

Yesterday I invented a word that I sure was proud of at the time;

Alcotude: verb; -defined as the none to graceful art of drinking alcohol at altitude, its effects similar to being a 16 year old with an empty stomach drinking pre-mixes in a spa.
In other words -dangerous, and 87% more likely to end in tears.

Which is why today the inside of my head is trying to renovate itself by building a new deck out through my temples.

What’s even more odd is that I’m making that discovery while opening the throttle on a 250cc XR dirt bike -on the wrong side of the street -on the back roads (or they could be the main roads for all I currently know) of Cusco – very high in the Andes of Peru, South America.

At this exact point in time I have only 2 priorities in my life…
1: Do not get killed by any of the cars, sheep, chickens, children or trucks hurtling past at speeds whipping them into a blur…..although the blurred effect is possibly from the hangover.
2: Do not for the life of you lose the maniac non english speaking guide disappearing ahead of you at an even faster pace. Because being lost in these parts would significantly increase ones chances of failing priority 1.

These two thoughts being about all I could handle at this moment in time, however if a third had presented itself, it would surely have been – ‘Clarke, how the (insert own creative word here) did you end up in this situation sunshine?’

Good question. Lets rewind a little……and I could think of no better place to start than 28hours prior, where I was being woken in my tent at 4am on the last day of our 4 day trek to the lost Incan city of Machu Picchu, which also signified the start of the 24 hour challenge – but I’ll explain that later.Peru campfire

Waking we all hurriedly packed our tents and other heavy camping equipment before guiltily handing these over to the ever diligent man-forklift sherpas, whilst securing our pathetic day packs to our backs and convincing each other that we were still real trampers.
And then with torch on head we were off down the ancient Incan steps carved from stone twisting into the darkness before us.

Now the reason for being so early was so we could time our arrival perfectly with that of the new days sun, aiming to converge with it at an incredible spot called Intipunku – or ‘Gateway of the sun’.
Comprising of several large stone pillars, Intipunku is carved at the highest point of the ridge that was now the only thing standing between us and the lost city somewhere in the mist below.
And it was at this point that something happened that will stick with me for the rest of my life, an experience of which I’ll struggle to find its equal.

Now oddly no one knows the actual name of this lost city. The name ‘Machu Picchu’ being given to it in more recent times and translating roughly as ‘like a sort of an old mountain’
And having remained hidden from even the invading Spanish, it was a fella by the name of Hiram Bingham who in 1911 stumbled accidentally upon the overgrown ruins and presented it to the modern world.
And now here all these hundreds of years later was this rural guy from New Zealand, suddenly getting in touch with emotions he thought had bolted from the stable years prior – wandering towards it with tears running down his face.
Yes that right, tears – big wet salty man ones.

Now I can’t fully explain how this happened, -it may have been exhaustion from the 4 days trek, it might have been the way the mist lifted off as the sun warmed the ancient stone from which it was carved. Or it could have been the worlds best playlist which I had painstakingly created on my ipod for this moment and was now filling my head while blocking out all external sound.
I don’t really know how – it just sort of happened, and it was freaky.

To borrow the well worn – no amount of gazing at pictures moving or stationery, glossy or matte, no written description or spoken word could ever prepare you for what it was actually like to stand there.
Here I was in my own real life National Geographic article. I was mesmerized by features like the human sacrificial altar, the ancient sundial and the intricately carved Incan stone walls that I ran my fingers along as I walked about the place.

And yes while it soon filled up with tourists arriving by the train load it still held me transfixed as I took it all in.

A special moment in a special place, I will take my kids there one day.

And if any of my yet unborn children find this article somewhere in the future and I haven’t – kids print this out and come kick dads ass until he takes you, hopefully he won’t have forgotten the spell it cast over him.

And also hopefully he’s not an alcoholic – although the next few hours might explain where that also began.

The 24 challenge.
As alluded to earlier the other challenge presented that day was that of staying up and partying through until 4am the next morning – hence the ‘24 hours’ -a camp tradition so I was told.

And it was during this on the bus on our way back to the city of Cusco fuelled on the local drink of choice ‘pisco sour’ – or ‘pisco mcnasty’ as captain vernacular here had so ‘cleverly’ renamed it, that I invented the word ‘alcotude’ and then set about suffering its effects in one foul(sic) swoop.

So for the record yes I made it, in fact I think in perhaps some weird subconscious way of making up for my girly tears earlier, I foolishly continued well past it, on until 6am…..it gets worse. You see somehow in all of this (I’m choosing to blame the ‘alcotude’) I stupidly, stupidly forgot that I had signed up and paid for a motorbike adventure into back country Peru starting at 8am.

How I woke for that 2 hours later, let alone survived the SEVEN HOUR ride is as big a mystery as the man tears, especially as at one point I was even stopped by the local police – but I’ll save all that for tomorrows post because right now I have a body that needs at least 6 litres of water and a lie down.

Here’s some snippets from that adventure~

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