May 15:  Cuzco to Ollantaytambo

I couldn't sleep despite another PM pill.  My heart was racing (not sure if due to adrenaline or altitude), and there was noise outside and inside the hotel.  I know I dozed off briefly because I had a dream about a giraffe chasing Odessa.

Got up officiallly at 6:30am and we left the hotel at 7:40am.  We had to leave most of our stuff locked up at the hotel because we were limited in what we could take on the Inca Trail--just a backpack and a duffel bag (6 kg limit including sleeping bag) for the porters to carry.  My poor iPad!  My connection to the world.  See you in 4 days.

We had to turn around and go back to the hotel because Dimas forgot our tickets to the Sacred Valley.  Set us back 45 minutes.

We stopped at a local Planeterra community (Ccaccaccollo) where local women weave and dye textiles and we're supposed to buy them.

This guy was far more interesting than the textiles.

The narcissist is a llama.  Some of the others were alpacas I think.  Seems like Lloyd would be a good name for a llama.  Or Dolly.


When we arrived all the women were lined up behind those baskets.  In this photo they're not!

The women kept trying to sell me stuff I couldn't possibly use.  One had me posing with sweaters in a mirror, despite my informing her that where I live I will never ever need a sweater.  I did buy two little llama dolls, which might be Christmas tree ornaments because each has a string on top.  They're made out of llama fur.  Creepy, eh?  That's like a baby doll made out of human skin.

We continued on to the Sacred Valley, above.

Further down we stopped at the Pisac ruins, above.

More Pisac terracing.

Then we stopped at more ruins, and I forget what these were called.

Tombs in the hillside.



Ruins.  I'm already burned out on ruins.

Ruins.  I was out of breath just climbing up the hill here.  That's not a good sign for the Inca Trail.

I mentioned to somebody that the Original Seven and the Other Nine weren't mingling much, and there was agreement.  Maybe I can bridge the two groups like I did with the young and old factions in Nepal.

On the bus, the driver played a limited selection of songs:  Like a Prayer, Dancing in the Dark, Hung Up/Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), The Locomotion (Kylie version), Somebody's Watching Me, and oddly enough Rasputin, a song I'd heard only once before, on the Contiki bus in Russia.  Kelly says they play it at weddings a lot.  So now I've heard it 3 times, because every song I've listed here came on twice.  I said the selection was limited.

I saw a sign featuring Tupac Amaru.  I think at this point if you're naming your kid Tupac, you're naming him after Shakur and not Amaru.  Kobe should have a kid named Tupac just to confuse everything more.  I wonder if they bring Amaru back to life via hologram for festivals.  People got freaked out at Coachella, but I still say Michael Jackson dancing with the bones of the Elephant Man was scarier than Tupac's ghost.

We had lunch at Inkalicious, the cleverest business name since Machupicture.  Odd elevator/piccolo music here:  Fernando, We Are the World, Unchained Melody, Hotel California, When a Child Is Born (I have bad memories of singing this in church, at those alternative musical children's Masses, where Sister Eleanor played guitar...and what was her deal anyway...she didn't teach at IHM...she just lived in the convent and played guitar), and Chiquitita (good ID on that one, Beattie).  Lunch was buffet-style, and 80% of what I had was fried rice.  I was craving it.

We arrived in Ollantaytambo and explored the ruins.

Ruins.  I was really hoping we didn't have to walk all the way up there.  It's higher than it looks here.

So we did have to.

That thing across the way on the mountain was a storage facility for corn or potatoes or something.  Despite repeated explanations I forget why it was done this way.

I was exhausted from walking up here, and then Dimas said we were going to the "upper temple".  NO!  But it was just a short ramp up there.  There were several loud explosions across the other valley (there was a quarry) but I was nonplussed.  I'm used to explosions at work when Jimmy Kimmel is shooting some stunt in the afternoon.

Still trying to match the names of the Other Nine with their faces.  There was Roxanne who I mentioned, Becky and Emily from Toronto, two Canadian guys, Matt and Rob from Australia, and Sophie and Rosie from the UK.  Roxanne and the 4 Canadians were the Lares group so we wouldn't be bonding as well.  Kind of a fractured tour group.  Matt kept confusing me...out of the corner of my eye I'd see a hot blonde hippie girl who I thought was part of our group, but then I'd see his 'tache.  It was like Beavis and Butt-head checking out that beautiful dude at the gym.  (Can't find this on YouTube!)

A topic of discussion was the raisin stuck to Becky's ass, and how to broach this with her.  Eventually Emily saw it and just brushed it off.  If you were wondering...yes, it was there ALL DAY.

