Wednesday, October 31, 2012

FDX Day Six

Day six was a free day, so five of us decided to head to the Saqsaywaman (pronounced Sexy Woman) ruins and explore. Our hotel called us a cab and Ducky, Omey, Limbo, Caesar and I piled out on top of the hill at Sexy Woman. After Ducky and Caesar negotiated us a better rate for our tickets into the ruins, we went inside to explore.

I asked a woman to take our picture, and it turned out she was a tour guide as well. We negotiated with Clara and ended up paying her 20 soles to give us a tour of the ruins. Clara told us about the history of Sexy Woman, how it was built and about the Spaniards invading. We tried to soak up all of the history, but were really having more fun taking pictures and enjoying the fact that we were in Peru!

At the end of our tour, Clara left us and we did some final exploring on our own, including building a human pyramid and having a guy from Montreal take our pictures.

After Sexy Woman we went back to downtown Cusco to do some shopping. Most of the stores sold the same things. We also needed a few additional items before our trek – like walking sticks.

After we finished shopping, we headed back to the hotel to pack for the next part of our journey. We had another great dinner out and went to bed early to prepare for our next big adventure.

Omey and I always take a "goofing off" picture

Our pyramid!

The view from "Sexy Woman" - see where it says Viva El Peru!

Our group of girls at "Sexy Woman"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

FDX Peru Day 5

The day began with rain, which didn’t seem to matter much since we were just going to get on the river and get wet anyway. It was our last day to raft – at lunchtime we would arrive at the takeout and head back across the mountain roads to Cusco.

The faces in the raft changed some as Limbo and Hot Rod joined our raft and Omey and Caesar headed over to the “Noodle” for the day. We went through some big rapids again today, but with fewer rocks. Both days included Class 3 and 4 rapids and ended up being a lot of fun. We hit the deck a few times, bounced off a few rock walls on the side of the river and overall had a great time.

Too soon the bridge came into sight and we had arrived at the take out. The “road” was up a steep rocky embankment and was a one-car wide gravel path. We set up another line and passed gear and rafts up the hill to load up.

After another great lunch, we piled into the van for the four-hour ride back to Cusco. I hopped into the front seat to avoid any potential mishaps with switchbacks on mountain roads. I also took Dramamine before we left. The driver was much better; not only did he stay awake and drive at a consistent speed, he also turned on the radio and gave me control of the volume. We had some great hits from the States mixed with some songs none of us knew or understood. To top it all off, we had another beautiful ride with breathtaking views of the mountains.

The one sobering piece about all of this was that the homes we drove by and people we saw were part of a third world country. Interspersed with this breathtaking beauty are homes without electricity or clean drinking water. People could be seen plowing their fields with oxen. It’s a hard way of life and a reminder that we should be thankful for everything that we have. However, I also noted that while the people worked hard and didn’t have a lot, they seemed happy, or at least content. I think that unlike us, they do have greater appreciation for what they have and less dependency on material things. Its still hard to see them struggle though.

Both rafts at the end of the last day on the river.

"The Noodle" was always up for an adventure!

Monday, October 29, 2012

FDX Peru Day 4

After breakfast, we broke down our camp and started loading the rafts back up to continue our journey down the river.

Apurimac means “the God that speaks” and we enjoyed hearing about the history of the river and Peru from Juanito. Our boat for the day was: Omey, Caesar, Hefty, Sunshine, Carnage and myself. We spent a lot of time laughing, taking surveys and enjoying our time on the river. There were a couple more portages and a few nerve-wracking moments too.

Peru has lots of rocks. This particular section of the river seemed to have an abundance. It didn’t help that the river was low; the rainy season will be starting soon. At one point, we though, or I guess Juanito thought, we could squeak through a tight spot surrounded by rocks, and we ended up vertical on a rock. Water was gushing into the boat, but Juanito calmly climbed out of the raft and pushed us back off the rock and into the river. A little while later we ended up in a similar situation with more rocks and Hefty fell out of the boat, but she never let go of the rope and within seconds she was back in and we were paddling down the river. Despite our mishaps, we were having a great time and enjoying the day.

