Adventure & Disaster in Peru – Day 5

Day 5:  #Turning it Around

In my dreams, P2D2 had just abandoned the trekking group and, fueled by anger, set out into the wilderness alone to search for us.  Meanwhile, RohZ was kneeling in a sprawling green patch of clovers, desperately seeking the coveted four-leaf clover amid the dense vegetation.

I opened my eyes.  Somewhere, an alarm was chiming.  I jumped out of bed to retrieve my phone, only to find the alarm wasn’t mine.  That’s when I noticed that many of the bunks that had been empty the evening before were now occupied.  Strangers must have arrived at the hostel room overnight while my friends and I were asleep.  Phone in hand, I crept back into bed, and a guy soon climbed out of his bunk to shut off the alarm on his own phone.  I closed my eyes.

The next time I awoke, I heard a strange voice talking to a familiar one, along with the sounds of somebody packing.  I waited for the noises to subside, drifting in and out of sleep, until I woke up for real.  SK was sitting up in the bed next to me, checking her phone.

“Good morning!” she whispered.

“Were you talking to someone?” I asked.

“Yeah…this American guy was packing to leave for the airport.  He gave me his water bottles and some other stuff he didn’t need anymore.”

“That was nice of him.”  I rubbed my eyes and checked my own phone.

KP had sent all of us a Facebook message.  “Good morning, sunshines!  Hope you slept well, showered, and won the war 🙂 She went on to request that SK bring her certain items from her luggage, continued to debate whether or not she should take an early flight home, and updated us on her insurance situation (she was the only one of us to buy traveler’s insurance – for like $12! – and her friends back home were helping her communicate with the insurance company about the accident).

SK had also been in contact with KP earlier this morning and broke the good news that KP had actually walked to the bathroom by herself!  Well, she had used a walker, but it was still good progress compared to yesterday.

Soon, the rest of my friends were awake, too.  Quietly, so as not to awaken the other sleeping hostel-mates, we began packing up our things because we had only booked the hostel for one night…but we still weren’t sure if we’d be able to go to Aguas Calientes today.  How the day would unfold remained a mystery.  We put our big luggage in storage again and went to the lobby to check out before we headed to O2 clinic.

Just as we were about to step out the door, two Peruvian girls burst into the hostel frantically, asking for SK by her first name.  At first I didn’t think they could mean our friend SK…how would these random girls know her?  They must have been looking for some other girl with the same first name.  But then SK began talking to them, and realized these girls were sent by Edgar, who worked at the Salkantay Trekking office.

Their English was broken, and our Spanish was worse, but we somehow managed to gather that Edgar sent the girls to help us arrange a train to Aguas Calientes, along with a van to the train station in Ollantaytambo (which none of us could pronounce correctly).  After some debate – we were thinking we’d have to wait on KP’s CT scans before making a decision – we followed the girls down the block to the PeruRail office.  Perhaps we could catch a train in the evening, after the results of the scans were in.

But the lady at the office shook her head.  “No mas.”  All of the trains to Aguas Calientes for the day were booked.  That is, all except for one – the most expensive one.  How convenient.  Oh, and this train would leave the Ollantaytambo station at 1:30 p.m., and the boarding time was even earlier.  Ollantaytambo was over an hour away from Cusco.  It was almost 10:30 a.m. now.  And we still had to visit KP at the clinic.

We looked at one another.  What should we do?

KP had told us last night that we should continue on to Aguas Calientes.  And she had walked this morning, which was promising.  But what if her CT scans revealed something serious?  What if there was some hidden threat lurking in her spine?

Time was ticking.  The PeruRail lady was looking at us expectantly.

If we waited until after we visited KP, even the tickets for this last train might be sold out.

“We’ll take them,” we said.

We still weren’t 100% sure that we’d be able to make this train, but just in case we could, at least we’d have the tickets already.

But we didn’t want to waste any more time…we had to rush over to KP.  We asked Edgar’s girls to buy the tickets on our behalf, and we would reimburse the company.  SK also emailed Edgar to see if they could send a van to O2 clinic at noon to take us to the train station.  She was confused by his multiple responses, which all repeatedly asked if she could confirm the van would take us to Ollantaytambo, so she tried to confirm her request in a new email thread.  (She later realized that Edgar’s repeated requests to confirm Ollantaytambo were due to SK’s repeated misspelled confirmations for “Ollanpampa”, which was actually similar to the name of another city.)

