Viaje al otro mundo

Travels of a stranger in a strange land

First, I should say I have been immeasurably humbled by my recent experiences. Being an outsider trying to understand the political landscape is just one small exercise in humility out of an unrelenting barrage of them.

So that 4-day hike on the Inca Trail — I couldn’t do it. I started off proud that I was doing it the ‘real way’, with my full pack and all. I wondered at the orientation the night before if those who were hiring porters were taking hits to their pride (the age range in my group was mid-twenties to mid-thirties). During the first day — as I caught my breath from the neverending yet mild uphill trek — I sought comfort in this ‘real way’ thing. After straining my quad muscles during lunch sitting improperly on the little folding stools they give us, I realized that the discomfort was something worse, and the final 30 minute walk to our campsite was excruciating. A porter took my pack, but things just got worse — my muscles went from burning to cramping, and I was lucky to make it at all.

I hoped that a full night’s rest would fix things, and I opted for a porter for the second day which is widely known as the hardest (five hours up, two hours down). After an hour uphill, I couldn’t tell if my legs were improving or getting worse. After the second hour, in which I pushed myself well beyond my comfort level, and in which I was far behind pace, I realized I needed to give it up. I had to retrace that morning’s work, as well as the entire first day of hiking, and by the time I got to the start of the trail I could barely walk. One porter had to run (with my pack) down the trail to catch another who was helping my fellow drop-out to get back. And it was far. Then he had to make his way back up to reconnect with the group. Watching these guys dance their way up and down those mountains with ease is mind-boggling. There goes that humility thing again.

After a day of pure rest, I was still in bad shape, but I caught the necessary trains and buses to make my way to Machu Picchu to meet up with my group. I got there early, and what an amazing place to be. I tried to balance soaking it up with all my senses with trying to get the best photos… and I’m glad I did because…

Trying to get from Peru to Venezuela quickly, I flew from Cusco to Quito, Ecuador. From there I took a bus to the border town of Tulcán. As I was getting ready to leave there in the morning for Colombia, I realized that my fancy new cell phone and my fancy new digital camera had been stolen. I think it must have been a guy who was on the bus at Quito, who (seemingly) worked for the bus company. He had helped me put the bag in the overhead shelves and had said it was prohibited to have the bag down on the seat with you. After putting the bag up, the driver and I stepped off the bus to put my backpack in the side storage compartment. It’s impossible to know exactly what happened or where, but just like the Inca Trail, I keep replaying in my mind just what I could have done differently to change the situation… For starters, I could have kept my valuable electronics someplace other than the most easily accessible part of my bag… Anyways, I’m happy I went iPod-less and laptop-less to South America.

The range of emotions I’ve been going through on this trip has really spanned the spectrum. But right now I’m just rolling with the punches. It helped that right after the whole incident I met a nice Colombian girl who took me out to lunch in Ipiales!

Looking forward to reaching Venezuela for now…



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  1. * Ray says:

    I know you had to suffer to achieve this, but this is pretty good adventure stuff. Keep up the good work.

    And of course keep rolling with the punches.

    Would like to hear more about the girl who took you to lunch.

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 4 months ago
  2. * zi says:

    eli, that is the most pussy injury story I’ve ever heard! couldn’t you make up a story about a huge-ass snake biting you in the leg as you were chasing monkeys who stole your wallet? injured by sitting on a folding chair?

    Dude, on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being not so extreme and 10 being extremely extreme, I give this a 1.5!

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 4 months ago
  3. * Bill says:

    Yo Eli, you shoulda climbed Mt Monadnock a few times to get ready for this. Or at least the Blue Hills! I thought you were just going to Caracas. But we’re proud of you for struggling.

    We still want pictures. Get one of those throwaway Kodaks. Don’t take any wooden nickels….

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 4 months ago
  4. * raN Backwards says:

    Sorry to hear (read) about the theft. I hate to say this but, you almost have to expect things to be stolen when you are traveling in a third world country. Don’t take it personally – at least your pack is a pound or two lighter now. Good luck with your new friend. Just make sure to keep your wallet within sight and don’t take any romantic walks at night where no one else is around.

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 4 months ago
  5. * nick says:

    yo eli, when you get home kick Zi’s ass! as i remember, he wanted to go home on a hike because he thought his foot was going to fall off from frostbite. and that was only day 1! in a snow storm.. in the middle of no where, with no heat… but still, Zi… shoot.
    take care over there! take some nice photos with your memory.

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 4 months ago
  6. Dear Eli,

    One rule of thumb when you travel is to keep your valuables close to your chest — even your backpack! This rule is also true within the USA, by the way (I’ve had a few experiences to prove the point).

    I recall going through the same trails — without “porters,” mind you — at about the same age you are. I had no problem whatsoever hiking my way up. But, I’d been on the road for months before reaching those foothills… One cannot fly from suburbia to existentialism and not suffer a few muscle aches!

    Hopefully, since you can pay for this personal traveling experience, you will offer a “native” financial support to come and visit the U.S. Believe, s/he wont need any porter.

    Incidentally, I have three or four notebooks — almost a daily journal — that cover my 18-month trip. There were no Internet at that time. Had there been, I don’t think I would have expanded on my navel-centered stories (actually, I know I wouldn’t) of what happend to “me” day in and day out.

    It would be useful, perhaps, if you could start reporting on what you see in the domain of politics on the terrain. If not, your blogging is going to become another annex of the Democratic Party real fast.

    I’d like to read more on the actualities on the ground and less on your fleeting moments. Get to work, if you please.

    Gilles d’Aymery

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 4 months ago
  7. * Kris says:

    Eli, I’ve never met your friend Zi but anyone who can poke fun at you for getting injured on the Inca trail is OK by me. Seriously though, as much as we all joke around at your expense, it’s just jealousy since you are out there seeing the world and we are stuck in front of computers at our desks.

    If there’s one thing I’m not worried about, it’s you becoming an annex of the Democratic Party. Everyone knows deep down you are a true blue Republican sent to the World Social Forum to infiltrate the leftist revolution.

    Oh, and you will be happy to know that in light of your recent success with the Latin ladies, Dave is now the new e-mail whipping boy. You’ll appreciate today’s subject line:
    Dr. Phil told Dave to increase his Guy-Q

    All kidding aside, enjoy your travels and come back to lead a new American revolution! Safe travels Breezy…

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 4 months ago

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