I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Peruvian adventure

I took this picture at Machu Picchu thirty years ago. The way the stones were carved into this little niche fascinated me. But now, what fascinates me even more is that thirty years have passed since I was there. My first international adventure was in the fall of 1981. Now it's the fall of 2011.

On the first day of summer in 1981, I was hit by a truck from behind while riding my bicycle down Boulder Canyon, which I wrote about here. I sustained a compression fracture in my back, which turned out to be rather fortuitous in many ways: the last thoracic vertebrae is not involved in weight bearing for the upper or lower body, so after healing up from the injury, I received a small settlement from the driver's insurance company ($10,000). Most of my friends at the time thought I should invest the money (which would have been the sensible thing to do), but I decided I wanted to travel to Peru. After arranging for a six-week-long absence from my job, I took off for Peru. One thing I wanted to see was Machu Picchu, and a tattered poster of the ruins had followed me from one apartment to the next. It embodied my dream of travel to distant places.

My traveling companion, Marla, was unknown to me before some well-meaning friends hooked us up. Those same friends didn't like the idea of me traveling alone, which I was prepared to do, but Marla and I were such different people that we only spent a small portion of our time in Peru together. We did, however, both meet up again for a five-day excursion from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. We took the train from Cuzco to Kilometer 88, where about a dozen fellow hikers from all over the world disembarked along with us for a three-day-long hike across three mountain passes on the ancient Inca Trail. I found a description of the hike on line and learned that now the Peruvian Government does not allow anyone to take this trip without a guide. Thirty years ago the trail was open to anyone who wanted to take it.

We carried a tent and iodine pills to treat whatever water we might find. After those three days of hiking, we crested a hill and looked down on Machu Picchu, with Huayna Picchu (the big mountain behind the ruins) resplendent in all its glory. This picture was taken from Wikipedia, but I have a similar one somewhere.
When we arrived early in the morning, there were only a few fellow hikers there, but as the day went on, busload after busload of tourists arrived from Cuzco so they could walk around the ruins and then be transported back to town. I climbed to the top of Huayna Picchu after touring through the ruins. I felt that the bused tourists' experience of the place could not be anywhere like mine, since I had actually WALKED there.

I don't even remember what kind of camera I had with me, but of course it had film back then and I didn't see my pictures until I arrived back home in Boulder. Funny, now that seems so strange since I'm used to seeing my pictures instantaneously. Life has changed a great deal, in ways that no one could have predicted. But one that is the same today, I'm still hiking.

Thirty years is a long time. I was in my late thirties when I took this journey to Peru, and I've now experienced the culture of many more countries and had numerous adventures. But this was my first, and I will never forget how it shaped me. You never forget your first time.

27 comments:

Rita said...

Wow! Newer to your blog, I hadn't known about your accident! In such a strange and convoluted way it was like the universe giving you the trip to Peru that you had always wanted--and via an accident that has not prevented you from 30 more years of hiking!! That is truly amazing! I am sooo glad you followed your heart and went on your adventure. :):) And that you are sharing them with us, on a blog, with a digital camera!! ;) Life is truly miraculous!

Gigi said...

You've led such an interesting life - and you are continuing to do so. I love reading about your adventures.

Dee said...

The truth is that every time I read one of your postings, I vow that I, too, will do thus and so. I will hike and view the mountains. I will go to Peru and see where the Incas once ruled over valley and peaks. I will take care of my body so that it will take care of me for many more years.

You so inspire me, DJan. Thank you.

Peace.

Teresa Evangeline said...

What an amazing turn of events that resulted in a life-long love of hiking. It sounds like a life altering adventure. To hike it would be so much more satisfying than taking the bus. A beautiful way to begin this path you've taken. Wow.

Grandmother said...

We never know until later the effect circumstances have on our lives. Yours was a gift that you opened and cherished. Good for you.

wendyytb said...

What a full and and exciting journey you have had! Thank you for sharing it with us!

gigihawaii said...

But, you had flown by jet many years before that trip, hadn't you? Imagine me at 21 flying for the first time. I was scared to death, even though it was just a short trip from Oahu to Maui. Then when I turned 22, I left for my tour around the world and did not return til I'd celebrated my 29th birthday.

gigihawaii said...

But, I love your spirit, DJan. Spending 6 weeks on vacation sounds great--especially after that terrible accident. I have never been to Peru, but would love to see it before I die.