We made our way back outside, where SK hailed a cab – “I actually hailed it! It actually stopped!” – and we hopped in and gave the driver the address to O2.

The cab to O2 was only five soles, which came out to less than $2.00 in U.S. currency.

“Cuanto cuesta para Ollantaytambo?”  RohZ asked the driver.

“Ollantaytambo?”

“Para el estacion de tren,” I added.

“Ochenta soles,” the driver said.  His eyes gleamed in the rearview mirror…he’d likely never had such a large fare before.

“Eighty soles?”  RohZ looked at us.  “But Edgar is charging us $70 U.S. for the van – that’s like 190 soles!  We should just take this cab.”

“But the van is bigger…you know how PS gets motion sickness,” SK said.  “And I don’t know if this cab has ever gone so far before.  It usually does very short trips.”

“Plus, the van is through our trekking company, so it is guaranteed to get us to the train station on time,” PS said.  “A cab would want payment whether it makes it to the station in time or not.”

“But the cab is so much cheaper!” RohZ insisted.  “And I’m sure the cab can get us there in time.”

“Nuestra tren es a la una y media,” I told the driver.  “Cuanto tiempo para venir?”

“Dos horas.”

“It’ll take us two hours to get there…” I looked at my phone.  It was almost 11:00.  “If we leave in 30 minutes, it might be doable.”

“But those girls have our train tickets,” PS pointed out.  “They’re supposed to bring the tickets to us along with the van…”

“Damn, we should’ve just bought the tickets ourselves while we were at the office,” SK said.

On top of all this, we still had to visit KP before any of our plans could be solidified.  Everything was up in the air and subject to cancellation.

 

When we arrived at O2, the driver looked at us expectantly.

“What should we tell him?” I asked.  It was 11:00 now.

“Tell him to come back at 11:30,” RohZ said.  “Just in case.”

I relayed this message to the driver in my broken Spanish, and he smiled happily in acquiescence.

Then SK, PS, RohZ, and I burst into O2 – rushing past the front desk, again, like we owned the joint – and threw open KP’s door.

Her room was empty.

“Where is she?!” SK shrieked in a panic.  We glanced into the open bathroom, which was also empty.  “Where is KP?”

SK raced back across the hall to the front desk.  “KP! KP!  Donde esta KP?”

The lady at the desk, alarmed by SK’s distress, replied, “Tomographia!  Tomographia!”

My friends and I looked at each other.  It appeared KP had gone in for her CT scan earlier than expected.  The lady at the desk indicated that KP should be returning to the clinic soon.

“And now, we wait.”  SK sat in the waiting room chair and pulled out her phone, picking up the clinic’s Wi-Fi.  “I guess I’ll email Edgar and tell him to cancel the van, right?”

We nodded uncertainly, and she set to work.

“But we still need the train tickets,” PS reminded her.  “Ask if the girls can still bring those to us before 11:30.”

“KP’s not even here yet,” I said, nervously.  We definitely had to see her before we decided to go anywhere.

“Hey, our driver is still waiting outside,” RohZ said after peeking out the door.  It was true.  The cab was parked resolutely in front of the clinic, the driver waiting patiently for his biggest trip yet.  No pressure.

Everything was chaotic.  KP still wasn’t here.  The girls had our train tickets.  We weren’t sure if Edgar had gotten our message yet.  The cab was waiting outside.  And time was ticking…ever ticking.

“Listen,” PS said suddenly.  “Let’s look at it this way.  The van might seem to cost a lot more than the cab, but we’re splitting the cost among the four of us.  And once you convert that to U.S. dollars, we’d each be paying only $10 more for the van.  Is $10 really that big of a deal right now?”

We all looked at one another.  Well, when he put it that way…

“Let’s take the van!” we agreed.

RohZ went outside to let the cabbie know we didn’t need the ride anymore.  The cabbie was a trooper about it and smiled good-naturedly before taking off.

“At least we didn’t keep him waiting too long,” RohZ said.

“Whew!  Now we bought ourselves more time to wait for KP,” SK said, relieved.

“But you have to let Edgar know that we want the van at noon, after all…”

“Oh!  Right!”  SK whipped out her phone and set to work again.

