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Monday, 29 October 2012

Awooooo-sangate!

Five days trekking around Cusco's most sacred mountain...
Pure heaven!  Need I say more?

I think this video will do more than I ever could to tell the story of my new favourite place in Peru.

Ausangate Trek, October 2012

Thanks to our friend Alex Estrada for his brilliant photography, cinematography, and non stop high altitude comedy act.  His one man show began each day at 5 am and ran through til tent time every night.  His numerous talents include (but are not limited to) climbing every boulder in his path, screeching Peruvian slang curse words at the top of his lungs, filling the world with his boundless energetic presence and teaching mountain yoga classes, which to my delight, ended with the sacrilegious shouted prayer,
'Namaste....bitches!'

Alex in action - walking a very thin line, as usual!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

My mom told me not to fall in love in Peru...

...but of course, a daughter never does as a mother says, does she?

I went one better and have fallen in love with not one, but TWELVE people in Peru (thus far!)  And Mom, it's okay, they aren't Peruvians! (I know you fear I may move far away and stay in Cusco forever.  For the love of the city I still may, but for now at least, my heart still lives in Canada.)

My Backroads trekking trip in Peru this fall introduced me to a group of special strangers.  As they supported one another on one of the area's toughest high-altitude treks, they made a pilgrimmage towards Machu Picchu.  It only took days for them to become amigos, dancing together on tables, laughing late into the night and rising for magical mountain sunrises.  Their special Journey reminds me of a song that we sang all week that goes on and on and on and on....And I LOVED the way that even on the hardest of days, our team didn't stop believin'!

So Mom, since I know you're worried, allow me to introduce you to the dozen who have filled my heart so far:

There's Debbie - an intrepid traveller, spin teacher and Silicon Valley powerhouse who took Peru (and our collective hearts) by storm.  We have all decided that we want to adopt her into our lives.  Here she is on the right with Marlena, rewriting (and belting out!) an old favourite song:


Which brings me of course to Marlena, a gorgeous jazz singer (and lyricist, as above!) and her Esteban (or Steve) who kept us healthy at high altitudes and well-hydrated with the best wines South America has to offer. (Perhaps my favourite high altitude tidbit from Steve is that as people age and their brains 'rot', they are less susceptible to cerebral edema because there is more room in their skulls for their shrunken brains to expand.  Mom and Dad, you're perfectly suited to a high altitude adventure!  Now aren't I a nice girl to have learned that for you?):



Don and Shelly led the charge to the hot tub every night.  They were ever ready with their camera for all the perfect shots and look so perfect together that its impossible not to photograph them too!  Clearly still so in love after raising their two beautiful daughters, it would be impossible not to love this couple.  And wow, you should see that Senor Don ride a horse!  Here they are, smiling as always, featured in front of Mount Salkantay:


Tammy and Scott (or, esScott, as we say in Peru) really got us off on the right foot with their excellent combined lyrical and dancing abilities.  Their endless energy has me working hard to recruit them away from their stable jobs into The Leader Lifestyle as Backroads' next staff dream team:



Sabine and Steffi stole everybody's hearts with their beautiful and supportive relationship.  Aunt and niece, though more like soul sisters, they made their way over Salkantay pass through hell and high altitude to the enigmatic Machu Picchu:




And as we were all falling in love as a group, a certain couple were falling even more deeply in love with one another.  They chose to commit to a life together during this pilgrimmage!  All our very best to Severin and Silvana as they dance forth into a life together that is at once as adventuresome, as supportive and as magical as their shared journey to Machu Picchu:





Finally, with her signature pink lipstick on display here in Machu Picchu Mountain's registration book, Conni danced from Long Island and New York City all the way to Machu Picchu and into the hearts of every Peruvian and traveller who chanced upon her:








 
Dancing every step of the way!


I can't forget to mention our trusted horse guide or 'Arriero' named Teofilo, whom we playfully nicknamed 'Senor T'  (Pity da foo' who doesn't get to work with Senor T!).  Like some 'Where's Waldo' character, Senor T seemed to show up unexpectedly at every turn:


Our journey would never have been the same without the expert guidance of the indomitable Javier Bello:



Or Whilder's incredible support on ALL fronts from dawn until well past dusk:




I've learned so much from my new friends.  I will never forget our magical journey together over the Salkantay pass en route to Machu Picchu.  Nor will I forget the lesson we learned on one of our first days together.  When it rains, link arms to make a rainbow!


Post Script
Mom:  I had numerous misadventures on this trip, most notably the bottle of champagne that shattered in my backpack, tearing holes in my clothes in all the most inopportune places.  (Though I am still striving hard to maintain my dignity in this somewhat reserved area of the country)  This incident occured when our horse spooked and galloped down the Salkantay Pass, throwing its load as it went.  (In all likelihood, the poor horse spooked at the sight of a shock of flaming red curls in its normally brown and grey environment.  But I prefer to stick with Javier's explanation - that a backpack - mine of course - fell off the horse and scared the poor creature into a full tilt gallop.)  But breathe a sigh of relief Mom, because none of the near daily misadventures yet include my meeting a man who shall steal me even further away from you.  Remain ever vigilant, but for now I am happy to report that I am yours, as always,
Heather

Monday, 1 October 2012

Preppin' for Peru

And now a little bit about what it took to get here...

1.  Four travel immunization shots, two in each arm (mostly unecessary, me being paranoid)



2. A grocery store trip to purchase $650 worth of granola bars, chocolate and individually packaged wet wipes and hand sanitizer.  The scope of this expenditure required approval by the grocery store manager.


3. A trip home to Ontario from Calgary, clearing ALL of my belongings from the house I'd been living in.  Obviously I couldn't leave a single item behind, not even a cucumber.  I could barely haul everything onto the plane.  I could just SEE people in the departure lounge thinking, 'Wow, that girl has a LOT of baggage'.  Well...while that may be true, how rude to think that of me without getting to know me first!   Besides, a girl travelling on her own SHOULD carry a cucumber.


Oh, and 4. A delicious aiplane meal to send me off.  Word to the wise: NEVER profess your preferences as 'vegan' on an international flight...(and WHAT kind of an excuse for water is that???  It sure made me appreciate the incredible access we enjoy to quality tap water in Calgary...)