Once in a Lifetime
01.16.2009 11:00PM

One would think that hiking 40 kilometers over 4 days could become a monotonous task. However, along the Inca Trail it does not. Despite the difficult task of climbing awkward "step" after awkward "step" on a slippery trail, followed by an equally demanding descent, the variety of fauna and flora along with the sense of accomplishment makes it a once in a lifetime experience. It wasn't an easy task and my bum knee continues to remind me of that.

More than a week later I can still recall the specifics of hiking the trail. I vividly remember arriving at Kilometer 82, the start of the trail, and crossing a muddy raging river on a rickety wood bridge. I remember climbing, what seemed to be straight up, for 5 consecutive hours at the beginning of day two. I managed by climbing to small goals just 10-15 yards in front of me. Over and over again. It was more than worth it as I stood at the top of Dead Woman's Pass and looked down upon where we began, way down there. And then it was straight down for 2 hours.

That night the explosive diarrhea and projectile vomit occurred. Day 3 was without a doubt the hardest, surviving on just 2 cups of jello, 5 liters of Gatorade, and 1/2 an energy bar. Long after I'm gone I hope my ancestors tell the tale of my great feat. Morning of Day 4 comes early as the hike now becomes a race to reach the Sun Gate before the Sun reaches the prime location. What they don't tell you is that 15 minutes before the Sun Gate is a climb that is certainly the hardest set of "stairs" I will ever climb. I ascended the "stairs" on my hands and knees, climbing as I would a ladder.

Then you arrive at the Sun Gate and your breathe is taken away. It must've been our lucky day as the first gaze upon the ruins of Machu Picchu were unobstructed and the Sun would rise to shine beautifully on the ruins. Some wispy clouds would later make their way through the site, only adding to the mysticism. But like everything on the Inca Trail, you can always see it, but that doesn't mean your necessarily close. It was another 45-minutes before arriving at Machu Picchu. As amazing at it looks from afar, the true beauty of Machu Picchu is only realized when you can inspect the perfect craftsmanship of the polished stones, fitted together so nothing, not even a piece of paper can slide through the joints.

It wasn't easy, but it was fun. It was occasionally wet, but in the end perfect. The hummingbirds were bright, the flowers brighter. The views were breathtaking. The shear cliffs spine tingling. Without a doubt I can say it was the most dramatic and beautiful landscape I have ever seen. And I'm glad the experience is so vivid in my mind, because never again will I hike the Inca Trail. Please enjoy the pictures and check back tomorrow as I wrap up my stories of Peru with some thoughts on Lima.

Cuzco or Cosco?
01.15.2009 10:00PM

The bulk of my Peruvian adventures centered around Cuzco, which serves as the unofficial launching point for the Inca Trail hike, and the actual trek to Machu Picchu. Today I will cover some stories from Cuzco and tomorrow stories from the hike.

Cuzco is an amazing city. It is not a sprawling metropolis like Athens or Cairo (two other international cities I've spent some time in) but affords the same opportunities at a much more reasonable pace. The city itself is organic. Buildings exist where they do because they are needed. Houses are next to small businesses. People live where they work and work where they live. The only zoning is a simple edict that no building rise more than 4 stories. This is how people are meant to live. Its compact, but not crowded.

A lot of the charm of Cuzco comes from the abundance of intricately carved wooden balconies that adorn most of the buildings as well as the variety of large carved wooden doors at every turn. The craftsmanship is stunning. The city expresses a tangible history. The contemporary buildings are built directly upon the ruins of ancient stonework. And the Plaza de Armas, surrounded by at least two churches, was bustling with people at all hours. Because of its location it was easy to walk or take a short bus ride to spectacular Inca ruins.

The most impressive of these ruins was those of Sacsayhuaman. Featuring Cyclopean masonry, stones up to 170 tons(!) and 20 feet high, the complex stretches for acres perched above the current city. Its impossible not to marvel at the precise fit of the massive stones. And the view out on Cuzco was simply stunning. Other ruins included a site of royal baths, which displayed the Inca's vast understanding of hydrology, as well as a lookout and checkpoint for the royal baths. Oh yeah, and who can forget about White Christ. So much for Jesus opening his arms to everybody, as he was surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and quite honestly it looked as though his eyes were poised to "fire the laser" at any moment.