Meanwhile, our tummies were grumbling.  We still hadn’t had breakfast.  The area around the clinic wasn’t as cute and touristy as the area near our hostel…this neighborhood was a bit more rundown and packed with locals.  And TripAdvisor didn’t have much guidance in this area.  So PS, RohZ, and I decided to venture out into the street in search of food while SK waited at the clinic in case KP returned.  We found several sketchy-looking places, including a “restaurant” with posters of naked women, before settling on a small local bakery with fresh pastries.  We stocked up on goodies and went back to the clinic.  KP was still not there.

At this point, it was past 11:30.  We ate in the waiting room, PS leaving a trail of crumbs in his wake.  Finally, the doors of the clinic flew open and KP rolled in on a gurney.  She was looking down at her phone.

“Of course she would be on her phone!” SK said.

“Hey guys!” KP said brightly when she saw us.

We greeted her and moved out of the way as the doctors conveyed KP to her room and settled her back into bed.  Then we swarmed around her and demanded to know how she was feeling.

“Still in pain, but better than yesterday,” she said.  “I won’t get the CT scan results until later, though.”

We gave her the clothing, documents, books, and other items she had requested, then sat down to chat with her for a bit before discussing the situation.  The van and train tickets were on their way, but they meant nothing to us if KP was in bad condition.  And it made us nervous that we wouldn’t learn the scan results anytime soon.

Once again, KP insisted that we go, saying that she was doing better than yesterday, repeating that there was nothing more we could do for her here, and adding that she wanted to see pictures of Machu Picchu.  Also, P2D2 would likely stress out even more if another day went by without any contact or information.  After further insistence that she would be fine, she finally convinced us.

SK, who had gotten reddish-pink bandanas for all of us at the beginning of the trip to serve as our “group accessory”, took KP’s bandana from her.

“We’ll take this to Machu Picchu with us tomorrow in your honor and take pictures with it,” SK said.  “It will be like you’re with us in spirit.”

“And as soon as we find a Wi-Fi spot, we’ll send a message to check in on you,” PS added.

“See you tomorrow!”

We said our goodbyes, leaving KP in bed raising her phone to the air in search of Wi-Fi signal, and went outside to meet the girls and our van.  Except the van turned out to be a small car.

“What!  I thought we’d at least be paying more for a van,” PS said.  “But this car is no better than the cab!”

The boys tried to negotiate with the driver for a bit, but the girl tried to explain that cabs had no idea what they were doing when it came to long drives on the highway and would not be able to get us to the station on time.  Finally, to save time – our boarding time was in almost an hour! – we let the matter drop and got into the car, train tickets in hand.

“Rapido, mas rapido, por favor,” SK said as we drove through Cusco.

The driver nodded and sped up as he zipped onto a highway.  “Que tipo de music te gusta?” he asked.

“Music,” I translated.  “He wants to know what type of music we want.”

My friends shrugged.  “Pitbull? Shakira?”

The driver popped in his personally burned CD and began to play….cumbia.  Rhythmic trumpet-heavy Latin music where the lady singer frequently shouted “Marisol!! La orchestra!!” and sang in Spanish about heartbreak, sorrow, heartbreak, being unable to get over someone, heartbreak, and drinking.  Lots of drinking.  Oh, and did I mention heartbreak?

“This is kind of depressing,” I remarked as I tried to translate the lyrics.

The driver turned up the music.  In fact, any time I talked, he turned up the music.  Was my voice that annoying?

“It sounds like this guy got dumped recently,” RohZ murmured.

We kept checking the time as the car sped down the highway.  At one point, we were stopped by the police.

My friends and I looked out the window anxiously, fearing that this would be the way we missed our train, but our driver just slipped the cop some cash.  The cop waved him on.  Easy as pie.  Ah, the perks of bribery!  In no time, we were zooming down the road again.

 

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RohZ’s picture from inside the car

 

Every fifteen minutes or so, our trekking office called the driver to ensure he was making good time.  It was comforting to see he was accountable to someone…the cabbie might not have been so concerned.  Still, SK was freaking out.

“The ticket says ‘Boarding time 12:57.  Otherwise you may not board’,”she cried.  “It’s almost our boarding time!!  They’re not going to let us board!”

“Key word, ‘May’,” I stressed.  “Not ‘cannot board’.  It’s just a possibility…like maybe, maybe not.”

This didn’t seem to comfort SK much.  And at the sound of my voice, the driver turned up the music.

“Man, I still can’t believe we’re on our way to the station,” PS said.  “Even this morning, I seriously thought our trip was over.”