It was a long day on the river before we found our second campsite and set up camp for another night. This time, I slept great in the tent, I was finally tired enough from all of our adventures and misadventures to get a good night’s sleep.

A view of our raft, as taken from the other raft of FDers!

Another view of our raft.

Another view of the rocks in the river.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

FDX Peru Day 3

We loaded into a van early in the morning for the four-hour drive to the put-in on the Apurimac River. I sat near the back with Omey until the switchbacks high on the mountain roads and the gun it/slam on the brakes driving technique of our driver proved fateful to my stomach. I moved up to the front seat (thanks Ducky!) and we continued our drive. The front seat wasn’t much better though; I was slightly horrified to discover that our driver was falling asleep at the wheel while driving us down narrow mountain roads. The road was really only wide enough for one vehicle and one wrong move would send us plummeting over the edge and far beleow. We got out once when the two-wheel drive van couldn’t manage to climb a hill on a “road” with all of us in it. Somehow we managed to arrive safely at the put-in and after a brief downpour while we unloaded the van, we ate lunch and watched while they ferried all of the rafts and gear down the hill to the river.

The put-in for the river was unlike any I had seen before. We went down a steep, rocky embankment to the side of the river where we received instructions for the river. Listening to the safety talk made me nervous. I knew if we got in the rafts and started moving downstream I would feel better and remember why I signed up for this!

Soon enough we were in the rafts and practicing some strokes on flat water before heading out for further adventures on the river. We hadn’t been on the water for long before we pulled off to the side for our first portage. We piled out of the raft and Juanito, our guide, ran the raft through a tricky rapid while we walked downstream and met him. We floated downstream for about four hours with rapids interspersed before arriving at our campsite for the night.

We set up an assembly line to unload the cargo raft and then all headed out to set up our tents and sleeping bags for the night. Dinner was late, it was on Peru time, but it was very good and we were all soon heading to our tents. I didn’t sleep much that night, but was up at dawn and ready for another day on the river.

Our campsite

Taking one of the kayaks down to the put-in

The Apurimac is a rocky river...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

FDX Peru - Day Two

We had originally tried setting up a one day horseback riding trip with a local outfitter but found out when we arrived that it had fallen through. Our hostel had another outfitter who would take us out for four hours at a fraction of the price. At 9 AM we piled into a small car with the owner of the stable and a guy from Wales named Colin who was also riding that day.

We chatted with Colin on the 15 minute drive to the stable and found out he was on a 4 month leave from work that included treks in Peru, Vietnam and several other countries. The quote of the day came from Limbo, who remarked, “You speak English really well.” The car was silent until I pointed out that Colin was from Wales and everyone started laughing. For the rest of the day, Colin called Limbo “Blondie.”

When we arrived at the horse farm, we were introduced to a group of five from a Contiki tour who would also be riding that day. Javiar, our guide for the day, started assigning everyone horses. I was riding a roan Paint named Super. As we were waiting for everyone else to get horses and I saw that Super didn’t respond to aids well, I half wondered how super the ride would be.

Soon everyone was saddled up and we tentatively headed down the road towards the trails. As everyone relaxed a bit more in the saddle, we started having a bit more fun.

We had worn our backpacks while riding because we wanted to get used to them before our hike and weren’t sure what else to do with them. It wasn’t really a great choice but we made the best of it.

There really aren’t words to describe the rugged beauty of the Peruvian mountains. I took many pictures throughout the entire trip, but I don’t think even they can do justice to our trip.

We picked our way up a mountain trail, found places where the horses liked to gallop and finally came to a stop on the side of a mountain where Javiar told us to dismount. He laughed and said we had to walk back from there. In truth, he wanted to take us for a hike. We hiked higher up and saw beautiful views. We stopped after a steep incline (that had the three of us seriously questioning whether we could handle the hike at the end of the week) and then had the snacks Javiar had given us at the beginning of the ride. Then we headed back down the other side of the mountain until we were at a cave.

