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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

A trek to the lost city of Machu Picchu

May 31, 2018 04:51AM ● By Jan Weeks

Paivi and Dave Mosier at Salkantay summit.

Eight days and 52 miles translates to hiking about six and a half miles a day.

A walk in the park, you might say. But start at 11,000 feet in Cusco, Peru, and wend your way up to 15,000 feet over the Salkantay pass, carrying a day pack, extra clothing and lots of water, and it’s not such a cinch.

Fruita’s Dave and Paivi Mosier hiked the route to Machu Picchu in May 2017, fulfilling an urge that Paivi had for a couple of years.

A difficult trek

The Mosiers are avid hikers and cross-country skiers, spending a lot of time hiking McInnis Canyons, particularly Devil’s Canyon, and cross-country skiing through the winter. Paivi, 59, has finished Ride the Rockies bike race twice. They trained for their trip by hiking regularly on Grand Mesa.

But Grand Mesa has nothing on Peru.

“I found myself gasping while walking through Cusco and wondered how I’d be able to make the trip,” said Dave, 64.

Fortunately, a shaman introduced them to the energizing coca leaf during a ceremony conducted in Quechuan, the local language, and they started each day with coca tea, then chewed the plant’s leaves through the day.

Although the leaf contains cocaine, it doesn’t make people high. Its medicinal properties alleviate altitude sickness and allow partakers to breathe more easily at high altitudes. It has been a mainstay for the natives of Peru for centuries, acting as a mild stimulant and suppressing fatigue, hunger, thirst and pain.

The Mosiers booked their hike through Salkantay Trekking without using a travel agent, after Paivi finally convinced Dave it would be a great adventure. They spent a month investigating options. Salkantay came out the winner because it was local, environmentally friendly and Trip Advisor gave it a 99 percent satisfaction rating.

Paivi and Dave Mosier at Salkantay summit.

The guides all spoke three languages—English, Spanish and Quechua—so communication was never a problem. America, Holland, Ireland, Sweden, Australia and Canada were all represented. The Mosiers were among the oldest members of the group.

They started easy, spending two days in Cusco, visiting ruins and other historical sites and getting acclimated to both the altitude and the Incan culture. Then the 12 hikers and six employees began the strenuous trek to the ruins of Machu Picchu.

They carried day packs with food, water and a slicker provided by the company. They furnished their own sleeping bags, which were transported by horse, along with their extra clothes and other heavy gear. Salkantay employees went ahead on horseback to set up camp and prepare gourmet meals so the group had to carry only what they needed for the day.

Culture shock

The hikers stopped frequently to interact with villagers, admiring shrines for ancestors, weavers using backstrap looms and other items of interest. Guinea pig is a staple food throughout Peru, and they are raised inside almost every home. The Mosiers were astounded to see the rodents’ droppings all over the dirt floors of many huts.

Camp food was gourmet. Dinners included trout, chicken, pork or beef—at least two of each.

“We both loved the healthy meals that always started with soup, and included beans, corn, rice, pumpkins and squash,” said Paivi.

At least once a day they had salads with lots of greens and vegetables. Peru’s avocados are three to four times as large as those sold in the U.S. and were favorites of the Mosiers.

“We seldom saw oils and fat floating in our food. Everything was so whole and healthy,” Paivi said.

On the trail, every breakfast included eggs, fresh-squeezed juice (including lima bean juice), bread and porridge made of quinoa, oats, barley or wheat.

They ate like lumberjacks and worked like them, too, as they plodded toward Machu Picchu, following the trails up and down the mountains and through the cloud forest and the rain forest. During rest breaks, they asked the guides questions about food and culture.

The Mosiers watch an Inca woman weaving.

A mystical experience

The expedition was blessed with good weather.

“During the wet season, rain can set in and make the hiking miserable,” Dave said. “We were lucky to have blue skies for most of the trip because we came during the dry season.”

The blue skies didn’t last. Four days after they started hiking they reached Machu Picchu in the pouring rain.

“Then at around nine o’clock in the morning the clouds lifted, the rain quit,” said Dave. “Seeing the ruins through the rising clouds was a mystical experience.”

The next morning, the Mosiers climbed Machu Picchu Mountain and spent the afternoon exploring the ruins. Both agreed that their adventure had been well worth the money and the miles they spent to arrive at such a magical destination.

“It was the perfect experience. I don’t think we can top it,” Dave said.

Thinking about taking a similar trip? The Mosiers recommend Mark Adams’ book, “Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time.”

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