“I know,” SK said.  “After all the crap that’s happened on this trip, it’s crazy to think we might actually be turning it around.”

“Turning it around!” I repeated optimistically.

“SK, it’s crazy how those girls found you,” RohZ said.  “If they had come even one minute later, we would’ve already left the hostel for O2, and they probably never would have been able to find us.  And then we probably wouldn’t have been able to buy a ticket later, even if we wanted to.”

We dwelled on that for a moment.  Life was funny, sometimes.

And then the car started to approach the city of Ollantaytambo, and the music shifted from cumbias about heartbreak to reggaeton about moving on.  We raised our eyebrows in amusement.

“It’s like his emotional progression,” RohZ said.

“It’s past our boarding time!” SK shrieked, checking the clock.  “Rapido, mas rapido!”

The driver turned his head.  “No te preocupes.”  He pointed at himself.  “Driver numero uno!  Driver number one!”

“Yeah…we’ll see about that, buddy,” SK muttered as the rest of us laughed.

By the time we were driving through Ollantaytambo, on the lookout for anything that remotely resembled a train station, the music had shifted again to full-on American party music about dancing and meeting new women.  The energy was high, and so was our anxiety.

The driver stopped at the end of the road leading to the station, where the railroad tracks were just out of sight around the corner.  We had no idea if they would let us on the train…or if our train was still there.  Our departure time was minutes away…

“Corre!  Corre!” the driver shouted to us, miming the running motion.

We jumped out, backpacks slung over our shoulders and duffle bags in hand, and ran.

Well, PS, SK, and I ran.  RohZ was walking behind us at a leisurely pace as though he had all the time in the world.  Perhaps he wanted to wait for the last minute so he could make a dramatic run for it and jump on the train just as it was taking off, Bollywood-style.

Just before the entrance to the station, a guard held his hand up.  Oh no.  Was it too late?

“Pasaporte? Billete?” he asked.

We all rummaged in our bags and whipped out our passports and tickets.  The guard studied each one at an excruciatingly slow speed.  Finally, he waved us through.

The train, that beautiful blue-and-yellow train, was still sitting on the tracks a few yards ahead.  We ran (except for RohZ) until a lady asked us again for our passport and ticket, and then we were on the train.

 

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Our train!
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RohZ’s picture of us running for the train as he lagged behind

 

We breathed a sigh of relief as we settled into our seats, which were two sets of chairs across from each other, with a small table in between.  Through the speakers, soothing instrumental Simon and Garfunkel music was playing on Peruvian pan pipes.

 

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Train interior

 

“I can’t believe we made it,” SK said.

“Oh, whatever.  I was never worried,” RohZ said.  “Hashtag-It-will-be-fine.”

“Come on, guys…we’re turning this trip around,” I said.  “Hashtag-Turning-it-around.”

A few minutes later, the train took off.  A waiter arrived to take our order for lunch – Oh, what?  Our ride included food?! – and soon brought us sandwiches, fruits, and sodas.  (I had almost ordered a glass of water, but my friends gave me horrified looks until I realized that probably wasn’t a safe idea.)

 

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Lunch

 

The train ride to Aguas Calientes was relaxing and scenic.  In addition to the windows on the side of the railcars, the train also had windows in the upper corners so that we could see the peaks of the mountains passing by.  Dense green trees sprouted along the tracks in some parts, while verdant pastures stretched out in other areas.  A wide river snaked along beside us for a while, and we even passed some tiered walls of ancient Inca ruins.

 

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View from the upper windows

 

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Stone walls

 

“Are you sure those walls are ancient?” SK asked.  “They just look like regular stone walls.  They can’t have been built that long ago.”

“Honey, what do you think Machu Picchu is?” PS asked SK.  “It’s all walls!”

“Ohh…right…”

We all laughed at that.

When the train finally came to a stop, we couldn’t believe almost two hours had passed.  For the first time in our trip, time seemed to fly by.

“Why didn’t we take a scenic train to Machu Picchu to begin with?” PS asked.  “And forget this whole trekking business?”

“Next vacation, we’re just staying at five star hotels,” I said.

We disembarked the train and looked around at the station in wonder.  It was the prettiest train station I had ever seen; or at least, the outside of it was.  The patio area was modern and clean, featuring tables and umbrellas on stone floors, along with sleek metal bins for organic, paper, and plastic waste.  Landscaped strips of grass and flowers imbued the site with a lush feel, and the entire area was bordered by tall, green mountains.

