I know I’ve been away a while but, useless excuses aside, here I am again and ready to tell you about my wonderful trip to Peru this summer. Here is the first report and I hope you enjoy it.
“Honey, your fingernails are making my leg bleed.”
I must have said that to my wife a dozen times on the drive up to Markawasi. It wasn’t meant to be accusatory; no, it was my way of acknowledging the fact that I was just as scared as she was.
I looked over to our guide, Eduardo, who was sheepishly grinning as our driver rounded another blind curve going sixty miles an hour while blasting his horn. Eduardo just shrugged his shoulders and said in broken English, “We be there soon.” Rows of unfinished buildings with rebar protruding out of the roofs and graffiti stained walls guided us up the mountainside to our destination 13,000 feet in the air.
Markawasi is one of the lesser-known ancient sites in Peru. Nestled a few hours outside of Lima, this plateau is laden with hundreds of rock formations in the shapes of monkeys, condors, seals, humans, sphinx…
yes, I said sphinx. “What is a rock formation in the shape of a sphinx doing in Peru, you ask?” Exactly the reason people believe that these configurations were created by something other than humans.
Six people piled out of the dusty five-seater jalopy at San Pedro Costa, the last stop before the four-hour trek up the mountainside, and parted ways. Come to find out, the driver with a death wish was actually a civil engineer on his way to work. Dozens of other construction workers were already smashing rocks and moving boulders when we arrived. After drinking coca tea and eating our last warm meal for the day, we began out ascent. When the guide asked if we wanted to rent horses for an extra fifty soles, my wife and I both scoffed at the idea. Twenty minutes into the walk, we were regretting that decision every few feet.
Something happens to a person around 11,000 feet in the air. You become short of breath, your mouth dries up and you begin to feel queasy. By the time you reach 12,500 feet, you begin to wish that you’d never been born. Peering down at the tiny village below and watching it shrink with every footstep didn’t help either.
We were running out of water but not worried as the nice lady with the donkey and our supplies was due to pass us up at any minute. As the hours passed and there was no sign of her or the supplies, we began to get worried. Even our guide, who’d managed to keep a smile plastered on his face until then was showing signs of stress. Finally, we saw the rectangular rock entryway that welcomed people to the top of the mountain. It was within viewing distance but seemed so out of reach as we were both completely drained of energy and life sustaining water.
Our guide said he was going to run up the top of the mountain to see if the lady had taken another route and was waiting on us. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was coming back. My wife didn’t say anything, but I could tell she was thinking the same thing too. Slowly we climbed: walking a few feet, stopping to catch our breath, sitting down to rest, glaring at the sun and admiring at the gigantic condors that seamlessly swooped by periodically to check and see if we were still alive.
We scanned the horizon of the camping area aptly named “The Theater” and only saw open space. There were no tents, no campfires, no water and no sign of our supplies, just a stray longhaired dog wandering through the valley looking for scraps to eat. As we lie against the rocks making friends with the dog and wondering if we were breathing in our last few breaths, the subtle beauty of Markawasi soon came into view. The silence was the first thing I noticed. Then the flowing contours of gray and white rocks painting the perimeter like a patterned curtain.
While we absorbed the moment, a lady with a straw hat and red poncho soon appeared on the trail carrying backpacks. We rushed over to greet her and found out that her donkey had twisted a leg on the trail. With no phone service or help, she decided to carry everything up herself. As I raised my eyebrows and began to comment, I realized that she hadn’t even broken a sweat. I decided to grab a bottle of water instead.
to be continued…