We checked into the hotel (Inka's Garden) in Ollantaytambo at 3:45pm.  I took a dump right away.  Despite what the book says, digestion is NOT slower at high altitude.  And Kelly's my neighbor, and the walls are thin, so I had to do it quietly.  As many of you know I like to be very vocal and animated on the throne, so I couldn't enjoy this one.  (LG--here's your traditional poop story.  Not as graphic as usual.  Sorry.)  Some people went back to the ruins after check-in but I wanted to save gas for the hike.

At reception Dimas was on Facebook and I saw his full name:  Dimas de los Rios.  He's like Alberto Del Rio, but plural!  Él es la esencia de la excelencia Y EL ORGULLO DE PERÚ.  He's done the Inca Trail more than 200 times, but never in reverse.  He asked me what's the point.  I said doing it in reverse IS the point.

Around 6:30pm we had dinner at Blue Puppy.  Continuing my tradition of trying the wrong ethnic food, I got a burrito.  It was supposed to have hot chilis in it but I didn't taste them.  The burrito was really a chimichanga, which I assume was the case and was hoping for.  The people who went back to the ruins had a couple beers, so I had some catching up to do here.  Had two large beers.  This was going to be our last late night for a while, since the Inca Trail days would have very early starts.

The 11 Inca Trail people were here, but the Lares people reportedly were going somewhere else.  Dimas went back to the hotel to look for them.  But they showed up here.  Then we were worried about Dimas.  I kept thinking of my mom reading Pinocchio on tape about 40 years ago (I still have the tape!):  "He went looking for you, and a WHALE swallowed him."  Then I had to stop thinking of that because it reminded me of the new guy Christopher Manocchio at work, who pronounces it with a "ch", presumably to avoid Pinocchio comparisons.  But if he's lying about the pronunciation, won't that make his nose grow and expose the ruse rather quickly?  Anyway, no thoughts of work.

I called it at the time and it held up--this ultimately was the only photo taken of the full group of 16.  Roxanne, Nick, Becky, Roger, Debbie, Rosie, Alex, Rob, Sophie, Matt, Dush, Zvez, me, Kelly, Jamie, Emily.  Facebook friends with 7 as I type this, 7 are pending, and 1 is not on FB.  Not a good rate, on the heels of two straight perfect Facebook tours (notwithstanding any subsequent defriendings--yeah you, Przybysz).  Why am I so dark here?  Is it because I'm between a Bosnian and a Canadian?  I don't look that way in real life.

During dinner I realized I left my glasses in Cuzco.  I mean they're locked up in the hotel with my stuff.  Kind of wanted the option of resting my eyes on the hike.

Dimas returned at 8pm (an hour in) with some tragic news:  we're leaving the hotel at 5am instead of 8am because a teacher's strike is going to block the road to km 82 (the start of the trail).  A teachers' strike reminds me of when Father Martin came over for the parish visitation (1981?) and my dad was on strike at the time, and I recorded the entire visit because of Fr. Martin's peculiar speech patterns, and I was worried that the tape would run out and the hidden tape recorder would shut off and make a loud noise, and then Fr. Martin...well I don't have to tell you what would happen next.  But really, all priests have peculiar speech patterns, and general weirdness.  I knew this when I was 6.  That's why I never became an altar boy.  I didn't know about penises and anuses at the time; I just knew that priests were really messed up in the head and I didn't want to be around them.  If you were molested or banged by a priest, it's because you lacked common sense.  Anyway, the change of plans sucked because now our party night is gone.  Next 4 days we're waking up at 4am, 5am, 5am and 4am.  We're hiking tomorrow from 6am to 1pm, then spending the rest of the day at the campsite, but they sell beer there.  They also have tarantulas.  We have to keep our tents closed.  Cool!  We also eat in tents along the way.  Again, increasingly less rustic from what I expected.

On the way home from dinner I bought a 1.5-L bottle of water and 2 cans of beer.  Needed them after the 2 large beers at dinner.  Otherwise, no sleep.  Stopped at the ATM too, just in case I need money later in the tour.  Not spending much money in Peru, and the meals on the Inca Trail and in the jungle are included.

The English girls were wearing flip-flops.  Dimas thought they were planning to do the Inca Trail that way.  It's doable, but not optimal.  I ultimately noticed that most of our porters wore flip-flops.  Reminded me of Shaneela and Radha in Brazil, hiking in heels.  Also reminded me of when Stella and I encountered Courtney Stodden hiking in the the Hollywood Hills in heels and a bikini, flanked by an entourage.  Rumour has it that Matt doesn't have a sweatshirt or anything warm to wear on the hike.  I keep hearing "this hike will be interesting".  Now shut up, Adele.  Get out, get out, get out of my head.  Fuck!  Now I have two songs stuck in my head.

Got back to the hotel at 9pm.  Every time I write "hotel" I think of the Brutus pronunciation.  Drank those 2 beers, wrote in my journal (this!), bed 9:45pm