 

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Aguas Calientes train station

 

When we walked out into the waiting area, we found a man holding a sign with SK’s name on it, along with the name of our trekking company – Salkantay Trekking.  Finally, we were back on track!  But before the man could direct us to our hostel in Aguas Calientes, we noticed a lady holding another sign – this one with the name of some girl….and P2D2’s first and middle names, along with Salkantay Trekking.

My friends and I looked at one another.

“That can’t be our P2D2, right?” PS asked, confounded.

“No, it can’t be,” SK said.  “We would’ve noticed if he was on the train with us.  Plus, this sign doesn’t show his last name.”

“Maybe his full name didn’t fit on the board,” RohZ suggested.

“It is kind of a big coincidence that this guy has the same first and middle names as P2D2, is part of our same trekking company, and is in the area,” I said.

SK shook her head.  “But we would’ve seen him on the train, for sure.”  She told the lady we had not seen any P2D2 on our train, and the lady stopped waving the sign and walked away.

Soon we were walking through a maze of merchant stalls with tin roofing, where brightly colored geometric textiles mingled with fluffy llama dolls and glittering leaf-shaped jewelry.  When we finally left the marketplace and stepped out into the open air, we were blown away.

The town of Aguas Calientes lay before us like a quaint mountain village from a storybook.  The whole town was enclosed within the walls of huge, green mountains, which didn’t have slopes so much as sheer drop-offs.  And within the dark green confines of the mountains, the town sprouted up around the main railroad and the large, rocky river.  On either side of the railroad, shanty-like shops, restaurants, and hostels lined the curb in a variety of hues, while the river was sandwiched between these structures and the bushy mountainside before looping around to run between two rows of structures.  It was utterly charming – I immediately fell in love with Aguas Calientes.

 

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Aguas Calientes

 

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Aguas Calientes

 

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Aguas Calientes – river between structures and mountains

 

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Aguas Calientes panorama

 

But I was a bit concerned by how blasé the locals had become about the railroad.  We literally had to walk over the railroad in order to cross the “street” and – I kid you not – we saw little kids sitting right in the middle of the railroad, playing with their toys, and even a cute chubby baby crawling blithely along the railroad tracks for a while before his mother casually scooped him up.

 

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Child playing with his toys on the railroad tracks

 

“It’s like they think the railroad is their bedroom!” RohZ said, amazed.

As we walked to the hostel, we neared the part where the river curved through the town.  Against the backdrop of green mountains, a trio of bridges crossed over the river at different junctures, allowing people to traverse to the shops and restaurants on either side.  I was enchanted.

 

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Bridges

 

Finally, we checked in at our hostel and dropped off our bags.  According to the front desk, our trekking group hadn’t hiked in yet…they were expected within a couple of hours.  We would have to wait a little longer before reuniting with P2D2.

 

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Window view from the front of our hostel

 

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View of children playing below our hostel

 

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Window view of river from the back of our hostel

 

“I still feel weird about that sign with P2D2’s name on it,” PS said.  “What if he took a different train from the last town they stopped at instead of hiking?  Or what if he left the trekking group completely to look for us in Cusco and is now coming back?”

I remembered my dream; P2D2, incensed at being left behind, had abandoned the group in search of us.  Could it be possible my dream was more than just an expression of guilty feelings?  Could P2D2 have actually struck out on his own?

“Ok, let’s go back to the train station just in case he’s waiting there,” SK said.  “Since that lady with the sign left as soon as we said he wasn’t on our train.”

We walked back to the train station and searched the crowds.  No sign of P2D2.  Then we looked at the board detailing the incoming trains; there was no other train around this time he could have been on.  It really was just a coincidence that another trekker in the vicinity shared his first and middle names.  P2D2 himself must still be hiking with the trekking group.

We reminisced about the time in Cusco a few days ago – which felt like a month ago – when P2D2 had made one of his classic P2D2 remarks.  “You know,” he had said, out of the blue, “when we finish up the trek to Machu Picchu, we should all get a group massage back here in Cusco before we leave.”

The rest of us had laughed and shaken our heads in amusement, while P2D2 insisted, “I’m serious!” and expounded upon the benefits of massages.

Now we wondered if perhaps we owed him some pampering after the intense physical exertion and mental stress he’d gone through alone…although we were still hoping that he had somehow managed to have a great time.