We slid down into the mouth of the cave and hiked through the stream in the cave to the other side. Once we were out of the cave, we hiked back up a hill to our horses and walked and cantered back to the ranch. We also got some great views of Sasqaywaman, a local ruin while we were riding back.

After leaving our horses, we piled into a van that took us back to the town square in Cusco. We hugged Colin, Chase, Devon and the rest of our new friends good-bye and headed to explore some more. Our first stop was the chocolate museum in Cusco. We drank chocolate tea and tried to be interested in reading the history of chocolate on the walls. In the end, we bought a bunch of chocolate and fondue and sat on the overstuffed couches eating it.

After chocolate, we were also craving ice cream and asked the guy at the museum to recommend a good ice cream shop. We hiked across Cusco and found the small ice cream shop where the man behind the counter served delicious ice cream, using sheets of toilet paper as a napkin! Definitely an experience worth laughing at.

At 6pm, a van came to pick all of us from the First Descents tip up at the hostel, and our official trip began. We checked in for the night at the Casa Andina hotel and went out for a group dinner where the logistics of our rafting trip were explained.
The cave

View from my saddle

The three FD girls with Colin

Friday, October 26, 2012

FDX Peru - Day One

It’s hard to know where to begin with my First Descents (FD) trip to Peru. The month (or perhaps more accurately months) leading up to the trip where a whirlwind of activity that left me more than ready for a vacation.

Peru, especially Machu Picchu, had been on my “to do” list since my junior year of high school and Mr. Bourquin’s Spanish 4 class. I was excited to finally be going, but also nervous about the adventure that waited – three days of white water rafting and three days of serious hiking at altitude.

On Sunday, October 7th I spent the morning packing and then headed to JFK Airport for the red-eye. After changing planes in Lima, I arrived in Cusco slightly tired and unsure of what would happen next. When I got down to baggage claim, Jen or “Caesar” as she is known at FD yelled to me and waved an FD t-shirt. We hadn’t met before, but exchanged a lot of emails prior to the trip planning our extra day in Cusco. I grabbed my luggage and we waited for Shanda (aka Limbo) to arrive. The three of us grabbed a cab to our hostel to settle in and figure out what to do first.

None of us had ever stayed in a hostel before and after we acclimated a bit, we headed out to explore Cusco. We saw beautiful architecture, people in traditional and colorful Peruvian outfits and so much more.

While trying to follow our map to some ruins, we stumbled into a market. The front section was textiles, fruits and more. As we got into the back, we realized it was a meat market too, and saw people cutting sides of meat. It was definitely a different experience that the finished product we find in grocery stores at home. Even for me, who took Dr. Faustman’s meat cutting class at UConn, it was a bit of a surprise.

We met up with a few other FD campers for dinner at a local restaurant and then headed off to sleep. One thing we discovered about hostels – they never sleep. We went to bed to dueling radio stations and awoke at 5 AM to a busy ping-pong game. All of that despite earplugs!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Last of the Lord Creek Photos

Put it on your list for next's worth the drive!

Debbie loved the frog bridge in Willimantic, so I took a picture of that too.

More Photos from Lord Creek

Can you tell I liked this farm?

Lord Creek - 3rd set of photos

Lord Creek Hunter Pace Photos

More photos from the Lord Creek Hunter Pace

Lord Creek Hunter Pace

Two years ago, a friend of mine rode the Lord Creek Hunter Pace in Old Lyme and commented on what a beautiful ride it was. I wanted to go last year, but Hurricane Irene damaged the trails so badly, it was cancelled.

This year, I called Debbie and we made it happen. The ride was back in September, but I've been a little busy so am finally posting about it! Secret and Duncan were both at their first hunter pace ever, but behaved really well. The weather was beautiful and Mary was right - it is a gorgeous farm and the perfect location for a hunter pace.

Secret was game all day, I credit that with the horse camping trip to Rhode Island and the ride at Tyrone Farm. She is getting much more confident in her abilities. Unlike Tyrone Farm, she also behaved really well all day - there was no bucking at Lord Creek!

We rode 9 miles, and passed other horses, were passed by teams, crossed water, sloshed through mud and much more. Hopefully we can return to this ride next year.