Linda Myers said...

I will never see Machu Picchu because I am afraid of heights. Even the photo freaks me out a little. I wish it were different.

Retired English Teacher said...

I think you used your money the best way possible. You did invest it in travel, and the stock market can't take those memories away from you.

Peru sounds like such a great adventure. Interestingly, your story about the camera you used reminded me that I had a camera I really did love that my father gave me when I went to England and Wales. A dear friend was going to Peru about ten years ago, right after I had purchased my first digital camera, and didn't have a camera to take because her's had been stolen. On an impulse, I gave her mine. I never saw her photos, nor did I really ever get a thank you. In many ways, I've regretted I don't still have that old camera. It really was a good one, but, as you said, it required film and that concept seems so foreign now.

Towanda said...

Peru sounds like it was the best investment you could make, and to know what we want is about the most we can ask for in life. It must have been exciting to be willing to take off on your own and perhaps better that you found someone to hike with you. What a nice memory.

Anonymous said...

I didn't go to Peru, but visited several sites in Mexico and Central America. At one in particular I climbed a pyramid and looked out across the mountain tops and understood completely why these sacred places were built. It was a holy place.
Jann

MerCyn said...

You made a great investment providing dividends to this day and excellent returns!

Linda said...

Well, my dear, you've done it again. Just when I think I have you figured out you up and screw up my image one more time.

I also think spending the money for that trip was absolutely the right thing to have done. Somehow I don't see you walking on the safe side of life.

I'm drawn to people who willing to take the risk and walk on the razor's edge.

Anonymous said...

I think you made a wise investment. The returns are permanent with a flick of the memory.
The dollars could easily have been lost in a sour market.
Arkansas Patti

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Thirty years of international adventure, heroic trekking, and recording it all in words and pictures. I think you made the right choice.

Red said...

I'm sure that many times the things you learned in Peru and the things you were exposed to have influenced your life. The thirty years really isn't the issue but experiences that have shaped your life. I'm sure many people would wish to have seen this aspect of Peru.

TechnoBabe said...

Your experiences have led you to great adventures and I find that people who have traveled have open minds and adventurous spirits. Fun people like you. I truly enjoyed reading about your trip to Machu Picchu.

Friko said...

Even then you were a sensible lady. To use the unexpected windfall for a spectacular journey has surely brought far greater rewards than putting it away and using it for something practical, which would have given you much less pleasure.

KleinsteMotte said...

The best thing you did was to reat yourself to what life has to offer you. Wise choice, travelling. It connects you to folks in so many ways and builds self trust which you surely have. Yup the world has changed a great deal during our few years here. Instant message and photo sharing are remarkable

Star said...

That was the trip of a lifetime D-Jan. Not only for the scenery, but for the culture and spirit of the place too. No wonder you never forgot it. I have seen programmes about the place and always find them fascinating.

gayle said...

You sure were brave even back then! I didn't know that you had been hiking that long!
I was just telling my husband about you again last night!

Sandi said...

Hi DJan! Great post about your adventure in Peru. As I read I thought about the ways we spend our money. What a perfect choice you made with your "windfall". Money spent traveling reaps its own rewards.

Thank you for the cyber hug! I had a short email when she arrived in Paris, but I'm still waiting to hear about the university and town she will call home for the next 9 months.

Donna B said...

Oh the adventures you have had. Why are you not writing a book?
I love your curiosity, strength and wanderlust...you really raise the bar as a human being of exceptional womanhood.

CrazyCris said...

You've reminded me of a childhood dream! As a kid and teen in Mexico I remember nagging my parents to no end saying we should go on vacation to Peru and visit Machu Pichu. The answer was always "no. too dangerous. Sendero Luminoso."

One of these years I'll make the time (and money) to go on my own. Thing is, so many trips to do, so little time! :p

Sounds like you had a wonderful adventure! And yeah, I doubt the tourists on the buses got as much out of it as you did.

Far Side of Fifty said...

What an adventure..and so like you to want to hike. I read the online guide..scary for me...I would take the bus! It must have been a beautiful place:)

Jenny Woolf said...

Wonderful to make that choice - have the experience instead of whatever the money could have bought. When I'm feeling lazy I always remember that the things I do make more impression on me than what I buy - (my home excepted)