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March 15th, 2005


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06:27 pm - Inca Trail: Failed
First, a simple steady state equation for all you equation friendly readers:
Physically Fit + Mentally Ill + Altitude --> Physically Ill


This will not be a post about the Inca Trail, just my immediate experiences. I"ll cover the Trail on another day.

Our Inca Trail company (Wayki Trek) is very good. They are at least twice as expensive as the other companies, but their emphasis is on treating and paying their porters well, and small groups. In our particular case we were a group of 5 -- three Irish kids about my age, my sister and I. There were also 5 porters, a cook, and two guides.

Our company has a unique option due to their good porter relations. The day before the trek began, we had the option of spending the night with the porters in their village -- to see how they live and get to know them more personally.

The first 48 hours of being at altitude, it is important to drink lots of water and not to go to a higher altitude (3700m) to play two games of soccer against the natives and if you find yourself in such a situation, do not end that night drinking the local moonshine and dancing the night away before sleeping in the rain and hard ground.

But don´t worry -- that didn´t bother me. I am in very good shape. I scored goals in the games -- bringing about the second match -- and felt fine.

So the next morning we headed out to the Inca Trail. It was a solid day of walking. My sister and I had consolidated all of our trail possessions into one large backpack and one tiny thing. I took the big bag the first half, she the second. Felt just grand, walked at the front of the pack the whole time.

I told you all to think good thoughts toward me for Monday. If you did, you started too late in the day.

When we got up at 6, I felt... OK. And then going into the breakfast tent, and seeing bread, I felt less OK. So I wandered off toward the bathroom to throw up. Felt a bit better. It got a lot worse.

I took the big bag for the first 100m of uphill, going slowly. My sister asked if I was ok, and I said I was, but we had stopped, so I threw up again. Second of many times to follow. After about an hour or so, the guides figured out I was in a bad way. I can´t imagine how, other than that I had expelled most of the contents of my stomache and bowels in both directions. I don´t really recall feeling that awful, ever.

And yet I felt like I could go on. Mentally ill, you see. Until it was pointed out that the sign for the river in which I was cleaning myself up in was at only 3265m. And Day Two has a 4200m summit. And it was 9am and I was completely dehydrated.

So what do you do in this situation? You are 20km from the nearest road, if you go back. Go forward and you face additional altitude, plausible seisures and the like. So we -- my sister with the giant bag, my miserable condition, and a to-be-sainted guide -- go back. At the fastest pace possible, because the last bus from the closest town leaves at 1pm (it was about 9). So 4 hours to retrace a day´s hike. It was lovely.

We made it. There was a plan to take a train that night to the town closest to Machu Piccu, and backtrack to the group. But the train was sold out. So they found a good hostel and I went to bed (4pm).

The town we stayed in is at lower altitude. Between that, and not having anything else to get rid of, I felt much better this morning. It is now about 48 hours since I´ve eaten any solid food, and still have little desire to. But feeling better, and so our tour guide gave us a light tour version of the Sacred Valley, in which we had slept.

I´ll talk about that more later. Now I´ve got to go catch the train to Macchu Piccu.

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