Alright, be sure to check back tomorrow as I reach the penultimate story from my adventures in Peru, the four-day arduous trek to the freaking amazing ruins of Machu Picchu. Flora, fauna, explosive diarrhea, steps, and more steps. And you thought Indiana Jones was awesome. You won't want to miss it.

Sand boarding and the Nazca Lines
01.13.2009 4:00PM

The stories from my Peruvian adventures continue. My story of sand boarding the dunes is best heard, so click on the link below for an audio telling of my sand boarding adventures. Please be patient as the podcast loads.
Sand Boarding in Peru- Greg's Tale

And now the video of my first ever attempt at sand boarding. As well as a few photos from the day on the dunes. Enjoy.

The next day we continued our journey to Nazca. The city really only offers one thing, the Nazca Lines, but trust me when I tell you its well worth it. The Nazca Lines are ginormous geoglyphs created over 1500 years ago. These lines in the Nazca Desert create figures that look like fish, monkeys, birds, and other complex forms. The only way to see the lines and truly appreciate the work is by plane. So we boarded a small place to view the lines from about 2500 feet above the Earth. As we approached the first lines, a whale, and Theresa and I could not spot it, we were concerned it'd be a lost trip. But once you understand the scale of the figures they become easier to spot as the flight continues. By the end, I was able to gaze out in the distance and spot some of the more defined lines that awaited. Its amazing to think the Nazca people built these designs with simple tools and geometry but never got to gaze upon their work. That is unless they are gazing down from the heavens as we speak. Here are a few photographs.

Check back tomorrow for more stories.

Peru Ramblings
01.12.2009 8:00PM

Over the next week I'm going to post some stories from my two weeks in Peru. I had an amazing time and it was good to see Theresa and Jeff. I thought it'd be best to start out with an edition of my favorite...ramblings. Check back all week as I'll have a new story posted about the Nazca Lines, Machu Picchu, and the rest of my Peruvian adventures. Do enjoy and please comment.

Flying into Lima at night is a unique experience. Between the black of the Pacific Ocean and the peaks of the Andean foothills extends an ever sprawling metropolis which dots the landscape with light after light. As an architecture student marveling at the sprawl is amazing.

Explosive diarrhea count: 2
Projectile vomit count: 2.
Let it be known that the first instance of projectile vomit was directly caused by the horrendous smell that came from the squat toilets. And my sense of smell is practically zero.

I survived the 3rd day of the Inca Trail (which occurred after the diarrhea and vomit) on 2 cups of Jello, half an energy bar and nearly 5 liters of Gatorade. I hate Jello and Gatorade. I'm convinced it was entirely adrenaline. Meaning I have either a superhuman adrenal gland or Gatorade is a miracle drug.

It's nice to see people using public spaces. It occurs so rarely in the United States that seeing the Plaza de Armas packed with people day after day was a treat.

As advanced a society as we are, I'll take the ingenuity and work effort of the Quechuan people any day. I think we rely too much on technology that we often fall short of the achievements of past civilizations.

Being 93 million miles from the Sun, who would have thought being 2 miles closer would make that much of a difference? I certainly did not, but apparently it does as I was sun burned despite it being entirely cloudy and wet.

Well thats it for now, check back tomorrow for my specific stories on my adventures, including sand boarding. This is one you can't miss.

Check out a handful of photos I've posted here. I'll post more of my favorites as the week goes on.

Check out Last Month
01.01.2009 12:00AM

Check out last month at Beavers and Ducks, while you wait for a new post for January. December 2008

Gregory 'Jesus' Dowell
Muncie, IN

- I'm currently in my second and final year of Ball State University's Master of Architecture program. Over the summer I completed an internship for The Estopinal Group and prior to that I interned seven months for Rath, Raths & Johnson. I'm currently deciding what the future holds. All that and more will be explored right here at Beavers and Ducks.

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