While waiting for P2D2 and the rest of our trekking group to arrive in Aguas Calientes, we walked through town in search of a snack for PS.  We didn’t want to eat a full meal, since dinner at a restaurant tonight was included in our trek package.  So we wandered through shops and restaurants, seeking a quick bite.  We chuckled when RohZ pointed out a sign in a window stating “Se necessita una senorita”…it sounded more like an advertisement for a girlfriend than a waitress.

Somehow, we took a turn through a random alleyway and found ourselves in a beautiful courtyard with a bronze statue of an Incan standing proudly atop a stone platform in the center.  The courtyard was surrounded by a big stone church, a modern hostel, a gorgeous bellflower tree, and some more shops and restaurants.  All of this was circled, of course, by the stalwart mountains, which loomed ever-present like ancient guardians of the land.

 

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Inca statue

 

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Bellflower tree

 

Once PS had procured a snack, we walked back toward the railroad tracks and sat down on some benches near yet another Incan statue.  For a long while, we simply waited, watching the distance for any sign of P2D2 or other members of our trekking group walking up along the tracks.  We spotted a dog wearing a ridiculous purple tracksuit – he was trotting up and down the side of the railroad like he was patrolling the joint – but didn’t see anything else of interest.

 

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Another Inca statue

 

We checked the time.  It was evening, past when the hostel manager had said our group should be getting in.  Was it possible we had missed their arrival while searching for food?  Could P2D2 be in the hostel at this very moment?

After heading back to the hostel to check again – nope, they had not yet arrived; they were running late – we posted ourselves on a staircase near a restaurant and some merchant stalls.  From this higher vantage point, we would be able to see P2D2 and the group from a distance before they could see us.

 

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Waiting up the stairs near the market stalls

 

More than an hour went by.  The sky was growing dark.  A blue train rattled down the tracks.  Yet another ridiculously attired dog trotted by – this time a scruffy-looking mutt with a blond tuft of hair like a mini-mohawk; he was wearing ragged camo fatigues…clearly he was from the wrong side of the tracks.

 

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Train going by

 

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Scruffy dog from the wrong side of the tracks

 

Another half an hour went by.  To help curb my growing hunger, I bought some French fries (“papas fritas”) from the nearby restaurant.  But by the time I had finished, P2D2 was still nowhere in sight.  We continued to wait.

Meanwhile, PS and SK had tapped the local Wi-Fi to check in on KP earlier.  The CT scan results were in: Her tailbone and pelvic bone had been fractured.

Dismayed, we discussed the troubling results for a bit, although we were grateful the injuries weren’t much worse.  PS explained that though very painful, the tailbone and pelvic fractures would likely be able to heal on their own over time, with the aid of physical therapy.

As we were mulling over the situation, PS and SK suddenly spotted someone down below near the railroad tracks.

“Hey, isn’t that Roger?”

It was!  Excited to see our guide again but confused as to why he was all alone, we made our way down the stairs to flock around him.

“Hello, my friends,” Roger said when he saw us.  “How is KP?”

We explained the situation and his eyes widened with concern.  “Fractures…wow.”  He shook his head regretfully.  Then he told us that he had come alone by train, but that our trekking group was due any minute with the other guide.  “If you start walking now, you will meet them.”

And he was right.  It seemed we had only begun walking down the tracks for a few minutes before the group came into view, headlamps secured around their foreheads to light the way.

“P2D2!” we shouted when we caught sight of him.  He was in full trekking gear and looked like he had been through hell and back.

When he spotted us, his face lit up before passing through a mixture of emotions.  We all began rushing toward each other like in a reunion of long-lost siblings and grabbed him in a hug.  P2D2 smelled kind of funky from the trek, but this is how the rest of us were supposed to smell right now too…had everything gone as planned, we would all be hiking into Aguas Calientes together, happy and smelly and excited for the hostel and its amenities.  The musky scent of the wild was a mark of survival.

After the initial reunion hugs, P2D2 began to spill out all of the emotions he had held in for the past couple of days, peppered with expletives (as denoted by “eff”).

“Oh my god, I eff’in missed you guys so much!” P2D2 said.  “I was freaking out.  They kept telling me to go on after KP fell, they kept telling me that you guys would catch up at the next rest stop, and someone said that KP was fine, that she was even walking!  But you didn’t show up, and I knew something was wrong so I was like, eff this!  I kept trying to ask everybody what was going on…I asked the horse guy, but he didn’t really tell me anything…”

P2D2 was talking fast and breathlessly, his eyes bright.  “Finally I ran into the cook, and he said that if I ran downhill I might still be able to catch up with you guys.  So I eff’in ran down the hill, but halfway there, the guide told me that it was too late, that you had already left, so I had to hike all the way up the eff’in hill again!”

That didn’t seem right, though…either there was some miscommunication between the trek guides and employees, or they just wanted to keep the group moving…because it seemed a lot of time had passed before KP had been ready to get back on the horse.  P2D2 should’ve been able to catch up if they had let him.  And Roger had told us that P2D2 was too far ahead, when, in actuality, he had been trying to make his way back to us…

We updated P2D2 on KP’s condition so he didn’t have to endure any more anxiety on that point.

“Were you at least able to have a little fun once you continued with the trek?” SK asked tentatively.

“Well, I guess the view of Salktanay from the top of the mountain was nice, but it was kind of cloudy so it was hard to see at times.  And then once we ditched the horses to hike down the other side of the mountain, it started eff’in raining!  Like, full-on raining…I had to put my poncho and backpack cover on and everything!  And it was cold as eff…”

P2D2 went on to paint a dreary picture of the campsite and its barely-there bathroom stall that had little protection against the icy winds.  Unfortunately, he had seemed to have quite a miserable day following KP’s fall, with his anxiety and loneliness made all the worse by his physical struggles amidst ghastly weather.  I felt horrible for him.

But when he woke up today, the weather had improved, and he experienced a shift in attitude.  “I thought, you know what, I’m just going to try and make the best of it,”P2D2 said.  So as he made his way through the Santa Teresa Valley, he admired the wild orchids, appreciated the scenery, and spoke at length with the other members of the trekking group.  P2D2 and the group also experienced some relaxation time at the hot springs once they reached Santa Teresa and saw the gushing man-made waterfall in the town of Hidroelectrica.  Then they set off for Aguas Calientes, hiking along the railroad track until it led P2D2 right into our arms.

 

MP146
P2D2’s photo of the hot springs
MP150
P2D2’s photo of the hot springs
MP157
P2D2’s photo of the waterfall
MP160
P2D2’s photo of the railroad tracks

 

“I didn’t know for sure if you guys were going to be here…they told me different things,” P2D2 said.  “If you weren’t here, then I would’ve tried to get in touch using the Wi-Fi…and if that didn’t work, I would’ve just been like, eff Machu Picchu, and taken the first train back to Cusco.  Eff, man…”

But we were here…reunited at long last.

“If you follow me, please, we will be having dinner at the restaurant,” Roger said, appearing out of the darkness and beckoning us to follow him.  As we made our way to the restaurant, we asked P2D2 for more details about his epic journey.

“You know, man, you’re the only one of us to complete the whole trek from start to finish,” PS told P2D2 admiringly.  “That’s kind of a big accomplishment.”

It was…especially considering all of the pitfalls we had faced along the way.  Even before the devastation of the horse incident, half of us hadn’t made it to the glacial lake.  It had been a treacherous expedition.

At the restaurant, long banquet-style tables were set for our entire trekking group, plus two other girls who joined us from a different Salkantay group.  We dug into our meals and exchanged tales with the other members of our group.  Everyone wanted to know how KP was doing, as many of them had witnessed her terrifying fall off of the mountain and horse.  It was impossible to believe that the accident had taken place only yesterday…so much had happened in between that everyone felt like days had gone by.

Finally, we headed to the hostel to shower and chat for a bit as we played some music in the background.  It was good to have P2D2 back in the mix, and it wasn’t long before he returned to his happy-go-lucky state after all of the anxiety melted away.  But we couldn’t stay up too late…we had an early morning the next day.

If all went according to plan – and, at this point, we didn’t fully rely on plans – we would be on our way to the legendary Machu Picchu in the morning.

 

Continue reading Day 6: Wonders of Machu Picchu

 

Or start from the beginning:

Day 1: Touchdown Cusco

Day 2: Viva Cusco

Day 3: The Trek Begins…Then Falters

Day 4: The Trek Goes Downhill

 

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5 thoughts on “Adventure & Disaster in Peru – Day 5

    1. Thanks! We got back from our trip two weeks ago…I’m trying to write it all down while it’s fresh in my memory. Probably not quoting people word-for-word but got the main gist of the conversation…

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